Friday, June 18, 2010

Morality, Willingness to Pay, and Homosexual Desire

I'm considering the merits of the proposition that we can measure a virtue in terms of cumulative willingness to pay to realize a state of affairs in which a given malleable desire is made universal. This willingness to pay is qualified by what agents would be willing to pay under conditions of equal wealth and true beliefs.

So, let us look at a desire for sex with members of the same sex . . . homosexuality.

I am not interested in defending the proposition that homosexuality is a virtue. That is to say, I am not going to argue that homosexuality is a desire that people of equal wealth and true beliefs would have many and strong reasons to encourage.

Certainly people have many and strong reasons to avoid a state in which everybody is homosexual. However, people have many and strong reasons to avoid a state in which everybody is a bus driver, or an engineer, or a math teacher. These states would all be desire-thwarting. In fact, the last three would be more desire-thwarting than the first, given that we have reproductive technologies that do not require heterosexual acts.

Yet, this does not imply that driving busses, engineering, and math teaching are evil and must be eliminated. When the argument given against homosexuality is, "What if everybody were a homosexual?" the best response would be to ask, "What if everybody was a priest?"

The question under consideration is cumulative willingness to pay among people of equal wealth and true beliefs to realize a state in which no homosexual desire existed.

Early on, we must also repeat the fact that morality is concerned with the molding of malleable desires – those that social praise and condemnation can actually strengthen or weaken. A fixed desire – or any point at which a malleable desire is immune to further change – is outside of the realm of moral discourse.

The next thing to note is that there really is no such thing as homosexual desire. This is misleading. There is a desire to have sex with men. And there is a desire to have sex with women. In some cases the desire to have sex with men resides in a man's body, and the desire to have sex with women resides in a woman's body.

Or, if we want to get more clinical, the desire to have sex with a man resides in a body of XY chromosomes, and the desire to have sex with women resides in a body with XX chromosomes, though there are complicating factors involving XXY chromosomes and other possibilities.

So, let us realize that we are dealing with a desire to have sex with men, and a desire to have sex with women, not "homosexual desire" per se. Some argue that the former desire should not exist in the body of a man, and the latter should not exist in the body of a woman, but that the desires themselves are not to be gotten rid of.

Now, I argued earlier that to measure virtues and vices one has to measure willingness to pay based on true beliefs. Many of the people willing to pay to selectively rid the world of these desires ground their willingness to pay on false beliefs.

So, how much would you be willing to pay for a bottle of water?

Does it make a difference whether the bottle contained fresh, treated water versus water collected off of the surface of the Gulf of Mexico just south of New Orleans?

It is willingness to pay given true beliefs that is important, not willingness to pay. And the vast majority of those willing to pay to rid the world of homosexual desire are not grounding their willingness to pay on true beliefs. They hold to myths about God and God's will, and about what is natural, that simply are not true.

They think they are buying a bottle of fresh, treated water, when what they are getting is contaminated Gulf of Mexico seawater. If they knew what they were buying, many of them would be willing to pay far less.

Furthermore, many of them who are willing to pay to rid the world of homosexual desire are also willing to lie to us about the benefits that come from this. Even people who have true beliefs about God's wishes and what is "natural" are fed false beliefs through the popular media - particularly through election campaigns - about the merits of ridding the world of this desire.

Homosexuals molest children. Homosexuals are responsible for AIDS. Permitting homosexual relationships will lead to the destruction of civilization comparable to what happened to the Roman Empire.

Any of these things, if true, would provide people with a reason to pay to rid the world of homosexual desire.

None of them are true. So we cannot look at actual willingness to pay to rid the world of homosexual desire as a measure of what people with true beliefs would be willing to pay. There are far too many people in the world today whose willingness to pay is corrupted by false beliefs.

This gives us reason to question the desires of those who exaggerate the reasons that others have to promote a particular desire or aversion.

For example, those who say that homosexuals molest children are parasites who care little about the welfare of children. What they are trying to do is hyjack other people's concern for children and use those resources for their own evil purposes. Because their bigoted values are more important than than the welfare of children, they want to take some of the resources devoted to promoting the welfare of children and divert it to their bigoted ends. Those ends have nothing to do with the welfare of children and in many cases do more harm than good.

