The Politics of Science

Can science ever be a political tool? Those who know of it’s impartialism would find it difficult to believe it, but this does not prevent its political force.

Louis XIV visiting the  Académie des sciences ...
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The scientific method is unarguably one of the most objective and rational methods that humans have found to discover the world around them. It is also value-free, in the sense that it simply explains reality and has no normative propositions to make and thus it cannot be considered to put forth any bias.

But this does not mean that science cannot be used politically. In fact, the findings of it are the primary method by which secular people can promote their agenda as Reality, when supporting one’s position can be handily be used as a stronghold for one’s political ideas. And this actually makes the best kind of politics, ie ones based on reality. This is in fact why religion is hostile to Science as a whole, as it gives too much power to secular arguments in the area of moderating human behaviour and as such promotes a liberal ((In the sense of personal liberty and choice, not in the sense of Liberalism as a classic political movement)) agenda.

However there is one nasty aspect when science and politics interact, and that is all too insidious confirmation bias. It is the propensity of people, including scientists, to see only the facts that support their already held political opinion. The easiest way is when science is not absolute on one particular issue which allows partisans on the minority to pick the arguments which fit their predisposition, expand them using exaggerations and political hacks and thus cloud and prevent a reality-based decision. Such is the case in the Anthropogenic Global Warming debate and such was the case a few decades ago on the harmful effects of smoking.

Further than this though, science can be used as a political tool by simply avoiding or ignoring the actual facts. This became clear to me through my discussions with secular statists and/or liberals who base their ideas on what they think scientific facts support. In this particular case, that humans have evolved to be primarily competitive against each other and everyone else.  This argument can then be handily be used both for “proving” the naturalness of Capitalism and/or the necessity of the State.

But this creates a problem when one looks at scientific findings and discovers that they do not support this position of “war against all” in the least. How can this be the dominant worldview?

My personal theory is that people put far more weight to their political perspective than they do in science. To the tune of ignoring or subconsciously avoiding learning about scientific facts that would put cracks in their position. We know how much possible this is from the religious example, where people will outright deny evolution or geology when it threatens to challenge their currently held worldview. I do not believe that this is so much because religion is so much of a stronger belief, as much as it is their current politics and lifestyle which would be threatened by changing their mind.

To put it more plainly, I see people having some particular ideas, such as hate of teh gay, patriarchy or authoritarian tendencies. These are easily maintained by considering the Bible as a literal history and thus accepting its homosexual-hating, god-fearing ideas. When science enters the picture and points out that homosexuality is genetic, humans are genetically equal and there’s probably no higher authority to bow down to, it is the lifestyle and worldview that is threatened, not the religion itself which is simply the excuse to preserve said lifestyle. Thus science will be denied, in order for the comfortable excuse (religion) to be preserved. As such, those whose worldview is not threatened, such as say people growing up in more liberal areas are far more likely to accept science which is less threatening, while also keeping their religion (in its non-fundamentalist form).

In a similar way, this applies to irreligious people as well. While some particular worldviews (usually the most intolerant) require a religion in order to defend them, others can function with some other alternative such as nationalism. Still other require none at all and in fact do beg legitimacy by wearing the cover of “science”.

This generally occurs in worldviews that are so popular and internalized that their dismissal seems unrealistic. I’m talking of course about Statism and Capitalism which are being taught as inescepable from the youngest possible age. And what seems to happen then when these are challenged and there is no relevant religion or one espouses no appropriate ideology to defend them? (say: as Objectivism) One can only then turn to scientific facts to support their worldview, and if the facts do not fit the picture, they may just as well be ignored.

This then explains the curious fact that while Mutual Aid is a very (if not the most) important factor of evolution ((Known for at least a 100 years and Proven by many researches in different scientific sectors, from Zoology to Anthropology)), it is competition and “war against all” that is still being promoted as the generally accepted primary characteristic of life. How else can one explain this. other by assuming that scientists and secularists who’s worldview embraces Statism and/or Capitalism have subconsciously avoided learning about it? I can’t in good conscience attribute this to any kind of malice or conspiracy.

And this is the unfortunate aspect of scientific facts. They tend to raise uncomfortable questions for the status quo since they challenge the validity of the various defences such as religion and racism. This by itself makes science a political tool, but one which always seems to support a libertarian socialism worldview. And when all chips are on the table and one’s worldview is on the line, it seems to be preferable – even for self-labelled supporters of rationalism and scientific method – to bury the truth in order to avoid an uncomfortable political realignment.

