Creative Destruction

December 13, 2006

Health Bleg

Filed under: Health Care — Robert @ 1:16 am

A few of you may be aware that I suffer from a chronic juvenile-onset rheumatoid condition.  Blood work has ruled out ordinary rheumatoid arthritis – of course, I can’t just have the disease that everybody gets, I have to be special.  I’ve seen a doctor about it; essentially, if I want to, I can spend thousands of dollars chasing from specialist to specialist and maybe eventually get a name attached to it, which will have no impact on the treatment options: anti-inflammatories and painkillers.  (Although in fairness to modern medicine, knowing which exact rheumatoid condition it is would probably let them give me the best possible scrip.)

Symptomatically, I go for days, weeks or even months without the slightest twinge, then I generally get a series of painful attacks in one or both ankles, feet and knees – thank you Jesus, so far not the hands – sometimes with a loss of range of motion but lately more often not. This intermittent status is problematic, because as a lazy  and short-sighted idiot, the long pain-free periods allow me to mentally justify blowing off taking the glucosamine/chondritin and such that would alleviate the condition over the long term. (“I feel fine – why choke down five enormous pills every day?”)

I know what to do long-term – take my supplements, get regular gentle exercise for the joints, and keep my weight down. One out of three isn’t bad! (It’s 33%, and thus an F. – Ed.)

Short-term, I’m pretty stumped. Ibuprofen helps a little bit. Aspirin helps a little bit. Prescription anti-inflammatories help a little bit. Physical-therapy type exercises help a little bit. Basically, lots of things help a little bit.

Unfortunately, a little bit translates to “a reduction from soul-searing please-kill-me pain to soul-burning please-knock-me-unconscious pain.” Not good enough, in other words. And while the pain is good for my soul, there are times when my soul is burnished enough, thanks, and could use a break.

And thus I turn to the blogosphere! Give me your nostrums, your patent remedies, your grandmotherly hand-me-downs yearning to be tried. I’m perfectly willing to give the placebo effect a shot, so don’t hold back on the irradiated-monkey-urine cures. (But I already know that copper bracelets don’t do squat, so I can’t get a placebo effect from that.) Basically, anything that you or someone you know has tried and found helpful, I’ll give a shot. General non-arthritis analgesics are very welcome, too. Nutritional advice is welcome. Go nuts.

If you like me, think of it as a chance to assign a debt of gratitude. If you hate me, think of it as your chance to poison a right-winger, with no possibility that you’ll be caught. Thanks!

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75 Comments »

  1. I hear you.

    But I don’t care.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 3:56 am | Reply

  2. No, Daran. Just no.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 13, 2006 @ 4:03 am | Reply

  3. Oh, your cruelty in mocking a victim of pain is terrible. How can you live with yourself. Etc. etc.

    Comment by Robert — December 13, 2006 @ 4:21 am | Reply

  4. On more serious note: Have you tried regular cold treatments?

    Many Finnish rheumatic patients (and others, granted) swear by regular swimming in the lake (obviously the ice needs to be removed locally from the pool) during winter, daily or so. Unless you have Raynauds syndrome.

    I suppose in absence of frozen lakes you could try a bathtub filled with ice cold water and ice cubes. At least you’ll be so cold that you won’t notice the pain (one curious bit of advice: Wear socks while dipping in freezing water. Helps surprisingly much) And the important point is to try to otherwise ensure that extremities are kept warm and dry. Warmth treatments (moist warmth, Sauna or warm bath) — but never during inflammation — can be helpful, preferably followed by cool shower. Moist warmth preferably during morning or day, not late at evening.

    Take your damn medications. Even a relatively small lapse can significantly impair your condition.

    Diet: Favor these: Fish, corn, dark rice, seeds. Plenty of fruits and vegetables forest berries if available, but keep the balance and eat red meat too. Maximize your D and B (esp. B15) -vitamin intake.
    [added: For dessert: Try cold cranberries covered with a sauce of Russian Candy. Sweet, but sour enough to get the attention from the pain. Healthy too, if you go easy on the candy part]

    And for serious pain, has your doctor ever suggested cortisone shots?

    Or perhaps I should just be a traditionalist and offer tar, booze and sauna.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 13, 2006 @ 6:01 am | Reply

  5. Otherwise: When not taking the said cold treatments.

    Is the prevalence of pain in any way seasonal?

    Comment by Tuomas — December 13, 2006 @ 6:01 am | Reply

  6. Yeah, right, Tuomas. Have a go at me. I’m not the one telling him to go jump in a frozen lake.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 6:06 am | Reply

  7. I’m dead serious!

    [okay, perhaps not fully so in the last part about tradition]

    [added: Don’t jump. Carefully glide. Be sure that a warm place is nearby with dry clothes. Submerging head optional and not really recommended. Heart problems can be a complication, check with doc]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 13, 2006 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  8. Actually that is a good point. I don’t know if this is true (but if it is, it’s important): Even a healthy person who is not acclimatised can suffer heart failure when suddenly immersed in very cold water. However just a few cold showers will acclimatise you.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 7:16 am | Reply

  9. Cold showers?

    Oh, that’s my department. I’ve had more cold showers over the last few years than anyone, and…

    Oh wait. This is cold showers for the other traditional reasons.

    Carry on.

