Review: Human Is?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 27th, 2008

A very short review of Human Is? by Philip K Dick

I am not normally one for short stories but I mainly enjoyed this collection. The anthology contains the inspiration for the movies Paycheck and Total Recall – strangely I have seen neither. I had expected a fairly straight forward collection of sci-fi technology related themes but I guess I should have known better from the Dick novel/films Blade Runner, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly! The theme is not so much technology but on reality and human cognition. The majority of stories have humans trying to understand reality, often via some abstracted representation – and usually doing a poor job of it. Post modernists might say that there is no objective reality to be mistaken about but I am not going to address this today!

My favorite stories were: Adjustment Team – where a man discovers his awareness of reality turns out to be rather like Plato’s cave dwellers – a bit incomplete. It reminds me of the anime short “Beyond” from The Animatrix. I don’t want to say too much about either.

The Mold of Yancy – asks if a totalitarian regime could be created not from oppression but from persuasion…

Oh, To Be a Blobel! – I thought this was darkly hilarious. I won’t even attempt to describe the plot although wikipedia has a good attempt.

And one story I did not find as appealing: The Pre-Persons – rather than the usual Dickian questioning of reality this had a strong underlying message. The story was a parody of the pro-choice movement. The story imagines a world where abortion was legal up to twelve years after birth. The reason given is children have no soul and are unthinking automatons until this age. The situation is compounded by street patrols of dog catchers who also collect stray and unwanted children. Obviously Dick does not really believe in this but it is an attempt to point to the absurdity of calling something alive at the moment of birth and not before.

He has a point that it is in some ways totally arbitrary. Of course that is not hard to rebut from existentialism! What right have people not to be murdered? Is that not also arbitrary? And any point chosen to limit abortion/contraception is in some sense arbitrary… The point I am trying to make is we must decide upon arbitrary rules to live – or the alternative is nihilism.

Anti Citizen One

Apology is Policy: Rendition Flights

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 21st, 2008

“Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent US investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred,” Miliband told MPs.

“We both agree that the mistakes made in these two cases are not acceptable, and she shares my deep regret that this information has only just come to light,” Miliband said. The Guardian

Raised this concern last summer. “I tried telling them, but they wouldn’t listen. They never listen…” (Vir, B5)

The question is will anything be done to rectify this? Will anything be done to stop it happening again?

AC1

Advertising

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 20th, 2008

A quick, anecdotal case study of adverts seen in the last week:

Example advertising: A car is driven recklessly along a street as an obvious computer game reference to Grand Theft Auto. The driver comes to a halt, steps out of the car and walks into a shop. The man behind the counter feels threatened but the driver takes the product (Coca cola) and pays for it. He then walks around the neighbourhood doing various good deeds in the opposite manner to the computer game – catches a thief, gives money to a busker, etc. The song with lyrics “give a little love and it all comes back to you” is playing. The slogan “the Coke side of life” is shown.

Message of this advert: the brand coca cola is associated to generosity and optimism. The song states that generosity or love will be reciprocated. There is no direct claim is made for the product.

Example 2: A hand cream is applied to a celebrity’s body. The voice over claims the product can taughten skin, remove wrinkles and make you appear younger. (L’Oreal)

Message: Use this product and you will look beautiful (and perhaps more like a celebrity).

Example 3: A man enjoys driving a car through computer generated pretty scenery. Cool music is playing. (Masda/Kia/etc)

Message: Use this product and you will be happy.

Example 4: An envelope is opened and a laptop is pulled out. The laptop lid is opened to show the Mac desktop and logo. (Apple)

Message: The product has desirable properties (thinness in this case). Note that this is not a functional property.

Example 5: A man and a women are shown on split screen talking to each other by mobile phone. They discuss family issues. The driver collides with an unseen object and knocked unconcious. The person on the other end of the conversation is traumatized. (Public information advert – the product in this case is a behavior)

Message: Talking to people who are on their mobile while driving may be upsetting (if they have an accident).