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How Epicurism leads me to Anarcho-Communism

I am first an Epicurean and then a Socialist but the later flows naturally from the former due to moral reasoning.

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As an Epicurean, I require very little to be content: Food, Shelter, Friends and the absence of pain. All these things have always been generally easy to achieve and as such they are what each person should be able to have. The fact that so many do not is a telling problem of the disfunctionality of our society.

One could ask: “As an Epicurean, why do you care what others have? After all, if you can achieve a state of ataraxia why should you care if others do the same?”. This is really a moral issue and should be looked in this light.

The question is, how do I go from the descriptive “My only needs are those which bring me in ataraxia” to the prescriptive “Everyone should be able to fulfill the needs that bring them in a state of ataraxia“. To go there, we first need to look at my reasons for doing so.

  1. The more people that desire that others are achieving ataraxia, the more likely it is that I will be able to achieve and sustain it through their combined efforts.
  2. Achieving ataraxia allows people to work on achieving the rest of their desires. Since I’m trying to make it so that one of those desires is that everyone is achieving ataraxia, then this helps spread this desire as well as happiness which comes from being in this state.

From these we can see that I have reasons to promote the desire (i.e. it is considered good) that people should be able to fulfill the needs that bring them in a state of ataraxia. It becomes a moral value.

So how does this lead to Communism? Well, Communism has the ideological proposition that everyone should be producing according to their abilities and receiving according to their needs. By itself, the second part of the sentence is not very descriptive as anyone can claim the most extraordinary things as needs. However through the lenses of Epicurism, the needs transform to something objective: The things one needs to be in a state of ataraxia.

Communism then conflates exactly with the moral value I have reached via Epicurism. Each of us should be striving to the best of our abilities to help others fulfil their needs. And since the needs one has on average ((adding the cost of medicine which are more resource intensive but also much smaller in production scale than food)) are the very basic and most easy to create, the effort we would require from each of us for this to be achieved would be minimal.

Of course Communism is more than a ideological proposition. It also proposes the way a society would be organized (Classless & Staleless) which also follow from Epicurism since authority and inequality either lead to emotional pain or to the increased cost of basic needs, making them opposed to the moral value I explained above.

Now to be accurate, I never really moved towards the libertarian socialist quadrant because I looked at the subject philosophically, but rather because intuitively, for someone with an Epicurean mindframe, the concepts of Anarchism/Socialism/Communism fit very well to my moral values.

Only later did it occur to me how much one leads to the other and the dialectic relationship between them. As much as the Epicurean subconsiously espouses the libertarian socialist mindframe, so does the consistent libertarian socialist require an Epicurean thinking to avoid sliding into authoritarianism or crass individualism (ie Capitalism)

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How does distribution of wealth work in a socialist society?

A Libertarian Socialist explanation of how a future such society would deal with people who do not want to work and laziness

think about justice (portrait)
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A redditor recently made the following question

how would a socialist society deal with members who do not want to work, yet still claim to be entitled to the fruits of other people’s labor? Also how would under performing or laziness be dealt with?

I’ve dealt with the similar concept of stagnation in a previous post but to this question, another redditor gave a very well thought out response that I believe should not be lost in comment history.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed by a commenter that this was actually lifted from the Anarchist FAQ. That’s why you should give attribution people…

Anarchism (Libertarian Socialism) is based on voluntary labor. If people do not desire to work then they cannot (must not) be forced to. The question arises of what to do with those (a small minority, to be sure) who refuse to work.

On this question there is some disagreement. Some anarchists, particularly communist-anarchists, argue that the lazy should not be deprived of the means of life. Social pressure, they argue, would force those who take, but do not contribute to the community, to listen to their conscience and start producing for the community that supports them. Other anarchists are less optimistic and agree with Camillo Berneri when he argues that anarchism should be based upon “no compulsion to work, but no duty towards those who do not want to work.” [“The Problem of Work”, in Why Work?, Vernon Richards (ed.), p. 74] This means that an anarchist society will not continue to feed, clothe, house someone who can produce but refuses to. Most anarchists have had enough of the wealthy under capitalism consuming but not producing and do not see why they should support a new group of parasites after the revolution.

Obviously, there is a difference between not wanting to work and being unable to work. The sick, children, the old, pregnant women and so on will be looked after by their friends and family (or by the commune, as desired by those involved). As child rearing would be considered “work” along with other more obviously economic tasks, mothers and fathers will not have to leave their children unattended and work to make ends meet. Instead, consideration will be given to the needs of both parents and children as well as the creation of community nurseries and child care centers.

