Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why Success Leads People to the Political Left

The primary difference between the political left and the political right is what these groups believe about the moral nature of humans. The left believes we're basically good, the right believes we're not basically good. If we are basically good, then we (and by extension the state) can be trusted with power and we shouldn't fear a powerful state. But if we're not basically good then we (and by extension the state) cannot be trusted with power and the job of a good statesmen is to limit the power of the state. A good defense of this view is made in the short clip below.

When a person is successful, that person tends to congregate around other successful people. Successful people are more likely to think highly of themselves and more likely to expect others to think highly of them.

Thus (I promise I will not use that word again) in successful circles a culture of exceptionalism naturally develops where each member believes that himself and other members of the successful circle are good, quite good in fact, certainly better than the average Joe.

Therefore if one is to argue that the political right is correct, one is indirectly arguing that each member of the elite crew (including oneself) is not basically good. And one must argue this against a very attractive alternative narrative, which is that each one in the group (including oneself!) is good. It is very difficult to argue against this alternative narrative for a couple reasons:

1. There is immense social pressure to affirm everyone as good. In fact making an argument against this idea almost automatically excludes you from self-affirming elite circles, as you won't self-affirm.

2. It is extremely tempting to think of yourself as good, especially if you've achieved considerable success. We all really want it to be the case that we are good, this is a powerful and natural desire, it is our deepest and most desperately held fantasy.

But as I've argued elsewhere, if you don't believe that you are prone to evil, it increases the probability that evil will find a way into your actions. We must be aware of our own potential for evil.

...But the siren song of denial is strong, it’s much easier to just conform.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why Stephen Fry's recent claims are Unreasonable

The famous actor Stephen Fry set portions of Europe abuzz in a brief interview with broadcaster Gay Byrne last week for his controversial claim that if there is a god who created the universe, that god must be evil. here's a link to the video:


Fry's claim here is not new, the late Christopher Hitchens and many other atheists have been making this claim for at least a decade. But even with the backing of Stephen Fry's aristocratic British accent and passionate delivery, the claim rings hollow.

Yes, there is great pain and suffering in the world, but to think *only* of the pain and suffering when discussing what kind of God could have made the world is an obviously flawed way of approaching the matter. When trying to answer this question, and when trying to answer every other question, *all* the data we have available must be taken into account. And there is much more than bone cancer to discuss. Has Stephen Fry never felt thankful for his loved ones? has he never delighted in the laughter of children? Has he never wondered at the beauty of the setting sun or the starry night sky? Has he never appreciated the taste of a good meal or the majesty of water crashing into the shoreline?

To conclude that an all good and all powerful God (the kind Fry is trying to rule out) may have created the universe we need only to determine that the existence of the world we live in is better than it's non-existence. For an all good and all powerful God will certainly create all worlds whose existence is better than their non-existence. I'm grateful to be alive, to see the sparkle in the eyes of my small nephews, to feel my wife embrace me, to look down on the blowing snow from the top of high mountains. I'm grateful that this universe exists because it is good, we all know this, we feel it. The world is very good, and if this is so, we ought to conclude that its creator is very good as well.