My observations: Advertising typically shows a person (or a character you are likely to identify with) enjoying the product in question. In the more abstract adverts, the product is part of a lifestyle that would be enjoyable. Often the characteristics of the product are secondary to the enjoyment (cars, coca cola). When characteristics are discussed, they are typically aesthetic (thinness, sleek, young, beauty, etc).

Very occasionally the inverse argument is used: product X will cause you unhappiness and should be avoided.

The purpose of advertising is to persuade people to buy the product. Therefore their full message is: product X will make you happy (or beautiful) and you should therefore purchase the product. This unspoken message contains two fundamental flaws.

1) Product being linked with happiness does not imply we should take any particular action. It does not logically follow that we should buy the product.

2) Studies indicate that our level of happiness is mainly physiologically determined. Our conscious choices only have a limited effect on our happiness (including mediation, medication, etc). Happiness is largely outside our hands. We should ask ourselves do certain behaviors cause happiness, or do happy people more likely to perform certain behaviors? The answer seems to be the latter.

This expressed by the master of debunking hollow ideas as:

The most general formula on which every religion and morality is founded is: “Do this and that, refrain from this and that — and then you will be happy! And if you don’t…” Every morality, every religion, is based on this imperative; I call it the original sin of reason, the immortal unreason. [..] An admirable human being, a “happy one,” instinctively must perform certain actions and avoid other actions; […] In a formula: his virtue is the effect of his happiness. Nietzsche

This argument also applies to advertising. This quote is literally true if a brand has replaced religion in a persons mind. My concern is the proliferation of advertising in society is causing the spread of “immortal unreason” where thought and discussion are impaired.

As recently reported by the BBC:

Clinical psychologist Oliver James claims in his new book The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza, that “selfish capitalism” (the kind of capitalism we have in Britain) is making us sick. Literally. BBC

For further reading, I recommend Adbusters. They seek to move people beyond the tired concept of everyone being a “happy consumer” and toward being a participant in the real world.

Update: Of course advertising was never meant to be a logical argument but an appeal to the emotions.

Anti Citizen One

Copyright Extension (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!)

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 14th, 2008

“The [European] Commission wants to extend the copyright period for music performers from 50 years to 95 years.” BBC

This should be strongly opposed. My views are public. My proposal: to cut copyright to 50 years or the death of the performer which ever is sooner. Only exception: if they have a significant other that absolutely depend on the money (or perhaps they should have got life insurance??). In fact 20 years or until time of death is even more reasonable! (This is the lengths of patents typically.)

Anti Citizen One

B5 Part 11: The Shadow Question

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 11th, 2008

The Shadows are an alien civilization which also very mysterious, manipulative and powerful. Over millions of years they have come to oppose the Vorlon empire. Their philosophy and understanding are all driven by a simple question: “What do you want?” In this system, the identity of an individual is only defined in terms of actions and goals. Any identity, underlying motive or free will is not considered. This is similar to Consequentialism where the ends justify the means. Since most of our immediate desires are worldly, it might also be a realist or materialistic philosophy in its routine application.

Machiavelli is a good example of this style of thought. In his most famous work, The Prince, he describes how one acquires and maintains power. He does not attempt to describe “ideal” prince (that is to say “who he is”) but simply what actions must be performed in order to achieve a goal. This pragmatic view is political realism.

Not all desires are about the pursuit of power. For example we could ask of Socrates, “what does he want”? Could we say “rationality at any price”? (quote from Nietzsche). We could also say Plato: knowledge, Aristotle: wisdom, etc. (Incidentally Lennier indirectly asked for this of the Shadows.) If we pursue any goal too single mindedly, we risk losing our perspective.

Today’s society seems to seek happiness above all things – that is Hedonism. If we ask how is happiness achieved, we immediately see that our society has the goal of happiness but not the means for achieving it. Consumerism is the current solution – I would suggest Buddhism for its meditation or psychological therapy for those seriously pursuing happiness…

Some movements don’t even have an answer for the question “what do you want?” I am thinking particularly of post-modernism. Of course, this is not intrinsically good or bad. Movements like these specialize taking answers to these metaphysical questions and, effectively, analyze them until the original thought is obliterated!

