Why I am not an Agnostic

A friend of mine asked me about being an atheist recently, and I realized that I had written very little directly on that subject, especially in recent years. I typically just refer someone to what others have written on the subject. For instance, I found “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith to be a fairly thorough explanation, and to be largely correct, although I haven’t read it since 1994, so I don’t know to what extent I might now have disagreements with that book.

I am a proponent of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. I am also fully convinced that it is inconsistent to be an Objectivist and be anything other than an atheist, but that is not actually an explanation for why I am an atheist. After all, maybe Objectivism is right on that one issue, and wrong on everything else, or vice-versa, or somewhere in between. So, in my mind, simply saying: “I am Objectivist, therefore I am atheist,” is not a satisfactory explanation to give to someone regarding why I am, specifically, an atheist. In this essay, I will explain why I am an atheist, but I will do so in the context of a related issue: Why I am not an agnostic.

For me, being an atheist rests on a logical principle that is known as “the onus of proof” principle. This is generally defined as something like: “He who asserts a claim has the burden of proof.” Every statement has a truth-value. That statement can be true, it can be false, or it can be “arbitrary”. A statement is “true” if there is evidence to establish that the statement is in accordance with reality. A statement is “false” if there is evidence to show that that the statement is not in accordance with reality. For instance, imagine that person A says: “All swans are white,” and then he shows person B ten white swans to prove it. However, person B then shows person A an eleventh swan that is black, thereby establishing that A’s statement is “false”. Or, Person A says: “All men are law-abiders,” and person A shows person B ten men who are obeying the law. But, person B then shows person A an eleventh man that is breaking the law, thereby showing person A’s statement to be “false”.

It is also possible to make a statement and offer no proof regarding that statement. Such a statement is neither “true” nor “false”, but “arbitrary”. For instance, person A says: “All swans are white,” and B asks for proof, and A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” As far as B is concerned, A has made an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it. Notice that unlike the example above, person A did not show ten white swans to prove his statement. He just “arbitrarily” asserted it.

Another example of an arbitrary statement would be if person A says: “Portland is a city in Oregon.” Person B then asks for proof, and A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” As far as B is concerned, assuming that B didn’t already have any independent proof of this statement, this is an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it. (In this case, it can be established that Portland is a city in Oregon, but the evidence simply hasn’t been presented to B.)

A more common example of an arbitrary statement will be something more mystical, along these lines: Person A says: “I was Julius Ceasar in a past life.” Person B then asks for proof, and person A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” A has made an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it.

So, if someone asserts: “There is a little gremlin standing on my shoulder, but he is invisible, and you cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell him, nor can you use any sort of logical reasoning or deduction to establish that he exists, now prove that it isn’t so,” then they have violated the onus of proof principle. Their statement is neither “true” nor “false”. It is merely “arbitrary”.

How should such an “arbitrary” statement by a person be dealt with by the listener? This question depends on what you think the purpose of knowledge is. I assert that human beings use their rational faculties –that they think- in order to maintain or enhance their individual lives. Knowledge, in general terms, is about grasping causal relationships between perceived entities in order to effectively use those things to maintain or enhance your own life. For instance, people study Biology and human anatomy so that they can understand how a particular entity, the human body, works, and how it interacts with things in its environment like viruses and bacteria. This enables them to develop means of curing disease, which maintains and enhances human life. Or, we study planetary motion, which gives us the ability to understand the nature of gravity, which, thanks to Isaac Newton, gave us the law of Universal Gravitation, which eventually, along with other knowledge, let us build rockets. This allowed us to launch weather satellites that we can use to predict hurricanes. Such technology gives us the ability to evacuate cities in the path of a hurricane, thereby saving countless human lives. One last example that isn’t from the natural sciences: We study man’s fundamental nature in order to understand and grasp certain general principles of action that will enhance or maintain his life. These general principles of action for maintaining one’s life are what Ayn Rand called “ethics” or “morality”.

