Author Topic: EP120: The Sundial Brigade  (Read 53820 times)

Chodon

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #60 on: August 28, 2007, 08:31:33 PM »
Anyone else wondering if the CIA [and who knows what other government agencies] is monitoring this discussion everytime someone sends a new post?
Yeah, I was wondering that earlier today when I listened to a podcast from Science Friday about wiretapping.  The FISA act is pretty scary stuff.  It blew me away how non-US citizens can be eavesdropped upon without a warrant, but US citizens can't.  Doesn't the bill of rights say all humans have certain rights (like protection from unreasonable searches and seizures), not just Americans?  Americans lose that right if we talk to someone from a foreign country though.  It's one of those laws people are going to look back at in 50 years like we look at the internment camps. 
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Rachel Swirsky

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #61 on: August 28, 2007, 09:17:14 PM »
Quote
The first, being the Nat Turner rebellion?  You mean mass murder, including the murder of women and children, is justified?  How, exactly? 


DK,

Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.

Secondly, what is it that makes the children (including infants) murdered during the Nat Turner rebellion more valuable than the children (including infants) murdered daily in the American south because of their race? Neither set of infants is complicit within the systems which have trapped them. Both are innocent victims. But if the former are murdered in liberation of the latter, why is that more of an evil than the opposite?

American southern slavery was amazingly brutal. Are people supposed to see the incredible suffering of themselves, their loved ones, and even their children WITHOUT rebelling? And what rebellion was open to them but violence?

This is the fundamental problem with claims of moral absolutism. There is no good action here. It is not good to allow your own children to be torn away from you, tortured, and eventually killed through slavery. It is not good to murder your owner's wife. There is nothing moral to be done. The Nat Turner Rebellion is a complicated, terrible thing -- and the responsibility for the evil that was done rests on the shoulders of those who put Nat Tunrer and other enslaved Africans in that position.

I really wince when I hear white people, in any situation, condemn Nat Turner because his rebellion killed infants. Yes, yes, it did. But he was fighting for infants too -- vast numbers of them.

--

I think it's important to draw a line between terrorism that is done from desperation (e.g. Nat Turner) and terrorism that is done evangelically. We see plenty of both. Osama Bin Laden is an evangelical terrorist. He is, as Tweedy says, interested in forcing other people to adhere to religious laws which they don't put faith in. Domestic Christian terrorist groups do the same.

As a Jew, I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism in Israel. It is horrible. But when Israel oppresses Palestinians, it creates a situation in which terrorism will be inevitable. People fight back for their lives, even when they have to act in self-defense against governments. Governments in turn represent people, and so civilians pay the price for governmental oppression.

I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism, but the way to get rid of it isn't to moralize about how awful it is. It's to eliminate the cause.

So, with the Nat Turner rebellion. If rich southern whites had not imported and enslaved black Africans, treating them brutally in the process, then the Nat Turner rebellion would not have happened.

To some black activists in America, Nat Turner is a hero -- not because he killed white infants, but because he was willing to defend black ones, willing to fight against the incredibly oppresive lash. The death of the white infants is still horrible. Both things have to be held in the mind simultaneously: Nat Turner is a hero; Nat Turner's actions are deeply sad.

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bolddeceiver

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #62 on: August 28, 2007, 10:04:54 PM »
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...

Bull.  If those were military attacks they could have hit the targets.  It is no secret at all that the point of those bombings was to kill so many people as to make the continuation of the war unthinkable.  And it worked.  But it most definitely fits most academic definitions of terrorism.

Leon Kensington

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #63 on: August 28, 2007, 10:14:17 PM »
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...

Bull.  If those were military attacks they could have hit the targets.  It is no secret at all that the point of those bombings was to kill so many people as to make the continuation of the war unthinkable.  And it worked.  But it most definitely fits most academic definitions of terrorism.

I think that is what Dragoon ment, they were chosen as part of a military strategy.  Not for a strictly civilian target, and there is a difference.