And Other Issues

There are several secondary metaphysical questions that are mentioned by one or other of the characters and not aligned with any world view in the story. These questions serve as another thematic backdrop to the TV series but are not addressed at such a literal level.
Who do you serve? (TV Movie “In The Beginning”)
How will this end? (Series 2 Ep 9)
Who do you trust? (Series 3 Ep 16)
Have you anything worth living for? (Series 4 Ep 2)
Where are you going? (Series 5 Ep 22)

Have you ever noticed that in story telling, when characters finally ask these questions of each other and their situation, some critical information is revealed? I suspect the same is true in life.

The majority of people find all this speculation absurd since they can continue to live without addressing them. Obviously, people have to have some idea of good and evil but to ignore these issues is to have habit as the basics of ethics.

“Who am I? What am I doing here? and Where am I going? Those had to be the very first questions we began asking when we became sentient, and we’re still asking them.” JMS

Anti Citizen One

Law: One Size Fits All?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 7th, 2008

There seems to be an outcry over Dr Williams comments on Sharia law.

“People may legally devise their own way to settle a dispute in front of an agreed third party as long as both sides agree to the process.”

“[an approach to law which simply said] there’s one law for everybody and that’s all there is to be said, and anything else that commands your loyalty or allegiance is completely irrelevant in the processes of the courts – I think that’s a bit of a danger”.

To paraphrase/straw man his critics (using my words): “People who come to Britain should abide by British laws. Otherwise they should leave. No group should get special treatment. Dr Williams should resign. We should not change British law.”

I would say Dr William’s is right in this: one size does not fit all. The protests do not acknowledge that law is adapted to new situations as they arise. If one law was for everyone, for all time, why does parliament bother passing new laws? This “one law” that people seem to value is really in a state of transition.

And I did notice that Dr Williams was suggesting alternative laws could be opt in rather than universally applied. What is wrong with personal choice? Ah, people like their thinking done for them!

Update: Also, a separate law applies in Scotland. Again what is this “one law” that people are defending? It does not exist!

Anti Citizen One

Squaring the Circle

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 7th, 2008

An article about the Prophet Muhammad in the English-language Wikipedia has become the subject of an online protest in the last few weeks because of its representations of Muhammad, taken from medieval manuscripts. NYTimes

The wiki discussion is available.

As one user put it “Anyone is free to edit Wikipedia… constructively.” Wikipedia’s policy on offense incidentally is in perfect alignment with my opinion.

AC1

Religion in Politics: an ethical framework

Posted by on February 4th, 2008

Some of our recent dialogs have concerned how and to what extent religious ‘involvement’ in politics is appropriate (if at all). Both of us agree that as a libertarian ideal everyone has a free voice and ‘right’ to participate in the democratic process – even if their opinions are objectionable. I have tended to argue at times that institutions as collective lobby groups also have the right to participate, thus something like the ‘Church’ can be seen in a similar light to a political party. But problems arise from this point of view. At what stage does ‘involvement’ i.e. advancing a ‘right to life’ thesis become ‘interference’ i.e. seeking to criminalize an activity by enforcing one moral view upon others.

In this light ethicist Charles Curran once promoted a strategy to guide various religious groupings towards an ethical and pluralist participation within democracy – that entitles them to voice their opinions without enforcing them. It is worth noting he wrote at length in the context of this in the U.S. where religion and politics are closely entwined – but I think his framework is applicable everywhere.

First of all there are three protagonists to consider. The Church as an institution, religious interest groups, and the individual person. Clearly the way each protagonist speaks and influences politics is very different. Anyway these are thr four principles that Curran outlines as the most important ways for religious opinions to be presented to society.

1) Metanoia – Change of Heart. If any social and political change is ever to be possible on any issue then of fundamental concern is personalism. A change of heart in the individual must precede meaningful social change. So a meaningful dialogue needs to be established with the individual. This of course is a two way street, engage in a case-by-case study of the issues, learn from those whose opinion or approach to an issue differs, respect disagreements or alternative views. Most importantly of all recognise the ethical inadequacy of universal objective prescriptive rules or descriptive analysis.

