Family Values: or, Lipsticking the Pig.

From an upcoming lecture on Architecture and Design:

This guy I know wanted to get his kids vaccinated against Covid. Got a special deal: took them across the border to Scarborough, handed them special forms that said they worked for a company called—I kid you not—”Matrix”; and told them that if anyone asked about their place of employment, they were to lie.

The kids were, to their credit, kind of squicked out by this. It was obviously cheating; they ended up being the only two white people in the room. (This particular vax site was being run for front-line folks most vulnerable to infection, which tend to be disproportionately people of color for reasons we all know about by now.) They called their dad on this: it was unethical. It deprived two other people of protection[1].

Dad’s response? “I’m just trying to protect my family. When you’ve got kids of your own, you’ll understand.”

I heard this story, and I thought: is there a single evil perpetrated by human beings that doesn’t start with that very rationale? I’m protecting those that are dear to me. Me and mine come first. Cheating is okay as long as it serves our interests. Everything from shoplifting to genocide has its seeds in selfish genes.

And Dad was playing it as a get-out-of-jail card. Because sure, he’d cheated—but he did it for family, and that not only made it okay; it made it morally praiseworthy. Obligatory, even. We have taken kin selection—an act of utter Darwinian selfishness—and lipsticked it into something altruistic and noble. The very hallmark of the Good Human Being.

How often have you heard the sentiment Nothing is more important than family? And when you have heard it, has anyone ever disagreed? Family Values is the very bedrock of western so-called Morality.

Family Values are destroying the planet.


  1. They did go ahead and get the shot, though.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2021 at 6:53 am and is filed under rant. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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Johnny4.5
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Johnny4.5
1 year ago

Have kids, and you won’t be all bent out-of-shape about this, PW. It still stinks, but it’s not out of the scope of what I’d do for my boys.

Nick Gurr
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Nick Gurr
1 year ago

This is retarded.

Mike Evans
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Mike Evans
1 year ago

What sick father puts this poison in his children?

Patrick
Guest
1 year ago

Johnny4.5,

Apparently having children clarifies all the messiness of the world. Shit, all this time I’ve spent polishing my ethical reasoning I should have just been having babies. What a waste.

Martin
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Martin
1 year ago

The power of hormones.

Charles
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Charles
1 year ago

It worked in “The Godfather”……

Brian Prince
Guest
1 year ago

Parasitism, valorized.

Amit Hajra
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Amit Hajra
1 year ago

Don’t worry – I haven’t gotten my family of four vaccinated yet, so it all evens out…

Mannie
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Mannie
1 year ago

A hard sci-fi author and biologist like yourself questions a (deluded– I agree with Mike above) father striving for his genes to survive? Shit, I haven’t got free time to enjoy reading fiction books, except yours and very, very few others. I hope you have plans to propagate those magnificent genes of yours. If you don’t, be sure that the many, the river of flesh, will take the place of your progeny, and entropy shall unwind as it must.

That guy you speak about is cheap, immoral and deluded, but his heart is in the right place. Please don’t use him as a strawman.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
1 year ago

I feel like in defending the guy some folks here are doing a disservice to people who have kids but were content to wait for their turn anyway. As an anecdotal example, the amount of people who died due to COVID in my immediate circle of acquaintances with families of their own sits at big fat zero despite nobody feeling the need to jump the queue.

All you’re doing by equating being a selfish cunt with loving your family is further reinforcing Dr. Watts’s point.

Caconym
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Caconym
1 year ago

I would gladly lay down my life for two siblings or eight cousins.

Darius
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Darius
1 year ago

Well, that’s indeed the hallmark of a good human being! Like, if you’re not putting your kin first, then chances are you’re not an average human being.

James Gauvreau
Guest
1 year ago

Johnny4.5:
Have kids, and you won’t be all bent out-of-shape about this, PW. It still stinks, but it’s not out of the scope of what I’d do for my boys.

I’m pretty sure Watts has kids. He’s mentioned them a couple times before.