If a war started today between the US and Russia (just to stick with the old Cold War scenario) you can be damned sure that Los Angeles and St. Petersburg would be nuked.  Why?  Because sometimes a civilian target is a military target.  The objective is not to kill civilians as it may be with a terrorist attack, but to try to show the other government "Like we give a flying frak about anything, we just want to win."

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #64 on: August 28, 2007, 11:34:19 PM »
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.

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Chodon

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #65 on: August 29, 2007, 05:16:33 AM »
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.
Actually, the reason Tokyo wasn't chosen was because it was already destroyed during the firebombing raids.  Over one square mile of Tokyo was burned to the ground, killing more than the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing

Both are an example of "Total War", which includes what I would call acts of terrorism (as I defined it before).  The goal is to make the other side decide it's not worth fighting.  Japan's ability to do anything of military value was pretty much shot by the time the nuclear bombs were dropped.  We could have parked subs all around Japan and starved them out instead of using nuclear weapons, although the nukes saved more lives in the long run (the Japanese probably would have starved before giving up).  I think they were also used to say to Russia, "Hey, look what we've got."
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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #66 on: August 29, 2007, 08:08:34 AM »
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.
Actually, the reason Tokyo wasn't chosen was because it was already destroyed during the firebombing raids.  Over one square mile of Tokyo was burned to the ground, killing more than the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing

Both are an example of "Total War", which includes what I would call acts of terrorism (as I defined it before).  The goal is to make the other side decide it's not worth fighting.  Japan's ability to do anything of military value was pretty much shot by the time the nuclear bombs were dropped.  We could have parked subs all around Japan and starved them out instead of using nuclear weapons, although the nukes saved more lives in the long run (the Japanese probably would have starved before giving up).  I think they were also used to say to Russia, "Hey, look what we've got."

You might be
 interested
 in this http://www.waszak.com/japanww2.htm
Also, Japan was
 still in control of areas of Asia
 to the west of Japan
 - eastern China, Korea, and others.
Japan was in bad shape before
 the atomic bombs
 were dropped
 but they were nowhere near thinking of surrender.
It was planned that
 Russia and Britian
 would join the fight in Asia
 after the defeat of Germany.
Russia took
 control of a
 northern Japaneses island as a result.
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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #67 on: August 29, 2007, 08:23:11 AM »
As I understand it the Martians came back to earth and fixed the seas and the social disorder, they then basically took over and started to tell people how to live. In effect making them live in a way that they dictated but that was not based around any higher ideal merely one that provides the Martians with what they want to consume. In this case their desire is for the consumption of experiences, not even genuine but recreated from their own ideas of a past they had no part of. This is the consumerism I am talking about not economic but experiential, I don't think that matters though. The Earthlings are being forced to provide a service to the Martians which does not benefit them. They then wonder why the people are turning to "terrorism".

The system you describe
 sounds like slavery
 which is an economic system.
The "experience" you describe
 might be described
 by others
 as very general and not specific to this story.
When one country invades another;
 or when there is a large immigration
 of a foreign culture into an established one
 the invader or foreigner attempts
 to change the country into something more familar to them.
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Mr. Tweedy

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #68 on: August 29, 2007, 09:17:03 AM »
Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.

Thanks for pointing that out.  It always bugs the crap out of me when the AP news says "20 militants were killed, but also women and children."  Are you certain the women weren't holding guns too?  Last I checked, women posses the same number of brains and fingers as men and able to make the same choices.

And, as terrible as it, kids are sometimes pressed into taking up arms for the cowardly adults around them, in which case, they are combatants.  A "women and children were also killed" blurb glosses over these obvious facts with biased sentiment designed to inflate the sense of tragedy.

