Friday, October 27, 2006

War, God, and Fair Hope

October 27

The topic of war in a recent post here ignited all kinds of sparks, spewing over into at least one other blog (Mendacious Mouse) and creating lots of comments on both sides. It led to nine comments on a blog labeled "Mouse World One" and then a follow-up "Mouse World Two" post. The posts both dealt with the question of why God allows bad things to happen, which is to say, if wars are bad, why does God let us fight wars?

This is, like all "Why?" questions to me, acceptable coming from a three-year-old, but puzzling when grappled with by grown men. Yes, we must be patient with the three-year-old and give him a reasonable answer, perhaps so that he will not still be asking "Why?" about everything when he is in his 60s and 70s.

The reader who characterizes himself as "Officious Oaf" has, in spite of his vow to go on the wagon from an incipient blog addiction, weighed in on the subject. Therefore I'll fold one from his list of questions to me from a few months ago as he sought to help me build readership by being more hard-nosed.

Why is killing justified and murder isn’t?

This is one of those “When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” questions. In answering it I am forced to defend killing. But I can’t, so I’ll try to answer the question in the spirit in which it was intended, which I hope was sincere. The questioner must believe that killing is justified, but seems not to know what he means by that. I will take the position that "killing" means "as in war" and "murder" means "premeditated with malice aforethought."

Killing in war is good because it is deemed necessary by society. If our soldiers went into battle with instructions not to kill, we wouldn't have much of an army. What's more, we wouldn't have much of a battle. Therefore, we wouldn't have much of a war at all. And since war is good and necessary, killing is good too.

You may gather from my tone that I am not of this conviction. But I said that at the outset. I cannot seriously defend killing under any circumstances -- here it comes -- not even capital punishment. Now I've moved into tricky territory for myself because I do not oppose capital punishment, as long as it is the right people who are getting it. Pacifist that I am, I would still like to see certain people dead. This does not make me warlike, or a murderer. I am not seeking a hit man. Actually I'd like to see hit men and their ilk eliminated, which means capital punishment to them. This is getting so convoluted even I'm not sure where I stand.

I have malice toward those to whom putting a bullet in a human being's brain is a good gig. For whatever reason -- a lousy childhood, a stray gene, something -- professional (and amateur) killers are not needed in society. Why did God make them? Not for any reason I can understand. But I suspect that it is the machinery of man that created evil, and not God.

The topic is interesting. It is not my area of expertise, yet I keep coming back to it. You should read some of the comments that came out of me on the Mendacious Mouse blog. I have attracted a coterie which is enamored of the subject, and I am compelled to respond. I think open discussions, which may not reach any conclusion, but by virtue of the possibility that a mind might actually change, are our only hope of getting out of the quagmire of stagnant positions.

I said "only hope," but even that is barely a fair hope. Let's just be even-handed here.


John Sweden said...

FF. took your suggestion and traveled over to the mouseville sanitarium for inter-rational living. After reading all of what I consider to be the schizo-delusional needs for descriptions and representations of Gods, life and souls and the giving and taking of gods, lives and souls, my mind has not been changed. It is my sincere hope that there is an after life with a god so I can freely abandoned my peaceful non-violent human existence and spend the rest my soulful eternity killing it. Now that would be heaven.

We are human beings. We are not “Alpha Male” wolves or monkeys or other products of nature or god, or nature as god. Nor are we contractually reincarnated or obligated to live lives dictated by past causes or effects. We are extremely unnatural, non-causal, non-effectual and un-god like in our needs, actions, purposes and motivations and we can and should be expected to make what would seem to be irrational, chaos driven un-and-non natural, demands on our existence.

We can come to a conclusion, rationally or irrationally, that it is dead wrong to do harm to or kill or murder another human being for any reason or purpose and live by that rule and many of us do. I believe that the numbers would show that somewhere in the vicinity of 90 to 99% of the 6.2 billion human beings who inhabit this planet, did not, even have the thought, today or tomorrow, of murdering, killing, raping or doing violent harm to anyone.

It is in practice very hard to get normal healthy people to kill or do violence to each other. We usually need the extreme distortion of reality by philosophers, theologians, and their henchmen, politicians in order to even get healthy mature adults to believe even for a moment that killing another human being is justified and an acceptable course of action. Even those who want to kill others and are willing to pick-up or make a weapon to do so, such as military personnel for example, need to be stripped of their human identity and have it replaced with a sociopathic one that allows them to see those whom they want kill and murder,(sometimes even "better") as not human.