If the purpose of knowledge is to allow human beings to understand laws of nature, i.e., causal relationships, then any assertion which is not backed up by proof or evidence is an attempt to get people to act on ideas that have no established connection to reality. Acting contrary to the facts in this way is typically not life-enhancing. It is more likely to lead to self-destruction. For instance, if I decided that I could flap my unaided arms and fly like a bird, then went to the roof of a building and jumped off, that will likely end badly for me. This is why it is important that all ideas, statements, and assertions be established in your own mind to be in accordance with reality before you act on them.

The onus of proof principle is the primary reason I self-describe as an “atheist”. When someone makes any statement, I expect proof, if I don’t already have it. Thus, if someone says: “There is a god,” I want proof, just like if someone said: “There is a little green man on Mars.” It just happens to be that within our culture, belief in some sort of god is so common that there is a word for what I am: “a-theist”. But, I am also “a-little-green-man-on-Mars”(ist). (If the majority of the human population were “atheist”, then there probably wouldn’t even be a word for it. That would just be considered “normal”.)

I once explained this “onus of proof” basis for being an atheist to someone who was generally a “secular humanist”, and he said that sounded like “agnosticism”. I must disagree. Let’s look at the definitions of “atheist” and “agnostic” found via a “define: atheist” and “define: agnostic” in Google’s search engine:

Atheist: a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

Agnostic: a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

My interpretation of these two contrasting definitions is that agnosticism says: “I don’t know if there is a god or not, so I am not going to take a position one way or the other.” But, the truth-status of every assertion of fact matters, if you want to live. Imagine if this were done in some other area, such as if you worked at a construction site. If someone said: “There is a crane about to drop a ton of bricks on you,” the truth or falsity of this statement matters. If you look up and don’t see any crane or bricks, then you’re going to think: “This person is a liar. I am going to distance myself from him and not listen to him.” You might also investigate why he said that. Perhaps you will discover that you were standing on a hundred dollar bill you had dropped, and he wanted you to move so that he could get it without telling you the real reason. This says something about his character.

On the other hand, if you look up and see that there is a ton of bricks about to fall on you, then you will take action: you will get out of the way. (In that scenario, you’re more likely to take that person’s word for it, and jump out of the way. But, after the fact, if you see that he was lying, then, if you want to live, it will affect your opinion of him, and how you deal with him -or don’t deal with him- in the future. My point here is that the truth-status of his assertion matters to your life.)

Imagine what agnosticism would mean to your life in practice. Imagine that an advocate of Sharia Law came to an agnostic and said to her: “God says all women should wear a burka.” Is the agnostic going to think: “I don’t want to take a position on this, so I’ll cover my head half of the time, and not cover it the other half of the time,” or: “I will just cover half my head”? The agnostic can’t say: “Prove that there is a god, and until you do, I am going to disregard everything you say on this subject,” because that would be taking a position. If she does that, then she isn’t actually an agnostic in that situation. She is an atheist. Whether she wants to use the word “agnostic” to describe herself to others is a different issue, but in her mind the truth-status of the assertion matters to her, and she refuses to act on arbitrary assertions. She is an atheist, at least on that issue.

I suspect that there are several reasons why most secularists tend to want to self-describe as “agnostic” rather than “atheist”. “Atheist” is synonymous with “immoral” in our culture because most people believe that any sort of respect for the rights of others must necessarily rest in religious faith. (“Religion” and “morality” are synonymous in many people’s minds, although I don’t think that is correct, if morality means “principles of action necessary for living your life”.) Agnosticism also seems more “reasonable” or “middle of the road”, and our culture tends to promote “the golden mean” between two “extremes” as an ideal, but it is not actually more reasonable. Not if you care about living, because that is why we must adhere our minds to reality on all issues.

Ayn Rand Lexicon on “arbitrary“.

The Rwandan Mass Murder of 1994

I have been researching the mass murder that occurred in Rwanda over the course of a couple of months, starting in March of 1994. This was precipitated by the death of the President of Rwanda who’s plane was shot down by unknown persons. It’s estimated that anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 people, mostly identified as “Tutsis”, were murdered by militias and government soldiers, most of whom were identified as “Hutu”.

