As a non-believer, atheist or whatever you want to call it, I never really thought of the hard questions. Even though I haven't read much on the topic of atheism, I still am one. Sam Harris is by far the most interesting in my mind. I'm not saying he's necessarily the one that I agree with the most, but I found that he has challenged my assumptions more than others.

I find there are much better new atheists out there that I enjoy listening to such as Christopher Hitchens, but I guess I eventually realized that even though Hitchens (and others) were giving me what I like to hear, I was never really being challenged. It was like I was engaging in a circle jerk of my own ideas.

When it comes to Harris, he has opened me up to a much more candid discussion not necessarily on whether there is a God or not, but the more important questions such as philosophy of ethics and morals. I have to admit that I enjoy the idea that science could result in these answers. It's pushed my thought process in a different direction. And well, I can't conclude the same.

What is Harris' Position?

I tried to find a quote that could explain the position without me having to fumble through it. The best way to do this is through questions.

Imagine that you have a world where everyone and everything suffered in the worst possible way. If this world had less suffering, would that be better? Yes is the answer to that question. Therefore, improvement of your happiness, pleasure, well-being, etc is the key to ethics and morals.

In science we can determine a lot of things. Do we know how to make ourselves healthier that result in us feeling better? Yes. Can we take your broken leg and take the pain away? Yes. Can science tell you that eating bacon every day will lead to heart disease or smoking will cause you lung cancer, so you shouldn't do it? Yes.

This is the basis of his argument.

Is-Ought Problem

This is where I can't get passed things. Science is the 'is'. It tells us the is in the world. It is something that tells us that this substance is poison. It tells us that exercise is healthy. The problem with this is just because something is, it doesn't mean we ought to do it. This is known as the is-ought problem, first coined by Scottish philosopher David Hume.

I find the argument that Harris is presenting is quite simple, but there is still a philosophical point made in the 'ought' part. Essentially that seeking less suffering is something you ought to do. He has made a moral judgement and you have to agree with that to accept his point.

The real question that everyone needs to ask: should less suffering be my motive when acting on something. When phrased that way it doesn't seem quite as powerful of a position than the original position articulated.

Utilitarian Form of Ethics

If you're unfamiliar with utilitarianism, it's actually quite simple.  It's essentially to act to increase happiness and reduce suffering. But what happens when you take this form of ethics beyond the individual and apply it to society. How should society morally act as a whole? It's to increase happiness and decrease suffering for the least amount of people.

This almost seems like a pure form of democracy without that limitation on it that protects individual rights. Not a form of ethics I like.

The Word Game: Well Being

Having the chance to go through many discussions on this topic, I've found that the word used to describe the ought was well being. I've found this to be something that forms a very good argument. We should act to improve our well being. When faced with the choice of smoking or exercising, you'll choose to exercise. If your choice is to go to a party or study for your final exam tomorrow, you'll choose to study.

What is well being? The problem is really the definition of the word. When you really look at it, it's quite a vague concept. What type of well being should you pursue?

If you can have a delicious meal of bacon, that brings you joy from taste, or a healthy breakfast that you don't enjoy, which one is your well being? Is the instant gratification better than the long term health of that healthy meal?

If the opportunity arises that you could be unfaithful and have a sexual relationship outside your marriage, is the derived pleasure part of your well being? Or is turning it down and trying to rebuild a troubled marriage part of your well being?

These examples might be a little easier for you to answer as they're more engaging in our moral compass. But the question still remains, what is well being?

It's not that easy to answer, but can make an argument seem more powerful without any substance.

Science Helps, But Not Morally or Ethically

Science is something powerful and good for our life. I'm not disputing that nor do I want us to stop. We need to keep going. But at the end of the day the moral and ethical work needs to be done by us.

Why? Values.

It's what we value that inevitably drives our actions. Science tells us exercise is healthy. We need to value health to determine we ought to act on it.

I feel like when Sam Harris looks at science and morals from the point of view of health he is cherry picking a particular niche of ethics that we most likely agree with. Most of us value being healthy. Most of us value being happy. These are things we want and we'll receive health care that fixes broken bones. We'll eat better when we learn a food is bad.