If a person truly cares about the welfare of children, he is going to ask himself, "Is this true?" He is going to want to make sure that these claims are true precisely because he will be worried about the possibility of diverting resources dedicated to the welfare of children from that end.

If he does not ask - if he does not investigate and pay attention to what the principles of sound reason tells him - then he must not be motivated do so. That is to say, he really does not care about the children. He pretends to, in order to hijack other people's concern and twist it to serve his alternative agenda.

Of course, we can ask of those people who are convinced by these absurd claims how much they really care about children if they allow their concern to be so easily hijacked – if they allow themselves to be persuaded too easily.

Here, we would have to ask about the value of a genuine interest in the welfare of children - which tells us how important it is to condemn those who seek to hijack concern for the welfare of children to promote other ends that are at best neutral and at worse causing harm to children and to the futures available to them.

If they are truly concerned with the welfare of children, then their willingness to pay to rid the world of such a desire may be negative, while their false beliefs drive them to claim it is positive.

The people who have an actual desire to rid the world of homosexual desire have their interests counted. However, those who are mislead into believing that the welfare of children is at stake by those making unjustified claims about the threat to children because it furthers their agenda do not have real reasons to pay to reduce or eliminate the desire. They have purchased some moral snake-oil - snake-oil that will cause the customer to harm those who the snake-oil salesman wants to have harmed.

We do not need people like that in our society. We have a lot more reason to condemn them then the man with a desire to have sex with a man, or the woman with a desire to have sex with a woman.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moral Value and Willingness to Pay

Well, here is an interesting road I have never travelled before, so let's see where it goes.

I have argued that the right to freedom of speech is not a right to immunity from criticism - even moral criticism - for what one says or writes. It is a right to immunity from violence, including state violence (censorship).

In recent posts I have argued that we can quantify value in terms of willingness to pay under conditions of equal wealth and true belief. Furthermore, moral value is the value of a desire that tends to fulfill other desires (a virtue), or a desire that tends to thwart other desires (a vice).

If we combine these two sets of concepts it would seem to lead to the suggestion that the moral value of a right to freedom of speech can be translated into the value of a universal aversion to the use of violence in response to words written or spoken. In other words, it is what people overall have reason to pay, under conditions of equal wealth and true beliefs, for a state of affairs where people universally to have an aversion to the use of violence in response to words spoken or written.

Now, if we look at the moral arguments for a right to freedom of speech, and remove all arguments grounded on false beliefs (God, intrinsic values, categorical imperatives, impartial observers, social contracts, and the like), we would find that the bulk of those arguments are reasons to pay for a state in which people generally have an aversion to the use of violence in response to words spoken or written.

For example, violence is the weapon of those who hold false beliefs. A person with true and well founded beliefs need not use violence to persuade others of what is true. It is the person with false belief or whose beliefs cannot be supported by evidence who most needs to use violence against alternative ideas. So, prohibiting the use of violence will do more to harm those who are pushing a false belief than those who are promoting truth.

Even if the belief being defended through violence is true, it is better to restrict people to promoting that belief by explaining why it is true. The person who asserts "X is true" because he fears violence need not actually understand "X is true". However, if a person is free to say "X is false" but who asserts "X is true" anyway is more than likely to be somebody who actively believes that However, the person who asserts "X is true" when he has total liberty to assert "X is false" - who adopts it because he is convinced of it and not because he is threatened, understands it and its implications. He can put what he believes to much more efficient use.

There are certainly people who have reason to pay for certain fictions to become widely believed. They have reason to pay to keep some truths hidden. For example, they may lead a religious establishment whose need to protect their interests and influence means suppressing the idea that the institution was built on myth and superstition. And there are businesses who have reason to pay to suppress facts about their products - that they are dangerous or poorly engineered.

However, even these people would discover that, if they had true beliefs, they would have a great many reasons to pay for a universal aversion to violence in response to words written and spoken, because that aversion makes them less likely to be he victim of violence for their own words written or spoken.

