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Interlude: The Stupidest People on Earth

Interrupting my vacation commentary for a brief sideline…

Go laugh your ass off. I actually grew up around some people this fucking stupid (which necessarily includes anyone who reads those "Left Behind" books). Morons.

(Beck)

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

50 Comments

  1. JODSTER on July 18, 2006 at 08:06

    It's too bad these sort of comments have to be so personal. Your inferred stupidity is another man's eternal life.

    You don't have to agree, but you also don't have to name call.

    Who am I to comment though. I'm just a "moron" that read the books and watched the movies. Heck, my bother is in on eof them.

  2. Billy Beck on July 18, 2006 at 21:03

    The world is not going to end because the Israelis and Arabs are blowing each other up with Persian assistance; we're all going to be here next year and the year after that, and so on until we die in our natural course; and those people who are slavering with the idea that the current unpleasantness is the advent of what they believe it is are not paying attention to reality.

    Now, the first two propositions will verify the third one. You'll see.

  3. Irene on July 18, 2006 at 14:34

    My aunt used to send me those books. For Christmas. Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" to a 12-year-old like the implication that you're going to hell.

  4. tracifish on July 19, 2006 at 01:30

    I don't even know what to say…how awful for you and Jon Swift to judge in such a way. My feelings aren't hurt…but the name-calling…what's that about? Why the hate?

  5. Richard Nikoley on July 19, 2006 at 09:21

    Jodster & tracifish:

    Look, I just don't know any other way of putting it. That there are people who actually, literally believe this stuff just astounds me.

    I mean, I just can't express how fucking stupid I think you all are. That's just a fact. I think you're a bunch of fucking morons.

    How else characterize people how have no serious grasp on reality? I suppose I could feel sorry for you, but I just don't see much of a difference.

  6. Kyle Bennett on July 19, 2006 at 22:09

    "it only shows your own ignorance and intolerance […] I don't go around calling them morons, or, stupid."

    How good of you to not call people those two specific things, that consideration apparently not extending to using different terms.

    The fact is, there's a difference between name-calling and identification. If I called you a "pig-fucker", for instance, it would not likely be an identification, since there is very little probability that you fuck pigs (particularly given your apparent gender), let alone that I would know it if you did. The purpose could only be provocation.

    "Moron", and "stupid" don't necessarily fall into that latter category, as they refer to specific attributes that could reasonably be in fact true, and for which evidence can be present in an online forum and in stated beliefs.

    You're calling Richard ignorant and intolerant is, in my estimation, at least an attempt at identification, and not merely for provocation. So the question is, which do you think Richard was doing? It matters in the context of an accusation of name-calling and the reasons why such is considered impolite and inconsistent with rational argument – and the fact that identification is neither.

    That said, I do think that "the stupidest people on earth" is going too far. They (the rapture-mongers specifically) are no higher than the 70th percentile.

  7. Beth on July 19, 2006 at 16:22

    Just because someone believes in something in which you don't- doesn't justify name-calling. In fact, it only shows your own ignorance and intolerance. Your need to continually use the word "fuck" also shows your inability to articulate the English language and again- ignorance. Do I believe in what these people believe? No, but I don't go around calling them morons, or, stupid.

  8. Richard Nikoley on July 20, 2006 at 00:07

    Anyone see a href="http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060719/sc_nm/usa_congress_stemcells_dc_1">this news? This is the sort of thing I'm primarily talking about when I get particularly serious about it.

    Sure, everyone would understand perfectly if I were to call someone a stupid moron who believes they can cross a busy street without looking and without harm, for instance.

    What's the difference between that moron's belief and the belief of the moron who believes they're going to heaven, or that Jesus is coming again, or that if they kill infidels in martyrdom, they'll be rewarded with 70 virgins in heaven, or what have you? There is no intellectual difference between the positions.

    What's different about them is in the material consequences for exercising such belief. The guy who crosses the street dies and the martyr kills himself and murders others. Stupid morons. Everyone agrees. Believe something equally as absurd, but passively? It's a sacred religious belief.

    If born-again loonies began exercising their belief of immediate, unconditional, and sure entry into paradise, even in suicide (all is forgiven, once "saved" in the born-again view), and began offing themselves in huge numbers, then everyone would agree I've bee right all along.

    Well, on this blog, we don't make such meaningless distinctions.

