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1 point

I gave up on this group once I found out you have to manually invite people in order for them to be able to post. You can't just make it public. I decided I didn't want to play gatekeeper.

Plus there didn't seem to be much interest.

Still, if you want, we can try pushing it again.

1 point

We don't need to kill animals for clothing. In fact most clothing is made from crops such as cotton, not from animal products.

We also don't need to eat meat to be healthy.

We know very well how suffering comes about -- our senses send signals to our brain which in turn creates the feeling. Plants don't have brains or any other means of cognition, therefore they cannot suffer.

1 point

Suffering in mammals and birds matters because they have brains which process pain. There is your objective reason. Do you not accept that pain is generally bad?

Why does human suffering matter, in your opinion?

1 point

There's no such thing as rights in the sense that you are using the term. We should simply do what we can to minimize suffering, both human and non-human.

I don't see this system as convoluted at all. To put it more simply: Animal suffering matters, although it matters less than human suffering. Even if it were convoluted I don't think that would be relevant because it would simply be reflecting the complicated nature of reality.

A good first step would be to stop breeding and slaughtering mammals and birds in factory farms. If you accept that animal suffering matters at all, factory farms are obviously a horrible thing.

1 point

I am most definitely not associating sentience in the broad sense with human level sentience. Again, I see a gradient of cognitive sophistication going from zero to human-level. As we move along this continuum, an organism accumulates moral weight. You can't really capture that idea in a single word, so I'm using "sentience", in the broad sense, as a rough approximation.

I agree with you that human sentience is greater that animal sentience. If we could quantify suffering (which we theoretically could), we might come up with a formula that looked something like this:

amount_of_suffering = damage_inflicted x capacity_for_pain

(the x signifies multiplication)

Where capacity_for_pain might be 1 for humans and .01 for cows and .000001 for shrimp.

"Since no animal has human sentience, or awareness, they are afforded no rights and may be eaten at will."

First, I don't think the concept of "rights" makes a lot of sense. I think all ethics must come from a Utilitarian perspective. And from here I see no such thing as absolute rights, human or otherwise. There is only maximization of overall quality of life; a concept which in turn is based on the simple miracle that organisms have evolved a capacity to feel good and bad. The only reason people generally have a "right" to life is because society could not function if we didn't harshly condemn murder. "Thou shalt not kill" is a good guideline for practical reasons; it is not a universal imperative (there are times when murder can serve the greater good).

But I digress. My key point is that suffering is bad and should therefore be minimized; killing animals causes suffering and is therefore bad; factory farming causes massive, widespread suffering and is therefore an abomination.

"You'd have to develop a moral system based entirely on animal sentience, and decide whether that moral system is equal to humans. To do THAT, you need objective criteria."

We have objective criteria, at least in theory: suffering in all forms is a result of neural activity. The firings of neurons can be measured and quantified. Of course we lack the technical sophistication to measure suffering, but we can come up with crude estimations. For example if I were to flick my finger against my arm, a few nerves would fire, a bit of neural activity would occur, and I would feel a very slight amount of pain. If I were to take a knife and plunge it into a cow's side repeatedly, quite a lot of nerves would fire strongly, massive neural activity would occur, and the cow would feel a great deal of pain. So there you go, objective suffering.

"animals have no morals and actions from or towards them cannot be judged on a moral scale"

From yes, towards no. Most animals are not capable of moral reasoning, therefore their actions can't be judged on a moral scale. However, it does not follow that us causing them harm is irrelevant.

"And my subjective sensations are different than yours."

Not at a basic level. It's safe to say we both experience roughly the same thing upon being hit in the head with a baseball bat, or upon having an orgasm. At the very least I hope we can agree that one of these is better than the other in both your case and mine.

1 point

Let's break out the dictionary.

Main Entry: sen┬Ětient

Etymology: Latin sentient-, sentiens, present participle of sentire to perceive, feel

1 : responsive to or conscious of sense impressions

2 : aware

3 : finely sensitive in perception or feeling

I see see nothing in there about "abstract thoughts". I'd say capacity for pain fits definition 1 and possibly 2 and 3. Let the quibbling commence.