They might, after all, be able to convince actual people to side with them on responding to some words with violence. Yet, the question is no whether one has the ability to convince others to use violence as a response o words. The question is whether people with true belief would have a reason to advocate violence as a legitimate response to words.

So what would people overall, with equal wealth and true beliefs, be willing to pay for a state of affairs in which nobody had a desire to rape - or such an aversion to sex without consent that an act of rape would thwart more and stronger desires for each agent than it fulfills?

What would people overall, with equal wealth and true beliefs, have reason to pay for a state of affairs in which no person's decisions are grounded on issues such as the skin color of others - where there is no aversion to dealing with people of one skin color or no desire to deal with people of another skin color?

What would people, with true beliefs and equal wealth, have reason to pay for everybody to want to help those that they see at be at risk of suffering a severe drop in their welfare - a desire to stop and help those who are in need?

The higher this willingness to pay under conditions of true belief and equal wealth, the greater the value of the particular virtue that we are talking about.

Which means that we can quantify moral value - measure it - and make scientific claims as to whether a virtuous person would or would not perform a particular action.

So, now, where does this road lead, I wonder?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Carroll v. Harris: Quantifying Value - Part IV

In his criticism of Sam Harris' suggestion that we can have morality-as-science, Sean Carroll states:

If there is no way in principle to calculate precisely how much well-being one person should be expected to sacrifice for the greater well-being of the community, then what you’re doing isn’t science.

This requirement is immediately going to clash with desirism because, according to desirism, morality is not about 'sacrifice'. In fact, desirism states that a good person gets to spend his life fulfilling his desires without any moral qualms. Right acts are those acts that a person with good desires would perform, so a person with good desires never needs to concern himself over the possibility of doing anything wrong. He sacrifices nothing.

However, let's set the idea of sacrifice aside for a moment and talk about this idea of moral calculation.

According to desirism, morality is about the value of malleable desires relative to other desires. It is about the reasons for action that exist for using social tools such as praise and condemnation to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires (to the degree that it is possible to do so), and to inhibit desires that tend to thwart other desires (to the degree that it is possible to do so).

In other words, the calculations that we need to perform are not calculations about the amount of sacrifice to impose on people. Instead, we examine a possible desire-that-P (for some proposition P), and we look at the possible states of affairs {S1, S2, . . ., Sn} that would come about if everybody had this desire-that-P. We look at the propositions {P1, P2, . . . Pn} that are true of these states of affairs, and we compare them to other desires and aversions. We determine whether or not the malleable desire will tend to fulfill or thwart other desires. To the degree that it fulfills other desires, others have reason to use social forces to promote the universal desire-that-P.

The claim that we do not have the capacity to determine whether a malleable desire will tend to fulfill or thwart other desires is nonsense. We might not have perfectly crafted fine-tuned instruments that can give us an answer own to the fourteenth decimal point. However, we make a rough measurement of what a society would be like with a universal aversion to lying or , for example, can get a good idea of what society would be like without an aversion to lying, or violence, or to the autocratic authority of a despotic monarch.

This is a formula that we use in moral debate constantly. "What would happen if everybody felt the way you do?"

Look at any moral issue currently being debated, from capital punishment to obeying the will of Allah, and we see the same sort of arguments. "What states of affairs can we expect to result if everybody adopted this attitude? What propositions are true of those states of affairs? How do those true propositions relate to the other things that we want?

It is important to note that we are looking at those propositions that are true of the states that would result from the adoption of a particular attitude. It will not be the case of any state that "Allah is pleased," or "We have acquired unprecedented quantities of intrinsic merit." Neither Allah nor intrinsic merit exists. Beings that do not exist cannot be pleased, and entities that do not exist cannot be had in any quantity.

People also make false claims about states of affairs in which one is spending eternity in hell, or in which God has lifted his protective hand sparing us the evils of hurricanes and earthquakes, or meeting one's dead relatives in a perfect society in heaven. These states of affairs are NOT the real consequences of adopting any particular attitude, so are not a part of the measure of the real-world value of adopting that attitude.