    Regarding the stem-cell thing, those are real consequences, folks, and I'm not suggesting such research ought to be funded with the money stolen from people (taxes). Here we have arguably the most powerful man in the world using his very first veto to shoot something down on the basis of the whacked-out beliefs of millions of fucking morons.

    You can argue that there's nothing standing in the way of private research. Just you wait.

    Religion, i.e., mysticism, is the true root of all evil.

  9. Richard Nikoley on July 20, 2006 at 05:49

    MsFreud:

    Well, Western Germany isn't in the cards for this trip, though we may traverse Switzerland on the drive back to Paris. We had to give up Rome, too. Thanks for the invite.

    Our next Europe trip is likely to be either a more northern trek to include Germany and others, but I also feel Greece pulling me in a big way too. We'll see.

    As to the link, I believe Jon Swift was writing tongue deeply in cheek. Check it out with that in mind and see if you agree.

  10. Kyle Bennett on July 20, 2006 at 06:49

    It's interesting that MsFreud and many of Swift's commenters utterly failed to notice the name of the blog, or if they did, to understand it.

  11. MsFreud on July 20, 2006 at 03:47

    I have been reading you for sometime- and should you journey bring you into Western Germany, let me know- we'll have schnitzel… this guy is a bona fide schmuck. What an asshat- an upside to world war?
    Fuck me!
    What gets me is all the people on your comments dissing you for calling him out on it! He openly admits on his site that he gets his news from Fox and Limbaugh, and no where else. WTF?!
    Thank you for bringin this to my attention, now I have some blog fodder of my own for today.

  12. Richard Nikoley on July 20, 2006 at 22:30

    Lynette:

    Yes, of course the veto was correct on that score. Essentially everything should always be vetoed. Of course, this was Bush's first veto in six years in office, and the reason given for the veto wasn't funding, it was his moronic religious beliefs.

    "Religion isn't evil. It's the idea that everyone gets to vote on the distribution of property that's evil."

    So common muggers are just as bad or worse than "kings" and others in high places who derive their moral authority to steal frojm on high? Do you see the distinction?

    Where do you think people ultimately believe they have the authority to vote on the lives of other people? (Connect the dots, don't stop at the state.) I'll tell you what: the soviet and chinese communists never believed they had such authority and that was a massive state.n So from where is the moral authority derived?

    On the question of embryos, whose embryos, Lynette? Right to survive? By what (whose) means?

  13. Kyle Bennett on July 21, 2006 at 06:55

    Lynette:

    "One doesn't necessarily have to be religious or whacked out to conclude that embryos are human and have a right to survive."

    In the case of embryos, this becomes a positive right, meaning that it is a right that has to be provided by someone. Do you want to be first in line for the non-voluntary embryo implantation program? That's what has to be done if the survival of these embryos is a right, and there aren't enough voluntary surrogate mothers stepping up.

    Actually, you'd only have to register, like a motherhood draft. Your ticket might not even be called up, and maybe you can get a 4F rating, or a deferrment if you are in college.

    If not, I hope you don't have any plans for the next nine months.

  14. Lynette Warren on July 20, 2006 at 20:37

    I'm not suggesting such research ought to be funded with the money stolen from people (taxes).

    You are suggesting that if you oppose the veto. If Bush hadn't applied the veto, the research would have be funded with stolen money. The decision to veto was correct, if for the wrong reason.

    Religion, i.e., mysticism, is the true root of all evil.

    Religion isn't evil. It's the idea that everyone gets to vote on the distribution of property that's evil.

  15. Lynette Warren on July 20, 2006 at 20:49

    Here we have arguably the most powerful man in the world using his very first veto to shoot something down on the basis of the whacked-out beliefs of millions of fucking morons.

    Assuming that the stem cell veto was a result of Bush's overall opposition to the destruction of human embryos, how is that a whacked out belief, in and of itself? One doesn't necessarily have to be religious or whacked out to conclude that embryos are human and have a right to survive.

  16. Richard Nikoley on July 21, 2006 at 14:37

    "people who create in vitro human beings"

    Bloody conflating rubbish. There is no more such a thing as an "in vitro human being" than there is an in vitro dog or cat.

    It is precisely this sort of failure-to-properly-distinguish hogwash that does the most harm in cheapening actual human life. If it can exist in a test tube, then it can exist virtually everywhere, in virtually any conditions. It becomes nothing special at all.

  17. Lynette Warren on July 21, 2006 at 11:41

    Kyle,

    In the case of embryos, this becomes a positive right, meaning that it is a right that has to be provided by someone.

