Free Speech Debate

Thirteen languages. Ten principles. One conversation.

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1We – all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.»
2We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.»
3We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.»
4We speak openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.»
5We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.»
6We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.»
7We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.»
8We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as is in the public interest.»
9We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.»
10We must be free to challenge all limits to freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality and the protection of intellectual property.»

What’s missing?

Is there a vital area we have not addressed? A principle 11? An illuminating case study? Read other people's suggestions and add your own here. Or start the debate in your own language.

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Suggest a principle

We've left this slot for an 11th principle entirely open to debate. Suggest areas and ideas here. Read and comment on proposals made by others.

(Photo by hashmil under a Creative Commons Attribution-only licence)
(Photo by hashmil under a Creative Commons Attribution-only licence)

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Published on: February 24, 2012 | 118 Comments

Comments (118)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. johnq1 says:

    Public authorities must disclose all expenditures, work hours, benefits and remuneration as incurred by its employees and agents concerning action taken against private individuals in the name of the public interest, national security, and the like.

  2. Richard Hill says:

    Our personal identity remains ours and, while we support the freedom of others to express ideas freely, we are the legal arbiters of our own story and possess the right to have the last word on our identiy and reputation.

  3. Dr James Mackay says:

    Content creators have the right to restrict the use of work they have created, through the implementation and enforcement of copyright laws.

    • TinaL says:

      I agree with Dr James Mackay, the content creators should have the right to restrict the use/free access to their work. The copyrights need to be protected.

      • Alan Hertz says:

        The protection of copyright must be balanced, mustn’t it, against the benefits of free and open access to information? Not to qualify “the right to restrict” seems very dangerous. “Intellectual property” is not a concept that should go unchallenged, especially in a forum devoted to freedom of speech and information.

  4. Richard Camp says:

    Free speech and expression is an essential an unquestionable component of civilised society, however it must also be used responsibly. Freedom of expression which puts another life in danger cannot be considered responsible. However such danger should be obviously apparent. A suggestion would be “restrictions on freedom of speech or expression can only be justified if there is a clear and obvious danger arising to one or more individuals as a result of such freedom of expression”. The media blackouts regarding royal missions to certain territories would be good examples of this.

    • Jack says:

      What if you are in a cinema and someone shouts “FIRE!” What do you do? You stay where you are! You wait until someone of authority appears. You do not want to get trampled to death in the stampede of mindless idiots who panic. If no official appears within a few seconds, YOU get up and shout as loud as you can: “STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” People will invariably obey a voice of authority.

      • Jack says:

        Correction! Not “within a few seconds” but immediately, within nanoseconds. No time to lose.
        Such a person is bent on making trouble and should be prosecuted. So there are restrictions on freedom of expression. I was concerned with preventing tragedy.

  5. dscharf says:

    Reasonable care should be taken not to misrepresent the views held by other people or bodies and to provide equivalent space and opportunity for a ‘right of reply’.

  6. Essoulami says:

    The right to own or share ownership of any medium through which we seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

  7. Dimitrios Chatzifoteinos says:

    About principle No5 “We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge”, I think that the term “knowledge” should be clarified. Is it referring to scientific or common knowledge? Is knowledge subject to debate? Stuff like that.

    About principle No6 “We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation”, I think it should be further explained and explicitly noted the meaning of “accept” (how, towards whom etc.)

  8. Abdul Muqtadir Abbasi says:

    Your suggestion: We need to define freedom of speech and approve with the consent of majority of human race.

    We need to make sure that physical, social and mental well being of every person is maintained along with the freedom of speech.

  9. Mark Debb Teroy says:

    We are a free citizen of a free and modern world. But our freedom ends when the rights of others starts.

  10. Brazen Bantam says:

    The question is ‘Who decides’ ? The man on the Clapham Omnibus seems to be the best answer. They are I believe the closest to being incorruptible as one can envisage. They have no links that could influence their opinions but even they are vulnerable to external pressures but their self respect and the application of vigilant policing should counter that but how do we ensure vigilant policing?

  11. cschietr says:

    In exercising our right to free expression, we will strive always to make clear the distinction between fact and opinion.