What are the REAL consequences of people generally having a stronger desire that P (or desire that not-P)? How do those REAL consequences relate to other desires that exist?

Notice that this simply is not a theory of calculate precisely how much well-being one person should be expected to sacrifice for the greater well-being of the community. It is a theory of "calculate the value of a malleable desire by looking at how many and how strong the reasons-for-action-that-actually-exist are for using social tools to strengthen or weaken that desire in a community."

I recognize that there are a lot of rough edges in this proposal. I am not unaware of them. However, there are still two different attitudes we can take to those rough edges. Either we can work them out with some effort, or the process is fundamentally flawed and doomed to failure.

Once again this takes us to Carroll's core argument in defense of the "doomed to failure" option - the argument he repeats over and over again as if it is all that needs to be said.

Those are my personal reasons for thinking that you can’t derive ought from is. The perceptive reader will notice that it’s really just one reason over and over again — there is no way to answer moral questions by doing experiments, even in principle.

And how does he know this? What proof does he offer?

Ultimately, the only defense of this he offers is an argument that ultimately reduces to the form:

"I cannot imagine that P; therefore, not-P"

Reduced to its basic form, we can see that Carroll is putting a great deal of load-bearing weight on a very weak foundation.

Such as, "I cannot imagine life springing from inanimate matter; therefore, life must have an intelligent creator."


"I cannot imagine a universe without a God in it; therefore, there must be a God."


"It is inconceivable to me that the eye can come into existence as a result of a series of random mutations; therefore, the eye had an intelligent designer."

If this is the best form of argument one can come up with, then this alone suggests that there must be something wrong with the position one is trying to defend.

If Carroll's position actually had some merit, then one would suspect that there would be a better argument out there lending support to that position. Particularly if it is a position that is as extraordinary as postulating a whole realm of relationships - ought relationships - completely independent of is relationships and impossible to prove or disprove but still relevant in the real world.

Extraordinary claims such as these require extraordinary proofs - and "I just can't imagine an alternative" is not an extraordinary proof.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Carroll v. Harris: Quantifying Value - Part III

In my last post I explained (briefly) how we can quantify value.

It was brief, because I expected some early objections would block some people from considering any further developments until some initial objections were handled.

Basically, we can assign a number to value by looking at the maximum amount that a person would bid to realize a state of affairs against a competitor where the bidder and competitor had equal wealth and true and complete relevant beliefs.

I would like to repeat that this is a formula for generic value. Specific moral value will prove to an instance of generic value with some of its own qualities.

On this account, if Person1 with true relevant beliefs is willing to pay $1634.987 to realize a particular state of affairs, then this is the quantity of value that Person1 finds in that state. And if Person2 is willing to pay $995.356 then this is the quantity of value she finds in that state. The aggregate value is 2630.342.

So, let me explain some of what this means.

In earlier posts I have written against the claim that in a free market goods will go to the person who places the highest value on them. Presented an example to show that this is false. Instead, people with more wealth have the power to bid goods away from people with less wealth, even though the people with less wealth value those goods more. The difference rests in the different potential to express one's preferences in the marketplace.

In that example I imagined two people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, both wanting a bottle of water. One person with very little money wants the water to give to her dehydrated and sick child. The other - a person carrying a great deal of cash - wants the water to use to shampoo her dog.

The fact that the second person can outbid the first person and get the water does not prove that she values the water more. Let us put the two contestants in this case on equal economic footing. Then, let us see which one is willing to pay the most money. This will then tell us which of the two agents places the most value on the state of affairs in which she has acquired the bottle of water.

Thus, the quantification of value depends on what the agent would pay compared to another under conditions of equal wealth. Differences in wealth distort the results.

Yet, true beliefs are also important.

Let us assume that the water was collected from a puddle behind the merchant's shop. This piece of knowledge may well have a significant influence on what the first person is willing to pay for the bottle of water. It might even bring the most of what she is willing to pay down to nearly 0 cents.