The parallels to the holocaust during World War II are readily apparent. There was an extreme xenophobia resting in a “tribal-mindset” and a generalized belief on the part of the Hutus that their problems were the result of the hated minority group. The people committing mass murder also had the same mindset as the average German: that if their government ordered them to commit murder, then they had no choice but to obey.

The Objectivist position is that this “tribal mindset” in Germany was formalized by the works of Immanuel Kant who stated that one must do one’s “duty” in spite of any desires to the contrary. Kant also said that your “noumenal self” actually wants you to do your “duty”, even though there is no rational way to know what your “noumenal self” wants. The Nazi “translation” of Kant was to say that your “Aryan blood” tells you what your duty is, and, in practice, this probably just reduces to: “duty is whatever the leader says it is”.  Both 1994 Rwanda and WWII Germany were marked by a distinct anti-individualism with mystic notions about the power of the ethnic or tribal collective’s authority to govern the individual.

Since Rwanda is a non-Western culture, I don’t know where the Hutu majority got their anti-individualist mindset.  Rwanda was a German colony prior to being taken over by the Belgians after World War I, but I don’t know that German culture would have permeated Rwanda that quickly or comprehensively to call that the cause from the standpoint of the history of ideas. This “tribal mindset” is probably common in any primitive society, although I think it would be interesting to see if German ideas gave the “Hutu power” movement academic and cultural respectability.

The other interesting parallel between Nazi Germany and 1994 Rwanda is the lack of racial difference between the group committing mass-murder and the group that was the victim of the mass-murder. The hatred was not based on race, since Hutus and Tutsis are racially indistinguishable, just like Germans and Jews were racially indistinguishable. Although I found commentators referring to Rwandan culture as racist, I think a more accurate description might be “tribal mindset”.

References:

[1]”The most profound factor fueling the transmission of genocidal ideology from the regime to the masses, however, was the longstanding and deeply ingrained racism of Rwandan society. Racism develops when the objective differences between oneself and others are not accepted but rather morally condemned. The ‘other’ is construed as categorically evil, dangerous, and threatening. For decades, Rwandan society had been profoundly racist. The image of the Tutsi as inherently evil and exploitative was, and still is, deeply rooted in the psyche of most Rwandans; this image was a founding pillar of the genocide to come. Although ethnic peace had prevailed during most of the regime, the racist nature of Rwandan society had not changed.” (“4 Rwanda’s Lack of Resources and Extreme Poverty Provided the Breeding Grounds for Genocide” by Peter Uvin, found in _The Rwanda Genocide_, Opposing Viewpoints Series, Edited by Christina Fisanick, ISBN: 0-7377-1985-0, 2004, Greenhaven Press.)

[2]“Now, having ‘returned’ to a country many of them did not know, they were confronted with the triple conundrum of dead relatives, limited economic opportunities, and cultural strangeness. They were discovering that, paradoxically, Tutsi survivors often had more in common with their Hutu neighbors than with themselves. They started to divide and quarrel according to their synthetic ‘tribes of exile,’ that is, the countries where they had spent their years away from Rwanda. There were ‘Zairians’, ‘Burundians,’ ‘Tanzanians,’ and ‘Ugandans,’ as well as those from more exotic places not ranking high enough in terms of returnee numbers to constitute a serious network of solidarity. If these distincutions didn’t matter too much in daily life, they mattered a lot as soon as politics, business, or the military was involved. Networks and mafias emerged, struggling for political control and economic advantage in the midst of the ruins.” (“Chapter 1: Rwanda’s Mixed Season of Hope (July 1994-April 1995), _Africa’s World War: Congo, The Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe_ Gerard Prunier, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-19-537420-9)

[3]_The Ominous Parallels_, Volume 3 of Ayn Rand library, by Leonard Peikoff

[4] “Tribalism” in _The Ayn Rand Lexicon_

“Free Will” and “Determinism”

I was thinking about the “determinism versus free will” debate yesterday, and I had a couple of thoughts that I thought might help in this debate. I am aiming my thoughts at people who are generally secularists and who look for naturalistic explanations for all phenomena.