It turns out that you can have children without losing your grasp of ethics.

I’d say more, but I see that we have (multiple!) COVID-vaccines-are-poison nuts in attendance, and I’m a bit too astounded to form further coherent thoughts.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
1 year ago

Charles:
It worked in “The Godfather”……

It eorked right up until the corpses started to pile up.

listedproxyname
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listedproxyname
1 year ago

Sorry if I am being a bit judgemental in this, but for me it is very obvious thing, like it or not. Family values are the first, most basic values – if a person can’t handle them, how can we assume it can handle any values at all? That’s why they are important, that’s why so called “rationale” is coming secondary after it – not because they are absolute.

Believe me, as a person born in USSR (and not hating myself for it) I am more than aware that there’s no distinguishing features between all those “family”, “social” or “global” moralities when it comes to tragedy – they are all in this together, and so are people who are caught in it. Knocking down another pillar or putting up another wall won’t change nothing in this case.

The K
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The K
1 year ago

Ensuring your own progeny survives, no matter what, is THE most driving imperative of life. It certainly isnt uniquely human. I dont have kids, but im pretty sure i would be willing to commit murder for my hypothetical offspring, if i had to.

Now i dont think this needs to be necessarily glorified to the degree it is (it is just a basic biological drive, after all) but then again, neither should it be vilified. We wont get rid of it in any case, unless we manage to gene-edit it out somehow.

Then again, even though they are not your biological children, can you look into the mirror and tell yourself convincingly that, if push comes to shove, if there is a REAL crisis, that you wouldnt put your kids and your wife, or your family in general before some strangers?

If the answer is yes, i salute you as an unironically superior person. I wouldnt pass that test for sure.

Also, and unrelatedly, why are antivax nuts mingling on your site? Im more baffled than anything else.

Fatman
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Fatman
1 year ago

Anonymous: All you’re doing by equating being a selfish cunt with loving your family is further reinforcing Dr. Watts’s point.

Could not agree more. People acting like pieces of shit and using “think of the children” pearl-clutching to justify it has nothing to do with “family values”. It’s about trying to get away with being a self-serving, hypocritical cunt, which is pretty typical human behavior, but still disgusting.

James Gauvreau: I’d say more, but I see that we have (multiple!) COVID-vaccines-are-poison nuts in attendance, and I’m a bit too astounded to form further coherent thoughts.

Your thoughts still seem to be more coherent than their thoughts, so IDK, consider that a win?

The K: Also, and unrelatedly, why are antivax nuts mingling on your site? Im more baffled than anything else.

The Crawl is occasionally targeted for drive-by garbage-spouting by idiots and/or conspiracy lunatics. I recall more than one swivel-eyed libertarian popping in over the years, only to beat a tucked-tail hasty retreat, then appear again in a few months’ time. Maybe they become addicted to being dunked on?

The K
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The K
1 year ago

@Fatman

Yeah, equating the classic “Wont somebody think of the children?!!!” pearl-clutching with the behaviour of the father in question here (selfish, unethical, but definitely really concerned about his children) just doesnt sit right with me.

The moral guardians who scream about the children usually dont give a single fuck about said children and wouldnt piss on them if they were on fire. Thats definitely not what happened here, its a different (and arguably way worse) tier of scumbaggery.

Honestly, i notice a trend lately (well okay, for a long time) to equate basic human, even biological drives with evil. I am still not quite convinced by that. Either we only are a bunch of biological, more or less preprogrammed mush and all that ethics stuff is something we invented afterwards to console ourselves, or we ARE something special, we COULD be better if we only wanted to defy our biological imperatives.

I cant shake the feeling that our esteemed host really wants the second possibility to be true and is eterneally disappointed that it isnt, even though he has made a career of showing us readers that no, humans are not special and are just another kind of dumb meatbot, only we have a self-important, chattering homunculus in our brain who thinks he is in the drivers seat.

Every cynic is a disappointed idealist, after all.

Brian Prince
Guest
1 year ago

I’m not sure the people equating “natural” with “good” realize where they’re posting LOL.