    Not at all.

    Do you want to be first in line for the non-voluntary embryo implantation program?

    It's not my responsibility to nurture them anymore than it would be up to me to raise your 6 month old, lest you should leave him out for the coyotes or sell him to a lab for research. The onus in such a case would be on you to not destroy the life you create, just as it is on the people who create in vitro human beings.

  18. Kyle Bennett on July 22, 2006 at 06:15

    Lynette,

    The onus in such a case would be on you to not destroy the life you create, just as it is on the people who create in vitro human beings.

    So it's OK to keep them "alive" in a state of non-sentient suspended animation in a test-tube? Even in that state, they still require "nurturing" in the sense that the liquid-nitrogen chambers must be kept powered, maintained, cataloged, etc.

    Rights are a function of moral agency, not simple biology. And since rights are all negative, the only rights the embryos could possibly have, a-priori, is the right to not be interfered with as they fend for themselves. Since they are utterly unable to do so, such a right is merely a floating abstraction – philosophical musing divorced from any grounding in actual fact. Or, to put it another way, premises and conclusions that may be internally logically consistent, but removed from any context whatsoever, and thus not logically consistent with the whole of reality.

    If someone is willing to nurture them to term, to voluntarily provide the positive support and resources needed to turn them from potential into moral agents, then they have the "right" to survive – their rights have been brought into a context which allows them to be realized. And in such a case, I would even go as far as to agree that the "parents" have no property claim on them.

    This still comes back to the fact that any rights they have must be positively provided by someone. So, the question remains, are you or any of the other "right to life" crowd willing to step up?

    Like the communists and the soccer mom, Bush justifies his actions by saying they are taken for the collective good.

    Collective good is an inherently religious concept. Communists have merely substituted one imaginary divine being for another – the mythical entity "society" becomes their god.
    Whether the collective is the primary divinity or one merely derived from a primary divinity, it all boils down to somebody claiming to represent the will of an entity that they just made up out of thin air.

  19. Lynette Warren on July 21, 2006 at 17:10

    So common muggers are just as bad or worse than "kings" and others in high places who derive their moral authority to steal frojm on high? Do you see the distinction?

    I see a distinction in the magnitude of harm I can incur from either the king or the mugger, as a perpetrator. At times Bush or Schumer do me less harm than a garden variety mugger on the street corner or a local soccer mom working diligently to get a half percent county tax levied to improve the local high school, but qualitatively, I rate them all about the same.

    Where do you think people ultimately believe they have the authority to vote on the lives of other people? (Connect the dots, don't stop at the state.) I'll tell you what: the soviet and chinese communists never believed they had such authority and that was a massive state.n So from where is the moral authority derived?

    From the same place George Bush derives it. You can't lay it at the doorstep of religion. Like the communists and the soccer mom, Bush justifies his actions by saying they are taken for the collective good. In this country, politicians are fond of saying they act on behalf of the voters, or the people, or the children, but it boils down to drawing authority by way of the collective good. Irrationalism is the foundation of such a justification, but it's impossible to acertain a person's measure of evil or degree of threat based upon whether he subscibes to some form of mysticism in this or that facet of his life.

  20. Kyle Bennett on July 22, 2006 at 18:51

    John,

    I really don't follow you. The best I can do is that it sounds like you're saying that I'm putting an obligation on the right to life crowd (for lack of a better term, not meant derogatorally) to take care of the embryos. I'm not claiming such an obligation, I'm saying that nobody is obligated to do so, and that the embryos are fundamentally incapable of doing it themselves (which puts the epistemological status of those rights in question). So if the RTL's want them protected, they can either volunteer to provide that value themselves, or not.

    A secondary point was that the existence of someone willing and able to protect those rights would change the context enough to possibly alter the epistemelogical status of them in this circumstance, that being that the entities said to posses these rights are not (yet) moral agents.

    Does your understanding of the part of my post you quoted change if I were to put "rights" in quotes in the first sentence? …implying that the existence of those rights are in question because they can only be positive rights?

    If that's not your point, please enlighten me.

  21. John Lopez on July 22, 2006 at 17:30

    Kyle,

    This still comes back to the fact that any rights they have must be positively provided by someone. So, the question remains, are you or any of the other "right to life" crowd willing to step up?

    I say it's wrong for George Bush to tax you and you have a right not to be stolen from by him or his agents.