    Comment by Off Colfax — December 13, 2006 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  10. I have stopped taking cold showers in recent years, since, you know, the wind went out of my sails completely. In fact I can’t remember when I last had an erection. It’s a good job that the possibility of using a pseudonym allows one to talk freely of these personal matters in public.

    Signed:

    Mickey Mouse

    Comment by Mickey Mouse — December 13, 2006 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  11. Hey, it wasn’t supposed to come out like that.

    Comment by Mickey Mouse — December 13, 2006 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  12. LOL!!!!

    I have edited your post to spare your further blushes.

    For those wondering what that was about, someone not unknown in these parts accidently posted under his own name what was intended to be pseudononymous.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  13. Daran, you Aspie, put it back, it was a JOKE and I wanted others to share it!

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 13, 2006 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  14. Oh, don’t bother, it won’t work now. Such a good joke, and at my own expense too – the kind I know won’t offend other people (mutter mutter).

    By the way, is it alright to josh about you being an Aspie (I don’t really think it had anything to do with you missing the joke), or is it something that Aspies themselves are allowed to do and nobody else?

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 13, 2006 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  15. Daran, you Aspie, put it back, it was a JOKE and I wanted others to share it!

    Quit complaining. Not only is the joke’s now on me, but it’s a better joke.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  16. By the way, is it alright to josh about you being an Aspie (I don’t really think it had anything to do with you missing the joke),…

    I am now confused. Was it really a mistake to post under your own name or not?

    or is it something that Aspies themselves are allowed to do and nobody else?

    I can’t speak for how other Aspies feel.

    “It was only a joke” is the excuse of the bully who laughs at the misery he is causing. I did not think this was your intention, and I was not offended. If you offend me, I will let you know.

    A while back, I put up a post expressing my amusement at something in another person’s blog. That person then made another blog post, clearly upset at what I had done. I took the post down, and posted a comment to her expressing regret for the offence, and got a nice email in reply.

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  17. I don’t really have any particularly good short term remedies, but if you’re ever in NYC during an exacerbation email me. I’d love to take a look at your lymphs during a really good inflammatory episode.

    Cold tends to decrease inflammation so Tuomas’ idea might work. There is anecdotal thought that naprosyn might be more effective than ibuprofen so you might try aleve/naproxen. And the use of opiates is not considered inappropriate in the presence of severe CJA pain so you could just ask your doctor for a little morphine (or Tylenol with codeine to start small…) Take stool softeners if you go this route. Trust me, you don’t want to see what codeine will do to your intestines if you don’t.

    If you start getting too many pain periods and not much time between painful episodes, there are more extreme measures you could take. Methotrexate, bone marrow transplant, IVIG, that sort of thing. Probably not something you want to go for unless things get really bad. Incidently, do you have uveitis?

    Comment by Dianne — December 13, 2006 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  18. I’d love to take a look at your lymphs during a really good inflammatory episode.

    Oh you sweettalker, you…

    Comment by Daran — December 13, 2006 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

  19. Yeah, that got me totally hot.

    Comment by bobhayes — December 13, 2006 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  20. Yes, it was my intention to write under “Tom Nolan”, say that it was ok to post the personal details because I could use a pseudonym, and sign off with Mickey Mouse. Like I say, a joke at my own expense. Then I thought I could improve it by writing the next “oh my God!” post under “Mickey Mouse”. I wasn’t sure that it was you who was moderating the thread, otherwise I would have sent you an email giving you fair warning.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 14, 2006 @ 12:01 am | Reply

  21. We all moderate. In this case, I was on first, so took immediate action.

    So who’s on second?

    Comment by Daran — December 14, 2006 @ 12:14 am | Reply

  22. Actually, I have still yet to recieve my god-like powers of uber-moderation. I think Barry’s afraid of what I’ll do with them.

    Comment by Off Colfax — December 14, 2006 @ 3:41 am | Reply

  23. It’s more like demi-god like powers, really. Anyway, poof! Your powers are granted. Go forth and abuse them forevermore. Or nevermore. Whichever.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 14, 2006 @ 4:40 am | Reply

  24. That’s right, keep the Godlike powers to yourself. We’ll have none of that egalitarian nonsense around here.

    What’s the use of being a God if you can’t even figure out how to have more than five comments showing anyway?

    Comment by Daran — December 14, 2006 @ 4:59 am | Reply

  25. Yeah, that got me totally hot.

    That’s probably just the TNF-alpha revving up.

    Comment by Dianne — December 14, 2006 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  26. What’s the use of being a God if you can’t even figure out how to have more than five comments showing anyway?

    Ask and you shall receive.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 14, 2006 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  27. Sweet.

    I’d like a Tesla sportscar, please.

    Comment by Robert — December 14, 2006 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  28. The Tesla Roadster is mine! MINE!! Bwhahahahahaha!!!

    PS: Bwahahahahahahaha!!!!!

    Comment by Off Colfax — December 15, 2006 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  29. Oh, and what would you do with it, liberal? Sit idling at intersections on your way to the soup kitchen, fretting about the salmon who died in the hydropower plant to fill your “tank”, that’s what. I would use it to pick up chicks!

    Or at least I would if my wife would let me.

    Comment by bobhayes — December 15, 2006 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  30. Or at least I would if my wife would let me.

    Another henpecked patriarch.