These are moral questions, but it misses out on more fundamental questions.

Is it moral for the Red Cross to teach the Taliban first aid and supplying them with medical supplies?

If you're stranded on a mountain with two other people, with only enough food for one person, who eats?

These questions science won't be able to answer with a moral certainty. And isn't that really why we learn ethics.

In situation 'A', should you put your boss in their place or just keep your mouth shut to not rock the boat? In situation 'B', your friend opens up someone else's piece of mail and reads it aloud to a group of friends, do you speak up and voice your disgust or go along?  In situation 'C', you're married with children, yet you're no longer in love with your wife, what do you do now?

This is ethics. It's the values that guide you and allow you to make choices to act on. Science unfortunately can't answer them. This is your work to do.


Posted by Christopher | 12:06 AM | , , , | 0 comments »

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge
without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
- Samuel Johnson

I'll continue on doing a series of posts that I see on the website because I feel the manipulation that they present isn't true or greatly exaggerated into conspiracy mode. Take a look at the title of this post? How many people have actually come out and said this? Not very many. According to Google (at the time of this post) only one page on the internet contains these words in their title and it happens to be a tweet. 3250 pages contain this phrase. I'm definitely at a minority here with my support.

What is CISPA?

Well it's a bill. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. I would say more, but judging by how the EFF answers this question, they seem to want to set the frame as evil. I think asking more first is a better way to frame this question.

What is the objective of CISPA?

Essentially the objective is to stop hacking attacks government and business infrastructures. In case you've been out to lunch, there is a lot of hacking going on right now. Literally a war is being fought in cyberspace. You may not think it's really that big deal if the Department of Homeland Security website gets defaced, but that really isn't the main concern.

The objective is to prevent such attacks, but also to open up doorways of justice by the people who do this.

What is the problem CISPA is to solve?

It's trying to solve the problem of coordinated hacking attacks, both on the government and of large private businesses. These attacks can be as simple as defacing a website. They can be sophisticated as stealing personal information (credit cards, addresses, names, SS numbers, tax information, etc) and ending up in the hands of someone else.

There can also be a wide-scale cyber attack designed to shut down major government network infrastructure (and of private business) that could literally costs billions of dollars wasted.

The real problem on the internet is that a hacker (at least the smart ones) isn't going to go on their home computer and hack the FBI. If that's how it worked, we wouldn't need a law like this. Most DDoS attacks happen from several computers that were infected/exploited or hacked into to launch the attack.

What is the purpose of CISPA?

The purpose is to enhance sharing of information. That's all it is.

The Director of National Intelligence shall establish procedures to allow
 elements of the intelligence community to share cyber threat intelligence 
with private-sector entities and utilities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence. 

Ignore the vague part of that because this is for a committee, which end up figuring out these things. But you get the intention. It's to share information. This may seem weird and wild to you (I don't know why), but this does happen. Amber alerts are shared information. It's not evil or Orwellian. It's sharing of information that can be beneficial.

CISPA in Every Day Words

Everyone that is getting worked up, is getting worked up for no real reason. This law is being passed to deal with a full out cyber attack against the United States government and the economy. That's it. It's not to spay on punk kid intellectual property thief (despite your delusions of grandeur, you're not that important).

This is for the ever increasing cyber attacks that seem to be coming from the Chinese government. It's to deal with problems like this.

And just an FYI because an argued point I keep hearing is that this law allows the government to go to Facebook, get you private information without a warrant. Totally not true. There is absolutely nothing in this bill about such things. Since it doesn't talk about anything like this, it doesn't contain the information about getting a warrant. So therefore they don't need a warrant. Crazy.

What's all the resistance? 

It's quite simply idiots. There seems to be this view that the internet needs to be anarchy because that's what it's like now. It's the wild west. We all like freedom, but there are rules of law. There's a reason why you get 10 emails a day in your spam folder from a Nigerian bank. If real ethical and moral laws were applied to the internet, you wouldn't get a single email like that. Doing this isn't wrong, immoral or an attack on freedom. It actually enhances freedom.