    Now, do you say that I incur some sort of obligation to facilitate the protection of your right, seeing as how I'm a member of the "right to fruits-of-ones-labor" crowd?

    The answer is that I'm not obligated to give you the time of day, let alone defend your wallet from this government – that's your problem to deal with. The fact that I'm not about to spend my time defending your right not to be looted from in no way invalidates that right.

  22. John Lopez on July 23, 2006 at 09:41

    The best I can do is that it sounds like you're saying that I'm putting an obligation on the right to life crowd (for lack of a better term, not meant derogatorally) to take care of the embryos.

    That was the implication I read into it…

    I'm not claiming such an obligation, I'm saying that nobody is obligated to do so,…

    …But I guess I was wrong.

    Does your understanding of the part of my post you quoted change if I were to put "rights" in quotes in the first sentence? …implying that the existence of those rights are in question because they can only be positive rights?

    I don't quite agree with your wording. I think a better way of putting it would be to say that a negative obligation doesn't imply a positive obligation. In this case, an obligation not to kill embryos on your part (let's stipulate) wouldn't imply that you have to lift a finger to stop someone else from doing it.

  23. Kyle Bennett on July 24, 2006 at 09:17

    …a negative obligation doesn't imply a positive obligation. In this case, an obligation not to kill embryos on your part (let's stipulate) wouldn't imply that you have to lift a finger to stop someone else from doing it.

    I agree completely, given the stipulation. I don't completely agree that you have an obligation not to kill the embryos, but in neither case would a positive obligation to protect or nurture them exist.

    The part about stepping up was about them doing something themselves that they want done because nobody else will.

  24. Lynette Warren on July 25, 2006 at 13:23

    in neither case would a positive obligation to protect or nurture them exist.

    Kyle,
    No one, but you, is contending that positive rights come into play here.

    The part about stepping up was about them doing something themselves that they want done because nobody else will.

    If you don't understand that I have no more an obligation to stop others from destroying a human life than Lopez has to stop a thief from looting your bank account, then you missed his point, altogether.

    And since rights are all negative, the only rights the embryos could possibly have, a-priori, is the right to not be interfered with as they fend for themselves. Since they are utterly unable to do so, such a right is merely a floating abstraction – philosophical musing divorced from any grounding in actual fact

    Would it be philosophical musing for me to ask why it's wrong of you to leave your 6-month-old baby alone in the house while you go on an extended vacation? As long as you're not interfering with him while he's fending for himself, what's the problem?

  25. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 09:20

    Lynette:

    No one, but you, is contending that positive rights come into play here.

    You are. From an earlier post:

    One doesn't necessarily have to be religious or whacked out to conclude that embryos are human and have a right to survive.

    The right you assert cannot be anything but a positive right, unless you think that the embryos can provide their own food and shelter. Or is it that you think that rights are explicitly encoded in DNA?

    If you don't understand that I have no more an obligation to stop others from destroying a human life than Lopez has to stop a thief from looting your bank account, then you missed his point, altogether.

    I understand John's point completely, and agree with it.

    What you don't understand is that the thief looting my bank account is not analagous to the question of the embryos. But that's the confusion that arises from being sloppy with context, and dropping it altogether when asserting the embryos' "right to survive". The embryos' "right" to survive is entirely dependent on positive support, while the safety of my bank account requires nothing of the potential thief.

    The question is more closely analogous to somebody bidding on my clothes and furniture when they are being auctioned off by the storage company because I failed to pay my monthly bill. Would you call the winning bidder a thief?

    Sure it's my stuff, but only so long as I pay to have it maintained. If, for some reason, you thought that I had a "right" to keep my stuff even without paying the storage bill, and if you were determined to see that "right" maintained, then you have only two choices: You can whine to the storage manager about it, try to convince or coerce him into letting me keep my stuff (assert a positive obligation on his part), or you could just pay the bill yourself. You're not obligated to, but if you value that "right" of mine for some reason, you'd have to pursue that value with your own means.

    Would it be philosophical musing for me to ask why it's wrong of you to leave your 6-month-old baby alone in the house while you go on an extended vacation? As long as you're not interfering with him while he's fending for himself, what's the problem?

    Yes, it would. Please decide whether you want to argue for positive rights, or against them.

  26. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 10:08

    "Positive rights is your straw man, Kyle.