First, I think it’s useful to think about things that clearly *are* determined. These are all non-living things, some of which are man-made and some of which are not. Examples include: billiard balls on a pool table that bounce when struck by other billiard balls, water reacting to a pebble being thrown in it with waves, the planets moving in orbit around the sun, a mouse trap when it is set and then sprung by a mouse, a basket ball that is dropped from a height and then repeatedly bounces -but less and less until it comes to a stop, and a rube goldberg machine. Both a proponent of determinism and an opponent of determinism will agree that all of these things are completely “determined”. These things possess no “internal will” that causes them to act as they do.

Second, it is also useful to look at the human mind to see if all of our mental actions are the same in terms of “level of choice”. Internal introspection of your own mind is the only way to really do this. There are certain “mental behaviors” or “mental actions” that seem less “chosen” than others. Normally, your emotions typically just react to external stimuli with very little or no ability on your part to avoid feeling those emotions. You feel anger, hatred, sadness, or happiness in reaction to certain perceived events seemingly “automatically”, like a mousetrap going off. At any given moment, your emotions seem closer to the examples of non-living things that are determined. If you are a man interested in women, and you see a woman with a certain body shape, size, and age-range, who behaves in a certain way, you feel a certain amount of romantic desire for her. If you are a woman with a child, you will normally feel fear if you see your child facing some sort of danger -or you will feel hatred or anger for the source of the danger towards your child. If someone tries to rob you with a gun, you will feel fear or anger. If someone you care about dies, you feel sadness. In all cases, you have little choice about the feelings that you feel at that moment. Your actions with respect to those feelings appear to be more under your control, but not the feelings themselves. Over time, your emotional reactions to certain things seem like they change. If you see someone you were romantically involved with several years after you broke up, you may no longer have the same romantic feelings you once had for them, or not to the same degree, but this happens over time. At any given time, one’s emotions are more fixed. (Some psychological schools seem to be based on the assumption that your thoughts can change your emotions over time, so if you change your thinking, which is under your control, then you will eventually change your emotions, but that is beyond the point here.)

But, when it comes to certain tasks, your ability to mentally solve problems seem less “automatic” than your emotions. For instance, if you are a physicist trying to solve a complex math problem, you actually have to sit down and work on the math problems. If you are a doctor trying to diagnose a patient’s illness, you actually have to draw on your store of knowledge and try to come up with a diagnosis. If you are a computer programmer, you actually have to sit down and try to figure out what data structures and if-then-else statements will solve the problem you are trying to solve. If you are a lawyer, you have to think about the facts of the case, and then go research the law and try to determine what legal precedents the facts of your case fit into. If you are a structural engineer, you have to decide what are the requirements of your building, such as: What will it be used for? How many people will use it? etc. Then you actually pick construction materials, work out the load requirements, etc. This applies equally to “blue collar” occupations. If you are a taxi cab driver, and your fare wants to get to the airport from downtown in less than 30 minutes, you have to consider the time of day, the traffic conditions, which roads are under construction, possibly consult maps, and mentally devise a route. In all of these cases, the mental activity involved is not nearly as “automatic” as when you feel an emotion. They all involve thinking to solve the problem of human survival.

Now, I think that a dedicated determinist is just going to say that all of these examples of thinking are “illusory” examples of choice because at some “lower level”, we are all just made up of some substance(s) that appears wholly determined. For instance, he will say on the molecular level, an atomic level, or a subatomic level, you are actually determined. He says this with the following reasoning: Your brain is made of nothing but molecules (or atoms). Molecules are entirely determined. Therefore, your brain is entirely determined. In other words, your mind is actually just a more complicated example of things like the mousetrap discussed above. My concern with that sort of reasoning is that it basically says: what you perceive as reality is not really reality at all. “Reality” is the molecular level, and the world that you perceive is nothing but an illusion. But, if you cannot count on what you perceive, including your perception of the choice to think, then I am not sure that any sort of knowledge of the molecular level, or any other level, is actually possible. Without knowledge, life would seem to be, as Hobbes said in another context, “nasty brutish and short”.