    Comment by Daran — December 15, 2006 @ 2:19 am | Reply

  31. Now that we’ve conducted the standard descent into manly insults, let me offer a quick thanks to everyone who’s offered advice. I really appreciate it, so much so that I won’t be suing Tuomas for suggesting I freeze off my limbs, or Dianne for making me look up uveitis, which is one of the ickier things I’ve seen online this week – and no, I haven’t got that, thank God.

    Comment by Robert — December 16, 2006 @ 2:23 am | Reply

  32. I just realised I haven’t actually offered any help. So here goes:

    “I pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that he will touch you with his noodly appendage.”

    There. Feel better?

    Comment by Daran — December 16, 2006 @ 4:05 am | Reply

  33. Nope. Eighth grade was a loooong time ago. 😉

    Comment by bobhayes — December 16, 2006 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  34. Nope.

    Well, the FSM can’t be held responsible for your lack of faith, can he?

    Comment by Daran — December 16, 2006 @ 4:40 am | Reply

  35. I have plenty of faith. Just not in the FSM.

    Comment by bobhayes — December 16, 2006 @ 4:48 am | Reply

  36. On second thought, please pardon the “eighth grade” crack. It’s an attempt at fighting a snarky construct with a snarky joke. So please let me shoot it dead. *Bang*. There. Now I’ll try and argue like a grown-up for a minute or two.

    The problem with the FSM, as an ironic postrealist meme whatsit – let’s just say idea – is that it is an avowedly witty philosophical argument. Behold; we can create a mental construct similar to the mental construct you Christians call “God” – therefore he, too, is simply a conjuration of the imagination. (Or whatever other sophisticatedly elegant “God is dead” variant is the order of the day.)

    As an witty argument, however, it is vulnerable to counterparody – or even counterexample. For example, we could discuss completely non-tangible phenomena created by just such linguistic and spiritual envisualization and reification of emotional reality – you cannot show me a single molecule of “duty”, and yet you know as a moral certainty that the concept exists. That something can be envisioned does not make it unreal.

    But the witty argument is less material than the spiritual argument, so let me hit you with that one.

    If you are sincere in your good intention towards me, as your fellow human, and are honestly offering that prayer, then as sure as Britney is smiling at the ironclad pre-nup nestling in her purse, you are offering it to the one true God. To the degree of your sincerity and good feeling, it counts as a well-intended prayer on your behalf, and on mine. (I pretend to no knowledge as to the impacts of those prayers.)

    So thanks for that! I appreciate your spiritual exertion on my behalf. I promise not to tell the other atheists.

    Comment by Robert — December 16, 2006 @ 5:38 am | Reply

  37. As an atheist, I’m sorry to say that Robert is quite right to point our the difficulty morality presents to non-believers. How can we make moral judgements in a purely material context? How can I decide that this or that material phenomenon is to be judged right or wrong if other material phenomena are my only criterion? At the very best, I might be able to assert that the phenomena in question were similar – I wouldn’t be able to say that any of them were right or wrong. Apparently, my decision that something is right or wrong, good or bad can be justified, in the last resort, only by a comparison to something non-material: The Truth, The Good in Itself etc. So that morality implies metaphysics, a belief in supernatural entities; implies a religious view of the universe, in fact.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  38. Well, you can run a very good emulation of religiously-inspired morality through the enlightened-self-interest concept. I’m not refraining from a murder spree because God would be angry at me; I’m refraining because my society would be angry and would punish me, or because experience shows I’m happier when I seek non-violent resolutions to problems, or what have you.

    The real distinction between that kind of moral system and the systems that theists adhere to is that the enlightened self-interest system (ESIS) isn’t prescriptive for others. I cannot tell you not to kill people “because it’s wrong” – instead, I have to frame things in terms of your self-interest. But of course my ability to parse your self-interest is very limited – unless you’re completely catatonic or something, your own ability will be far greater, and so I should just leave you to decide things on your own.

    Which isn’t a problem ordinarily, but you run into difficulty downstream when Dexter shows up and can smilingly explain why killing all those people really was the best choice.

    Comment by Robert — December 16, 2006 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  39. The problem with enlightened self-interest, though, is not really that it’s no good for prescriptive purposes (though it generally isn’t); it’s that it isn’t moral at all. I can easily imagine situations where my self-interest might lead me to do something very wicked indeed – any time, in fact, when a self-interested crime would be likely to escape detection. Perhaps when you say “enlightened self interest” you mean that I, as a participant in a society which guarantees me certain advantages, ought to uphold the conventions holding that society together. But that’s no good either, because my own infringements of the ethical order, though they compromise it, do so to an imperceptibly small degree, so that I need not concern myself with the matter so far as my self-interest is concerned. If I steal somebody’s car I weaken very slightly the notion that one shouldn’t appropriate other people’s goods, but the infinitesimal increase in the chance that someone will steal *my* car in consequence hardly counterbalances the advantage I have from my newly and illegally acquired Mercedes.

    It’s nice to argue these things from the other side for a change.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

  40. Tom:
    I don’t see that religion offers any real advantage in making moral judgments. All religion can do is render moral philosophy irrelevant by overriding it with orders from on high.

    The Bible doesn’t offer a coherent argument for why X is wrong and Y is right; it simply says that we should do X and not Y because God said so. One may argue that this works out all right in practical terms, but it has nothing to do with moral judgments.