We have to stress here that an anarchist society will not deny anyone the means of life. This would violate the voluntary labor which is at the heart of all schools of anarchism. Unlike capitalism, the means of life will not be monopolized by any group — including the commune. This means that someone who does not wish to join a commune or who does not pull their weight within a commune and are expelled will have access to the means of making a living outside the commune.

We stated that we stress this fact as many supporters of capitalism seem to be unable to understand this point (or prefer to ignore it and so misrepresent the anarchist position). In an anarchist society, no one will be forced to join a commune simply because they do not have access to the means of production and/or land required to work alone. Unlike capitalism, where access to these essentials of life is dependent on buying access to them from the capitalist class (and so, effectively, denied to the vast majority), an anarchist society will ensure that all have access and have a real choice between living in a commune and working independently. This access is based on the fundamental difference between possession and property — the commune possesses as much land as it needs, as do non-members. The resources used by them are subject to the usual possession rationale — they possess it only as long as they use it and cannot bar others using it if they do not (i.e., it is not property).

Thus an anarchist commune remains a voluntary association and ensures the end of all forms of wage slavery. The member of the commune has the choice of working as part of a community, giving according to their abilities and taking according to their needs (or some other means of organizing production and consumption such as equal income or receiving labor notes, and so on), or working independently and so free of communal benefits as well as any commitments (bar those associated with using communal resources such as roads and so on).

So, in most, if not all, anarchist communities, individuals have two options, either they can join a commune and work together as equals, or they can work as an individual or independent co-operative and exchange the product of their labor with others. If an individual joins a commune and does not carry their weight, even after their fellow workers ask them to, then that person will possibly be expelled and given enough land, tools or means of production to work alone. Of course, if a person is depressed, run down or otherwise finding it hard to join in communal responsibilities then their friends and fellow workers would do everything in their power to help and be flexible in their approach to the problem.

Some anarchist communities may introduce what Lewis Mumford termed “basic communism.” This means that everyone would get a basic amount of “purchasing power,” regardless of productive activity. If some people were happy with this minimum of resources then they need not work. If they want access to the full benefits of the commune, then they could take part in the communal labour process. This could be a means of eliminating all forces, even communal ones, which drive a person to work and so ensure that all labor is fully voluntary (i.e. not even forced by circumstances). What method a community would use would depend on what people in that community thought was best.

It seems likely, however, that in most anarchist communities people will have to work, but how they do so will be voluntary. If people did not work then some would live off the labor of those who do work and would be a reversion to capitalism. However, most social anarchists think that the problem of people trying not to work would be a very minor one in an anarchist society. This is because work is part of human life and an essential way to express oneself. With work being voluntary and self-managed, it will become like current day hobbies and many people work harder at their hobbies than they do at “real” work (this FAQ can be considered as an example of this!). It is the nature of employment under capitalism that makes it “work” instead of pleasure. Work need not be a part of the day that we wish would end. As Kropotkin argued (and has been subsequently supported by empirical evidence), it is not work that people hate. Rather it is overwork, in unpleasant circumstances and under the control of others that people hate. Reduce the hours of labor, improve the working conditions and place the work under self-management and work will stop being a hated thing. In his own words:

“Repugnant tasks will disappear, because it is evident that these unhealthy conditions are harmful to society as a whole. Slaves can submit to them, but free men create new conditions, and their work will be pleasant and infinitely more productive. The exceptions of today will be the rule of tomorrow.” [The Conquest of Bread, p. 123]

This, combined with the workday being shortened, will help ensure that only an idiot would desire to work alone. As Malatesta argued, the “individual who wished to supply his own material needs by working alone would be the slave of his labors.” [The Anarchist Revolution, p. 15]

So, enlightened self-interest would secure the voluntary labor and egalitarian distribution anarchists favor in the vast majority of the population. The parasitism associated with capitalism would be a thing of the past. Thus the problem of the “lazy” person fails to understand the nature of humanity nor the revolutionizing effects of freedom and a free society on the nature and content of work.

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It seems that even people espousing a cooperative mindframe like socialism are not immune from assaulting bitterly people they disagree with.

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It’s a weird thing that a ideology like socialism, which is supposed to promote cooperation, can sustain such anti-social behaviour as the one I’m lately seeing in the socialist reddit.  Specifically, all hell broke loose after I posted my blog-reply over there.