The Plano Ordinance Banning Discrimination Is An Attempt to Substitute Force for Reason

Even though I live in Plano, I apparently missed this ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals by businesses when it was originally approved earlier this month. I am opposed to the ordinance for the same reason I oppose the initiation of governmental force *even* when it is for a supposedly “good cause”.

In my personal life, I don’t discriminate against gays and racial minorities because I don’t think it is in my rational self-interest to do so. If a person has a value to offer me in trade, or has a new idea that is true, then it would not be beneficial to my life to avoid that person just because of his skin color or sexual preference. (Similarly, I don’t pretend to like someone  -as many white “liberals” seem anxious to do- when that person behaves like an obnoxious moron, and happens to be a member of a racial minority group.)  Even if certain sexual preferences are irrational, that would not prevent me from buying or selling goods or services from such a person, since their private sex life would have no bearing on the purchase or sale of goods and services. I don’t pick my grocer based on what he does in his bedroom, but based on whether he sells me the best groceries at the best price. Economically, speaking, such discrimination will also fail, because any business that refuses to sell to a particular customer group would invite competition from other profit-seeking businesses. (The mere fact that there is a sufficiently large enough political majority in Plano willing to enact such an anti-discrimination ordinance tells me that there are large numbers of people and businesses willing and able to sell to homosexuals, or the ordinance never would have passed in the first place.)

My opposition to the Plano ordinance also isn’t based in the silly “religious freedom” arguments that get advanced by some conservatives. By this reasoning, people can engage in human sacrifice or cannibalism and then claim that it is part of their “religious freedom” to do so. Government must protect individual rights, and this means that it can rightfully prohibit any action that violates rights. But, fundamentally speaking, government can *only* protect rights, not make people use their minds when they choose not to. This is the proper basis of religious freedom. Even if the majority of people were atheist, the religious minority, would need to be left free to have and speak their beliefs, because there is no way to force them to use their rational faculty if they choose not to. Only reason and persuasion can change them.

The reason I oppose this ordinance is because it is based in the assumption that reason and persuasion are not the proper means of dealing with other men. This ordinances is based in the assumption that one can instead simply rule over men with a gun as your only syllogism. But, when the initiation of force, not reason, becomes your method of dealing with men, watch out! Soon your society will stop being governed by law and reason, and will instead be ruled by those who are most effective at brutality, force, and violence. (Then your society will perish.) 

I Just Realized There is No Authority Under The Constitution for the Feds to Impose a 21-day Quarantine on Persons From Africa

In a previous blog post, I wrote that the President and the Federal government should impose a 21-day quarantine on persons entering the country from areas of Africa stricken with ebola. I now no longer think the Federal government has the power to do this under the Constitution. In fact, there is no Constitutional authority for the Federal government to restrict entry into the United States at all.

The Constitution is a charter of enumerated powers for the Federal Government. It lists what powers are expressly carved out of state sovereignty( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enumerated_powers ) If it does not list a power as belonging to the Federal government, then such power is reserved for the states. (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution)

Article I, Section 8 lays out Congress’ powers, and it says nothing about quarantine. In fact, it appears to give the Federal government no power to regulate entry into the country at all, except for the purposes of imposing duties (Art. I, Sec. 8-1) It also says Congress can make uniform laws of naturalization (Art. I, Sec. 8-4), but that is just how people become citizens -not whether they can enter the country. That means the Federal government must be relying on the “catch-all” of Art. I, Sec. 8-3, (“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations…”), but I fail to see how people entering the country is “commerce” under original meaning. It now appears to me that Congress has no power to restrict entry by people into the country at all -assuming we are going to actually take the Constitution seriously, which I do. 

I did some further research online, and discovered this article: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/immigrationlaw/chapter2.html It basically seems to say that the courts have found an “inherent power” in the Constitution that allows the Federal government to restrict entry into the country. From the stand-point of original meaning, this seems as problematic as the “penumbras and emanations” that supposedly give rise to a right to privacy in the Constitution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griswold_v._Connecticut). I don’t see how Scalia, Thomas, Bork, or other originalist scholars could look at themselves in the mirror in the morning and claim some sort of unenumerated “inherent power” of the Federal government to restrict entry into the country.