2) Education. By itself education is inadequate – for social problems as percieved by one persepctive as such go deeper than mere ignorance of the issues. But as part of a wider strategy education can be useful.

3) Compassionate action for those who are victims. In order to precipitate greater social change it is never enough to simply talk, religious people as an institution, an interest group or as individuals need to act upon their principles both to demonstrate the valdity of their approach but also to establish it as a viable alternative. Thus for example in the U.S. charitable hospitals that require no medical insurance as condition of treatment. Or in the UK the Cardinal Winning Pro-life initiative that offers material and spiritual support through crisis pregnancies and after birth, making pro-life pro-choice as well by making the choice a viable option (without judging those who eventually opt for abortion).

4) Institutional action. Aside from practising what they preach religious groups if they want to change social attitudes on an issue need to be involved in the political process. The best way to do this isnt by objective rule making or critical analysis (preaching) but by advocating for those without advocates. Being a “voice” for those without a mouthpiece.

As a holistic approach all of this should seem reasonable even to the non-religious. It is simply an ethical way to engage with society and promote social change. Although people may disagree with the ‘message’ they should hopefully agree with the liberty to promote a plurality of values.  But what about specific legislation – should a religious group openly support or promote a law on any given issue – when in practise legislation enforces a singular rather than a plural view?

Curran underlines the difficulty involved in this. Specific issues (about which legislation is usually directed) entertain such a vast number of variable factors that without broad knowledge of all the relevant data it is impossible to know with any certitude what is the appropriate response. Consider abortion, if it were criminalized would it be ethical? Women would still suffer crisis pregnancies but appropriate medical assistance would be forced underground. Poor healthcare would then be an issue, as would the unscrupulous taking advantage of the vulnerable and desperate. Clearly backstreet abortions are undesirable and no matter how much society may change in their attitudes to life-rights there will always be a demand.

So the first principle Curran advocates is the gathering of all the facts. So promoting a religious point of view in a political context requires that the point of view be supported by as much ‘objective’ interdisciplinary data as possible.

Secondly there must be an explicit admission that even with a broad knowledge base on complex ethical issues (in which every situation and every circumstance may vary) absolute certitude and the elimination of error cannot be realistically attained. There is an exception to every rule.

Thirdly is the issue of representation. A religious institution may wield greater collective influence in the political arena than an individual acitivist, but are they ever justified in definitavely speaking as a single entity? There will be those individuals within the institution who dissent – surely they should be entitled to do so and to act as their conscience dictates without fear of reprisal? But equally problematic if an institution maintains silence does this not acquiesce in the status quo?

Again Curran emphasizes that these three principles are combined. A religious institution may be ethically justified in becoming politically active but they must be in possession of all the relevant facts, must acknowledge that no rule can be absolute and that dissent from their point of view is to be expected.

Therefore he says that political involvement should be on different levels. The individual should be as active as they wish. Smaller groups should be engaged in political activism (the Civil Rights movement in America) but institutions should speak out rarely and only on matters of great import. and in a context where they can make a meaningful and constructive contribution to public welfare.

Thus he says the institution should speak out only if it can propose a law that would be equitable (of benefit to all), enforceable and open and malleable to alternative views in a pluralistic society. Thus using the example of abortion he states that any religious involvement in abortion law must provide for all people in all circumstances thus not putting any undue burden on those members of society who are less affluent. It must be enforceable morally and politically – thusthe spectre of illegal back street abortions should provide sufficient reason not to propose a blanket ban. And finally it must be admitted that not everybody within society accepts the idea that abortion is the killing of a human being.

Therefore Curran concludes that on most complex ethical issues a religious institution should clamour for either a moderate law respectful of pluralistic opinions and varying circumstances or for no law at all.  Whilst simultaneously working towards promoting their underlying values i.e. respect for life, and providing viable alternatives for ‘victims’ to choose from i.e. if abortion is required for largely economic reasons provide long-term meaningful economic support.