Of these two options, the price she would pay under conditions of true and relevant beliefs reflects the value that such a state of affairs has to her. False beliefs cause agents to make mistakes about the value of things, thus causing them to pay more to realize states that have little value, or to fail to act to realize a state when they do not realize its true value.

Now we have a unit of measure that gives us the right answer in obvious cases.

In an earlier post I mentioned an example in which a person has one hand each on two buttons, and the buttons are being pulled slowly away from each other. Sooner or later he will have to release one of the buttons. If he releases the left button, then five nuclear bombs will go off in five distant cities. If he releases the right, a child in Bangalore, Maine will discover a $1 bill on the sidewalk.

I used this as a way of challenging the claim that we cannot make interpersonal comparisons. Such a claim implies that a person concerned only with doing the least harm or the most good would stand there in agony not knowing which button to release - because interpersonal comparisons are impossible. The assertion is so obviously false we can wonder how a person can propose it with a straight face.

The form of measurement described above works fine on these obvious cases. Assuming that the agent's relevant beliefs are true and complete, and equal abilities to pay, we could expect people to be far more willing to pay to prevent the atomic bombs from going off than to pay to prevent the child from fining the $1.00 bill.

This does not imply that the system provides an easy answer in all cases. But, then, some measurements in science are difficult as well. How do we measure temperature at the sun's core, for example? How could we have done it when a method for quantifying temperature by measuring the volume of a liquid was first presented?

Remember, Carroll's claim is that these types of measurements are impossible in principle (in spite of the fact that we make them every day). The difficulty in making measurements in some circumstances is not proof of the impossibility of making measurements in principle.

Objections might be raised that this method is imprecise. It still leaves us with no way to determine the value of something exactly. In the example above, what would the value be, precisely, of not releasing the button that would detonate the atomic bombs? The best anybody can give is an estimate. That this estimate is significantly more than the willingness to pay to prevent a child in Bangalore, Maine from discovering a dollar bill on the sidewalk does not show that the measurement can be made with any degree of precision.

However, there are no forms of measurement that is perfectly accurate or perfectly precise. Every form of measurement - including distance, volume, velocity, and mass, comes with an error bar. Over time, we have developed newer forms of measurement that has given us better and better precision. However, nothing will every allow us to do determine the measure of something exactly.

The last objection I would like to consider in this post is the objection that states that this cannot be a measure of moral value. You cannot make a leap from the fact that people generally are willing to pay a great deal of money for something under the conditions of true beliefs and equal wealth to the conclusion that they ought to have it - and others ought to be made to suffer for them to get it.

Besides, there are a great many people who may be willing to pay a great deal of money to, for example, have atomic bombs go off in a number of American cities. One would have to conclude from this formulae that those desires are to be considered as well. This carries the implication that if enough people want the atomic bombs to go off badly enough that this would become permissible -- even obligatory.

This objection is sound, as far as it goes. However, it is an objection against the claim that moral value represents the value is to be found in this willingness to pay for states of affairs.

Desirism does not accept that assumption. One way to think of desirism rests with the fact that some desires are malleable. This means that we have the ability to change what people generally are willing to pay to realize certain states of affairs and avoid others. We can, for example, create in people (or strengthen) a willingness to pay to avoid a state in which they lie or steal or rape or murder.

Moral value, according to desirism, concerns the value of using social forces to increase some willingnesses to pay and decrease others. It concerns promoting an aversion to lying or stealing, for example. This, in turn, means using social forces to make it so that people are to avoid states of affairs in which they realize particular ends through deception. "I would really like to take that trip to Hawaii, but I am not going to take money out of the till at work to pay for it."

So, there may be people willing to pay to have the atomic bombs go off. However, how much would people with true beliefs and equal ability to pay be willing to pay to promote a universal aversion to the setting off of such bombs? That is the moral question. This is the question of whether people should be willing to pay to have such bombs go off.