Does this mean that quarantine cannot be imposed? I think it must occur at the state level. Each state government must establish its own quarantine laws, consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution) As long as some sort of hearing with objective rules of evidence and sufficient proof of a threat to others occurs, then this is probably sufficient. The additional implication of my new understanding of the Constitution, which I won’t get into too much here, is that each state would appear to have the power to set its own rules for entry into that state by immigrants from other countries. This might not be the result that originalists like Scalia would like, but it is what the Constitution seems to require under original meaning.

President Refuses to Impose 21-Day Quarantine on Persons Entering the Country From Africa Because He Wants to Sacrifice The Welfare of Americans

Today, I got confirmation from an article that the reason the President and other federal officials are not imposing a 21-day quarantine on people entering the country from ebola-stricken portions of Africa is due to a morality of self-sacrifice that I reject:

“‘It’s typical of what America does best,’ Obama said of the response team. “When others are in trouble, when disease or disaster strikes, Americans help.'”http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ebola-virus-outbreak/gods-work-obama-says-u-s-must-support-health-workers-n235776


The President and other federal officials believe it is my job to sacrifice my life for strangers.

I pursue my own rational self-interest, and I am only interested in the welfare of others to the extent that it promotes my own life. For instance, if I had a wife or children, I would be very interested in their welfare because it enhances my own life to have them around. I would take large risks in order to ensure their safety. The same goes for my friends. But, I am not going to willingly sit by and endanger my life, and the life of my friends and family for total strangers.

I recognize that the risk of a major ebola-outbreak in an advanced semi-capitalist economy is small given our superior medical care, but I don’t engage in self-sacrifice, even when the risk is small.

If You Were a Healthcare Worker at Presbyterian in Dallas Who Is Subject to the State’s Travel Restriction, You’re Rights Are Being Violated

I have decided to offer my services as an attorney to any of the health care workers from Presbyterian for free for what I regard as an unconstitutional violation of their liberty without due process of law. If anyone knows any of them, have them call or text message me at 214-336-7440 and I will go down to the Northern District of Texas Federal court today and try to get a temporary restraining order regarding the travel ban that has been imposed on them by the state. I think this is a Section 1983 civil rights case.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/10/17/texas-ebola-health-care-workers-travel-ban/17424465/

“I need wider powers!”

In her novel Atlas Shrugged, the socialist villains get together after their numerous attempts to control and plan the economy have resulted in wider and wider disasters. Rather than undoing what they have already done to cause the problem, the lead government bureaucrat, Wesley Mouch declares: “I need wider powers!” A similar spectacle could be seen today with respect to the Ebola outbreak that occurred in my home city of Dallas. It has been revealed that the second nurse from Presbyterian hospital to be infected by “patient zero” reported to the CDC that she had a slight fever. She was planning to fly by plane to Ohio, but she requested guidance from CDC on the matter. Their response was typical of a government bureaucracy:

“Vinson told the CDC her temperature was 99.5 Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius). Since that was below the CDC’s temperature threshold of 100.4F (38C) ‘she was not told not to fly,’ the source said. The news was first reported by CNN.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/16/us-health-ebola-usa-idUSKCN0I40UE20141016

Note the double negative here. This is the kind of “weasel language” you would expect from a government bureaucrat trying to cover himself. Instead of saying: “We told her to fly,” which is what really happened, the CDC says: “she was not told not to fly,” in the hopes that they can deflect blame.

As a result this woman flew form Ohio to Dallas, while she was symptomatic. This is significant because ebola only becomes contagious when a person has begun to show symptoms, such as a fever.  The CDC, whose alleged purpose is to protect the public from the spread of infectious disease told someone they knew to be symptomatic to board an airplane and fly, thereby potentially spreading the virus throughout the country.