    Robert:
    The solution to the problem of Dexter is simply to kill or imprison him because it’s in our enlightened self-interest to do so.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 16, 2006 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  41. The answer to your particular objection is that Christianity does, in fact, offer a non-material criterion for deciding whether something is good or bad, right or wrong – it asks us to refer everything to God’s will, which is essentially good, essentially right. But a belief in a personal god, an adherence to a particular liturgy, are not the only indictable crimes against atheism: it is sufficient to believe in right and wrong, good and evil. The moment you bring words like this into play, you are making reference to metaphysical entities of which there is no trace in the material universe. You are indicating your belief in the supernatural. You are, in short, being religious.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  42. As an atheist, I’m sorry to say that Robert is quite right to point our the difficulty morality presents to non-believers. How can we make moral judgements in a purely material context?

    It would be difficult to make the case that believers are inherently better at conceptualizing morality beyond theory, as it almost never happens in practice. In fact, atheists are almost always more in alignment with traditional Christian values (supposing one can even consider those to be moral), for example, while many prominent Christians seem quite willing to practice their own morality selectively.

    It is true that the non-believer may act our of self-interest more often, but equally true that self-interest almost always coincides with the interests of society as a whole.

    Comment by ebbtide — December 16, 2006 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  43. Paging Adam Smith, paging Adam Smith…Mr. Smith, your theory is being discussed. Please come to a white courtesy telephone. Paging Adam Smith…

    Comment by bobhayes — December 16, 2006 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  44. ebbtide

    What I’m arguing, of course, is that real atheism isn’t possible. My atheism is all intellect: everything I observe in the universe leads me to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong, no good or evil, that these are just figments of the human mind to which nothing in the non-human world corresponds. But if I really believed that I would cease to be a moral being altogether. If what people call morality is just a delusion, what virtue could there be in my according my behaviour to it? When I discovered that Santa Clause was just a figment of the collective imagination, my disbelief was manifested in the fact that I no longer expected him to bring me presents. But though my intellect concedes that right and wrong, good and evil, are fantasies of the same kind as Santa Clause, my persistently moral behaviour makes clear that I don’t, in my heart, really disbelieve in there reality. And in this I am just like all the other avowed atheists.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  45. Why on EARTH should anybody cut him or his offspring any slack on admissions or hiring? He doesn’t deserve it, and he doesn’t need it. (Nor does he ask for it, I’m just using him as an example.)

    For you perhaps not. For me it is very possible, due to the realization that I am preprogrammed to adhere to social norms for the benefit of gene transmission and nothing more. Right and wrong are mere social constructed outgrowths of biological law. It benefits us to be altruistic, non-violent, in our current society. We could turn on a dime if the situation warranted.

    Comment by ebbtide — December 16, 2006 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  46. ebbtide

    Was your last post addressed to me? Because the quote isn’t mine.

    If you really believed in your heart that morality is just the result of social conditioniing, genetic programming, enlightened interest etc. (all utterly amoral phenomena of course) how do you justify the making of moral judgements at all? Let me put a question to you: is the rape and murder of children evil, or is it merely something that various amoral phenomena have deluded us into considering evil?
    If you think that it’s evil, then you are, evidently, making a moral judgement and you’ll have to justify it in moral terms. If you think that the term “evil” is a mere delusion, then why would you, in point of fact, make any attempt to prevent the rape and murder of children?

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  47. Tom:
    The quote was from another thread (the “Watch the Hands” one) and presumably ended up here through a copy-and-paste error.

    Why do we need a theory of morality to arrive at the conclusion that it’s probably not a great idea to let people rape and murder our children, or even our friends’ and neighbors’ children?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 16, 2006 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  48. No, Brendon, I’m describing what we already do, not trying to come up with a theory. Whenever we affirm that something is right, wrong, good, bad etc. we *thereby* make reference to metaphysical entities. It’s not something that I’m asking people to do. They do it, avowed atheists or not.

    If you’ve got the time, I’d appreciate it if you could go through the posts I’ve left on this thread, and see if you can find the flaw(s) in my argument.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

  49. But if I really believed that I would cease to be a moral being altogether. If what people call morality is just a delusion, what virtue could there be in my according my behaviour to it? When I discovered that Santa Clause was just a figment of the collective imagination, my disbelief was manifested in the fact that I no longer expected him to bring me presents.

    I don’t believe in Santa, but I still give and receive presents. Does that mean that my disbelief in Santa Clause is only intellectual, and don’t “really believe[] that”?

    Comment by Daran — December 16, 2006 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  50. I have plenty of faith.

    Not even a mustard seed’s worth.

    Comment by Daran — December 16, 2006 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

  51. Daran, are you saying that you accept Christ’s word as to what constitutes faith? How exciting – I look forward to you taking in more of his words and internalizing them. First the praying and now this!

    That aside, you’re mistaking what you observe with what is. Maybe I move mountains every day, and you’re just not looking when I do it. 😛

    Comment by Robert — December 16, 2006 @ 10:47 pm | Reply

  52. Robert, are you familiar with the mathematical technique of proof by contradiction? That’s where you assume the negative of the propostion you are trying to establish, then derive a contradiction.

    That aside, you’re mistaking what you observe with what is. Maybe I move mountains every day, and you’re just not looking when I do it.

    To quote toysoldier’s teacher, take the question out of your voice. Commit!

    Jesus said “I am the truth”. Can you, hand on the bible, say that you have literally moved mountains? No wonder your joints are aching.