I do not mind people criticizing my ideas and thoughts, this is how one learns but it’s amazing how much the administrators of that reddit have gone on a power-trip even by the small power provided to them for filtering out trolls and spammers.

it’s funny that even though I didn’t agree with Larry’s request to stop submitting his articles to reddit, mostly because I always consider that among the morons there might be some who will listen and have an interest in conversation, his assessment ended up forcing itself upon me. Lazy morons indeed do not care to see or hear conflicting opinions and will happily attempt to silence them so that nobody else will either.

This has become plainly true in the comments of that last post, where arguing about my article ensued. This very quickly escalated into a flamewar since, for these “socialists” anyone who does not think exactly the same way they do, is an enemy to be labeled and assaulted. The jump from “You’re saying something wrong” to “You are a wrong kind of person” in their minds is near-instantaneous.

But this is the wrong kind of attitude. When one says something wrong, our reaction should not be to insult the person. That does not achieve anything other than alienate and drive others away. Sure, if your purpose is to have only your own voice heard, like the moderators above, this can be a good tactic, but in the long run, you have only managed to burn more bridges behind you.

But is this mentality of “my way or the highway” useful? On the contrary by refusing to discuss points, even wrong points that others raise, in favour of calling them traitors or heretics, not only does not help them understand where their thinking has gotten astray but immediately erects a wall between you, effectively making sure that they will get defensive and ignore whatever you say.

This is what happened to me in my last post, while I got in with interest to discuss, the initial comments immediately flew off the handle, accusing me of being “anti-working class” and calling me a “Maniac”. And even though I should have known better than to rise to the bait, I went on the defensive and the flamewar began. More time was spent on accusing each other of douchebaggery than actually countering each other’s arguments.

And opinions we do not agree with are important as well, especially coming from people that do not have completely opposite kind of views. Controversial ideas is how we learn either to strengthen our own opinions or we change our mind when we cannot counter them. It is disheartening that this reddit tends to reward mostly orthodox views on marxism and punishes the heretics with obscurity.

This is simply groupthink. You do not learn anything new, nor do you get to think. You only get to reinforce what you already believe in. As long as an article is well written and raises a few points on the part of the author, it should never be downvoted. Ignored perhaps, and even upvoted if the ideas are well presented, even if wrong. But downvoting simply hides the opposing view away from others. We should treasure controversy, not attempt to silence it.

If our views are solid enough, controversy is not an issue. The arguments against it can be presented and the idea eviscerated. When libertarians and *shudder* Objectivists come here to argue with me, I do not accuse them of being exploitation supporters, horribly misguided or douchebags as this would only serve to drive them away. But that would mean that I have even less people to criticize me, and that’s just hurts myself.

Especially people who label themselves socialists should have so much more tolerance to each other. If we cannot have an argument within our own ranks, how do even attempt to take on the people who outright disagree for anything we stand for? If we waste all of our time fighting each other with such ferocity, is it any surprise that no pressure can be directed towards the real culprits?

This is the most common reason why the Anarchist and Socialist movements are much more hostile towards each other, than they are towards the Capitalists. From the first time I noticed that, my initial thoughts were “But we’re on the same side?! Why are people fighting others who have the same goal in mind?”. And yet, for some of the revolutionary socialists, anyone who does not follow the rigid tactics he believes in, is as bad as the enemy. For the Anarchist ((Just to clarify: Not all anarchists think like this but the majority of my IRL experience with them showed me that many have as much, if not more hatred against Communists as they have against Capitalists. That is probably because they equate Communism to Stalinism. There are Anarchist ideologies who do not fall into this trap, one of which is Anarcho-Communism which is very similar to my own thinking)), because of the misunderstanding of how Marxists try to achieve Communism, they consider them hostile. The two opposing camps in the case, simply talk past each other, exchanging more insults than ideas and stabbing each other in the back more than lending a hand.

But back to our original subject. I do not expect to last much more in the socialist reddit. Bannination threats have already been implied and the willingness to do the act admitted, so I’m obviously on a tight rope for speaking my mind and daring to argue my position. Because of this, I decided to start my own subreddit where people like me, who value conversation and don’t fear opposing viewpoints, can meet.

If you’re tired of being bullied for not being a “true socialist” and prefer intelligent discussions over insultfests, hopefully you will consider joining me at Libertarian Socialism. It’s up to us to make it what the admins of Socialism /r/ won’t let happen.

That does not mean I’m quitting socialism /r/ just yet, but It’d be nice to have a conversation without the Marxist purists insulting everyone and then calling them whiners for pointing that out. Dogma and inability to consider progressive ideas are a recipe for stagnation and if that is what is necessary to be considered a Marxist, then I’m certainly not a Marxist.

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