  12. cschietr says:

    How about: “In exercising our right to free expression, we will strive to distinguish facts from opinions”, or, for Guardian’s readers, C P Scott Principle.

    As for restricting the use of creative work, it seems to me more a question of property rights than a principle of free expression…

  13. BrianLParkinson says:

    People should be able to criticise others in respect to beliefs and statements but not in relation to items that are intrinsic to the person, for instance colour of skin, height, disability.
    Forgive me if I have borrowed from thoughts of A C Grayling in this comment.

  14. Arnoldo Kraus says:

    Free spech is impossible if basic needs -food, water, health- are scant or inexistent. Same situation is if no justice or liberty is accesible. Maybe, the majority of the world population, lives in this situation.

  15. SONIA says:

    As an extension to p2,
    we resolve to defend the truth.

    I vote for all 10 principles but fear I may have pressed the wrong button. Please adjust the record!

    You may have a typo in the Terms and Conditions
    No.10: ‘University is not reliable’ – should that not read ‘responsible’?

  16. Terence Johnson says:

    I think these principles need to say something about countering misrepresentation, both of people and of science.

    These are two major issues that are undermining legitimate debate, and might appear as an extension to 7 or elsewhere in the principles set out.

    We must not tolerate the use of selective out-of-context quotations to defame a person or believe system – a tactic often employed in personal and political attacks.

    We also need to carefully consider how to allow challenges to orthodoxy without conceding the legitimacy of scientific method or rational debate. The vitriol of the evolution “debate” in the USA, for example, should be condemned by scientists and theologians alike. Meanwhile, many scientists complain that it is hard to get “disruptive” research funded, let alone published.

  17. Jack Dixon says:

    Your ten proposed principles are couched in a very vague language.
    For example, in:
    1) what does “must be free” mean? and what “frontiers”?
    2) define “illegitimate encroachments”
    3) I see no necessary connection between “diverse media” and “political life”
    4) what “kinds of human difference(s) ?
    5) name the “public interest”.
    These principles can be reduced and simplified.
    Now, what of this?
    I do not believe that someone who shouts “FIRE!” in a cinema should be lynched or condemned. He is not responsible for the herd mentality of people who panic and kill themselves and others. I am not responsible for the unconsidered acts of others.

  18. David Giles says:

    Thank you for doing this. One thing that I have noticed is that unmoderated comments even on entirely benign and inspiring websites like TED.com have a tendency to give unenlightened, angry individuals an opportunity to publish perfectly vile, frequently incoherent personal invective. It seems we all need an adult in the room! So, I laud your requirement for courtesy. The criticism I would make of the proposal so far is there needs to be a definition of what the public interest is – the commercial interests of media barons have caused them to claim that there is public interest in entirely egregious intrusions into the private lives of public (and not so public) figures. So, a wise definition of the public interest would be a great addition. Sincerely, David Giles (writer, Oriel 1979)

  19. Venitis says:

    Dumping products on a foreign country is illegal. Democracy is a failed product. Dumping democracy on a foreign country is an illegal, stupid, uncivil, and provocative act.

  20. Jack says:

    Suggested Principle:
    Any person in an institution of education who wilfully denies to another his or her right to freedom of expression or right of reply should be required to debate his or her views in public; and if s/he persists in that denial, s/he should be charged with an offence against that institution’s principles and, if found culpable, discharged.

  21. Jack says:

    I propose that the ten posted principles can be reduced to five, as follows:
    1. Everyone is free to exchange information and ideas throughout the world by all peaceable means. (This combines the present 1 and 2.)
    2. All differences of opinion are to be expressed openly, freely and civilly. (= no. 4)
    3. No topic or idea, no dogma or belief, howsoever controversial, is debarred from free and open debate and examination. (= no. 5)
    4. All forms of private and public communication are essential to a full and free participation in political debate and action. (= no. 3)
    5. All limits to intellectual freedom sought by public authorities are to be challenged. (= no. 10)

    P.S. I do not see the need or relevance of nos. 6, 7, 8, and 9.)