This is the fundamental problem with claims of moral absolutism. There is no good action here. It is not good to allow your own children to be torn away from you, tortured, and eventually killed through slavery. It is not good to murder your owner's wife. There is nothing moral to be done. The Nat Turner Rebellion is a complicated, terrible thing -- and the responsibility for the evil that was done rests on the shoulders of those who put Nat Tunrer and other enslaved Africans in that position.

It depends on what absolute you are claiming.  It is absolutely wrong to murder, but not all killing is murder (for instance).  My absolutism does not deny that situations can be messy and complicated, it simply claims that there is always an answer to moral questions, even if the answer is occasionally hard to figure out.  I don't claim that the answer is always easy, but I do claim that it always exists.

It is important to realize the evil is often embedded in a society (which is something I think you were getting at).  This sounds harsh (and it is), but every member of white Southern society benefitted from the exploitation of slaves, including whites who did not own slaves, including white infants, and including anybody who used Southern agricultural products.  White society at large was exploiting blacks, not just the people who were physically wielding the lashes.  I don't know enough about the Nat Turner rebellion to say what I think about his specific actions, but there are precious few "innocent" people among the exploiters in such a scenario.

To go back to the story for an example: All of the Martians were exploiting Antonio's people.  Not all of them were holding magic red guns.  Most of them weren't.  Many of them were children on field trips, but all of them were actively benefitting from and participating in the enslavement and victimization of the museum city's residents.  No Martian in the city was really innocent.

I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism, but the way to get rid of it isn't to moralize about how awful it is. It's to eliminate the cause.

I may be ignorant, but isn't it true that large segments of Palestinian society would only be appeased by the removal of every Jewish foot from Israeli soil?  That is a very aggressive demand, not one that could be met through any sort of live-and-let-live compromise.  I.e. if Palestinians view Jewish presence as the "cause," then "eliminating the cause" would mean to them the conquest and murder, subjugation or deportation of all Jews.  Obviously, the Israelis can't really bargain with people who have that as their goal.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 09:21:19 AM by Mr. Tweedy »
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DKT

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #69 on: August 29, 2007, 10:09:36 AM »
Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.


Fair enough.  I would like to say it wasn't my intention to do this, but I completely understand how it came out that way. 

Secondly, what is it that makes the children (including infants) murdered during the Nat Turner rebellion more valuable than the children (including infants) murdered daily in the American south because of their race? Neither set of infants is complicit within the systems which have trapped them. Both are innocent victims. But if the former are murdered in liberation of the latter, why is that more of an evil than the opposite?

Palimpset, where did I make a distinction and say killing children of one race was more evil than killing children of another? 

I said this: "To a very large degree, I can sympathize with Nat Turner.  However, I cannot sympathize with killing children for any reason.  Generally, I don't believe murder is justifiable.  I certainly don't believe murdering children is ever justifiable."  And I stand by it, for every child, of every race.  I never said one was more evil than the other, I only questioned Turner because he was brought up by someone else and I don't believe in punishing children for the sins of the father.  If someone wants to talk about the evils of slavery and the effects they had on children and family, I'll say the exact same thing.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2007, 10:44:57 AM by DKT »

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #70 on: August 29, 2007, 10:19:00 AM »
To go back to the story for an example: All of the Martians were exploiting Antonio's people.  Not all of them were holding magic red guns.  Most of them weren't.  Many of them were children on field trips, but all of them were actively benefitting from and participating in the enslavement and victimization of the museum city's residents.  No Martian in the city was really innocent.

Mr. Tweedy, I think you can expand on this and ask if *any* Martians are innocent while this continues, in or out of the city?  But I'm confused.  Are you saying that they're deaths are justifiable?

SFEley

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #71 on: August 29, 2007, 02:47:07 PM »
It depends on what absolute you are claiming.  It is absolutely wrong to murder, but not all killing is murder (for instance).  My absolutism does not deny that situations can be messy and complicated, it simply claims that there is always an answer to moral questions, even if the answer is occasionally hard to figure out.  I don't claim that the answer is always easy, but I do claim that it always exists.

