Monday, December 27, 2010

The Dark Power of Positive Thinking: Accepting Bad Lives Leads to More Bad Lives

From Evolution is Suicide:
Imagine that the first slaves that were attempted to be put on a slave ship to America committed mass suicide, by not eating or by attacking their owners and refusing to work. Had their culture promoted this reaction to being forced into slavery, it could have prevented millions of lives from being forced into suffering and abuse as slaves.

From Devaluing Life as a Catalyst for Freedom

Also, some comments got unfairly marked as spam, but I published them belatedly. They were from Chip and Rob.

17 comments:

  1. But do note that slavery was already a normal feature of their culture, as it has been in so many others throughout history.

    The make up of slaves purchased on the Atlantic coast thus reflected whom Africans were prepared to sell as much as whom Euro-American plantation owners wanted to buy. But the victims of the slave trade also had a major impact on the trade. Probably about one in ten slaving voyages experienced major rebellions, of which the attempts to control increased the costs of a slave voyage to the point where far fewer slaves entered the traffic than would have been the case without resistance. In addition, vessels from some regions on the coast appear to have been more prone to experience slave uprisings than those from other regions. The rebellion-prone areas were precisely those regions, broadly comprising Upper Guinea (Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Windward Coast) which had the least participation in the slave trade. The strong inference is that European slave traders avoided this part of the African coast except in those years when demand for slaves, and their prices, were particularly high. (Source; also.)

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  2. I fail to see the connection between positive thinking and syucide.
    Positive thinking practitioners have a different take.

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  3. It's not a connection between positive thinking and suicide, but between positive thinking and maintaining unacceptable conditions in the world (that happen to make suicide attractive).

    Positive thinking may be a nice thing to do in terms of your own life, but it is unacceptable to be so deluded when making the decision to bring a new life into the world.

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  4. Rob,

    Honestly, that's what gives me the most pause when it comes to antinatalism. If all the people who believe it's wrong to procreate then practice what they preach, doesn't that leave the human gene pool even more skewed toward valuing life at all costs? Maybe it doesn't really work that way; maybe it's more of a cultural ("memetic") thing than a genetic one. But I can't help picturing an Idiocracy-type scenario every time I think about what the world will look like after more and more generations of antinatalists chop off their own evolutionary branches out of compassion, and more and more generations of (far more numerous) pronatalists grow their own branches out of what they view as same (to put it charitably). Then again, it's not like I can use that to justify having children myself, just so the "antinatalist army" will have superior numbers down the road.

    It's a tough position to be in. Any trait that says "don't reproduce" seems inherently doomed to fail, whether from a biological or cultural perspective. There was a post on this very blog about how suicidality may be adaptive; I can only hope that it somehow applies on a species-wide level.

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  5. Those "Evolution is Suicide" wallpapers are instant classics.

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  6. Hi Todd,

    I (not the original Rob) think it is also a question of liability or degree of responsibility. I am more responsible for the wellbeing (or not-suffering) of my own children, whose existence I would cause directly, than I am for the state of society and human life down the road in general. While I too am afraid of the idiocracy-dystopia I think it is somewhat legit to wiggle out of the responsibility for that in order to be morally allowed to not reproduce even if you think that your genes/memes/mindset is more compassionate than the average and would therefore be worth perpetuing in one respect. You are just more responsible for your own kids than for the kids of others.

    All the best,
    rob

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  7. Todd precisely spells out the main reservations I share over the sense in evangelizing anti-natalism, though I'm so cynical about the efficacy of rational persuasion (not excluding myself, of course) that I suspect there's as little harm in it as there is likelihood of Reformed Epistemology or neo-Natural Law arguments inducing Christian theism or opposition to same-sex marriage. However, analogous to actual functions of those forms of cerebration, its real benefit might lie in providing confidence-inflating succor to the already convinced, in accelerating the progress of those well on their way towards such conviction, or in being an intellectual quick-fix for occasional backsliding paroxysms of regret over childlessness.

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  8. Perhaps it comes down to choosing between distant, extremely uncertain consequences on whom we may have an only very indirect effect, if any, and certain, near, direct consequences of our actions. I think we have more responsibility for the latter.

    Should my vegan mom stop being vegan and buy ethically-raised eggs in order to minimize animal suffering? I don't think she's obligated to do that. I think opting out of direct participation in harm is enough.

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  9. I just found a great R.D. Laing quote:

    "Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent."

    I don't agree with the stuff about schizophrenics being visionaries, but his hits were right on the mark.

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  10. It's interesting that one who could speak so caustically about life would be the sire of 10 offspring.

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  11. Exactly. I see my task to be connecting up the two for people.

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  12. I think people like Laing already make the connection in their rational thought, but that has nothing to do with their actions.

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  13. On the other hand, G.K. Chesterton said one of the dumbest things I've ever read about suicide:

    "Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the cross-roads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer's suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man's crime is different from other crimes -- for it makes even crimes impossible."

    It's understandable enough that a Catholic would believe this drivel, but sadly atheists endorse similar sentiments all the time.

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  14. Thank you for posting that - this may sound twisted, but I find a lot to agree with here. I think the advocate of life is right to see an enemy in the suicide. But I think, obviously, that it is ultimately the advocate of life who is inhumane.

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  15. "I find a lot to agree with here."

    Really? I find it mind-bogglingly stupid for this douchebag to think the entire world gasps every time a suicide happens. The world goes on just fine without you, especially if you are cut off from your last links to it.

    Why are some people more outraged by suicide than murder? Maybe it hits a nerve and reminds them of their own suppressed doubts about life?

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  16. Kant was equally harsh toward suicide -- see this. How dare those suicides shake his tenuous will to live.

    See the harm that teleological thinking does?

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