Once more, the desirist is going to respond to the objection, "I don't like your measurement, so I am going to measure this thing over here," with a shrug of indifference. Desirism will have to incorporate any objectively true claims you make about what you choose to measure, while anything else - those claims where there is no experiment we can imagine that can prove you are wrong - can be dismissed as make-believe and let's pretend.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Carroll v. Harris: Quantifying Value - Part II

(See Sean Carroll: You Can't Derive 'Ought' from 'Is')

Sean Carroll told us that morality-as-science is impossible until we can assign a number to different amounts of value. In my last post I argued that this criterion is bogus - the inability to assign numbers reflects our current state of ignorance, not what is true of the world. However, as it turns out, we can measure value scientifically.

Now, moral value is a species of value.

I am going to talk about value-as-science first, then focus more specifically on moral-value-as-science, which will be a specific case of the generic theory.

What we are looking for is a way of quantifying 'better than' and 'worse than'.

I would like to note how we quantified temperature. We noted a relationship between temperature and volume and we quantified volume. We put liquid in a vacuum tube and measured temperature by recording the volume of the liquid - the distance that the liquid in its current volume was pushed up a long thin tube.

Since desires are reasons for action - since there is a relationship between the number and strength of relevant desires and intentional action - we can use intentional action as a measure of desire just as we can use volume as a proxy for temperature.

The value of something is the maximum amount that a person would pay against a competing bidder of equal wealth under conditions of true and complete relevant beliefs.

So, if Person1 with true relevant beliefs is willing to pay $1634.987 to realize a particular state of affairs, then this is the quantity of value that Person1 finds in that state. And if Person2 is willing to pay $995.356 then this is the quantity of value she finds in that state. The aggregate value is 2630.342.

If Carroll is reading this, I suspect he would respond by thinking, "There's no need to go any further. This is flawed from the start. I can just as easily assert that value is related to some other quantity - say, serotonin levels, and there is no experiment that we can imagine that would prove your measurement correct and mine to be incorrect."

My answer to Carroll is: Go ahead. Choose something else to measure. If your measurements are correct, and you limit yourself to making only those claims that can be demonstrated to be objectively relevant to what you are measuring, then nothing you would say as a result would conflict with anything I talk about with respect to the measurement I have provided.

If you start making claims about what you are measuring – and making them even though there is no experiment that we can imagine that can prove that you are wrong (or right), then I am going to accuse you of making things up.

See, there is a reason why there is no experiment we can imagine that will prove whether a person making a Carrollian 'ought' claim is wrong. It is because Carrollian 'oughts' are fictitious entities. They are make-believe from the realm as the angels pushing the planets around or ghosts. Is there an experiment I can imagine that would prove that there are no ghosts? No, there is not.

However, the very fact that there is no experiment that I can imagine that can prove ghosts are real tells us something about ghosts. Or, at least, it tells us something useful about the ghost-hypothesis. It has no practical importance. The ‘best explanation’ behind something where there is no experiment that can show us it is real is that it is imaginary.

Yet, I would like to remind the reader that these imaginary Carrollian ‘oughts’ that exist outside of the realm of evidence and proof are being used to ‘justify’ claims about who deserves to live and who deserves to die, who deserves prison time and who should go free, who shall be comforted and who shall be made to suffer. Carrollian ‘oughts’ place these in a realm without reason or evidence – in the same realm as God, ghosts, and garden fairies.

If we remove the myth Carrollian ‘ought’ – the ‘that for which there is no imaginable experiment’ – from our claims about serotonin levels, we are left with the objective facts about those measurements and the objective implications of those facts. None of this is going to create any problem for the measurement of "the most a person with true and complete relevant beliefs would bid to realize a state of affairs."

The next accusation to face is that I, too, am guilty of adding a Carrollian ‘ought’ to what I am measuring.

Well, if that is the objection, then tell me one conclusion that I am defending that would require such a premise. What conclusion am I claiming that I can get to that I cannot get to without the assumption of a evidence-free Carrollian ‘ought’?

The final objection will be that, “Without this evidence-free Carrollian ‘ought’ you are not permitted to call what you are talking about value (generically) or moral value (specifically). Value requires evidence-free Carrollian ‘ought’.”