  22. David Ripley says:

    As an 11th Principle, I was toying with the idea of something along the lines of “we should think clearly and reasonably before expressing our ideas”. I think that’s true, but … that’s more like advice for creating a constructive debate (see comments posted on 23, 28 and 30 January) – whereas what this site is aimed at promoting is a more all-embracing principle, which includes the right to say stupid things ! Otherwise, we would end up reserving the right to free speech for statements and ideas which we think are ‘reasonable’, ‘well-argued’, and so on, with all the problems that would be involved in defining what those words mean.

    I note that the 10 Principles fall into two broad categories: Access to Ideas (1, 2, 3, 5 and 10), and Personal Impact of Ideas (4, 6, 7, 8 and 9) – in other words, the necessary price of the widest possible Access is care about Personal Impact.

  23. timothygartonash says:

    Thank you all for these helpful and interesting suggestions.

    @James Mackay and @TinaL: I think we also feel that there is a large area for interesting debate about copyright and intellectual property more generally. We should be doing an event soon on ACTA, and you may be interested to see (though may not agree with) what Jimmy Wales said at our Oxford launch. http://freespeechdebate.com/en/media/free-speech-debate-launch-with-jimmy-wales/

    @Abdul Muqtadir Abbasi: thank you very much for this thought. But how would we move towards “the consent of the majority of the human race”?

    @cschietr: once again, the question of intellectual property rights raises its head.

    @Terence Johnson and @Jack Dixon: Thank you for all these comments on the drafting of the principles. We are collecting these to look at possibilities of rewording and revision. We are also looking to provide another place on the site for general discussion of the whole set of principles.

  24. victoria says:

    Freedom..freedom..freedom…Referendums, freedom of speech…international agreement on releasing nations if that is their populations will. I come from a land who is still amazingly repressed, though no one believes it. In this modern Europe, Spain is stil hundred of years ahead of being tolerant or democratic and is pushing hard to erradicate any sign of our beautiful millenari Catalan culture. So that is what I’d like for this world: to be mature enough to listen and accept differences, and the RIGHT of nations, to become what they have been, since the begining of time. We have more than 6 millions catalan speakers, and still not recognised in the E.U. Anything related to Freedom is here..a fantasy.

  25. Free speech should be meaningful, informed and informative – debate that distorts or misleads benefits nobody. Wherever possible therefore, we should be explicit about the sources of our facts and opinions, so that others can properly scrutinise them.

  26. laurencel says:

    All of the principles sound good in the abstract, but at least 4 of them require a lot more thought and refinement:

    No.2–defining what is legitimate and illegitmate encroachment is the biggest problem. National security, privacy, prejudice to criminal trials and smearing reputation are at least four contentions areas where SOME restricitions are legitimate–usually not as widely as governments claim but they cannot just be rejected outright. And it will require a lot of work, and may even be impossible to define the proper limits of these in the abstract, in advance of a particular conflict
    No. 8–privacy is one of the main difficulties, as mentioned above
    No. 2–What the hell is civility–question put with tongue firmly in cheek, but policing language is a real difficulty.
    No. 9–countering slurs effectively may mean giving people power of access to the source of the slur, in order to achieve equal circulation of the rebuttal. That will require some sort of state regulation, with all the dangers that implies.
    These are just preliminary comments–a lot more could be said. We have a hard road to travel

  27. annemarie_detlef says:

    As long as there are persons or groups rendered without agency due to their social status, the legal right to free speech can never be fully obtained. Freedom of expression thus requires equal institutional representation of all social groups.

  28. Janet Haney says:

    11. to eschew all previous principles, and accept that it is only by acknowledging and dealing with our own inner turmoils and emotional tangles that we shall be able to think clearly and speak well. Perhaps then will we be able to earn the privilege of ‘free speech’.

  29. gowhar2 says:

    Creation of whistler blowers act Abolition of Public Safety acts across the globe . Whenever and individual raises his voice against the unfair practices of the government he is send behind the bars with a label that he is threat to the peace of society , such acts are created for the safe guard of politicians and bureaucrats who do not want to see any raising voice against them .
    We all see these people ruining down our democracy but with the fair of unfortunate repercussions we stay mum . Had their been a safe guard for those people who dare to express it would have certainly bought revolution.