Guess what? There's no big government conspiracy to spy on you, and to know what you're doing. The government doesn't care if you support the Green Party and talk about it on the internet. It's nice to think that you're being watched and the government really does take that much interest in you, but it doesn't.

Enforcement of moral laws on the internet shouldn't be opposed. Will it result in your lost freedoms of making death threats and harassment? Probably. Will you be free to discuss politics, read about interesting topics, chat with your friends, and look at weird pornography you like? Absolutely.

Conspiracy-esque is the only way to really describe the opposition to such a law.


Posted by Christopher | 8:33 PM | , | 1 comments »

Property is an intellectual production. The game requires coolness,
 right reasoning, promptness, and patience in the players.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

As of late, I've been feeling the need to discuss intellectual property rights and the importance of them. Like I've mentioned in my previous post, there is a war going on. And it's a war I feel we (the supporters of intellectual property) are losing. There are mobs of brats on the internet that think they can pirate. And this is what it is, no matter what they say. It's about what they don't have to pay for, nothing more.

The EFF is a group on the front that defends the destruction of intellectual property as free speech, and any attempt by governments to enforce basic laws is slandered as tyranny of the state to rape our free speech. It's like the basic laws of countries don't apply on the internet. Lest it be evil government tyranny. Try to pass a law that makes it easier to shut down child porn sites, screams! Defended by very poor interpretations of the law or (in most cases) outright lies on what the law actually states. I've gone into this sort of thing with my post on SOPA and PIPA.

So where is the part where the intellectual property thieves hate free speech?

Well, I was just browsing the internet today and I went to the Centre for Copyright Information, a pro-intellectual property rights site. I use a program called Web of Trust in my browser. It's essentially a user based community that allows you to easily identify good sites and bad sites. The idea is that a site with a lot of pop ups, spam, malware, infected, hate speech, white power, etc sites will warn you before you go to them and give you a big RED icon to show that the site is bad. Regular sites that are normal and good will show up with GREEN to show that they're good. It's a very simple system.

The problem is that it is user rated and not based on any sort of objective rating. Guess which site was slandered down into the red as a bad site? That's right, the one that supports intellectual property rights.

This is a copy of the comment section of people who took the time to comment beyond the point of just ranking the site. Aside from a few people that use the service ethically, we have a bunch of people that are showing that this site is a "hate site" and a few people that go to the point of saying that this site will hijack your computer or has browser exploits.

Is this the side of the free speech that we see? Is this what the EFF means when it defends the "free speech of those that commit massive copyright infringements? If you're unclear, it is a crime to violate these.

My point with this post is that there is a war going on. A war that you might be oblivious to because it's easy to put in the back of your mind. We have employment and obligations. Unfortunately kids (and I use that term loosely to include the college kids that haven't grown up) that don't have jobs and clearly too much free time are amassing for their right to loot off the hard work of others.

The good news is that we have sensible lobbies working for this right, which we can be thankful for. But I feel there needs to be more said on our part because we can't let others fight our battles. With the anti-intellectual property propaganda (which is mainly half truths and outright lies) we have the moral argument on our side. That's the key. It's wrong to take something that isn't yours. It's even worse to think you have the right to something that isn't yours. 

We also have the other side that are the EFF, that don't take the free speech and privacy bullet points, which seems to appeal to the most brain-dead conspiracy theorists that think the government is watching everything and out to get them.

The war is on, whether you fight or not.

Know thy enemy.
- Sun Tzu


Posted by Christopher | 12:33 AM | , , , , , | 0 comments »

As everyone should know, I'm a big supporter of intellectual property. It's important to understand the need for protecting this. It's easy to come up with very weak arguments to justify the downloading (infringing) of someone else's hard work, but they're just an excuse for your own benefit (at the expensive of someone else).

I feel like there is a new battle every week that the "anti-copyright" people are amassing and fighting, yet we don't seem to have the masses defending the intangible hard work of others. And that's what I'm trying to do here.


Posted by Christopher | 7:19 PM | , , , , | 0 comments »