Monday, May 7, 2007

Ayn, Robot

In our latest excursion into AynRandian insanity, we will encounter thought-provoking discussions of euthanasia and infanticide, and meet up with an old friend.

Our journey begins with a thread called "Social Darwinism," in which the burning question is asked:
Do social Darwinism and Objectivism have anything in common? Would an Objectivist argue that society should and does weed out the unfit? Would an Objectivist define fitness in terms of ability to produce?
The first responses are hearteningly sensible, with the racist aspects of Social Darwinism denounced as "nonsense" and "criminally stupid."

But then the discussion begins to slide downhill, as Christopher Benson-Manica, replying to the question "Are you suggesting we slaughter retarded and sick people like Nazis?," opens the door to the fetid cellar of his innermost homicidal thoughts:

I'm not suggesting we slaughter anyone, although Lord knows I feel like doing it to certain individuals. Retarded and sick people can work or create value in other ways; your average bum can't or won't....

I didn't mean to suggest that anyone should actively do the weeding out - just that those who don't shouldn't feel too guilty about those that do...

In principle, I don't see anything terribly wrong with eugenics. We breed all sorts of animals - why not breed ourselves? I don't suppose it would happen though, because I see no reason anyone should be willing to pay for it.

So the only reason we don't breed people like animals, and slaughter the ones we don't want, is that the pricetag is a bit steep. Nice.

And now say hello to our old friend Robert J. Kolker, previously enshrined in RandZapper's Hall of Fame. The redoubtable Kolker, fielding the very same question about slaughtering "retarded and sick people," responds thusly:
How about not feeding or caring for them with tax revenue? But make the cost of euthanasia tax deductable....
Hey, at least he's trying to lower our taxes!

Next, a certain Onar drops by to challenge the claim that eugenics is "criminally stupid." Quoth Onar, in a disturbing display of mental onanism:
Why? Eugenics is a much more humane means of weeding out the poorly adapted than social darwinism.
(RandZapper suspects that if "the poorly adapted" were to be weeded out, Onar would be among the first to go. Our suspicion becomes a certainty if the socially maladapted were targeted.)

At this point Scott Stephens steps in to clarify the issue:
It depends on the method of weeding out. The best way to weed out the unproductive is to 1. stop crippling the productive by firing the "Aristocrats of Pull" and the "Mystics of Mind and Muscle"; 2. create circumstances that enable productivity; 3. Assist the unproductive to become productive; 4. Use charity to keep useless eaters alive, because occasionally something good comes out of the mess.
You gotta love the characterization of some human beings as "useless eaters." Still, charity should keep them alive. Or should it? Christopher Benson-Manica objects:
IMHO the investment in keeping the dregs of society alive isn't worth the (as a rule) extremely meager dividends.Sweet. Who needs to keep useless eaters and the dregs of society alive, anyway?
Now we skip to another thread, and from eugenics to the closely related topic of infanticide. We start with the estimable Kolker. (You just knew we would be hearing more from him, didn't you?)
The mother ought to be able toexpose [sic] or abandon a new [sic] infant prior to its acquiring sufficiet [sic] intentionality and awareness to be considered a person. I have no problem with infanticide on a day old infant or a week old infant. I get antsy around a month. This is based on experience with my own children.
This guy has children?! Are they still alive???

Kolker then explains his own psychology, which should surely be a model for us all:

I prefer facts to tender feelings. Better hard headed than soft hearted. Futhermore [sic] I reject compassion as a positive absolute value. Compassion has its uses in certain situations, but it is a danger and a snare and capable of being misused. Some of the greatest crimes have been comitted in the name of compassion....

Anything I do for another or feel for another is illuminated primarily by rational self interest. I do not value human life for its own sake, but for what it can do for me and mine. I am the center of my universe.

This is so good, we feel compelled to repeat it for emphasis:
I do not value human life for its own sake, but for what it can do for me and mine.
Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for Bob Kolker!

Someone remarks on the "obviously _wrong_ conclusion ... that one has a right to torture fetuses or animals for pleasure because they have no rights ..."