    Comment by Daran — December 16, 2006 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  53. Daran: I don’t believe in Santa, but I still give and receive presents. Does that mean that my disbelief in Santa Clause is only intellectual, and don’t “really believe[] that”?

    EH? If you thought that Santa was bringing the presents, you wouldn’t be buying them yourself, would you?

    Let me put the point to you again, using another example. If someone tells you that he regards vampires to be nothing more than the product of the overheated imagination of ignorant peasants, but then insists on festooning his bedroom windows with garlic, hanging a cruxifix over his bed, and keeping a stake and mallet handy at all hours of the night – then his actions tell you that, whatever he claims in the name of reason, he actually does believe in them.

    Equally, if somebody tells you that he views morality as nothing but the brain-child of social conditioning, natural selection or whatever – regards it as a mere delusion, in fact – but goes on acting in accordance with moral precepts, then his behaviour betrays a belief in their reality even as his intellect denies it.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 16, 2006 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  54. Robert, my mother uses the liquid form of glucosamine/chondritin. It was recommended by her oncologist who said the liquid form seemed to work better for her patients who used it. Plus, no choking down pills. Mom had excellent results with it. She went from needing knee braces and a walker, to being almost pain free. Mom also uses castor oil topically on the joints that she has problems with, 3 -5 times a day. The combination has worked for her. I hope you find something that helps you be pain free.

    Comment by mousehounde — December 17, 2006 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  55. Tom:
    Most people have certain moral intuitions—built-in compulsions and aversions that correspond roughly to what we think of as morality. I don’t know whether they’re genetic or memetic, but they’re there. Some people don’t have moral intuitions, or at least not any that are compatible with ours, and we have to find other ways of keeping them in line, such as imprisonment, death, or the threat thereof.

    It may be that religion is the source of some or all of these intuitions. I doubt that it’s the only source, because they’re not, in my experience, noticeably weaker in people raised as atheists.

    In any case, it’s not at all clear that having or failing to ignore moral intuitions indicates any kind of subconscious acknowledgement of the validity of religion.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 17, 2006 @ 1:54 am | Reply

  56. Thanks, mousehounde! I’ll definitely give the liquid a try, as gagging down five horse tranquilizer-sized pills a day is a fairly large behavioral hurdle for me to climb. I’ll try the castor oil, too.

    Comment by bobhayes — December 17, 2006 @ 3:42 am | Reply

  57. Can you, hand on the bible, say that you have literally moved mountains? No wonder your joints are aching.

    Do bulldozers count?

    Comment by bobhayes — December 17, 2006 @ 3:44 am | Reply

  58. Mountains of bulldozers?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 17, 2006 @ 4:10 am | Reply

  59. Do bulldozers count?

    Only if you filed the appropriate Environmental Impact Report, in triplicate, with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, your state and/or county office of similar authority, and the Environmental Perfection Agency located in Vatican City.

    For even though God works in mysterious ways, there’s still one hell of a bureaucracy out there.

    Comment by Off Colfax — December 17, 2006 @ 4:35 am | Reply

  60. Brandon: Most people have certain moral intuitions

    But what is the object of such intuitions? A sense of right and wrong allows the perception of what, if not a metaphysical reality?

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 5:52 am | Reply

  61. Tom, I think that there is perhaps a small semantical error in your claim: namely in the argument that a meaningful definition of good depends on metaphysical arguments in a similar way than religion does.

    I shall only talk about understanding “good” without leaps of faith, not actual virtues. Like ebbtide said neither religion or lack of one seems to override the fact that people often fail to live according to their beliefs.

    1. Religions are essentially about transcendent experiences of an individual and/or divine commands.
    Both are by definition beyond ordinary human understanding.

    2. Concept of “moral good”, on the other hand, is just an abstraction. At least in theory, it can be both understood and defined as it no more supernatural than say, “duty” (like Robert mentioned).

    Yet in practice, I admit that adequately defining moral Good is difficult if not impossible as the concept is so fundamental both in thought and language. Thus, any definition is almost bound to be tautological in some way.

    Still, good definition of moral good is probably possible, while definition of the nature of God is not possible.

    I think that it is important to notice that despite these difficulties other humans usually understand you reasonably well when you make claims about moral values. At least when compared to most intra-human communication.
    Understanding morality is likely to be absolutely essential part of being human.

    Individuals who truly are “beyond good and evil” and fail to understand why for example murdering babies is wrong (in the absence of war etc.) are regarded as not truly human.
    Indeed, perhaps truly nihilistic sociopaths are quite uncommon in real life because the natural gut-reaction to them is to “hunt them down and kill them like the animals they are”.
    Thus, the abundance of archetypical Boy meets a stranger – stranger turns out to be psychopath – Boy kills the stranger stories.
    Even the language emphasizes this: A retard with the IQ of an orangutan but with a heart of gold is fit to be a paragon of humanity, but an evil but talented scientist is “inhuman”.
    (And this is as it should be.)

    Hmm… My thread-drift-contributing post is itself becaming quite widely dispersed. So in short:
    Human nature is in many ways universal, and morality is related to it regardless of some cultural and religious differences.
    Therefore morality is connected to reality by human nature. So, no need for metaphysical when referring to good or evil, as good can also be seen as optimal but somewhat idealized behaviour pattern for highly social bipedal apes.

    If you really believed in your heart that morality is just the result of social conditioning, genetic programming, enlightened interest etc. (all utterly amoral phenomena of course) how do you justify the making of moral judgements at all?

