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Secular values are rooted in social policies

 
Thomas Orr
 
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Thomas Orr
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24 March 2010 01:27
 

I think that debate on the road to Reason is best started by assessing where we are as a country, what holds us back and what needs to change to make the progress possible.
My assessment is not rosy. Our culture values money and appearances more than it values reason and substance. We have the most predatory political system of all economically advanced countries in the world. This is not an environment where belief in reason and human potential is encouraged. This is an environment where clinging to irrational beliefs provides comfort and escape from the harsh reality.
What I am trying to say is that in my opinion our first goal should be to change the sociopolitical reality of the country. The changes in personal attitudes from irrational to rational will follow naturally.

Goals

Work to build respect for science
Work to build respect for potential and power of rational thinking
Work to demonstrate that secular values are superior to religious values because they have the power to transform us into more just and more humane society
Work to establish a political system superior to predatory and demoralizing unrestrained capitalism

Specific first steps

Project Professional Institutions

I am convinced that institutions are the best what humankind invented so far as building blocks to power and prosperity. Professional Institutions are an open project. I can list the attributes of successful institutions I think are essential to their success but if you like the idea it will be only the starting point in our joint effort to work out a model of a professional institutions which can be adopted and work in this country.

Some necessary attributes of professional institution I identified are the following. Institution must be competitive with a high standard of admission and professional advancement. It must be self-governing and independent from politicians. It must be devoted to a higher ideal and operate as a non profit.

Here are the few important roles institutions as explained above will play. They will provide effective counterbalance to corporations. They will increase the influence of professionals, the best and brightest in the nation, over our political system. They will create centers where talents are gathered together and synergy of bright intellects working together is created. They will take care of what neither government nor private sector is capable of managing. Education. Healthcare. Public Transportation. Big Public Projects.

One of the necessary political reforms in our country is to remove the single biggest source of corruption, contracting public work to private corporations. If the government must contract out or outsource anything the only option left would be a not for profit institution.

[ Edited: 25 March 2010 01:08 by Thomas Orr]
 
eudemonia
 
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24 March 2010 11:02
 

Progress? Surely you jest. The first thing we have to do is convince about 150 million reactionaries and traditionalists that everything was not better in ‘the good old days’ and that progress is indeed what we should as a culture and society strive for. Have you noticed the popularity with the fuckwitted Sarah Palin? She is NOT about progress, she is about regress, and so are the millions that follow her.

TO, we have a lot of work to do, and I wonder if the foundation has even been laid yet. If so, it is not yet dry.

Sorry for the piss poor metaphor there, oh…and the cynicism.  smile

But, glad you are here.

 
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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24 March 2010 14:08
 

Do wonder if maybe social policies are rooted in secular values more than the reverse, since kids are taught those kinds of values, or not, before they ever get to be adults who can influence social policies.

Dennis

 
 
Thomas Orr
 
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24 March 2010 22:21
 
Dennis Campbell - 24 March 2010 01:08 PM

Do wonder if maybe social policies are rooted in secular values more than the reverse, since kids are taught those kinds of values, or not, before they ever get to be adults who can influence social policies.

Dennis

Dennis, I am not sure if I used the right words to express correctly what I was thinking. Here is my interpretation of myself.

When I first heard this from an American Christian I was stunned but later I had a chance of hearing it more often. Surprisingly, even Billy Shears said something along those lines although he said it as firm believer in libertarian ideology, not the religious one.

The stunning statement of the Christian was that Jesus “promised” that there always be poor people so nobody should make a big deal about it much less try to change it. Sometimes I think Christians are considering poor as a God given opportunity for them to exercise charity and other Christian virtues. Secular minded people on the other hand try to do something practical to help the poor, which usually means applying specific social policies. When we think about helping the poor we want to eradicate poverty. Seems to me religious people want to please their invisible friend more than they want to help the poor. We rather pay taxes to help the cause we believe in. They prefer charities. We study what measures are effective in lowering the crime rate and try to fund those measures. They insist on punishing the criminals. Whatever the issue we try to address it by causing the social change. They try to satisfy their emotions. Maybe that’s why their efforts are not effective and maybe that’s how we can demonstrate the superiority of secular values.

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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24 March 2010 22:39
 
Thomas Orr - 24 March 2010 09:21 PM
Dennis Campbell - 24 March 2010 01:08 PM

Do wonder if maybe social policies are rooted in secular values more than the reverse, since kids are taught those kinds of values, or not, before they ever get to be adults who can influence social policies.

Dennis

Dennis, I am not sure if I used the right words to express correctly what I was thinking. Here is my interpretation of myself.

When I first heard this from an American Christian I was stunned but later I had a chance of hearing it more often. Surprisingly, even Billy Shears said something along those lines although he said it as firm believer in libertarian ideology, not the religious one.