But along comes Seth David Johnson to pose this head-scratcher:

How is this obviously wrong? (The conclusion, not the acts you are describing)....

Sorry, you lost me somewhere. There is nothing wrong with the conclusion to begin with.

So torturing animals is okay? Well, no. Johnson elucidates:
It is morally wrong because it is a waste of precious time, not because animals have rights.
Torturing animals is wrong only because it's not an efficient use of one's time. Gotcha!

Fed up with the annoying Kolker, Gregory Weston (posting as Paw1015), writes,
I like you Mr. Kolker, you are the perfect parody of Objectivists, though sometimes they are so silly that they resist parody.
Only sometimes?Kolker responds:
Sorry to disappoint.I am NOT an Objectivist.
RandZapper is a tad disappointed to hear this. But he is clearly a Randlover, and that's good enough for us.
My views are my own gotten to in my own fashion. I would have gotten to where I am with or without Ayn Rand.

"Where I am" = "the psychiatric hospital in which I am presently institutionalized."

However I do sympathize with many of the political views held by Objectivists. I have differences with their metaphysics (or ontology). Particularly in the area of causality. Once cannot have free will for humans and determinate causality for the rest of the Kosmos particularly since we are made of the same stuff as the rest of the Kosmos. We are all finite state automata.

Translation: We're all robots. I guess this explains why it's hunky-dory to kill newborns. Killing a robot is no big deal.

Think we're exaggerating? Kolker again:

An awake newborn is like unto a computer with only its low level bios installed. The higher level functions have not been "loaded" (i.e. self developed or learned). In short a new-born [sic] is NOT a person , therefore does not have any natural rights anyone is bound to recognize. It is the *property* of its mother who grow [sic] it in her womb at her own expense. It is the crop (as it were) of its mother's garden. A newbron [sic] human baby has no more natural rights than a new born [sic] dog or cat or a newly hatched caterpillar.

Wow. We seem to be entering into Super Hall of Fame territory now. A newborn baby is "the property [emphasis Kolker's] of its mother who [grew] it in her womb at her own expense"? It has no more rights than "a newly hatched caterpillar"? No more rights than a dog or cat ... animals we can apparently feel free to torture, if we feel it is a good use of our time?

Oh, RandZapper (you say), now you're being unfair! Kolker wasn't the one arguing for animal torture. Not previously. But now he is. He quotes the following:

> Even if you own an animal, that does not give you the right to torture it for pleasure. And anyone has the moral right (and should have the legal right) to use force to stop you.

And responds in high dudgeon, a state of mind recognizable by his frighteningly indiscriminate use of capital letters:

Have you no respect for Property. You have violated the One, True and Eternal Principle of Justice: What is his is his and what is yours is yours. You have no right to interfere with another person's use of his own property if that use is not doing you any harm or constituting a clear and present danger to your safety. Civilization depends on making a clear distinction between your own and other people's. First you tell him how not to treat his cat, then you tell him how not to fuck. It is a virtually inevitable progression.

So ... if you tell your neighbor not to stuff a cherry bomb up his cat's coal chute, you're on a slippery slope to fascism. It's "a virtually inevitable progression."

RandZapper sees another virtually inevitable progression: The Randian philosophy of "life as the standard of value and the highest value"must inevitably devolve into the Kolkerian philosophy of "I do not value human life for its own sake, but for what it can do for me and mine." Rand's fantasy of super-rationalists free of all conflicts of interest must morph into the dog-eat-dog (and man-torture-dog) reality of eugenics, euthanasia, and Social Darwinism redux. Rand's heroic hyper-individualists can flourish only in a world from which "the weak and the botched" (quoting Rand's mentor, Nietzsche) have been expunged. Randian Man cannot share the stage with cripples and retards, and Randian Woman is too busy pursuing her "interests" to carry a baby to term. All such parasites and other "useless eaters" must be eliminated to pave the way for a brave new world of Kolkerian "finite state automata," in which tax-deductible euthanasia will further cull the robot herd.

At least now we know why Rand's cardboard characters so frequently resemble soulless automatons.

And we're starting to understand why we never see any children in her novels ...