  30. GalalQenawi says:

    Offense is taken and not given; we should not refrain from speaking our mind because we are worried of offending someone

  31. Free4All says:

    These comments expose the idealistic agenda of the Free Speech Debate mission to the realities of application. The activity remains totally wortwhile and enlightening; yet it remains just that–an activity.
    But we are all pretty new at this process of finding our way to the very meaning of internet information. At some point there will arrive the “adult in the room” to whom Davis Giles made reference in his Feb. 8, 2012 post. It will all sort out. Patience.

  32. Your introductory remark “We are neighbours…” says a lot about the way the information-flow in the global society of today must flow.

    If we are all members of a neighbourhood, then why should there be national insterests that distinguish one from the other? And if, in this neighbourhood, everyone is an equal stakeholder in all decisions taken everywhere, then why should there not be complete transparency in decision-making?

    A fundamental solution to all problems, in my opinion, is to move towards a situation where all decisions that affect the masses should be taken under the gaze of a media available to the public. Let us say, the discussion for taking a decision is telecast live and the listeners are able to give their reactions in real time. May sound Utopian, but perhaps some day this will be a reality and an inviolable principle.

    Can this Forum play a role in expediting such a scenario?

  33. Stogumber says:

    11th Principle:

    We at first apply our principles to ourselves, our in-groups and our own countries, before we intervene in out-groups or foreign countries. Thus, we can be seen as sincere and trustworthy.

  34. Andrew says:

    Freedom of expression is based upon humanity, not politics, with true freedom of expression ideas could be shared freely, experiences etc and it would bring humanity together again, in all from of life, science, cultural etc, and would remove all borders and boundaries between people and then we would have a true society where people live in harmony with each other.Politics only seems to divide people in modern times and separate them from one another leaving unresolved differences (for the individual) which leads to fear of others an and then the ignorance of the individual.

    The point is, freedom of expression should unite us, rather than cause more bloodshed.

  35. Elvin Aliyev says:

    Living in the 21st century, surrounded by computers processing trillions of bits in infromation each second around the world, portable internet devices along with other high-end products brought to us by the industrial revolution of the past few hundred years, it is easy to forget that it wasn’t long ago our ancestors lived in a cages of West Africa. Unfortunately, evolution of species is not the same as the evolution of societies. Therefore, despite the fact that I now can now find more information in a single week’s edition of The New York Post than my ancestor would have come accross in the 17th century, biologically we are not different from each other, or the hunter-gatherer of West Africa who 40,000 years ago. And yet here I am, in front of personal computer (an idea one would not have even been able to comprehend a mere 100 years ago) here in London, communicating through this weird network known to us as the “internet” with the 2 billion (potential) readers across the globe who have access to it, discussing what some consider to be the fundamental right of every human being, freedom of speech.
    The point I’m trying to make is that as a whole a human race is not ready for the freedom of speech. Still as irrational, wild and deceiving as we have been 40,000 years ago freedom of speech is an idea that most can’t handle. (consider how prejudiced, ignorant and bloodthirsty some can be)
    Of course I’m not suggesting that freedom of speech should be banned, but rather limited, not in quality but in quantity. No, I’m not talking about imprisonment or punishment for those who dare speak their minds, but rather limiting the most important types of expression (voting on referendums or for government candidates, becoming a journalist/politician/public figure etc.) only to those who can handle it. The selection should not be based on race, ethnicity or any kind of prejudicial basis, but on education. Too many times we see the public opinion swayed easily in the wrong direction by mass media, propaganda and other means that politicians use for personal gain or media conglomerates for ratings/profits (Fox news is currently the most viewed cable channel and has over 17 million subscribers). Unfortunately, majority of us are not as much free-thinkers as we would like to believe and too easily succumb to bangwagon effect or authority (Milgram experiment). Therefore, I firmly believe that the citizens (from an early age, possible middle or high school) should be required to take a class (and pass it) in which they will be taught the basic principles of psychology, human rights, freedom of speech, information literacy and other subjects which are appropriatte in order to receive the permission to take part in the most important aspects of the public life.