You know what this makes me think about?  The problem in computer science known as the halting problem -- which in turn is related to algorithmic correctness.  The question is, "Given a known algorithm and a known set of inputs, will the algorithm end and spit out an answer, or will it run forever?"

Mr. Tweedy, correct me if I'm wrong, but you appear to discern morality as a form of algebra.  Given a set of inputs, there is always a consistent transformation possible which returns a morally correct answer.  This algebra, while it may be non-trivial at times, is complete and computable with the resources available to us.  Some part of our minds can be treated as moral Turing machines, processing what we see in the world and telling us the moral thing to do -- which we may or may not actually do, because we have other competing incentives beyond our moral calculators.

Is this a fair characterization of your position?

If it is, and if the analogy to formal logic is fully applicable, then I have to question your faith.  Alan Turing formally proved in 1936 that there is no general answer to the halting problem.  You cannot come up with an process that will work on every algorithm and prove whether or not it will end and give you an answer;  much less prove that that answer was correct.  Sure, you can come up with trivial cases -- I could write a one-line program that will always end and return "5," and another that will always be an infinite loop -- but it is not possible to write code that can look at any code you ever give it and say "Yes, this program will always return an answer" or "There are cases in which this program will keep spinning."

This was the first of the great problems in computer science that was proven to be undecidable.  Since then many others have come to light -- usually proven undecidable because they can be reduced to a form of the halting problem.

My question for you, Mr. Tweedy, is this.  Given that formal logic -- which is rigorous, knowable, and can be communicated without ambiguity -- has problems in it which are known to be undecidable, and problems for which it is impossible to determine whether an answer is even possible...  Why do you feel that moral problems always halt?  What is your proof of this?

I will not at this time ask you to address the even bigger question, which is "Given a postulate that moral problems always return an answer, how do you prove the correctness of that answer?"  That would be a little unfair, and I'm throwing this thread too far aside already.  I'm just wondering if you can offer a convincing argument in defense of your assertion that an answer is always returned.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 02:48:38 PM by SFEley »
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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #72 on: August 29, 2007, 03:04:45 PM »
I liked the part where he punched that guy.  ;D
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Mr. Tweedy

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #73 on: August 29, 2007, 03:26:58 PM »
My question for you, Mr. Tweedy, is this.  Given that formal logic -- which is rigorous, knowable, and can be communicated without ambiguity -- has problems in it which are known to be undecidable, and problems for which it is impossible to determine whether an answer is even possible...  Why do you feel that moral problems always halt?  What is your proof of this?

I will not at this time ask you to address the even bigger question, which is "Given a postulate that moral problems always return an answer, how do you prove the correctness of that answer?"  That would be a little unfair, and I'm throwing this thread too far aside already.  I'm just wondering if you can offer a convincing argument in defense of your assertion that an answer is always returned.

Our divergence comes in how we define good and evil.  As I understand it, you refuse to lay down a firm definition of either, and so your answers to moral questions must always be hazy.  I define good and evil concisely as that which is in accordance with or in conflict with the will of God.  Given vague criteria, your answers are vague.  Given specific criteria, mine are specific.

Since I do not know the will of God in full, there may remain questions that I cannot definitively answer.  Once in a blue moon I do stumble upon a moral situation that strikes me as gray.  But that does not mean that the question does not have an answer, merely that I, personally, am not able to discover it at this time.  I can't do calculus; that doesn't mean calculus can't be done.

There may also be times when I get the answer wrong and have to apologize later.

I'm not sure I understand your computer analogy, so I won't address it specifically.  I'm not sure I would refer to my moral system as algebraic.  I think pattern recognition might be a better metaphor.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 03:43:12 PM by Mr. Tweedy »
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SFEley

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #74 on: August 29, 2007, 03:44:29 PM »
Our divergence comes in how we define good and evil.  As I understand it, you refuse to lay down a firm definition of either, and so your answers to moral questions must always be hazy.

