Friday, September 8, 2017

The Dark Side of Irrational Discourse

Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey is at it again.  In his never-ending crusade against "New Atheists" and all things that he can construe as being an affront to his religionism, Mikey has shown once again that there is no room for rational debate of issues that touch on any topic where he holds religious-based beliefs.  This time, his decidedly emotional rant is about a TEDx Talk by Gregg Caruso on The dark side of free will.  Now, this talk isn't about religion, and it doesn't directly attack religious beliefs in any way, but it does make a comparison between beliefs associated with free will and those associated with determinism.  In particular, it contains a chart that shows the results of empirical studies making a correlation between free will belief and other associated ways of thinking that may have negative social consequences for society.  Those correlations are religiosity, punitiveness, "Just World" belief, and right wing authoritarianism.  Even though the talk didn't include any discussion religiosity or right wing authoritarianism - it was focused entirely on punitiveness and "Just World" belief - the mere fact that they were included in that list of correlations was enough to set Mikey off, accusing Caruso of being a "New Atheist":
Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.
Maybe Mikey should have addressed his outrage at the people who did these studies instead of Caruso.  But OK.  Now that he got his little emotional outburst out of the way, perhaps he can settle down and discuss what Caruso actually did talk about in a rational manner.  Ba Dum Tss!  The joke's on you, dear reader.  The sad fact is that it IS a joke to expect any kind of rational argumentation from Mikey.  In his post, he does address one of Caruso's topics.  But rather than presenting a cogent argument to counter the point that Caruso makes, he turns it into a straw man, and then holds it up for ridicule. 

On the subject of punitiveness, Caruso says that the free-will view of how to deal with criminals is punitiveness - that we should punish them to obtain retribution.  He notes that in the US, we incarcerate a large number of criminals (25% of the world's prisoner population), and despite that, it's not achieving beneficial results for our society.  It doesn't reduce the overall level of crime, or reform criminals, or make us safer.  He argues that an alternative view would be more beneficial for society. Criminals should be regarded in a manner similar to medical patients who are quarantined.  If we can treat the problem in a humane manner, rather than just seeking vengeance, perhaps we can get better results that would improve life for all of society, as well as for the criminal.

What is Mikey's answer to this argument?
In other words, since rapists and murderers are not morally responsible for murdering and raping, we need to treat them as victims. Victims who temporarily need to be quarantined for the safety of society until we tend to their well-being.
Caruso didn't say anything about treating criminals as victims.  He was making a serious comparison between two different approaches to dealing with the problem of crime, and pointing out how one approach could be much more positive for society than the other.  In other words, he provided justification for his placement of the free-will associated belief on the list for the "dark side".  But instead of addressing Caruso's argument, Mikey turned it into an argument that Caruso didn't actually make, and then proceeded to ridicule it.  That is a classic straw man fallacy.

Mikey spends the remainder of his article telling us about the example of a girl who was horribly murdered, and how (according to Caruso's view) we should forget about her, but focus all of our compassion on the true victim - the murderer.  Unfortunately, since he completely fails to address the actual argument at hand, he misses the point altogether.  How does Mikey's approach deal with the problem of crime?  Maybe if we had a rational way of treating the behavior of sociopaths and others with criminal tendencies, this murderer could possibly have been rehabilitated, and taken a different path long before he came to the point of committing this crime.  Mikey just wants to see him fry for his crime.  Caruso would rather turn him into a responsible and productive member of society before the crime is ever committed.

And this, Mikey tells us, is
one facet of the dark side of free will denialism – we brush the victim off to the side and turn the killer into the victim.
So Mikey thinks that two dead people is much more reasonable than no dead people.  He thinks that punishing someone for retribution is better than rehabilitating them.  He thinks that paying to keep 25% of the world's prison population locked up in prison is better than trying to turn those people into productive taxpayers.

Needless to say, Mikey didn't even address Caruso's other main point, which is that the free will view often sees the world in terms of justice (a "Just World") - that good things tend to happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.  And this leads to an attitude of blaming the victim.  If a woman gets raped for example, it may be because she dressed provocatively, or otherwise did something to deserve it.  This attitude is consistent with Betsy DeVos rolling back Obama-era policies on campus sexual assaults, to make the legal pursuit of these cases "more fair" for the rapist.  This appears to be the favored position of evangelicals - brush the victim off to the side and turn the criminal into the victim.  And Mikey makes no argument whatsoever against it.

As for me, I think Mikey's free will view is seriously sick.

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