    11. (important aspects of) Freedom of speech and expression should only be limited to those capable of handling it.

  36. Sky Talker says:

    In my opinion, your original 10 need a review.

    Until then I believe your 11th should be;

    “We understand that in order to gain the most valuable insight, an objective view must be established. We appreciate that regardless of our efforts, a human bias is inevitable. Therefore we must strive to not shy away from conclusions that seem distasteful, as doing so would deny true, scientific reality.”

  37. Sky Talker says:

    Also “absolute freedom” would mean a total lack of morality. If I were free to kill, then I would feel no moral obligation to preserve life and no moral erosion upon taking it.

    Freedom is not just written in law but is the moral compass of the society at the time. Currently we are free the destroy the earth in any way we see fit, something I strongly disagree with. However we can never be truly free as our actions will forever remain within the parameters of morality and circumstance which are largely influenced by factors out of our control, thankfully.

  38. Perreaoult says:

    http://theeclouds.com/framed

    This work of art was created as a commentary on the 9/11, It is a real thing that exist because of a shared human experience. but it remains largely unknown and UN-discussed because we artist and galleries out of fear of violence have censored ourselves.

    What would happen if laws were put in place to control our thinking and speech?

    We would I think become slaves to the will of others.

    the 11th principle must then be freedom of use.
    “The use purchasable objects”
    If I can Buy a book, then I can do with it what I please, to achieve my ends of free speech.
    I may burn a flag to make art or protest
    If I can buy it and it is mass produced, not some rare one of a kind thing, then it is consumable material.

    If it cannot be purchased, if each copy is free of profit and proved to be a relic then such use would be destruction of another’s free speech.

    • Sky Talker says:

      I’m sorry; rarely does a comment force my hand, but this….

      Do you not see the cash-centric, consumerist view you have of the universe? Limiting the freedoms of expression to what can be purchased rather than imagined or imparted generally? Do you think it would be better; a world where no-information, no thought or ideal is without its price tag?

      You deem anything that seems “consumable” as perfectly acceptable to make “controversial” statements with as, seeing as its mass produced it will not impede another’s freedom to buy one themselves and do whatever they like with it. Well seeing as its mass produced it will have little to no impact on the world at large and will only affect your own personal sphere of existence. The greatest protests of history have left vast swathes of priceless historical documents destroyed and lost forever as they embodied the very things that the people were fighting against. Do you think that this should, with Hein sight, be condemned? That the Athenian Revolution of 507 BC, that established the Demos, one of the first democratic systems, should now been seen as a dark chapter in history, in which the ideological and political freedoms of an entire tyrannical class of people were silenced for some new controversial concept?

      Do you honestly believe that the views of today such as your profiteering, money orientated Libertarian ideals will be the pinnacle of what humanity will achieve? That the possibility for development and change is now over and that we must preserve the status-quo, limiting our protests to the mass produced items that have no relevance to history?

      Do you think the Tibetans who self-immolate should be stopped on the grounds that their protest is being destructive to a product that is not easily re-produced? Perhaps it will be permitted when we are able to meet global demand for Tibetans. Maybe when they are an easily acquirable commodity self-immolation will become acceptable and not damaging to the freedoms of the Chinese government to express their own personal views on the way the world should be run.

      Honestly you talk of becoming slaves to the will of others; rarely do I get such a clear example of the modern equivalent. A mind shackled in logic; where freedom of expression and thought are limited to the fiscal ability of the individual, where the fundamental principles of right and wrong are dependant on cost and availability, where concepts such as “consumer” have transformed themselves, from business terms to humanities head count.

      But you are not alone; you are the majority and I the minority. So in democratic terms you are right and I am wrong and according to you, in order for myself to be heard I should go out and buy huge amounts of economic and business books, setting fire to them on my private property during the hours of 8am and 9:30pm.

  39. Perreaoult says:

    I believe that you misunderstood my point.

    IF I am creating art, “which is the speech”

    Then any material that I use to make that art, such as a Bible, Quran or Torah.

    Or any other material held to be special.