As for just what sorts of animals can feel pain, I don't think that is a settled question.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_crustaceans

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_fish

I will grant that eating clams and shrimp is probably roughly akin to eating plants from a moral perspective, and is therefore probably ok.

"So, the best you've got there is a ban on cows and most other mammals."

And possibly chickens and other birds.

"You can try out some moral mumbo-jumbo, but those are random value judgments which aren't based on anything objective."

Mumbo-jumbo? Pain is bad. It's that simple. Subjective sensations of good and bad are the foundation of any system of ethics.

1 point

You are of course right that we can't "half-eat" something. It's the same problem we face with abortion. We are forced to draw a line somewhere and say, "After it reaches this level of cognitive sophistication, killing this creature is unacceptable." I think capacity for pain is a reasonable place to draw that line. Cows and chickens are clearly well beyond that point.

As for the precise meaning of the word "sentient", I'm not interested in semantic quibbling. If you have a better term for "more cognitive capabilities than a rock" we can use that instead.

1 point

In reality sentience is not black and white. There is a gradient going from completely non-sentient to completely sentient. You have rocks on one end, and humans on the other. The farther along this spectrum an organism is, the more wrong it is to kill it.

As for how sentient the animals we eat are, well, that question is far from settled. I will say my judgment based on watching pigs, cows, etc, is that they are sufficiently sophisticated to make their slaughter wrong. You can watch them interact with one another. You can watch them exhibit fear. I think anyone who approaches this question from an unbiased perspective can't help but make the same call.

1 point

The debate description doesn't make much sense.

Especially this last sentence:

"If justice is immutable then justice cannot be subject to democracy and yet we assert that democracy is a just form of government."

You seem to think there's a contradiction there, but there isn't one. It's like saying:

"If apples are red then they cannot be blue and yet we assert that apples are tasty."

We can assert that democracy is just without implying that justice is mutable.

Also, is it really necessary to use obscure phrases like "de jure mutable"? Couldn't you phrase that in plain English? Maybe something like "If the legal concept of justice can change..."

1 point

Another thought: It's probably impossible to know about how things might have been different. Seems like even small changes could have had big impacts via the butterfly effect. The world is just too complex; it would be like trying to predict the value of the stock market a hundred years from now.

1 point

I'm not sure there's much we can do about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. There's the economic sanctions option, but I doubt that will be effective. They didn't work against India when they were working on nukes.

The US military is too overextended to be able to pull off another regime change. The rest of the world is probably not going to do what's necessary to stop them.

I really don't see a good solution here.

1 point

Carbon taxes. Simple and straightforward. And if any countries fail to cut emissions sufficiently, other countries should impose carbon tariffs on goods imported from those countries. It'll be bad for the global economy in the short term but it will eventually lead to clean energy solutions.

1 point

Let's assign a value of 1 to my current productivity level. Now let's say I spend a year developing tools that allow me to work more efficiently. By the end of that year these tools have improved my productivity by 30%, giving me a productivity level of 1.3.

Now let's say I spend the next year using those tools to develop better tools. At the end of that year I have again increased my productivity by 30%, giving me a productivity level of 1.69. (30% of 1.3 = .39; 1.3 + .39 = 1.69)

Repeat the process again and I have a productivity level of 2.197 by the end of the third year.

If I were able repeat this 30% a year growth in productivity every year for 60 years, then by the end of it my productivity level would be... almost 7 million (1.3^60=6,864,377). In other words I would be 7 million times more productive then I was when I started.

I think that when it comes to computers this kind of exponential increase in productivity may be within the realm of possibility. It's one of the reasons I have spent the last year or two working on tools to make myself more productive.

What do you think? Am I full of crap?

1 point

Hmm, I would say history would've gravitated to more or less the current state of things regardless of how a few historical events turned out.

We can see all the countries of the world gravitating toward a similar blend of democracy with regulated capitalism. I believe this is because this system is the one that works best given human nature. So no matter what course history took, people would always have drifted in this direction, because it would always have been the logical thing to do.