That’s fine. Let’s call it something else and be rid of these fictitious, mythical, magical Carrollian ‘oughts’ once and for all. Or you need to explain to me what you insist on making claims, as if they are relevant in the real world, when you cannot even imagine any evidence that you can offer to support them.

In my next post, I am going to look at this measure of value a little more closely. I want to remind you that this is a measure of generic value, not moral value. Moral value will be shown to be a species of generic value (the generic value of malleable desires that can be molded through social forces such as praise and condemnation.)

And, like I said, if you do not like calling “the generic value of malleable desires that can be molded through social forces such as praise and condemnation” morality, then don’t. Nothing will be changed by giving it a different name.

One really does not understand desirism until one can understand why the desirist can respond to a claim like, "I am going to define 'morality' as this thing over here," or "I hereby declare that X is the root of all value," with a shrug of indifference. The desirist has no reason to get into long and loud debates over these types of claims. The loud and long debate itself would be grounded on false assumptions.

There are only two options available to the person who declares that they are going to define morality in terms of X or declare X to be the root of all value. Either the agent is going to limit himself to making objectively true of X - in which case none of his statements are going to conflict with what the desirist claims. Or the agent is going to assign to X these properties where "no experiment we can imagine can prove that I am wrong," in which case the desirist will answer, "Then you are just making things up."

And when the other person asserts that the desirist is just making something up, the desirist answers by saying, "Show me any conclusion that I claim to be able to reach that requires making something up."

In the off chance that the person raising the objection actually identifies something that requires a make-believe premise that cannot be proved wrong, then the desirist eliminates it and says, "That you for helping me to recognize and rid the theory of that garbage."

Perhaps this response will be easier to understand with an analogy.

Assume we have a scientist who is busy studying and reporting on the properties of six-proton atoms (carbon). This is the focus of his study and his writings. Then another scientist comes along and says, "I am going to look at 8-proton atoms (oxygen) instead."

The first scientist says, "Fine. Go ahead. If you limit yourself to making true claims about 8-proton atoms, then nothing you say about them is going to contradict or conflict with what I say about 6-proton atoms. And if you start making claims about 8-proton atoms where 'no experiment we can imagine can prove that I am wrong (or right)', then I am going to accuse you of making things up. I am not particularly concerned about objections that come out of the realm of make-believe."

The same thing is true about value. If you say you want to measure something other than what I propose, then go ahead and do so. If you limit yourself to objectively true facts about what you measure, and I limit myself to objectively true facts about what I measure, we are not going to have any problems. We are not going to run into problems until one of us starts to make up things about what we are measuring - making claims that no experiment we can imagine can prove wrong (or right), but making them anyway.

But, the person who does that has left reality behind and entered the realm of imaginative fiction.

In my next post I will say more about the quantification of value and start to get into the quantification of moral value. While I do so there will be readers tempted to say, "Well, I'm going to measure that thing over there instead." In response to that, one should understand the desirist shrug. "Go ahead, if you like. It does not matter. If you think it matters, it is because you are living in a world of fiction, not fact."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Installing Christian Judges in California

I will continue to discuss the quantification of value in the near future. However, a news article today presents an opportunity that I would like to propose - particularly for readers living in California.

The news in question reports:

SAN DIEGO — A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts.

(See: Associated Press Christian conservatives target seated judges

This campaign year would be an excellent opportunity to produce a set of Youtube style videos in which a "Christian" appeals or supreme court judge passes judgment on cases according to christian principles.

These would be cases of a child sentenced to death for talking back to his parents, an individual sentenced to death for working on the day of the Sabbath, a murderer who is acquitted because, in keeping with the biblical commandments, he killed a person who he caught trying to convert a family member to some other religion, and the endorsement of slavery.

It could include a terrorist justifying the use of biological agents killing every first-born child in the kingdom or the complete destruction of a town because he could not find ten righteous people within it given biblical standards of righteousness.

Such a project would serve a dual purpose of helping to defeat this movement and to teach the moral bankruptcy of various claims made in scripture.

Just a thought . . . one that I thought I would throw out there.

I will now return to the subject of quantifying value.