    1. Moral judgements have no need to represent anything divine in order to be perfectly valid but subjective observations.

    2. I think you are drifting towards purely existential territory here. For example, I think that killing innocents is wrong, ultimately because who I am. I am obviously product of my genes and environment. In different circumstances I could believe something completely different but so what? In the immortal words of Popeye
    “I yam what I yam, and that’s all I yam”.

    Does it matter if my ethical position is to some extent originally a product of random and uncaring natural forces.

    Perhaps talk of morality is only communication with your fellow hominids instead dealing with fundamental forces of the universe. That does not mean that it needs “justification” or that it lacks meaning.

    And finally to the not-that-substantial point:
    Robert, have you tried etodolac (Lodine) instead of ibuprofein? Not necessarily more effective but it could turn out to be. Yet another NSAID like ibuprofein and Naproxen that Dianne already mentioned. The idea of course is to try different NSAID:s and see if one is subjectively better. Unlike 2 NSAID:s, plain paracetamol can be combined with NSAID-type drug like you already probably knew.

    Comment by Marcus — December 17, 2006 @ 6:40 am | Reply

  62. Oops. Forgot to explain what I originally intended to say about possible semantical error:

    Your original posts treat the category of Transcendent or metaphysical and the category of abstract or intangible like they would be irrevocably linked which they obviously are not.

    Comment by Marcus — December 17, 2006 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  63. Marcus

    Thanks for this. I’ll limit my comments to the first bit of your post, as the rest, though interesting in its own right, no doubt, takes for granted what I am keen to challenge.

    You say that religious experience is transcendent. Of course many sceptics, me included, would point out that if religion were based on individual mystical experiences, then the last thing we would expect to find is what we actually do find: large numbers of people in agreement about the nature of God, the afterlife etc. The sceptical view is that religions are the creations of the societies they thrive in, and that only a tiny number of believers have had mystical “revelations” (I put the word in quotation marks because, as a sceptic, I am inclined to regard the experiences so termed as nothing more than manifestations of the psychology of the individuals concerned). Now, I am not religious in the conventional sense of the word, and this is evident from my behaviour – I don’t lose sleep, for instance, about going to hell when I die (though I surely deserve to), nor do I refrain from certain actions because I believe that an all-powerful deity has his eye on me. It isn’t a matter of my merely professing not to believe: I really don’t.

    Others on this thread have claimed that morality is a social construction in the way that I have suggested traditional religion is. And if you take a purely rational view of the matter, then that’s no doubt correct. But consider the behaviour of the proponents of this view (ok, I know we can’t actually do that, but still…) and you will see that is bounded by moral criteria in every direction. Those sceptical of religion as traditionally conceived show it in their behaviour. Those who profess scepticism of morality, however, show no sign of it in their behaviour, and I therefore conclude that it is not, despite its consonance with reason, sincerely held.

    Your own view, though, is that morality is neither a social construction (i.e. a mere phenomenon without moral import of its own) nor a metaphysical reality, but an abstraction. What do you mean by this? Are you suggesting that we come by our notion of what is good (for example) through the analysis of a number of material phenomena (say, giving money to the needy, helping old people cross busy streets, greeting our neighbours in a friendly fashion) and conclude that what they have in common is that they are all “good”?

    Fair Play Warning: Elephant Trap ahead.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 9:09 am | Reply

  64. If you really believed in your heart that morality is just the result of social conditioning, genetic programming, enlightened interest etc. (all utterly amoral phenomena of course) how do you justify the making of moral judgements at all?

    I haven’t read the thread in great detail so may be repeating, but…Suppose you (generic you) decide that if morals don’t come from God then there’s no point in following them. Shortly thereafter, you find it greatly in your self-interest to torture kittens. You do it and the result is great acclaim, lots of money, and more sex than you know what to do with. All very nice, but at the end of the day you still have to live with a @#^%@ who would torture kittens. God or no God, you still have to live with yourself and the consequences of your actions.

    Comment by Dianne — December 17, 2006 @ 10:12 am | Reply

  65. Fair Play Warning: Elephant Trap ahead.

    Eh?

    Comment by Daran — December 17, 2006 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  66. Tom:

    But what is the object of such intuitions? A sense of right and wrong allows the perception of what, if not a metaphysical reality?

    Intuition isn’t perception. It’s just a hunch, and there’s no guarantee that it provides any accurate information. At best, moral intuitions give us some information about how not to cause the breakdown of civilization, and psychic incentives to behave accordingly. Unfortunately, in some people they fail to perform either or both functions. Such is the nature of intuition.

    But if you’re asking whether it preceives the literal existence of right and wrong, it doesn’t. It can’t, because there’s no such thing.

    Dianne:
    That’s what I’ve been saying—the aversions and compulsions. What Tom wants to know, I think, is why they should exist.

    That said, where do I sign up for the kitten-torturing job? I figure if I can eat cows for health and pleasure, there’s no reason I shouldn’t torture kittens for wealth and women.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 17, 2006 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  67. Was your last post addressed to me? Because the quote isn’t mine.

    No it wasn’t. Apologies. I screwed the cut and paste up.

    Let me put a question to you: is the rape and murder of children evil, or is it merely something that various amoral phenomena have deluded us into considering evil?

    It is not inherently evil. Nothing is. I don’t need it to be to know that it is in my best interest to keep such people away from my children. All I need to know is that such a person has the ability to interfere with my genetic mandate, my instincts will do the rest.