Favoring your kin becomes maladaptive in a technological species capable of destroying the world. DNA is dumb. It has no long-term goals. We ought to try to be better than that.

trnj
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trnj
1 year ago
Glendis Shiko
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Glendis Shiko
1 year ago

Peter Watts,

“people who’ve suffered a certain subtle damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex are immune to Trolley Paradoxes” what sort of brain damage are you talking about and could you possibly link to a paper?

Fatman
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Fatman
1 year ago

The K: Honestly, i notice a trend lately (well okay, for a long time) to equate basic human, even biological drives with evil.

“Evil” and “good” are emotionally charged words with no definable meaning. “Evil” has historically been a way of labeling behavior that we humans instinctively recognize as deleterious to our existence. On the other hand, “good” is what has been shown to benefit the community/society, etc. These definitions change as those interpreting them see fit. Biological urges are biological urges, neither good nor evil unto themselves.

By the same yardstick, humans can’t be “better” than we already are. Being social animals, however, we can elect to take actions that are less damaging to that society as a whole (even when there is no immediate personal benefit to be derived from them).

I don’t think the above is an example of “biological imperatives kicking in”, as no one’s life was in immediate danger, and there were other options to keep the kids safe. It’s an example of a self-serving cunt demonstrating, in an admittedly minor way, that He and His matter more than everyone else.

Which, when you think about it, is really what’s wrong with the world. Petty, shitty people making petty, shitty acts of selfishness, snowballing into one big problem. Wanna bet that he drove the kids to their appointment in a gas-guzzling SUV? So much for wanting to “protect his own”.

Brian Prince: DNA is dumb. It has no long-term goals.

The gist of my argument, far more succinctly.

James Gauvreau
Guest
1 year ago

Peter Watts,

I didn’t mean that you necessarily had *biological* children, just that you had children at all.

I don’t know what Johnny 4.5 would say, but I think it’s ludicrous to believe that there’s some special switch that flips if and only if your children are genetically related to you. Our parental instincts might be *aiming* for something like that, but at the end of the day, somebody’s love for their adopted children is not fundamentally different than somebody else’s love for their bio-children.

You’ve got stepkids, and you care about them more than some people care about their biological children, so the “Oh, Peter Watts doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he doesn’t have kids of his own” argument falls flat on its face.

Glendis Shiko,

Watts has talked about it a little more in this post.

CTRL+F for “If killing one person saves ten” to get to the right post.

And here is the article in question.

God, I hope I formatted that correctly.

The K
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The K
1 year ago

@Fatman

Hm, good points all around. Yeah, i cant really dispute that.

Lars
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Lars
1 year ago

Peter Watts,
“I would gladly lay down my life for two siblings or eight cousins.”

That was Haldane, not Haldemann. I doubt if Haldemann had the foggiest notion of what inclusive fitness is.
If Haldane had been involved in Watergate, it would have been much better conducted. And had more beetles.

Jack
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Jack
1 year ago

The K,

I quite agree that you are right about Peter’s disappointment. The idealist turned cynic. You point out that EITHER we are meat OR we are something special. Maybe the problem is we are both. I say this having read Isaiah Berlin and his thinking on value pluralism. I hesitate to use it here and perhaps it’s not appropriate, but possibly both views are valid and equal, yet incompatible and come into conflict with one another in a way that admits of no resolution without reference to particular contexts of a decision. This clash constitutes the tragedy of human life.

listedproxyname
Guest
listedproxyname
1 year ago

First and foremost, I must say, I do not believe in Trolley Paradox. Nor do I believe people who talk about Trolley Paradoxes. I, however, believe in time and energy constraints of human reasoning.

Peter Watts: I’m not sure what kind of assumptions you could make in any case, and I don’t know how you define “values” (as far as I can tell, “morals” is just a fancy way of saying “gut feelings”— and “gut feelings” evolved via processes that have no foresight whatsoever, with all the shortcomings that entails.) But there are empirically better alternatives, if you attribute any value at all to the concept of a healthy biosphere.