Finally there obviously must be a balance between providing an ethical discourse to society – being an advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed (speaking out against racism, genocide, torture, war, abortion, euthanasia and so on) – and broadly acceptable legislative action that benefits the common good (free healthcare, racial integration etc.)

Aphorism on Legal Matters

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 2nd, 2008

“If it is a good idea, people should freely do it: why mandate it? If it is a bad idea, people should freely shun it: why ban it?”

I imagine the first objection would be “why have any laws at all?” – answer: if people do “bad” things that need banning, they were not free to avoid doing “bad”, so my statement does not apply.

Or another answer is: yes! all laws are redundant! A light touch is best.

Anti Citizen One

More ramblings on bioethics and the state

Posted by on February 2nd, 2008

I’m guessing the previous post to be in part a response to my thoughts on the current bioethics debates. And alas I feel myself being drawn into a debate that normally I would prefer to keep at the office or within the academic environment. Anyway I will try to respond to some of your points.

You describe the Pope’s writings as betraying “Arbitrary Reasoning” – well besides the obvious arbitrariness of the accusation you are entitled to your opinion. Certainly if one were to read his works in isolation or out of order then his reasoning probably could seem arbitrary. On the other hand if you read his works from the 60’s onwards (a gargantuan task) you would probably get a feeling for the reasoned consistency of his arguments (though by no means should this deter you from your disagreements).

You criticise his view for being speciesist and this topic has been written on at some length, so I will move over that one. Other than to say that he could be regarded as necessarily speciesist – consistent with the anthropic thrust of Christian philosophy – as opposed to being arbitrarily so.

You dislike the appeal to tradition and again there is little more I can say on this matter other than it is a self-justifying position for the office he holds as the successor to Peter. Appeals to tradition are tautologically a traditional way of building arguments in philosophy. It can become a logical fallacy if the tradition that is being appealed to is given unquestionable authority. But a simple overview of pontifical literature shows that unbending adherence to tradition is not the modus operandi, for example in the days of St Thomas Aquinas “life” was assumed to begin some days after conception and at variable times for boys and girls. Now, informed by medical science this view has been rejected and a life begins at conception theory has been adopted. Before I explain this a little further, just one cautionary note your opposition to the appeal to tradition (without qualification) has a similarity to the fallacy of the appeal to novelty.

It seems that you also oppose the assumption to a universal right to life. Now we have discussed the idea of natural rights before and satisfactorily concluded that the notion is ridiculous. But is this what he is arguing for? In the snippet of text you quoted he talks about unconditional respect this is appeal to cultivating a respectful attitude not an appeal to natural rights.

Biomedical ethics has engaged in an important debate concerning “life” and its “beginnings”. Personally I adhere to a theory that is called “longitudinal form.”

From conception through conceptus, blastocyst, embryo, fetus all the way to birth there are no singular definable and isolatable boundaries of transition. One could take pictures of the developmental stages and label them as seperate stages of being – but this is an artificial seperation for these stages in action or process are inseperable and belong to a single continuity of cell division and growth. One could talk about the first beat of the heart, the first signs of mental life, the development of the nervous system or even birth as “the beginning of life” but these are parts of an organic continuum.

This longitudinal view of life is generally adopted post-natal by all of us. Although we differentiate between tot, child, teen, young adult, middle-age and the elderly there are no objective or singularly definable moments that one can point to and declare with any certainty that there was a particular moment of transition.

Similarly so then by extension even birth is a process rather than a straightforward before/after event. The child in the womb in the days preceding birth is virtually indistinguishable from the child immediately post-birth – generally we talk about viability at this stage. But as medical care for premature babies improves yet more boundaries in viability are smashed and it is not uncommon to hear of 26 week old survivors. But being “born” and taking one’s first breath of air by ones self (or being capable of doing so) is not the deciding factor (usually) in discerning whether the child is “alive”, “vital” or “viable”. It is important, but not singularly so.