In other words, I don't know enough about world history to say anything interesting :)

1 point

I had always assumed that the point of Democracy was that having the entire population making decisions through votes resulted in better decisions being made. But certain things about our system seem to fly in the face of this notion. The independence of the Federal Reserve, for instance. Monetary policy is not something you want in the hands of the masses, because history has shown they will not use it wisely.

So if we want elites controlling our monetary policy, why don't we want elites controlling every aspect of society? I think it's because of the general principle that imbalances in power tend to lead to injustice. Democracy gives everybody a small lever they can use to promote their own interests, and that is usually enough to prevent the conflict endemic to mankind from spilling into violence.

Or, in the words of Leonard Cohen:

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,

the holy places where the races meet;

from the homicidal bitchin'

that goes down in every kitchen

to determine who will serve and who will eat.

From the wells of disappointment

where the women kneel to pray

for the grace of God in the desert here

and the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Here's the song, btw
1 point

Judging from the speech, Obama is making adjustments to HR 3200. This is what I'm referring to as the "new plan." One of these adjustments is the addition of a fine on insurance companies who offer extremely expensive plans. This adjustment will help keep costs down.

1 point

The numbers you're quoting came from HR 3200, the House bill. Obama has made some concessions with this new plan (mainly keeping costs down by fining insurance companies who sell very expensive plans) and this new plan has not yet been reviewed by the CBO.

3 points

"Faggots", Jake? Seriously? Leave the hate to Pyg.

.................................

1 point

There is only a small chance of the public option leading to a government takeover, and that would only happen if the government plan works really well. What Obama, Frank, and all of them are saying in that YouTube video is that if we had a public option and it worked better than private insurance companies, then we would have proof that government involvement in healthcare is not a bad thing. The public option can be seen as a sort of pilot program for government run healthcare. If it's true that government is incompetent then the public option won't be able to compete with the private insurance industry and it will not lead to a takeover.

Obama has repeatedly said that the government plan would not be financed by taxes, but by premiums collected from those insured. He has repeatedly said that it would compete fairly with private insurance companies. You say that he wants to "Penalize private business 8% if they decide to keep their current plan" but you don't offer any evidence for this. I think you're just lying again.

Finally, I challenge you to name one lie in Obama's speech.

1 point

The entirety of the healthcare debate is too complicated for just one speech. If you want more information, then it's not hard to find:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/health_care/plan/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_reform_debate_in_the_United_ States

I myself don't really care about the shouting. It was bad, but mostly just a distraction from the real issues.

3 points

Democrats aren't one unified block. Unlike Republicans they tend to have minds of their own. Some want to tax the wealthy to pay for full-scale government run health care. Some are conservatives who want to leave everything to the insurance companies. It shouldn't be surprising that there has been considerable disagreement over the bill.

Despite this, a reform package will be passed, in fact it's almost done. The only question is how much it will get watered down in the process.

As for not reading the bill, that's a load of crap. Senators have their staff read the bill. They know what's in it.

And the cyber security bill has nothing to do with Obama.

1 point

Are you kidding me? Haven't you ever heard of a Blue Dog Democrat? There aren't enough votes to get the public option through the Senate.

Singlepayer healthcare simply would not make it through Congress. Like it or not we live in a Democracy.

0 points

There's a typo in there that I can't edit. I meant to say:

"Failing to act will allow Americans to continue going bankrupt due to an inability to pay their medical bills."

2 points

Many Republicans are suddenly all horrified at the idea of congressmen "not reading bills." As if that's not the way every major bill in recent history has been passed. Legislation is created by committees and reviewed by several people on a legislator's staff. I agree that we should make bills smaller and easier to understand, but that's an issue for another day. This debate is about health care.

No one is proposing a government take over of health care. If you actually listened to the speech, or looked at a summary of what's been proposed you would know that. All we want to do is mandate that everyone purchase their own health insurance, and provide some form of aid to those who can't afford it.

The "Government plan", or public option, that you mention would be a good idea for many reasons, but it doesn't matter because it won't make it into the final bill.


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