Actually, I never said that.  I haven't given an opinion here about my own morality.  As it happens I do have a pretty clear and specific definition of evil which works for me in most cases.  I just haven't offered it yet, and no one has asked.  I was addressing what you said.


Quote
Since I do not know the will of God in full, there may remain questions that I cannot definitively answer.  Once in a blue moon I do stumble upon a moral situation that strikes me as gray.  But that does not mean that the question does not have an answer, merely that I, personally, am not able to discover it at this time.  I can't do calculus; that doesn't mean calculus can't be done.

But in the case of actual calculus, it's been proven that there are cases in which calculus can't be done.  (Church published a very similar paper about the undecidability of problems in lambda calculus a month before Turing's paper about the halting problem.  They're basically equivalent.)

If your moral calculus equates to God's will -- is it totally inconceivable that there may be cases in which, perhaps, God sees both sides of a problem?  How do you know this isn't possible?

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Jim

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #75 on: August 29, 2007, 04:17:30 PM »
Must... not... enter... theological... discussion... must... resist...
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Mr. Tweedy

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #76 on: August 29, 2007, 04:20:12 PM »
Actually, I never said that.  I haven't given an opinion here about my own morality.  As it happens I do have a pretty clear and specific definition of evil which works for me in most cases.  I just haven't offered it yet, and no one has asked.  I was addressing what you said.

You didn't here.  It was elsewhere, a few months ago.  Or maybe I'm reading to much into what you said then...  Anyway, I am now asking, if you're interested in explaining.  (You might not be–getting further off topic–but I am interested.)

But in the case of actual calculus, it's been proven that there are cases in which calculus can't be done.  (Church published a very similar paper about the undecidability of problems in lambda calculus a month before Turing's paper about the halting problem.  They're basically equivalent.)

If your moral calculus equates to God's will -- is it totally inconceivable that there may be cases in which, perhaps, God sees both sides of a problem?  How do you know this isn't possible?

We're getting pretty far out of my depth with the analogies.  I don't know much about calculus and I haven't read anything by Church or Turing, so it's quite possible I pulled out a bad analogy without realizing it.  I meant only this: The fact I cannot do something does not prove that it cannot be done.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "both sides of a problem."

God's will is not necessarily a linear track.  God made us to be free, and at any given time there are many right options open to us (as there are many wrong options).  There are many white paths and many black, but, no, I would say there are no gray paths, as romantic as the idea might sound.

I think you're using the word "know" in terms of scientific certainty, of irrefutable proof, and in that sense I don't really know much about anything.  (Are you the real Steve Eley?  I believe you are, but I can't prove it.)  I believe that there is no gray because that would mean that God Himself couldn't decide what was good and bad, and I don't believe that God suffers from such limitations.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 05:06:14 PM by Mr. Tweedy »
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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #77 on: August 29, 2007, 06:54:01 PM »
Must... not... enter... theological... discussion... must... resist...

Just give in, it's not worth the brain hemmorage.

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #78 on: August 29, 2007, 07:21:42 PM »
You didn't here.  It was elsewhere, a few months ago.  Or maybe I'm reading to much into what you said then...  Anyway, I am now asking, if you're interested in explaining.  (You might not be–getting further off topic–but I am interested.)

My definition of evil is based on a line from a Terry Pratchett novel.  "Evil begins when we start treating people as things."

Has a lot to do with this story, now that I think about it.

As for the rest...  It was an idle thought, prompted by what was really a side assertion of yours.  I'm not going to push this thread any further in that direction; what we've had so far is far too interesting to divert from.
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ajames

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Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
« Reply #79 on: August 29, 2007, 07:51:52 PM »

My definition of evil is based on a line from a Terry Pratchett novel.  "Evil begins when we start treating people as things."


Reminds me of the second formulation of Kant's moral imperative, which loosely speaking states that we should never treat others as a means to an end, but as ends in themselves.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2007, 04:56:28 AM by ajames »