There is an empirically better alternative aka Maslow pyramid. Of course, people tend to imagine it too literal, while the pyramid is actually only a simplified statistical representation of human “gut feelings”, while each or every value can occasionally be above and beyond any other. The father knows that if he gets caught for fraud, the court will target him, but he is willing to take that risk if he can save his children – his family value is above his personal safety, but it is also above the self-esteem of getting into that kind of interaction. Thus it is “unethical”.

Looking through it, one can fully understand a meaning of “altruism” as it is expressed through the highest stages of that chart, that means, a person will go as far as sacrifice himself if it gives his life a higher value, a “meaning”. I can put my life to improve the biosphere and society for generations to come, so they can enjoy the better life than I will ever be able to – back in the days a lot of people of my country did exactly that, and that was, IMO, a complete success. I owe them for that, I must not forget their legacy.

But also, will I be ready to do the same if I know for a fact that my effort and effort of my people can (and therefore will) be turned down, exploited, forgotten, trampled into the ground, sold out at lowest bidder? Simply no, never, at no point, no amount of shaming, pleading or force will make me, I would rather put my life to oppose it. It is the existence of fraud and lies that lead us from our ideals at this level of interaction, and we shouldn’t forget about this as well, since it will cost us too much. I am telling you, Peter, that we as a nation have been through it and we shall not repeat this mistake again.

Name
Guest
Name
1 year ago

Peter Watts:

Or induce precise brain lesions (see above). The gene editing approach might be the only solution, although I’m

This dude you all probably know cured his lactose intolerance using viral vector gene therapy developed more or less in his kitchen (except the DNA synthesis part) a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3FcbFqSoQY

And the desktop DNA synthesis machines (which could be hacked to not screen against the known pathogen databases like current DNA synthesis companies do) are coming in a few years, so this kind of thing will suddenly be within reach of a million of biotech hobbyists with motivations ranging from DNA jihad to curing the humanity of harmful kinds of kin selection

The next pandemic might actually have some actual human-variety goals attached to it

Name
Guest
Name
1 year ago

Peter Watts

Oh yeah, I’ve no doubt that it’ll soon be within our capacity to hack human nature via gene drives. I’ve repeatedly played with that idea on this blog and in my fiction, among other places. (Basically, you’d need someone with the medical background of Josef Mengele, the scruples of the Joker, and the heart of Greta Thunberg.) My doubts involve market penetration; if you’re going to make an ecological difference, any righteousness pandemic would have to infect a huge majority of the population— and even the plague only took out a third of Europe.

It’s not a new idea, of course, but what amazed me recently is how soon this capability will very likely materialize, i.e. it’s not a perpetual 10 years away thing like fusion

I don’t have high hopes for the result, but, it might actually be enough to modify a modest percentage of the population to cause a transition to new social equilibrium; 10% of motivated individuals can easily force new behavioral norms on everybody else

Fatman
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Fatman
1 year ago

Peter Watts: for all the strident insistence that parenthood changes your life for the better, studies have shown that parents are statistically more miserable than their child-free counterparts.

Wasn’t aware of studies confirming this. Of course, I have tons of anecdotal evidence re: the abject misery of parents (i.e. 90% of people with kids I know), but it’s useful to see science back it up.

listedproxyname: I can put my life to improve the biosphere and society for generations to come, so they can enjoy the better life than I will ever be able to

Absolutely. I’m not against “higher meaning” and all that. Most people like to think of themselves as dedicated to such lofty goals. Sadly, the fact is that many of those same people choose to invent cowardly/delusional excuses not to do it.

Phil
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Phil
1 year ago

Would a guy, like this guy with the daughters, submit to gene editing to help preserve the biosphere? Fuck no. That’s why this particular bait-and-switch is a good one. The type of person who would buy a Lincoln Navigator for his daughter’s 16th birthday, even though she would prefer a new bicycle and a donation to the local food bank, because this shows he is both a generous (Navigators are expensive) and caring (in an accident, the other person dies) father, is also not going to get the vaccine for himself or his progeny unless he believes doing so will boost his social standing among those who privilege status above all else, regardless of any prophylactic upside of doing so.