    There is no conceivable advantage for the person who commits such acts. They are deviants and are relegated to points beyond the reproductive pool for being so. Whether or not we consider them evil is not relevant, as the outcome would be the same regardless.

    Take hyenas for example. In some packs, certain hyenas show a propensity for attacking the young of others. These hyenas are either ostracized or ripped to shreds. The other pack members need no concept of morality to do this. Humans do the same through imprisonment (where inmates may rip such a person to shreds!). Good and evil, are mere descriptions of what is and is not conducive to maintaining reproductive potential.

    Furthermore, even if I had answered that yes such act are “evil,” it would in no way diminish my commitment to atheism. The argument that it does assumes that morality must be derived from the belief in a supernatural being. It does not. It need only be derived from what is beneficial.

    Finally, the fact that good and evil have interchangeable definitions means that they cannot exist as entities. What is evil one day may be acceptable, necessary, or even good the next. I know that this is not your point, but realizing this to be true is what makes me such an assured atheist.

    But consider the behaviour of the proponents of this view (ok, I know we can’t actually do that, but still…) and you will see that is bounded by moral criteria in every direction.

    In the current state of affairs, yes. Imagine a totally different state, where resources are limited and laws don’t exist in their current form. People who find themselves unable to kill and steal now would have no problem doing it then. Morality is only a construct based on the current societal state.

    Comment by ebbtide — December 17, 2006 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  68. Brandon, Ebbtide

    We keep coming back to this. You are both saying that morality is, in fact, a delusion. Brandon, you are clear that right and wrong don’t exist outside human consciousness (like leprechauns!), Ebbtide, you see what most people would regard as “evil” – the rape and murder of children – as being nothing more than a challenge to a parent’s right to pass on genetic information while being a waste of time and effort for the potential rapist.

    If morality is a delusion, though, why wait for a breakdown of society to “mandate” acts which could be hugely beneficial to you? Thieve, cheat, kill if you want to, just so long as you don’t get caught: morality (again, according to Ebbtide) “need only be derived from what is beneficial.” So the moment saving a child from torment ceases to be beneficial, go ahead and
    abandon it.

    But neither of you do this, do you? and neither of you would. Of course you are both right to point out – taking a purely intellectual stance in the matter – that morality is constructed by social and biological forces beyond our control, and that it changes from epoch to epoch; but your behaviour makes clear that you don’t believe it in your hearts.

    And Ebbtide, be fair:

    The argument that it does assumes that morality must be derived from the belief in a supernatural being

    My arguments do not assume it, rather they demonstrate that for morality to be morality (and not just an exposed delusion which would have no power to limit our selfishness) a metaphysical element is necessary.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  69. Thieve, cheat, kill if you want to, just so long as you don’t get caught: morality (again, according to Ebbtide) “need only be derived from what is beneficial.”

    I see your point, but disagree that these activities are beneficial. None of the three have any upsides which outweigh the downside, unless you are a particularly good thief, cheater, or are being paid to murder. I can’t think of anything I could steal that has a value greater than the loss from potential imprisonment. I can’t think of anything to cheat someone out of whose value is greater than the loss from being killed by the person I cheat. I can’t possibly see how murder has an upside. Even hired killers stand more to lose than they do to gain.

    The fact of the matter is, that altruism has far more benefit than murder, cheating, or stealing. It is not even limited to humans. Altruism is found throughout the natural world in the complete absence of metaphysical notions of morality.

    If morality is a delusion, though, why wait for a breakdown of society to “mandate” acts which could be hugely beneficial to you?

    Because a societal breakdown is the only conceivable event that would warrant a change in evolutionary strategy. Remember, the goal is gene transmission, nothing more. Neither cheating, stealing, nor murder makes anyone more able to achieve that goal. In fact, chances are good that such acts make them less able to.

    My arguments do not assume it, rather they demonstrate that for morality to be morality (and not just an exposed delusion which would have no power to limit our selfishness) a metaphysical element is necessary.

    OK, if not a sky-fairy, then what type of element do you speak of? Atheists are free to appeal to metaphysical agents in their arguments, so long as those agents are not gods. Doing so does not diminish any definition of atheism that I know of.

    Comment by ebbtide — December 17, 2006 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  70. Tom:

    If morality is a delusion, though, why wait for a breakdown of society to “mandate” acts which could be hugely beneficial to you? Thieve, cheat, kill if you want to, just so long as you don’t get caught: morality (again, according to Ebbtide) “need only be derived from what is beneficial.”

    Right and wrong may be delusions, but the desire to do right and the aversion to doing wrong are every bit as real as, and sometimes stronger than, the desire for physical pleasure or the aversion to physical pain.

    Suppose there were a fantastically lucrative job which required enduring excruciating pain for several hours a day but had no detrimental effects on health. Would you take the job? If not, why not? If there’s no long-term damage, then the pain is just a delusion—an evolutionary false alarm.

    My answer, and yours I assume, is that even though I know I’m not really being hurt, the pain is simply too unpleasant to ignore. Moral intuitions work the same way.

    So the moment saving a child from torment ceases to be beneficial, go ahead and abandon it.