    I have repeatedly made the point that an obligation not to kill embryos…"

    You can't have your cake & eat it too, Lynette. "An obligation not to kill embryos" is necessarily a positive right, since embryos are incapable of fending for themselves. I other words, unless someone does something positive to sustain and nurture an embryo, it will die.

    Thus, you are in an inescapable contradiction if you wish to maintain that you are not advocating "Kyle's straw man."

  27. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 10:14

    Lynette,

    We're quickly approachinI have repeatedly made the point that an obligation not to kill embryos doesn't imply that I have an obligation stop someone else from doing it.

    It's hard to argue against a constantly shifting context, but I'll try again: An embryo's right to life necessarily requires a positive obligation on somebody's part.

    To me, that argues against the existence of those rights. To you, it apparently argues for evading the implication so you don't have to question the existence of the rights.

    Since you are the one asserting the existence of what can only be a positive right, I'm asking if you are willing to accept the obligation that you are so willing to place on somebody else – so long as that "somebody" can remain hypothetical and not be explicitly named. I ask only so that, seeing it concretized, you might see the contradiction.

    If you're not able to see it, that's one thing. If you're not willing to, just say so, so we can stop the silly contextual merry-go-round.

  28. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 11:04

    "So what we're talking about is not a positive right."

    Bullshit. You are just ignoring reality. Embryos require positive nurturing from others purposefully acting on their behalf.

    You're just not dealing with reality, Lynette. Embryos, infants, and the infirm are not like conscious human beings capable of purposeful action in pursuit of values necessary to sustain and advance their lives. They are different in many respects.

    It is the fact of the natural choice of human beings to pursue values, or not, that implies rights.

    Arbitrarily assigning them to entities that are incapable of such choices does nothing but blur distinctions and feed the complete and total ignorance most people have when it comes to natural rights.

    Now, just in point of clarification, I'm not advocating abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia at all. These issues and circumstances are for the people and families involved to decide for themselves.

    Nonetheless, natural rights are what they are, limited to a particular kind of being existing in a particular kind of state, and that's just the way it is. No getting around it, if you wish to deal squarely with reality.

  29. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 11:11

    "Can an infant fend for himself or does his continued survival necessarily require a claim on someone else's time and resources?"

    Let's just stop beating around the bush, shall we? Infants have no natural right to life, nor do many kinds of people incapable, in themselves, of choosing, in themselves, to gain the values necessary to survive.

    It is critically important to be consistent with this formulation. The natural right to life is very specific and limited.

    Of course, that does not mean anyone should (or will) go around killing babies. People nurture infants because they love them to death. They want them. They value them immensely. They don't feed them because infants "have a right to life.

    Let's quit being so god-dammed ridiculous about it.

  30. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 11:18

    Can an infant fend for himself or does his continued survival necessarily require a claim on someone else's time and resources? Yet, his continued existence doesn't constitute a positive right.

    My god, you wrote out the contradiction in your own words, just about as plainly as it could possibly be stated, and then you just wave your hand and pretend it's not there. What the hell is wrong with you?

    No, don't answer. I'm convinced that you aren't arguing in good faith.

  31. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 13:08

    John,

    Both of you are saying that a mother who leaves her infant in her car on a hot day until it dies has done nothing wrong? Does she do wrong if she strangles the child with her bare hands and serves it up as a Sunday roast?

    Let me ask you this: Is Linux better than Windows?

    Oh, sorry, I just got caught up in the "lets ask completely irrelevant questions and pretend they mean something" meme that seems to be going around.

    Yes, she has. And I at least try to reach that conclusion from principles. Are you and Lynette attempting to reach your principles from that conclusion?

    You have rights as a consequence of your nature. Your nature is the same as it was when you were an infant.

    Really?

    Do you suppose that you never were an infant or that your nature changes?

    That your nature changes. Or, that the context with which your nature interacts changes. Or, that the concrete manifestation of your nature changes. They all mean essentially the same thing, since "your nature" can't be divorced from its context nor its concrete manifestation.

    Your conception of rights can only come at the cost of dropping all context entirely. Or by assuming that rights are encoded in DNA, which is, really, just another way of dropping all context entirely.

  32. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 13:27

    "Both of you are saying that a mother who leaves her infant in her car on a hot day until it dies has done nothing wrong?"

    Not at all. Whether she has done something wrong or not is a question of value judgment and I suppose that virtually everyone's value's dictate that she's done something wrong. That's at least my value judgment and that of everyone I know.

    But whether the infant had natural rights and whether she violated those rights is another question.