Little known fact: Those at the upper levels of government worldwide are genuinely concerned about the future of life on Earth, and over the past couple of years have been taking action in two ways: first, by releasing a virus that cleverly straddles the line of lethality in such a way that their populations are concerned enough to be generally willing to tolerate an abrogation of civil liberties and to push for vaccines to be developed, while not also killing off a large percentage of ones’ working age subjects (“citizens”) or, more importantly, oneself; and second, by releasing vaccines, already largely developed, to act as vectors for the nanobots programmed to damage the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the precise way required for people to not only recognize larger ethical contexts, but also override our innate pathological tendencies, so that we actually act on this recognition.

The problem with making this wonder of modern engineering transparently available is that the only people who would take it are those who don’t need it, and the hardest cases to convince to take it would be those such as the subject of this blog post. I don’t know if our unnamed hero is actually in the service of our global elites (and, hence in service of the preservation of our biosphere), or if he is a useful idiot for these guardians. Either way, I’m thankful that such people exist to help lead us into a healthy and sustainable world.

The K
Guest
The K
1 year ago

Phil,

I really cant tell if that is clever satire or paranoid ramblings.

Ive got my, uh, nanobots two weeks ago, and so far i am still not a heroic eco-warrior, though. I still eat too much meat, ogling that Playstation 5 and generally behave pretty much exactly as before. I didnt even get any cool nanobot-based superpowers, i am thinking Alex Mercer from “Prototype”. When do those kick in?

Phil
Guest
Phil
1 year ago

The K,

I got my second Pfizzer a couple of weeks ago (I fall into what in Ontario they call the “essential caregiver” category) and I’m still waiting to feel the effects. I hate people in general, same as always, so I’m not sure if the elites have fucked up, or if my prefrontal cortex was already damaged…

Agaric
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Agaric
1 year ago

If small murders can be laid at the feet of kin selection, Holodomor class megadeaths can be attributed with equal reliability to the rationally enlightened levelers who would banish kin selection.

Fatman
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Fatman
11 months ago

Phil: I got my second Pfizzer a couple of weeks ago (I fall into what in Ontario they call the “essential caregiver” category) and I’m still waiting to feel the effects.

Same here. My sociopathic tendencies have been exacerbated, if anything.

KE
Guest
KE
11 months ago

Peter Watts,

“(Fun fact: for all the strident insistence that parenthood changes your life for the better, studies have shown that parents are statistically more miserable than their child-free counterparts. They just can’t admit it to themselves consciously. Again, you can see why evolution would shape us this way.)”

That’s a quick skimming of the studies, though. Moment to moment the happiness is lower, similar to a student’s experience at university, but we’d never claim it’s not worth it because the experience is uncomfortable. The rest of that suffering-parent study shows the happiness level is up top when the raising of the kid is further along.

Jason
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Jason
11 months ago

I’m trying to be really concise here but this is also kind of sloppy because if I carefully edit this comment I will be here all day.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that people seem to use the word ethical as a stand-in for “good” or “correct.” If I’m being ethical, then what I do is OK. Thought experiments like the trolley problem or the mother-in-a-burning-building problem mostly seem to pinpoint people’s values. But people who would malign the mother for saving her child at the expense of two plus elderly humans seem to assume the latter are intrinsically more valuable, if only because they are more numerous. Then again, as humans are so damaging to the planet, if you value the planet more than humans it makes sense to save as few as possible. I guess I’m trying to say that ethics is a means of translating your values to your decisions. There are no objectively correct answers. I’ve seen it defined as “moral reasoning”. Of course that’s the problem: nobody defines their terms. And when an entire argument hinges on a single word, the definition sort of becomes important. If ethics is thinking about more than yourself, then what scale is the correct one? Or are we supposed to look at all of them? That isn’t rhetorical.