    I do that all the time. I save about 30% of my paycheck, and I could probably reduce my expenditures by another 15-20% of my paycheck. In all, I could easily spend tens of thousands of dollars per year easing the suffering of children in third-world countries. But I actually only spend a small fraction of that.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 17, 2006 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  71. Ebbtide

    None of the three have any upsides which outweigh the downside, unless you are a particularly good thief, cheater, or are being paid to murder.

    So, say that you are being paid a large sum for a murder you could commit without detection. You’d do it, right? If a genie offered you money, on the condition that a hundred million Chinese people you’d never met would die, you’d do it, right? I think that saying “well, in my particular case going against this delusion we call morality is just not profitable” is a bit of an evasion.

    Atheists are free to appeal to metaphysical agents in their arguments, so long as those agents are not gods. Doing so does not diminish any definition of atheism that I know of

    Agreed. My argument was that a complete rejection of metaphysical entities (which have much in common with deities, after all: they are supernatural and have the power to regulate our lives) makes morality somewhat problematical. But your right, it’s possible to believe in The Truth without believing in God.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 7:42 pm | Reply

  72. Brandon

    but the desire to do right and the aversion to doing wrong are every bit as real as, and sometimes stronger than, the desire for physical pleasure or the aversion to physical pain

    Agreed. We are indeed a social animal and have an instinct to behave according to group conventions, and this instinct (looking at the matter in a purely rational light) is no doubt what gave rise to morality. The problem is that we can’t satisfy that moral instinct by simply doing whatever we see others doing – we won’t feel one bit of moral satisfaction on having left somebody to drown in a canal just because nobody else jumped in to help. One could compare the difference between morality and the instinct towards convention that brings it about to the difference between paternal love and the instinct to propagate genetic material. Try telling a father who has just lost his young son that, given that the boy was infertile, he is better off without him.

    So it is precisely this instinct which leads us to making claims that only a reference to metaphysics could justify. How are we to obtain the satisfaction of doing the right thing if there is no Right?

    I think you and ebbtide are both making the mistake of trying to appy an “outside” analyis to an “inside” phenomenon. Sure, morality has its roots in society and biology: but we can’t let that knowledge into our hearts (so to speak) and still be moral, i.e. fully human beings.

    I’m now going to let you two formidable adversaries have the last word in the matter!

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 8:04 pm | Reply

  73. Well, I suppose that in the real of metaphysics no -one will be decicively right or wrong.
    Here is my follow-up anyway:

    Of course many sceptics, me included, would point out thatif religion were based on individual mystical experiences, then the last thing we would expect to find is what we actually do find: large numbers of people in agreement about the nature of God, the afterlife etc. The sceptical view is that religions are the creations of the societies they thrive in, and that only a tiny number of believers have had mystical “revelations”

    Still other sceptics (like me) think that those sceptics who try to deny that religious experiences are definitely the core part of most religions and people are often in agreement with the nature of supernatural have created an unnecessary problem for themselves.
    They essentially need to deny the real nature of religion. Of course religion is not only about experiences, religious beliefs and practices are essential also but they are just social constructs built around mystical experiences.

    Understand that when I speak about transcendent and euphorical experiences I believe that they fundamentally derive from the nature of human nervous system.
    Because of the nature of human brain is essentially similar everywhere religions are omnipresent and other humans often understand when “mystics” talk about these.
    As for the “tiny number of mystics” with temporal lobe epilepsy or some other rare neurological defect like it is too often assumed:
    There is nothing fundamentally wrong about this idea, it just does not fit well with the facts about human history.
    These points are tangential to what is discussed here, however.

    I think I can only repeat the point that you seem to be evading (as it is made also by others): Good is an abstract term like duty, love, hate etc. It can not be measured outside human nature, but that does not mean that it reaches in to the realm of metaphysical like religious arguments do.

    What happens when you dwell excessively in the realm of moral philosophy you end up founding a religion.
    This is what you have done here, therefore I can not prove you wrong.
    You preach that in order for “right and wrong” to exist there must be a supernatural level of existence.
    Similarly some may say that the fact that something instead of nothing exist, therefore God must exist in the form of prime mover.
    Or if you think that water is wet and fire is hot, in your heart you believe in classical Greek elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, and not in periodic table of elements.

    These 3 claims are Non-sequiturs, that’s why you perhaps can’t prove them wrong, yet there is no need to.

    Repeating the point about existential “why not”:

    If morality is a delusion, though, why wait for a breakdown of society to “mandate” acts which could be hugely beneficial to you? Thieve, cheat, kill if you want to, just so long as you don’t get caught

    In essence, what you are asking is “why you are what you are and not something different”.
    In a universe ruled by natural law this question is meaningless. The “why” basically does not exist outside your mind.
    The cold and uncaring universe will not answer you, and you reject the answers given by your fellow humans.
    Therefore, it is just existential in nature and it should be addressed to God.

    Comment by Marcus — December 17, 2006 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

  74. Marcus

    Thanks for answering my last comment so conscientiously, but I really am going to have to bow out of an argument that is consuming my life by now! And I am NOT going to try and fight a war on two fronts. Brandon, ebbtide, meet Marcus.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 17, 2006 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

  75. No problem, Tom.

    Actually, my response was not to your last post because between starting to write a comment and posting it the discussion had moved on significantly during both my comments; so I know what you mean by “consuming”.

    Yet thinking about these things is not something that has meaning only because of this discussion as you are not quite the only one who argues that religion and morality cannot exist independently.

    Comment by Marcus — December 17, 2006 @ 9:08 pm | Reply


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