  33. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 13:29

    "Your nature is the same as it was when you were an infant."

    Patently false, John. C'mon, man. You've got to deal with facts and reality as the primary.

    It's just that simple.

  34. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 14:22

    I wasn't talking about objectivity, Lynette. I was talking about personal value judgments. Now, you can sneer at the analogy if you like, but a beautiful red sports car has no right to be washed, waxed and maintained. Yet, mysteriously, guys who own them do it anyway and if I were to see a guy who didn't, I'd have big problems with that.

    Look. There is no need to argue the point any further. Embryos and infants do not, can not, possess natural rights as they do not (yet) possess the human traits that give rise to natural rights as they pertain to human beings in a political context.

    Doesn't mean babies are at risk if we, for once, acknowledge simple real truths.

  35. Richard Nikoley on July 26, 2006 at 15:39

    "What does the fact that you'd have big problems with it have to do with whether it's objectively right or wrong?"

    Nothing. Why do you ask?

    "Some guys don't take good care of their sports cars. If a guy values other activities more than taking care of his sports car what's objectively wrong with that?"

    Nothing. Neither is there anything wrong with me hating their guts to hell and wishing them dead for such an outrage. Neither is there anything wrong with me refusing to ever associate with them on any grounds whatsoever.

    "Likewise, when a mother leaves her child in that hot car you don't know what other values she's pursuing that might be more important to her than the child."

    Indeed, which is why I'd curse her, wish her a painful death, laugh out loud if she met such an end — especially if at the hand of another scumbag like herself — and never associate with her on any grounds whatsoever.

    John, OK, you doubtless agree with me that dogs, for example, have no natural rights. What do you think of people who leave their pets in a hot car? Maybe you don't care about it, which I can grudgingly accept, but I sure do. I don't need something to be objectively morally wrong for me to despise someone who tramples my subjective values to the core.

    There's nothing mystical about morality, John. The sky doesn't open up when a moral issue is at stake. Morality is merely a consequence of our natural choice to pursue our values of survival or not. Nothing more.

    "by what objective principle can you say she ought to value the baby more"

    There is none. I am gratified, however, to find that most people who don't value children that much don't have them, or abort them before they become children.

    You can't change how people value stuff, John, but you can allow them to pursue their values and correct their errors, such as with the wonderful, life-enhancing medical technology of abortion, where the temporary value of a sexual encounter that conflicts with a host of other things and causes a problem can be fixed before far worse problems take place — such as babies being left in hot cars.

  36. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 16:38

    Jim,

    howzabout, just this once, you all put it in simple words that the rest of us public schooled morons can understand..

    I'll try, (I may even do it while standing on one foot), though I come from the guvmint schuuls too, so no promises. And, simple words means more of them are required, so be careful what you ask for. Here goes….

    Humans have a particular nature, that is we have the ability to form concepts about the world around us, we can examine our ideas and actions, and we can evaluate them in light of those concepts. That is called moral agency, and only humans, fictional computers, and purely hypothetical space aliens are known for sure to possess it. It is a capacity that is coded in our DNA, but it only becomes real after we have reached some level of mental ability and experience, and that on a continuum, like a light growing gradually brighter rather than a light being switched on all at once.

    After much arguing amongst ourselves, we (the human race and Ayn Rand) find that certain kinds of actions, when evaluated against certain concepts about the world around us that are widely held to be valid, always lead to a contradiction. This contradiction means that the actions being contemplated are never consistent with the reality of the world around us – are never correct, and thus should never be done. Since these logical prohibitions occur in the widest applicable context – which is the context defined by beings with the capacity for moral agency, (in other words, not the context of rocks, galaxies, or shellfish), the set of logical prohibitions against these actions is often called "natural rights", and said colloquially, though not with complete accuracy, to be "posessed by", or "an attribute of" moral agents. And since they are all prohibitions against actions, they are said to be "negative" rights.

    While we all have, at one level, the same nature – the capacity for moral agency, conceptual thought, instrospection, etc. – we each have a concrete nature that is different in some regards from the natures of other moral agents, and even from our own past or future natures. Context is the important factor here: some aspects of our natures are universal, they are the same for all of us, while other aspects are specific to each of us. Therefore, the logical conclusions about our rights are sensitive to the context in which they are evaluated. These contexts are not separate and distinct, but heirarchal in that that larger context includes the narrower one, or that the narrow context is part of the wider context.