I maintain that it is the de-humanizing processes such as philosophy, science and technology that enhances ones ability to become sociopathic in their view of others and life. Art on the other hand delivers another results and quite another vision of life and its potential for all things human. You will not come to what makes us human by way of science or god or nature, because a human being, if anything is more than the sum of their parts or causes and/or their effects.

Even in the “recognized” deranged minds of the severely mentally ill men with whom I worked this principle of art, as measure of humanness, was evident. I was showing a tape on Hitler’s “Degenerate Art Exhibition” as part of our regular Friday night art and discussion group. After watching the tape one of the men, a normally very quiet and withdrawn person, asked me “Why didn’t they show more of Hitler’s art?” As I was taking the time to formulate an answer, he interrupted me with “John, you don’t need to answer, I know why. It would have shown him to be human.”

Isn’t that the real danger to or the fear of those who seek power that we if they cannot dehumanize the world either by symbol or reason, they have no power?

So "Be Smart Do Drt" and humanize yourself and others and the rational need for war becomes irrelevent. Yes, all wars are very rational events and that what makes them inhuman.

John Sweden said...

Sorry corrections:

I maintain that it is the de-humanizing processes such as philosophy, religion, science and technology that enhances ones ability to become sociopathic in their view of others and life.

So "Be Smart Do Art" and humanize yourself and others and the rational need for war becomes irrelevant. Yes, all wars are very rational events and that’s what makes them inhuman.

John Sweden said...

Ooops, Sorry again another correction:

"Be Smart Do Art" and humanize yourself and others and the rational need for war becomes irrelevant. Yes, all wars are very rational events and that’s what makes them inhuman and crimes against humanity.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Well, I'm glad you cleared all that up.

Benedict S. said...

Hmmm. Interesting. And when did you start having these symptoms?

Robin said...

JS, then you are saying evolution is a lie and where is your proof of your ideas?

You wrote:We are extremely unnatural, non-causal, non-effectual and un-god like in our needs, actions, purposes and motivations and we can and should be expected to make what would seem to be irrational, chaos driven un-and-non natural, demands on our existence. Surely you can't believe what you wrote here? If you're referring to your lack of contact with reality, I agree.

Men are alpha or beta males due to the left over instinct from evolution.You might also have noticed that submissive males are
usually the abusive ones, not the alpha males. The same is true in
human males: those who beat and abuse children, women, and the weak are usually the low-hierarchy non-alphas. This was noted in the book "Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence."

JS.Yes, all wars are very rational events and that what makes them inhuman. What? AGain,If you're referring to your lack of contact with reality, I agree. As during Vietnam, our view of reality is skewed by our own arrogance
and pride. We have this fixed idea about how we must eradicate
terrorism by force throughout the world, but it really isn't thought
through or very rational, and we really don't have much faith we could even win such a war. It's basically an emotional reaction to the fact that our status as sole superpower and world ruler has been
challenged. It was our irrational view of our own greatness and
omnipotence that was challenged on 9/11 , and rather than adjust our
view of ourselves and our proper place in the world, we react in a
predictably irrational manner in order to preserve our own delusion of greatness and omnipotence. Of course, chasing down this delusion
quickly becomes an impossible task, resulting in no-win wars. And
make no mistake about it - whether or not we 'win' the war in
Iraq, we will never win our 'war on terrorism'.

Please for those that are regulars on this blog,go to benedicts blog mouse two and read what I wrote. Thank you.

ce said...

Hope you can read my comments about the book you sent on the blog below. It seemed (much)more appropriate to post there than here.

Bert Bananas said...

"I believe that the numbers would show that somewhere in the vicinity of 90 to 99% of the 6.2 billion human beings who inhabit this planet, did not, even have the thought, today or tomorrow, of murdering, killing, raping or doing violent harm to anyone."

I've never read, or heard of, a study that would have allowed for the above belief. Wishful thinking would support you and it would be lovely if you were right. I would bet that if we could wire up every man, woman and child in the world to be able to measure it, that at least 60% of the 6.2 billion humans capable of lifting a hand in anger will, in the next week, commit or wish to commit "... violent harm to (some)one."

And if video game playing counts, then add 25% to my figure.

John Sweden said...

I’ll get on to the wolf man/monkey girl arguments in minute but first let’s deal the banana and numbers.