The stunning statement of the Christian was that Jesus “promised” that there always be poor people so nobody should make a big deal about it much less try to change it. Sometimes I think Christians are considering poor as a God given opportunity for them to exercise charity and other Christian virtues. Secular minded people on the other hand try to do something practical to help the poor, which usually means applying specific social policies. When we think about helping the poor we want to eradicate poverty. Seems to me religious people want to please their invisible friend more than they want to help the poor. We rather pay taxes to help the cause we believe in. They prefer charities. We study what measures are effective in lowering the crime rate and try to fund those measures. They insist on punishing the criminals. Whatever the issue we try to address it by causing the social change. They try to satisfy their emotions. Maybe that’s why their efforts are not effective and maybe that’s how we can demonstrate the superiority of secular values.

Not at all sure about the bold faced text above.  Seems to broad a generalization about theists, Christian or other.  There’s nothing inherently “superior” about secular values as expressed, except that maybe they’re somewhat more subject to change since they reference as a basis other humans, and not some unquestionable posited god.  Over time, I’ve some hope that secular values can evolve to be more beneficial to more people, more so than can some theist values.  The distinction here between “secular” and “theist” bothers me a little, since I hold that all conduct or moral codes originate with people, so some “theist” codes of morality are quite acceptable. 

Dennis

 
 
nv
 
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nv
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24 March 2010 23:36
 
Thomas Orr - 24 March 2010 09:21 PM

The stunning statement of the Christian was that Jesus “promised” that there always be poor people so nobody should make a big deal about it much less try to change it. Sometimes I think Christians are considering poor as a God given opportunity for them to exercise charity and other Christian virtues. Secular minded people on the other hand try to do something practical to help the poor, which usually means applying specific social policies. When we think about helping the poor we want to eradicate poverty. Seems to me religious people want to please their invisible friend more than they want to help the poor. We rather pay taxes to help the cause we believe in. They prefer charities. We study what measures are effective in lowering the crime rate and try to fund those measures. They insist on punishing the criminals. Whatever the issue we try to address it by causing the social change. They try to satisfy their emotions. Maybe that’s why their efforts are not effective and maybe that’s how we can demonstrate the superiority of secular values.

Really nicely put, T.O. I’m glad to see your presence here and was wondering how long it would take for you once again to find time to post. I hope things are going well for you and your family.

 
 
Thomas Orr
 
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25 March 2010 00:01
 
teuchter - 24 March 2010 01:59 PM

As a fan of your long running debate with Billy Shears over at the SHF, I look forward to your development of this topic; however, I don’t know what you mean by “professional institutions.”  Are you talking about the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Lawyers Guild and so forth, all voluntary professional organizations, or are you proposing some new formation to express professional, or otherwise specialized, expertise?

Thanks. However, this topic will only succeed if people contribute.

Good question and here is my answer. While the voluntary professional organizations are good to have, these are not examples of what I had in mind. If you read my opening post carefully you should notice that we are not in a position yet to define precisely what the Professional Institution is. We need to brainstorm it, research it, test it before we are sure with high degree of certainty that we are proposing something that can be successfully adopted to American reality.

I have many examples from the past, and from different political settings, of what I consider successful institutions. I can describe them one example per post. Before I start with the first example few general remarks. For the institution I have in mind I don’t wish that it “expresses” professional expertise. I want the institution to apply it. Institution I have in mind need to be a viable economic entities with professionals there earning salaries and applying their expertise to perform specific work and reach specific goals of the institution.

Here is another look at an institution. We can view institutions as national entities where top talents within a profession are employed. People of average talent thrive in private enterprises. Almost every engineer can take something, improve it and transform into a business. On the other hand top talents need a different environment to thrive. It is not a coincidence that Nobel prizes (in science) go to people working in good laboratories or other scientific centers. Institutions I have in mind are by necessity national entities. In order to survive they need to feed from a large pool of talent. The way I see it, from a national perspective, a nation needs both private enterprise and institutions to manage its talent effectively and without waste. I have some doubts whether the national interest requires that we have big corporations though. As far as top talents are concerned corporations are much better in wasting the talents they got than making a productive use of it. When assessing the damage inflicted by Wall Street on the nation one should count all the talents working for Hedge Funds or designing derivative products in Investment Banks, who could contribute so much more if they were employed in productive sectors of our economy.

So, to start my examples on a paradoxical note here it is, the first example of an institution. Bell Labs. Successful institution within a corporation. The ingredients employed to create a successful institution were to recruit the top talent, create a competitive environment (publish or perish) and award them high degree of freedom and good salary. The results? More Nobel prizes won than perhaps any other American institution. A single transistor patent returned more money to the parent corporation (AT&T) than all the money they spent on Bell Labs. Statisticians from Bell Labs invented first methods of statistical quality control which subsequently were employed to create American war industry in WWII. Unix, C programming language.