We can understand various moments of embryonic development by taking them in isolation and comparing them with other stages – but these stages are not independent of each other and only become totally meaningful when considered as part of an organic process. Thus it is possible to talk about life or the process of growing-life beginning at conception without having recourse to notions of the soul or the direct action of a divinity.

Now than having rejected ‘natural rights’ we still acknowledge artifical or assumed rights. The difference in view is that natural rights are somehow inherent whereas the other type of right is in the gift of human discourse. This latter is a fairly democratic way of operating. By consensus most of us wish to avoid being murdered thus a social taboo has arisen around the act of murder. Similarly the vast majority of us engage in a primitive form of social contract by choosing not to murder each other – quite often on the selfish context that if I dont kill you hopefully you will extend the same courtesy to me!

But what qualifications does one require in order to be eligible for certain rights? Obviously I cannot extend the right to life to a dead body, nor the right to vote in free elections to an embryo. Clearly there are circumstances where we consider one or other of our species invalid to certain rights.

What then about the right to life? Well generally we extend the gift of this right to all living people, exceptions are made in some societies for capital crimes where the right to life is supposed to have been negated by criminal action. Similarly some cultures have begun to diminish the primary status this right usually enjoys by defining it as in competition with the right to die, or more pertinantly the right to choose the means and time of ones death. But even in this case the right hasn’t been completely abrogated, rather a realism has descended upon certain ethical views, a realism that rights are in the gift of society and are not endowed by a supernatural power or inherent in our natures. And of course even the right to die is qualified on the grounds of voluntary decision making, such a right is gifted to those who are autonomous and capable of making an informed and consensual decision. Unique cases exist such as permanent coma’s and brain death (or persistant vegitative states) but thats a seperate issue.

So what about the unborn child, are they qualified to recieve the gift of rights? This is the crux of the debate. There are those who use the language and imagery of parasitical life to negate the qualification of the unborn child to recieve rights so long as they are dependent upon the host (mother). But what about the child who has just been born? Although breathing and living independently, they are still vulnerable and incapable of sustaining their own fragile lives, in other words they depend on the kindness of others. Consequently infanticide has become an extraodinary social taboo, particularly if the motivation for murder is selfish and not the result of some unfortunate psychological illness. What difference in moral ‘status’ then is there between the child who has just been born and who is dependent on their mother/carer, and the child in the womb who is viable? And as longitudinal form asks, what difference then in moral status is there between a full-term but as yet unborn child and one that is yet to have become fully developed?

The argument then proceeds that rather like the artificial nature of viewing the stages of developmental growth independent of the whole process from conception (to death), so too certain divisions in moral status and eligibility to the right of life are artificial too.

If we understand that the right to life is a gift, and we choose to remove that right from the unborn child, then if we are to be consistent and not ageist or hypocrital then we must concede that the same right to life may be removed from any one uf us at any time if society (in whose gift the right belongs) defines us as somehow ineligble.

And if society can define the unborn child, the elderly or disabled as being ineligble candidates for the right to life, then what is to prevent society from deciding arbitrarily that our eligibility to that right can be questioned on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, religion, profession, political opinion etc.

And this is not just the apocalyptic ravings of a hypothetical slippery slope argument – one need only look to recent history to observe governments assuming the power to gift rights and to take them away. We all know (hopefully) of the Holocaust, but let us remember also the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge who decided that amongst others those who wore spectacles were enemies of the state and ineligible to posess the same rights as anyone else simply because eye spectacles were considered a sign of education.

You also ask about the “natural time” of death when nowadays that time may be elongated or shortened by medical intervention. This is an important question, but surely the concept is analytical and self-defining, the natural time of death is that which occurs without direct medical intervention. Although you dont say as much your begging of the question seems to imply that because medical science can elongate our lives we ought to make use of their services. Why should this be so? It is known in medicine and medical ethics as “vitalism” the attitude that one must avoid death at all costs. The individual is not compelled to take advantage of the medical services available to them, indeed it is one of the fundamental tenets of medicine that they should seek to help those who come to them for assistance.