Caring about more than oneself doesn’t seem to matter much and doesn’t guarantee an optimal outcome. Parents seem to care more about their kids than themselves, at least given the lengths to which they will go to protect them, yet the results are only good for a given set of criteria. A nation’s leaders supposedly care about the big picture, but do the policies they implement to that end produce the desired outcomes, especially when they’re looking at data plots instead of talking to the people whose lives they change? The only objective measure is quantity.

I try to see the big picture, to always think about how my actions affect the world around me, but I’m haunted by the thought that I’m only seeing a slightly larger picture and there’s still a larger one that eludes me. I’ve gotten in to ecosystem restoration a bit as the enormity of damage from invasive non-native species hit me, but I don’t know if that’s the best thing to do. I can construct arguments all day, but they depend on value assessments. I want the ecosystem and our species to survive, but so what? If humans magically change course, defy all our instincts, would saving the planet matter? Take the long view and in a few billion years the sun would scorch it all anyway. But of course that assumes only things that last have value, and nothing really lasts. I can look at co-evolution and see the dead end it is. Each species taking the lazy way out, finding a niche as it’s more optimal energy- and survival-wise than competition, becoming increasingly co-dependent, supposedly more robust, but what you end up with is a whole system that can be broken by a few young ecological interactions. Am I wrong about this?

There’s an alternate scenario that I’ve considered, read something like it in a sci-fi short story, don’t remember the name. Basically the gist is that our technological progress is impeded by capitalism, as tech companies spend too much time and energy competing with one another and instead should cooperate. Like Project Warp Speed but for everything. Push tech as far and as fast as possible with no regard for profit. No patents, no trade secrets, no bureaucracy. Government can write you a blank check. Pay your people but get results. The outcome hopefully being miracle unicorn tech that can reverse whatever we’ve done while still allowing us to be lazy stupid shits. Since putting on the brakes isn’t going to happen, better sprout wings before we go splat.

Forrest Richey
Guest
11 months ago

I don’ kno’ wot the pic of the family sitting [and mowing] in front of the burning house is doing in the article but wot I DO kno is that the radiated ‘heat’ from that fire’d be burning up the people!

Nestor
Guest
Nestor
11 months ago

I uh, am probably being irrelevant by mentioning this but there usually are enough missed appointments and wastage in the usual vaccination drives that a couple of extra doses aren’t going to actually deprive anyone so this behaviour probably wasn’t as antisocial as all that. If 10 antivaxxers miss their appointment the system can incorporate 3 freeloaders.

If we want to build a shiny star trek utopian gay space communism, we need to head towards a system that is tolerant of freeloaders rather than some strict Stakhanovist ubermensch brave new world where everyone Does The Right Thing. We have a world with remarkable levels of altruism and non-kin generosity, given our antecedents, so I’m leery of dismantling that particular Chesterton’s fence (As in, don’t take the fence down until you know what it’s holding back)

But if you want to infect everyone with an ethics agent I propose a venereal disease transmitted consciously by young free love espousing flower children. Bet that one would get traction (Pretty sure there’s already a story like that, but with a sterilizing virus).

popefucker
Guest
popefucker
11 months ago

Peter Watts,

vasectomy eh? I’ve been thinking of getting the snip-snip myself, but I keep thinking “what if I change my mind later?” I like kids dammit, I’m just pretty sure I don’t want my own.

Phil
Guest
Phil
11 months ago

Nestor,

That’s an elegant, workable, ethically defensible solution. I think mine’s more likely because it’s none of those things.

Nosleepdemon
Guest
Nosleepdemon
11 months ago

I suppose having children does rewire you a bit, at least for a while. I wouldn’t have done it for my child though, since – being a parent, I wouldn’t want to cheat anybody elses children from their shot… Or from their grandparent’s shot, for that matter.

Kitty Wu
Guest
Kitty Wu
11 months ago

Well, we can’t expect Peter Watts to be right ALL the time.

