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Rural landscape photo

By Don Kilmer

Posted July 24, 2019

This article from Quillette by James Lindsay got me to thinking.

There’s a downside to living a modern life in urban centers. It’s manifested by a kind of collective amnesia about what’s necessary for human beings to live on earth. We are creatures that manipulate the stuff around us into more comfortable and more useful things than the raw material we originally find. But that requires thinking about and using force against that raw material.

Food is imported from the places where things—plants and animals—grow. This material is harvested and shipped to us in refrigerated trucks and beautifully displayed for our selection at our local supermarket. Building material is mined, harvested, or chopped down and then efficiently put together in useful shapes, in more convenient locations to create our safe and comfortable cubicles for living and earning. Even protection from the elements is imported or rerouted by damning rivers and building levees. Inconvenient geologic landforms are overcome with bridges and tunnels.

In other words, we use force against nature to obtain our daily bread, keep the rain off our heads, and terraform our environment.

But are we losing touch with a key difference: Between using against nature to ensure our livelihood, and using force against our sentient fellow beings to compel their behavior?

Reason (including the potential for reason) ought to be the distinguishing filter for when we can and cannot use force against other sentient creatures.

The Quillette article reminds us that there are sociopaths out there. These sociopaths see their fellow human beings not as creatures capable of reason, but as the raw material necessary to create the utopias they envision. They view cutting down human beings to build a better world in the same way that an architect views a tree as a structural beam for a house. These political, social, and economic manipulators of “human capital” ignore—or are incapable of seeing—the difference between a herd of cattle and a group of people.

America as a nation fought that battle twice already on this continent. The second event explicitly purged the idea of “people as things” from our founding documents. And there have been skirmishes ever since, instigated by the sociopaths seeking to reinstate the old order.

Our enemies don’t understand the distinction between force and reason. To paraphrase Ragnar (look it up), we’re fast approaching the day when they must be taught the lesson again, with reason backed by force. There’s still time and resources to avert a violent third correction. But we are running short of both.


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    Case in point: Wild animals in the wild are not playthings in a petting zoo. The Disney-fication of animals is a corollary to the point I made above. We’ve lost touch with the boundaries between nature and civilization.

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      ASC makes good points. And I agree with him that his broad brush strokes should not be construed to confuse “individual bad believers” and “individual good atheists.” This is a worthy caveat. That said, I also generally agree that natural law is a starting point for understanding the world. I think what many people miss, both religious and non-religious, is that religion is itself a philosophy. One may arrive at the conclusion that there is a God via a search of wisdom (the actual definition of philosophy) and a conclusion based on any number factors. One might reach the opposite conclusion via a similar journey having come to different conclusions about the evidence, or maybe even the need for evidence, substituting (or refusing to substitute) revelation or spiritual enlightenment.

      The issues about believer and non-believer disagreeing about school subject matters is political, and do not sound in metaphysics or epistemology. Of course, no one should pay for ideas they abhor. The Christian should not be compelled to subsidize abortion and the Athiest should be required to subsidize Bible studies.

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          Well done.