Last year there according to
FBI Violent Crime Statistics there were only 1,367,009 reported violent crimes in America in 2004. If we multiply that by 20, to take into account the number of unreported violent crimes, we come to an estimated 27,340,180 violent crimes a year. If we divide that by 365 we get on any given day in America 74,904 violent crimes per/day. If we multiply that by 400 to take into account those who thought of committing violent act against another but didn’t act on that impulse we have a number of 29,961,600. If we divide that by 300,000,00 we come to a staggering 9.98% of the population on any given day contemplating violence against another. I would be very surprised if this number did not hold relatively consistently throughout the world. True maybe you game theory might be a factor in some segments of the population, but in terms of a world where 2 billion people don’t have electricity much less an x box and 3 billion live on less than 2 dollars a day Facts About the World I doubt that it makes measurable impact.

Here’s the thing Bert you live in a world where the overwhelming majority of people work hard to have good relations, get along with others and see the life affirming potential of a positive world view. You can choose to ignore the facts and play and be the cynic or the wise guy, but it really doesn’t take you anywhere in the end. It’s a pretty empty and meaningless road as HUMANity will ignore you and take a positive movement forward, if only to prove you wrong. The choice is yours, but at least get up off your “Laztheist” ass, do some homework and get the facts straight.

Now for you Robin.

Fact: No! I do not think evolution is a lie.
Fact: The Human evolutionary path for the past 4 million years is different than monkeys.
Fact: We are not on a converging evolutionary path.
Fact: Monkeys are not primitive human beings.
Fact: Human cognitive thought has it’s own 3.5 million year evolution that separates it from biological imperatives.
Fact: It leads to a different result from all other species.
Fact: The results of all comparisons of the similarity between Monkey behavior and motivations and Human behavior and motivations are tenuous at best and reverse anthropomorphism at worse.
Fact: Reverse anthropomorphism over simplifies and distorts the complex realities of human experiences.
Fact: You once confused Mexican Immigrants with ants.
Fact: There is no war against terrorism there is however a rational Project For A New American Century
Fact: The War Crime and its results in Iraq is a rational and planned outcome of A Clean Break written by those who co-authored the Project for a New American Century.
Fact: The Vietnam War Crime was a rational outcome of U.S. foreign policy.
Fact: The eventual outcome of the criminal action against the Vietnamese people can be described as a rationalization engaging with reality in which reality wins.
Fact: I have, for forty years, been actively and professionally engaged in motivating and activating HUMAN beings at all levels of society, class, social, psychological and sexual categories across an incredibly broad spectrum of social environments, activities and purposes and continue to do so on a daily basis.
Fact: By experience and knowledge I have a greater grasp of human reality, the human condition, the human experience and human beings than you.
Fact: I don’t know everything and the young hormone charged teenagers I work with on a day-to-day basis are teaching many new things. The most important of which is that they are all wonderfully human and unique.
Fact: There is not a monkey amongst them.

That’s the facts of life, as they relate to your comment.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Note from the even-handed hope of this blog: Readers, although he lives in Sweden now, John is originally from the U.S. province known as Brooklyn, and he has a tendency to come out swinging at times.

ollie oaf said...

Someone once remarked -- not on your blog -- that free-for-all opinion discussions on the unmeasurable invariably end up in head-butting contests, with offended feelings resulting for all, and with little or no opinion changing. That same someone, a devoted advocate of of dialogue, also remarked that the only way to move anyone off the opinion base they have is through the intervention of an impartial moderator. Without that, the discussion is all over the field, apples are being compared to oranges, well made points and well directed questions are left unaddressed, the tangential issues push aside the primary ones, and the eloquent turn into pompous asses, the less eloquent into bumbling idiots, and those who came to learn something ask themselves, Why am I here?

Come to think about it -- the memory is not what it used to be -- that someone was me in a rare moment of lucidity.

Robin said...

JS, seems to me you was the one that mentioned monkeys, not I and I have never confused Mexican Immigrants with ants.

We may have had our 3.5 million year evolution, but we still carry instincts left over from our monkey days.

Bert Bananas said...

John, I was disputing your ability to know the THOUGHTS of all 6.2 billion of us. I have no problem with the figures you cited. But they address actions, not thoughts. If you didn't want to include 'thoughts' you shouldn't have.

You find me the study that covers, even by extrapolation, the THOUGHTS of our 6.2 billion fellow evolved primates (but primates just the same as is amply witnessed by your Brooklyn come-out-swingingness) on the topic "...of murdering, killing, raping or doing violent harm to anyone"

Like you're thinking about me right now . . .

John Sweden said...

Robin: You’ve caught me and I was wrong and I apologize. You did not confuse Mexicans for ants. Your exact statement to me in my challenge to the Reverand Story’s metaphor using worms crossing a road as a description of the plight of Mexican immigrants was, “No John Sweden, the worms reproduce quickly, kill off thousands and thousands more will replace them, quicker than a blink of an eye.” Perhaps you were referring to some percieved genetic instinctive holdover in Latin American and in particular Mexican reproductive strategies.