    There are other kinds of rights that apply in contexts more narrowly defined than that of all moral agents, such as in the context of "Kyle Bennett". These rights are not universal, but rather apply to specific situations. They are created by the actions of one or more specific moral agents. For instance, in the wider context, I have the right to own property (remember, this really means that it is logically inconsistent for another moral agent to damage or usurp my property, but not logically inconsistent for Hurricane Katrina to do so). In the narrower context, I, specifically, have a right to a certain white 1990 Dodge Ram half-ton pickup truck. That right did not exist when I was born, but was created when I gave money to the person who used to have the right to that very same truck (and who volunteered to give it up in exchange for the money).

    A key point of narrow-context rights is that they can be exclusionary – in that not everyone has the same rights – and they can be positive, in that they can obligate someone to perform a specific action. These rights are not limited to universal "negative" rights, to the prohibition of certain actions as being logically inconsistent. They are sometimes referred to as "acquired" rights.

    The argument here revolves around the natural rights of "spare" embryos created in the process of in-vitro fertilization. These embryos are presently either disposed of, or used for scientific research, most notably in the area of stem cells. There are two issues involved here. The first is the death of the embryo through the removal of the resources they require for survival, which would be the violation of a narrow-context, positive right, should one even exist. This would leave the question of the disposal or use for research of the embryo as only one of how to treat what is essentially a dead body, a corpse.

    The second issue is the active killing of the embryo either pursuant to, or in the course of, its use for research. The question I have raised, which Lynette is still apparently not even aware is in question, is whether this would be a violation of a natural right. Lynette, and John Kennedy, maintain not only that it would unquestionably be a violation, but that the right to survive and the right not to be killed are one and the same right – that there is no issue of a positive right in either. This would mean that not only could the embryo not be killed for research, but that those who are maintaining the conditions required for the embryos' continued existence must continue to provide those resources, possibly forever.

    The answer to whether killing the embryo constitutes a violation of natural rights rests on an evaluation of how natural rights come to be in the first place, and that is dependent on whether the embryo is considered a moral agent. Lynette's position seems to be either that it is a moral agent solely by virtue of its human genes, or that moral agency is not required for natural rights. If the latter, which I believe to be the more likely, she apparently disagrees with my description above. (I'd relate her alternative explanation to you, but I can't figure out a way to evade or explain away the contradictions inherent to it. I'll leave that task in her practiced hands.)

    If her argument is the former, I maintain that technology has presented us with something that has never existed before, the ability to "create" a being that has the potential capacity for moral agency, but for which there is no possibility of it ever being concretely manifested. Prior to this technology, a person either had a full life of moral agency ahead of them, or they were dead. (I'll leave aside the "persistent vegetative state" can of worms for now). I n light of this, it has to at least throw into question whether genes alone are sufficient for the establishment of natural rights.

    It is at least questionable that an embryo with no possibility of living long enough for it's capacity for moral agency to be concretely manifested can even be said to fall under the context of moral agency. I further posited that, if not, it could be brought into the context of moral agency if that condition were to be changed.

    I suggested, perhaps rather obtusely, that Lynette could change this condition by essentially adopting an embryo – in effect creating a context in which natural rights would exist, where no such context existed before. She took this to be a claim that the embryo's existing natural rights obligated her to do so, which would be a circular proposition – that natural rights required the creation of those natural rights. I was claiming no such thing, only that she had the opportunity to change that context if she so wished, and that if she didn't, then she needn't insist that anyone else do so either.

    Does that clarify things?

  37. Kyle Bennett on July 26, 2006 at 20:33

    John,

    You really don't see a positive right being claimed in the assertion that someone must use his resources to keep someone else alive?

    I'm not saying the positive rights are valid, as your example would imply, I'm saying that the assertion of a "right to survive" is a claim of a positive right. Under Lynette and Kennedy's formulation – that the right to survive and the right not to be killed are one and the same, and/or that the right to survive exists as a natural right – implies the moral necessity for the welfare state. I'm saying that formulation is wrong, both from principle and because of that consequence.

  38. jim kim on July 26, 2006 at 14:25

    Yeah, yeah, yeah… We all know you folks take delight in being deliberately vague in your explanations, but howzabout, just this once, you all put it in simple words that the rest of us public schooled morons can understand.

    I have no idea what you guys are arguing about.