 
Thomas Orr
 
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25 March 2010 00:09
 
Dennis Campbell - 24 March 2010 09:39 PM

Not at all sure about the bold faced text above.  Seems to broad a generalization about theists, Christian or other.  There’s nothing inherently “superior” about secular values as expressed, except that maybe they’re somewhat more subject to change since they reference as a basis other humans, and not some unquestionable posited god.  Over time, I’ve some hope that secular values can evolve to be more beneficial to more people, more so than can some theist values.  The distinction here between “secular” and “theist” bothers me a little, since I hold that all conduct or moral codes originate with people, so some “theist” codes of morality are quite acceptable. 

Dennis

I understand. It is not my intent to generalize. I am only thinking where our strength is when it comes to promoting secular views. And I cannot help but notice that most of what passes as religious work on changing the world for the better changes nothing in the long run.

 
Thomas Orr
 
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25 March 2010 00:10
 
eudemonia - 24 March 2010 10:02 AM

Progress? Surely you jest. The first thing we have to do is convince about 150 million reactionaries and traditionalists that everything was not better in ‘the good old days’ and that progress is indeed what we should as a culture and society strive for. Have you noticed the popularity with the fuckwitted Sarah Palin? She is NOT about progress, she is about regress, and so are the millions that follow her.

TO, we have a lot of work to do, and I wonder if the foundation has even been laid yet. If so, it is not yet dry.

Sorry for the piss poor metaphor there, oh…and the cynicism.  smile

But, glad you are here.

Who said it is easy?

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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25 March 2010 00:36
 
Thomas Orr - 24 March 2010 11:09 PM
Dennis Campbell - 24 March 2010 09:39 PM

Not at all sure about the bold faced text above.  Seems to broad a generalization about theists, Christian or other.  There’s nothing inherently “superior” about secular values as expressed, except that maybe they’re somewhat more subject to change since they reference as a basis other humans, and not some unquestionable posited god.  Over time, I’ve some hope that secular values can evolve to be more beneficial to more people, more so than can some theist values.  The distinction here between “secular” and “theist” bothers me a little, since I hold that all conduct or moral codes originate with people, so some “theist” codes of morality are quite acceptable. 

Dennis

I understand. It is not my intent to generalize. I am only thinking where our strength is when it comes to promoting secular views. And I cannot help but notice that most of what passes as religious work on changing the world for the better changes nothing in the long run.

Have to agree with that, usually at best they’re palliative more than changing any of the conditions that gave rise to the problems in he first place.  That is not to denigrate what they do try and do, there just, as you note, no change in the long run.

Dennis

 
 
eudemonia
 
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25 March 2010 14:29
 

‘Who said it is easy?’

Not I. Important things never are.

We went from being founded on European Enlightenment principles quickly into the great awakening, and we need to reverse that trend. But how? perhaps all Monotheists should get a full expenses paid vacation to Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, etc.,? to see how the other side lives? Those socialist parlimentary style democracies that the reactionary American middle class loves to hate?

Just one of many bad ideas that I have.

 
 
Thomas Orr
 
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26 March 2010 01:32
 
eudemonia - 25 March 2010 01:29 PM

‘Who said it is easy?’

Not I. Important things never are.

We went from being founded on European Enlightenment principles quickly into the great awakening, and we need to reverse that trend. But how? perhaps all Monotheists should get a full expenses paid vacation to Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, etc.,? to see how the other side lives? Those socialist parliamentary style democracies that the reactionary American middle class loves to hate?

Just one of many bad ideas that I have.

Sometime last year I had a memorable conversation with my father (90) about the political situation in Poland, and the disorganized left. He said that the problem with the Polish Socialist Party is they only think about how to win elections. “Any idiot can win elections”, he said, referring to the newly elected president, “this is not what they should be concentrating on”. His advice was to stop worshiping party political leaders and open the door for thinkers, people who can advance the socialist ideology with the tools of research and science.

Looks like you are suffering from the politicians fever, too. Your ideas will be better when you calm your emotions and start thinking deeper. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with your suggestions.

Your reference to European Enlightenment is very appropriate for this thread. One of my friends once made the following observations when talking about differences between European and American style democracies.“In Europe democracy originated among the enlightened monarchs and was eventually brought down to masses as a polished product. In America we have the populist democracy, still in its infancy, somewhat unpredictable and with a little sense of direction. Like children who in transition to adulthood go through the period when they feel they must assert their individuality and independence so do our people who above all like to shout anti-government slogans.” That he said that after few glasses of wine doesn’t diminish the validity of his observation.