Jack
Guest
Jack
11 months ago

They said the worked for the “Matrix”
Very droll.
It’s rather humorous- all their plotting, planning and conniving.
Real bunch of baddies.
These arseholes deserve jabs for their sheer chutzpah, corniness and will to survive. At least you bunch can’t accuse them of being anti-vaxers.

Jan S
Guest
11 months ago

Johnny4.5, I’m a mother and I wouldn’t jump the line ahead of those working with the already-infected just to get my kid vaxxed. Not only is this behavior selfish and privileged, it sounds a lot like the kind of thinking that didn’t pay any attention to the science behind masking, hand-washing and social distancing, not to mention understanding how viral infection works. Oh, and then there’s the historical data on the most vulnerable segments of the population: old people and those with compromised immune systems. If this man’s children were healthy, there was no *scientific* reason behind his decision. I’m glad his kids called him out on it.

Nestor
Guest
Nestor
11 months ago

If we look at historical examples of people willing to sacrifice their kids we get Stalin (“Why should I exchange a lieutenant for a field Marshall?”) and various fascists up to Roman times so perhaps the solution isn’t there either.

Also, consider the Lunnhuis

popefucker
Guest
popefucker
11 months ago

Jack,

honestly people who blindly say “get vaccinated!” without understanding why it is important aren’t much better than anti-vaxxers. I think someone who jumps in line is exhibiting symptoms of that particular kind of brain rot.
They’re the type of people who also think they’re saving the planet by throwing things in the recycling bin.

Jack
Guest
Jack
11 months ago

popefucker,

I’m happy when ppl do the right thing regardless of comprehension.

And you can recycle just to “feel good” even if you know it’s an incredibly small contribution. Recycling creates awareness of the waste I’m generating and encourages me to produce less.

Phil
Guest
Phil
11 months ago

Peter Watts:

Nah, those are people who are willing to sacrifice other people’s kids.

According to Wikipedia, Stalin refused to trade his own POW son, Lieutenant Yakov Iosifovich Dzhugashvili, for a field marshall, with Yakov dying while interned. (Although, I’m not sure this necessarily means everyone willing to sacrifice one of their children for the greater good would also starve 6 million people to death because they got upity.)

Re. free will: I used to ask various people how we could have free will when our environment and biology had been predetermined by cause and effect. They never had an answer but would assert we had free will regardless. I finally decided, since we have something from nothing (the universe appears to be an effect without a cause) that individual consciousness is a form of godhead where each of us has an agency transcending the prison of a Newtonian universe. I don’t have proof of this, but that doesn’t seem to matter…

Nestor
Guest
Nestor
11 months ago

Yeah I thought the story was better known – Stalin was consistent in his lack of feeling, it seems. Other examples that come to mind, the fascist commander of the Alcazar fortress in Toledo, who refused to surrender even when his hostage son was threatened in the Spanish Civil war, plus various other Roman generals and misc. examples. People who are willing to kill wholesale often are willing to sacrifice their own too.

One interesting one is Deng Xiaoping. During the cultural revolution he was exiled and his son was beaten and left paralysed and Deng and his wife were not allowed to see him for 3 years. She “Cried for days and he sat staring at a wall chain smoking cigarettes” and yet years later it was Deng himself who pulled the trigger on the Tiananmeng protesters.

Arguably, given the vast increase of prosperity the stability of China has brought to millions of people Deng is one of these “objectively ethical yet unsentimental people” that you think should be in charge.

(You’ll have to accept “economic prosperity for the masses” in place of “ecological preservation” as a terminal goal for the sake of this argument)

B. Traven
Guest
B. Traven
11 months ago

Kids are many things, but it’s useful to think of them as sunk costs (e.g. significant investments without return).

I put my sunk costs before any non-sunk costs.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to read any Dr. Watts missive on parenting without interpreting his opinions as conflated with the rather obvious shitty parenting he experienced (as he’s alluded to often).

Dr. Watts, had you experienced good family life, I daresay you would feel different about procreation. But maybe you’d be a worse author for it? Oh well.