    Intellectuals…jeezus. *scratches butt in disgust*

  39. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 09:39

    The right you assert cannot be anything but a positive right, unless you think that the embryos can provide their own food and shelter.

    Can a six-month-old child provide their own food and shelter?

  40. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 09:55

    Please decide whether you want to argue for positive rights, or against them.

    Positive rights is your straw man, Kyle.

    I have repeatedly made the point that an obligation not to kill embryos doesn't imply that I have an obligation stop someone else from doing it.

  41. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 10:42

    It's hard to argue against a constantly shifting context

    Early in this discussion I stated, "It's not my responsibility to nurture them anymore than it would be up to me to raise your 6 month old, lest you should leave him out for the coyotes or sell him to a lab for research. The onus in such a case would be on you to not destroy the life you create."

    In other words, a right to survive means a right not to be killed. That point has been reiterated again and again here by myself and by John Lopez. So what we're talking about is not a positive right.

    You're persistance in resurrecting the positive rights straw man is the cause of the contextual merry-go-round.

  42. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 10:55

    An embryo's right to life necessarily requires a positive obligation on somebody's part. To me, that argues against the existence of those rights.

    Can an infant fend for himself or does his continued survival necessarily require a claim on someone else's time and resources? Yet, his continued existence doesn't constitute a positive right. Why is that?

  43. John T. Kennedy on July 26, 2006 at 12:05

    Richard and Kyle,

    Just to make sure I'm clear on this:

    Both of you are saying that a mother who leaves her infant in her car on a hot day until it dies has done nothing wrong?

    Does she do wrong if she strangles the child with her bare hands and serves it up as a Sunday roast?

  44. John T. Kennedy on July 26, 2006 at 12:18

    You have rights as a consequence of your nature. Your nature is the same as it was when you were an infant.

    Do you suppose that you never were an infant or that your nature changes?

  45. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 13:57

    Yes, she has.

    OK. What did she do wrong?

  46. Lynette Warren on July 26, 2006 at 14:06

    I suppose that virtually everyone's value's dictate that she's done something wrong. That's at least my value judgment and that of everyone I know.

    Try to think in principles, Rich. What, objectively, has she done wrong?

  47. Billy Beck on July 27, 2006 at 04:46

    Rich & Kyle: you guys understand that you're talking to a game-boy in a vat, right?

  48. John T. Kennedy on July 26, 2006 at 15:02

    Richard,

    ."..and if I were to see a guy who didn't, I'd have big problems with that."

    What does the fact that you'd have big problems with it have to do with whether it's objectively right or wrong?

    Some guys don't take good care of their sports cars. If a guy values other activities more than taking care of his sports car what's objectively wrong with that?

    Likewise, when a mother leaves her child in that hot car you don't know what other values she's pursuing that might be more important to her than the child.

    She could be taking care her other sports car!

    The child might well be easier to replace than the sports car; by what objective principle can you say she ought to value the baby more?

  49. John Lopez on July 26, 2006 at 19:40

    Kyle,

    Lynette, and John Kennedy, maintain not only that it would unquestionably be a violation, but that the right to survive and the right not to be killed are one and the same right – that there is no issue of a positive right in either. This would mean that not only could the embryo not be killed for research, but that those who are maintaining the conditions required for the embryos' continued existence must continue to provide those resources, possibly forever

    I don't see how positive rights are implied by any of this. People would die if the welfare state went away, does that imply an obligation to continue welfare states?

  50. John T. Kennedy on July 26, 2006 at 21:04

    Neither of us holds that a positve right to survival is the same as the right to not be killed.

    You don't have a right to survive at the expense of others, except in certain circumstances. You can't take people out scuba diving 20 miles from land and then suddenly sail away leaving them to fend for themselves. Under such circumstances they do have a right to a trip back to shore at your expense since you're responsible for their helpless condition.

    Likewise a woman is responsible for the offspring she conceives (by her choice) since she produces since they are in a helpless condition as a result of her choice.

    Like women, labs are responsible for the human offspriong they produce.

    Richard has said infants have no rights; I'd like to know if Kyle agrees.

    If you hold that infants have no rights then the only sensible way to treat them is as property. You can have no objection to a brisk free market in babies where they may be bought and sold for any purpose: to raise, to be used and destroyed in research, to be broken up for parts, or served as food – like cows. In a free market babies as a commodidity would go to their highest valued use.

    There are people who sexually molest infants. In a free market they could buy infants and do whatever they liked to them. Could you raise any coherent objection?

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