Well, here is my point. What America needs the most is to create/grow their true intellectual elite which eventually can provide direction and lead the nation. When I say things like that the knee-jerk reaction is to accuse me that I want to grab the power and start dictating people what they are supposed to do. No, this is not what I mean or want. I don’t envision placing the elite in positions of power in the government or elsewhere. What I mean is that the nation which today admires celebrities and those who make the most money will gradually learn to admire professionals, scientists and those who truly contribute to the progress of society. However, this can only happen after we place the true heroes of the nation in places of respect and prominence. One of the role of Professional Institutions I promote in this thread is to provide position of respect and prominence for the nation’s elites.

Few years ago when thinking how the nation can neutralize the growing power of corporations I thought about institutions and communities. But I quickly realized that I cannot/don’t know how to force people to form communities so they can defend themselves better in economic war corporations are waging on them. I am not a community organizer but maybe that’s not the issue. Maybe you just can’t force the people to make them do what’s good for them. I think that history confirms my suspicions. How many successful communities do you know in history? On the other hand, the history knows many successful institutions.

With this introduction I want to make the next statement about the vision for the political movement I want us to create. I want the movement to represent the interests of elites and people who by intellect, ability, desire to think, and education rise above the crowd. For those people today’s America looks like a ZOO and the vision I propose looks like a welcome normalcy. Normalcy with social security, health care, affordable education, national parks, public transportation, high speed internet for the masses, libraries, jobs and other economic opportunities. All this without destroying free enterprise or encroaching on your liberties. And without miracles, of course, if you don’t count human potential as a miracle.

I would like to touch on the subject of common good in one of my next posts. The notion of the common good plays an important role in vision of the better society.

 
eudemonia
 
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26 March 2010 11:01
 

‘the vision I propose looks like a welcome normalcy. Normalcy with social security, health care, affordable education, national parks, public transportation, high speed internet for the masses, libraries, jobs and other economic opportunities. All this without destroying free enterprise or encroaching on your liberties. And without miracles, of course, if you don’t count human potential as a miracle.’

Thats great. Sounds like the Utopia we all want, especially here at Project Reason.

A secular, science and technology based society, supported by the growth and innovation of a regulated free market economic system, Gee, what a nice concept. Would probably work and produce for us a very nice society.

I’m in.

Continue TO. I’m all ears.

 
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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26 March 2010 13:15
 

W

ell, here is my point. What America needs the most is to create/grow their true intellectual elite which eventually can provide direction and lead the nation. When I say things like that the knee-jerk reaction is to accuse me that I want to grab the power and start dictating people what they are supposed to do. No, this is not what I mean or want. I don’t envision placing the elite in positions of power in the government or elsewhere

TO,

While I’m biased in favor of this idea, cannot help but wonder if in fact such an elite group would not in fact come to garner political influence in excess of their skill sets.  Political power is such an addicting thing. 

Dennis

 
 
Thomas Orr
 
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26 March 2010 21:30
 
Dennis Campbell - 26 March 2010 12:15 PM

TO,

While I’m biased in favor of this idea, cannot help but wonder if in fact such an elite group would not in fact come to garner political influence in excess of their skill sets.  Political power is such an addicting thing. 

Dennis

I am not sure if I understand your fears. Is it:

a) because of the prestige he enjoys a scientist is elected by people to the US Senate where he performs poorly
b) a reputable institutions forms a political opinion thus pressuring the government to take a course which turns out not to be so wise as we hoped
c) elite becomes arrogant with time demanding (and getting) direct influence over matters beyond their competence

Whatever the case I would like to underscore two important points in my vision/proposal

1. Nowhere I suggested that Institutions and elite are given political power. Their decision making power is always restricted to their area of specialty (running health care, running education, etc.)

2. On a general note I don’t think that we can invent a perfect entity, one which will always succeed and never fail. The best we can hope for is to implement mechanisms improving probability of success. Look at the Congress. In spite of all retorics the pressure on congressmen works against their efforts to keep what he/she promised to his/her constituents. Because they want to be reelected they are tempted to break their promises in exchange for raising the money for their reelection campaign. Some congressmen are more honest than others but overall the mechanics of working in Congress are favoring steady decline of trustworthiness of the institution. All I want to do is to put in place the best mechanisms possible to increase probability of the institution to succeed.

[ Edited: 26 March 2010 21:33 by Thomas Orr]
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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26 March 2010 21:46
 

c) elite becomes arrogant with time demanding (and getting) direct influence over matters beyond their competence

The above. That does not disqualify your proposal, it may be inevitable whatever political paradigm is suggested.  I am biased in favor of (1) earned, (2) demonstrated, and (3) relevant skill sets having a disproportionate influence on public policy, but historically that has devolved into an unearned status of political power. 

I’d like to read more of your ideas.

Dennis

[ Edited: 26 March 2010 21:53 by Dennis Campbell]
 
 
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