Fatman
Guest
Fatman
11 months ago

B. Traven: Honestly, it’s hard for me to read any Dr. Watts missive on parenting without interpreting his opinions as conflated with the rather obvious shitty parenting he experienced (as he’s alluded to often).

I daresay that’s because you’re unable to distance yourself from your own experience and long-ingrained superstitions (usually mistaken for “values”) when trying to interpret the behavior of others. In other words, the only “conflating” is taking place in your own head.

People decide to have or not to have kids based on a variety of factors. Many folks, myself included, have experienced good family life (or at least better/no worse than that of their peers), but have no desire to procreate. We love kids, think they’re great, and don’t question the personal choices of our breeder friends. It’s just not a lifestyle we want for ourselves.

But I suppose bleating “you don’t want kids because you’re broken” is much easier than trying to make an intelligent contribution to a discussion.

B. Traven
Guest
B. Traven
11 months ago

Fatman: But I suppose bleating “you don’t want kids because you’re broken” is much easier than trying to make an intelligent contribution to a discussion.

It is easier to ad hominem, don’t you agree (“breeder,” shrug)? But I think my point was subjective and relative to Dr. Watt’s points, not a commentary on why people don’t have kids in general. My wife who specializes in youth counseling (as a psychologist) often relates that people who don’t want kids (for any reason) definitely SHOULD NOT have them. Plenty of children know precisely how much they are unwanted, with specifics. I can’t bear to hear her stories.

Thanks to “breeders” though; somebody has to run our MRI scan, treat those nasty decubiti, and administer the medroxyprogesterone acetate.

Fatman
Guest
Fatman
11 months ago

B. Traven: But I think my point was subjective and relative to Dr. Watt’s points, not a commentary on why people don’t have kids in general.

Not really.

The original post was about shitty people doing shitty things, then using “think of the children” as a shitty excuse. You proceeded to dismiss the poster’s opinion via an irrelevant aside about his upbringing. Appeals to social conditioning (esp. your own) do not constitute a “point”.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
11 months ago

Peter Watts:
Yeah, consciousness is the mother of get-out-of-jail-free cards. Physics says there’s no way free will can exist in a materialistic universe, but physics also can’t explain phenomenal consciousness (so far at least—MarkSolms’ claims notwithstanding) so it’s obviously missing something about reality.And you can’t deny the existence of that limitation. But it also means that every tinfoil chemtrail flat-earther out there, when confronted with physical evidence, can just pull consciousness out of a hat and say Yeah well your vaunted physics says consciousness is impossible too, so are you some kind of p-zombie?

Assuming that tinfoil chemtrail flat-earthers were well-read enough to know about that, of course.

There are two tricks to getting out of this philosophical conundrum.
One is this: think of the Laws of Physics as being fairly permissive. Sure there are a lot of physical impossibilities but there are a lot of physical possibilities. Things that seem impossible can actually be possible, they just looked impossible because they are unlikely to occur without careful planning (a good example would be all those metamaterials they keep coming out with).
The other is the typical compatibilist argument that actually free will and predetermination aren’t mutually exclusive at all. If your actions are the result of the configuration of your body at any particular moment, what you are (your body) still determines what you do.

Intelligencer
Guest
Intelligencer
11 months ago

Phil: Little known fact: Those at the upper levels of government worldwide are genuinely concerned about the future of life on Earth, and over the past couple of years have been taking action in two ways: first, by releasing a virus that cleverly straddles the line of lethality in such a way that their populations are concerned enough to be generally willing to tolerate an abrogation of civil liberties and to push for vaccines to be developed, while not also killing off a large percentage of ones’ working age subjects (“citizens”) or, more importantly, oneself; and second, by releasing vaccines, already largely developed, to act as vectors for the nanobots programmed to damage the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the precise way required for people to not only recognize larger ethical contexts, but also override our innate pathological tendencies, so that we actually act on this recognition.

Oh God, if only this were true. Possibly the most blue-sky utopian dreaming I’ve ever read.