In my opinion it is about time for you start being a real scientist and stop being a publicist. What I mean is this; a true “Alpha”, male or female, scientist would be working night and day to find the flaws in the assumptions, methodologies, observations and conclusions behind a book with the ridiculous, pander to the public, book of the month club, title; “Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence”. Ooops! did I mention the monkeys? Since when did “demonic” become a scientific term.

One of the first holes, in this theory of genetic holdover for violence against women and children, from monkey days, is that it might be relatively recent development in human evolution. In the case of rape, it may not have anything to do with monkeys or alpha or beta categorizing and demonizing of the male of the species. Here I will refer to an alternative view from Susan Browmiller “From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which “all men” keep all women in a state of fear.” Quotation marks mine.

We have virtually nothing, but speculation and educated guesses, on what human societies and human beings were like 100,000 or 500,000 or million years ago. We can’t even come to an agreement as to what was the purpose and meaning of their physical recordings, their Art, from 10,000 to 50,000 years ago.

A second major hole in the theory is that all inter-species observations must take into consideration that each species and their observable behaviors is at the end point of their own particular evolutionary journey. It is like comparing ants to bees and then suggesting that instinctive ant behavior is rooted in bee behavior, or bee behavior, in wasp behavior.

A third even bigger hole is that we know almost absolutely nothing about the expression mechanisms of the actual genetic code on a physical cellular level, much less in their expression in the full complexity of expressive behaviors of human interactions.

Even more humbling is the fact we are just now discovering, as reported out in an earlier blog, the physical human brain is not fully developed until we are in our early twenties.

All of the conclusions of sociobiology are for the most part purely speculative conjectures and quite subject to biases based on limited observations, small samplings, and major prejudices.

The artist Paul Klee has correctly pointed out that “Science is valid when the variables are few” and none of the scientists that I know, and I do know a few, would argue with that premise.

Bert: I just did the number exercise just to prove how difficult it is to achieve the numbers needed to make your point. I chose to work from actions because there is a relationship between thoughts and actions and we have to start with something concrete and measurable. There is in science a premise that says that “exceptions make the rule” or in this case the fact that violence against others is a very rare exception to the norm of human interactions (even with my high inflated numbers) makes that peaceful human interactions are the rule.

My guess is that your viewpoint is necessary to justify your “I love the thought of them (as I did) staring wide-eyed as a classmate gets one, two or three swats with a frat board.” Maybe you’re just one of Robin’s beta males. It’s all speculative of course.

Robin said...

JS you are wrong on all points.There is only one truth and that's there are no absolutes, that's the only tuth.As for evolution, it's only a theory not an absolute.What is a theory? In common speech, a theory is a guess. This is not true in the sciences.
A theory is a model which explains observed phenomena. A theory must make predictions and it must adequately explain the observed phenomena. For a theory to be valid its predictions must be true and it must accurately explain observed phenomena.

My theory on alpha males and primate leftovers hold more water since the complexity of behavioural repertoires of existing ape species featuring alpha males and, for instance, the bonobos, would appear to support my idea.

John Sweden said...

Robin: There are absolutes. If I take 1 atom of Hydrogen and combine it under certain conditions with 2 atoms of Oxygen, I absolutely get water. If I take a water molecule and under certain conditions break it down into it component atoms I absolutely get 1 atom of Hydrogen and 2 atoms of Oxygen. Hydrogen is absolutely not Oxygen.

Bonobos are absolutely not Baboons and Baboons are absolutely not Orangutans. All other primates are absolutely not Human Beings. Women are absolutely not men. If you want to accurately know about the complexities of Human behavior and human evolution and the relationships between men and women you study human beings and their unique evolution. It is absolutely unique to our species.

If you want to know about Bonobos behavior you study Bonobos. People who study Bonobos in order to get the grants to study Bonobos are forced to relate Bonobo behavior to human behavior. I think there's a banana in here somewhere.

The practice of reverse anthropomorphism over simplifies, dehumanizes and distorts the complex realities of human experiences.

My argument to you is that unlike chemistry, physics, physical biology and the theory of physical evolution, sociobiology is a very soft science with many, many pitfalls in terms of the validity of the research and it’s conclusions. Some of which I mentioned above. Does that make it all wrong? No but one should be very, very skeptical in their claims, especially when it come to cross species behavioral applications and you are not. Your championing of this particular “theory” in several blogs as some sort of fact of human nature is just dishonest and unscientific.