One could also define the “natural time” of death as being that which occurs without “extraordinary” medical intervention (and this is indeed the position of the Catholic Church). The question one should ask then is what is “extraordinary” and what reasons does an individual have to want to sustain their life artifically beyond its self-sufficient viability?

You’re second major objection is concerning the “annoyance” of religious groups imposing their view on society with regards ethics (for example abortion). I hate to say it but this just seems to confirm your abhorrence to all things religious and highlights the fragile relationship many people have to the idea of ‘free-speech’.

If there was a situation where roving bands of Catholic militiamen were arresting pregnant women and imprisoning them until they went full-term in order to prevent an abortion, then I may accept that they were imposing their views on society. But this isn’t happening and nobody is suggesting that it should. Those instances (more prevalent in America) where acts of violence are perpetrated against those who facilitate abortion are not acting in religious interests, no matter how badly they protest that they are or how much those who hate religion may try to smear them. It is a sad reality that there are those who allow their personal prejudice to cloud their judgement and who voicably use religious belief as a justification for wholly non-religious means. These people are hypocrites and should be judged as such. In much the same way that we would judge and condemn all forms of hypocrisy in all walks of life.

Now you may argue that anti-abortion lobby groups who would desire a change in the law whether it be greater restrictions or complete illegalization are, albeit through non-violent means, trying to impose their morality upon society as a whole. While this is true to an extent if you genuinely are arguing that this “annoyance” is wrong, anti-social or somehow contrary to your libertarian ethic, then you are painfully naive and certainly not a libertarian in any sense of the word.

How else was abortion legalized in the first place, without the lobbying of a pro-abortion interest group, to legalise the practise on the grounds of free-choice and medical safety? Was this not the imposition of one viewpoint onto the rest of society? Is this not what all human laws are? Is this not what democratic governance is about?

You ask “Isn’t it enough for them to live virtuously (by their own standard) and well away from politics?”

I assume by this you are suggesting that a religious point of view has no place being involved in political debate. If so I can think of no greater assault on the libertarian ideals of free-speech and freedom of conscience that John Stuart-Mill wrote about in chapter 2 of his work On Liberty on the liberty of thought and discussion.

Surely your request that the “annoying” religiously minded people who oppose abortion for example (although I know plenty of atheist pro-lifers also which further highlights the tyranny of your proposition) could be inversely applied to yourself and the ‘non-believers’? Isn’t it enough for you to live virtously by your own standard and stay well away from politics?

If we maintain a system of democratic governance that permits the participation of the people within the organon of power – a system that has the authority to rule over everybody – what ‘right’ have you to deny the freedom to voice an opposing view on any given matter of legislation?

Lets forget abortion, religious belief and non-belief for a moment and apply your maxims to another issue altogether. I oppose the hunting of foxes with hounds, I consider it abominably cruel and unfair and an activity more about sport than pest control. I detest those who support hunting and who consider it to be making a sport out of a “necessary” pest-control activity. But they are entitled to their different point of view and they are entitled – no matter how “annoying” they are and no matter how unlikely it is that I will ever change my mind on the issue – to voice their opinions and to seek a change in legislation.

And so to the final point, in a participatory democracy, that it is alleged we belong to, we can never have any justification in attempting to silence the views of others no matter how objectionable they may seem, when the desired outcome of our participatory democracy is to enact laws that govern us all.

If the law applies to us all – then the oppurtunity to oppose that law must apply to us all. Therefore in the case of abortion, if one group opposes it, on the grounds that it is a violation of the unborn childs right to life (a right that they consider to be either inherent or in the gift of society) then this view may be validly expressed as equally as those who believe that the right to choice overrides the rights claims of an unborn child.

To oppose a law (any law) and to hope that someday it may be changed whilst admitting equally that it may not – depending on the vicissitudes of prevailing opinion is the fundamental axiom upon which liberty is built. To demand that anyone cease from voicing their opposition or from trying to enact change is nothing less than tyranny.