The CDC’s response to the fact that they failed to advise this woman not to fly, which, from every indication, she would have voluntarily agreed to if they had simply asked her?: 

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering adding the names of health care workers being monitored for the Ebola virus to the government’s no-fly list…” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/10/16/cdc-considers-adding-names-people-monitored-for-ebola-to-no-fly-list/

In other words, the very people that our nations hospitals are depending on to treat patients -doctors and nurses- are going to be placed on the same list as suspected terrorists and told that their right to travel is being restricted without due process of law. The issue of whether and when someone can be restricted in their liberty by virtue of having a dangerous communicable disease is a complicated issue. There may be times when it is justified -but it should never, under any circumstances, occur without that individual being given notice and a hearing in front of a judge. Yet, these people are apparently going to be arbitrarily placed on a no-fly list with no hearing at all.

The CDC’s response to their failure is to whine like the villain Wesley Mouch: “I need wider powers!”

This is the essential problem with all government. Government sets rules that are (ultimately) enforced by the barrel of a gun. The CDC bureaucrats only act if there is a rule telling them to act -which is as it should be. So, its no surprise that when this nurse was under the temperature threshold for their no-fly rule, no one at the CDC was going to “stick their neck out” and recommend that she not fly. A bureaucracy doesn’t reward incentive by its employees like a for-profit business -so there would only be “downside” if a CDC employee took initiative. Now the CDC response is to claim they need arbitrary power to put people on a no-fly list without due process of law. The real solution is to recognize that “government funded science” is a contradiction in terms, and end the CDC and income taxes so that private individuals can voluntarily work towards real solutions to the world’s problems.

On Compromising One’s Ideology “For the Good of the Country”

This is always an interesting perspective on ideas to me. (I’m being kind in the use of the word “interesting”.) This blogger speculates on what will happen if the Republicans take over the Senate in November: “Will congressional Republicans, especially in the House, want to rack up some legislative accomplishments or will they be more interested in putting their 2016 presidential candidates’ interests ahead of the country’s?” http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/09/08/would-republicans-compromise-if-they-had-a-senate-majority/

Notice how the assumption is that if you have a political ideology, in this case, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate’s ideology, which I would assume Republicans in the House agree with, then people expect you to give up that ideology in the “interest of the country”. But, presumably, the reason you hold a particular political ideology is because you think it’s implementation is for the “the interests of the country” -although even that expression is a little vague, and smacks of an implicit political collectivism in which some people’s interests are sacrificed for the interests of others. Whether the Republican ideology is, in fact, “good” is another story -and Republicans are vague and contradictory as to what their ideology consists of, exactly.

Most reporters don’t ever want to address the actual substance of an ideology, because that would take more thinking than most of them are capable of. Instead, they speak in vague generalities about “putting your country’s good ahead of your ideas” -which makes you wonder what they think political ideas, or any ideas for that matter, are good for? Ayn Rand gave some interesting commentary on precisely this point in her essay “Selfishness Without a Self”, found in Philosophy: Who Needs It: “If the politician is convinced that his ideas are right, it is the country that he would betray by compromising. If he is convinced that his opponents’ ideas are wrong, it is the country he would be harming. If he is not certain of either, then he should check his views for his own sake, not merely the country’s -because the truth or falsehood of his ideas should be of the utmost personal interest to him.”

If the above-quoted Wall Street Journal article were substantial, the writer would talk about the substance of the Republican ideology (as best as that can be discerned) and then discuss whether those ideas are right or wrong. But truth doesn’t matter to most reporters or newspaper editors.

Ashya King Case Illustrates The Evil of Socialized Medicine

The case of Ashya King seems to be in the process of cover-up by the leftist media, which simply isn’t reporting it to any significant degree. His parents took him out of the country to receive an experimental medical procedure for a brain tumor,at their own expense, that was not approved by Britain’s National Health Service, and Great Britain put out a warrant for his parent’s arrest. Under socialized medicine, some people will be denied treatment, apparently even if they are prepared to spend their own money to obtain said treatment:

“Mr King said in an earlier video posted that the family wanted to seek proton beam therapy for Ashya – a cancer treatment that the NHS would not provide.” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-29009883

“Many also have ethical committees – or similar groups – that will consider individual cases when treatment options are disputed. Beyond that patients can – and have in the past – applied for a judicial review.” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-29009883 (Translation from “socialism-speak”:  A death panel will decide if the State thinks you are worth saving.)