    Is still in the purview of use for the purpose of that speech-when such material is available buy means of purchase.

    I do not mean that you should be a consumer or that the power to buy things legitimizes.

    I intend that mass produced objects are not endowed with magic, such that the destruction of such are reason to kill people.

    The American flag burns but America still exist.

    The twin towers where destroyed and in the destruction where many documents. Such as copies of the Bible, Quran and the Torah. But these holy books have in truth not been harmed.

    I am not talking of the ability to buy things.

    I am talking about the freedom to use things to create art,
    and the right to do so with out the threat of death or punishment.

    Your response is different subject.

  40. Sky Talker says:

    I believe you are right, i do not fully understand.

    Are you are suggesting that mass produced items used in controversial art, because of their numerous copies and availability, are less likely to cause upset amongst the community in which they are held to be special?

    I must point out that desecration of either of the two most widely spread, mass produced books in human history will still get you killed in many parts of the world, your country included.

    You said that the burning of the American flag has no impact on America itself. Well many would disagree. Many would see it as a physical assault on American ideals or on the nation itself. Depending on who is doing the burning it could be see as an act of war, or even an act of solidarity to others.

    I could think of numerous places very close to home that, upon entering with nothing more than myself and a mass produced symbol of culture or identity, I could get lynched as a result of my actions. The fact that it is widely available does not increase the levels of acceptance to destroying or abusing the item and so i find it difficult to follow your logic.

    Please explain.

    • Perreaoult says:

      Freedom of Speech video
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GFzoOwSKRA

      Years ago when some guy decided to burn the American flag here in the United States, I thought to myself, “why make such a fuss over this guy burning the flag? Why let him have such power over us that we would be slaves to our anger and grief at our inability to control this man and stop him from doing this thing?
      Another man, an artist decided to make a work where the flag was placed on the floor of an exhibit. To enter or view the exhibit you had to step on the flag.
      At both of these incidences a great many people expressed dismay, anger, fear, a host of negative emotions resulting from impotence to stop what was perceived as a terrible offence.
      The artist hid their faces, shied away from the cameras and media.
      Why hide if what you communicated was true?
      If you are speaking, it is for a purpose that can be anything. And any concept or concept bearing material that we use can better clarify that speech.
      To speak of faith may require the stirring of the passions of that faith. To speak of patriotism may require the same.
      When that guy burned the American Flag, I said “what difference does it make?
      It is to make of the flag a thing of fire. How can you destroy it? It continues to fly – rising from the ashes impervious and tempered by the flames.
      So too any such copies of religious text or any of the various forms in which a writing exists.
      How can we honestly believe that the maltreatment, neglect, or purposeful destruction of any copy of a thing, Copies numbering in the uncounted millions or billions – can represent a threat to the concepts that they are meant to convey to humanity?
      It is the concepts that are important here and not the temporary vessels in which they find temporary housing.
      Certainly the destruction of a one of a kind artifact is a crime against humanity and that I would concede to be a blasphemy.
      I consider murder to be such.
      But it is not a Blasphemy to question the acts of our peers in this life. Nor can it realistically be a crime to speak of a concept in any medium freely available to us.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Don’t you understand that regardless of what you think about your own art, others will see it as blasphemy. Just because you use mass produced holy books, instead of original copies, doesn’t mean there is a significant reduction in the offence to the particular religion or culture.

        So you can’t complain when people get angry and demand you take the art down. You can complain when you are forced to do so.

        Honestly i thought everyone knew this stuff by now….

  41. Daniel P says:

    Só o debate sobre a liberdade de expressão já mostra como são hipócritas as pessoas que usam de uma liberdade para afirmar que se deve limitar a liberdade de outras pessoas, pois para se debater ou pedir qualquer tipo de censura ou limite para a liberdade de expressão, se usa a liberdade de expressão!

    Para mim o principio número 11 seria ou você aceita qualquer liberdade de expressão ou então tudo que disser sobre o assunto perde credibilidade e será visto como hipocrisia, já que está usando a mesma liberdade para defender a censura a outros, é preciso mostrar a diferença moralmente falando entre as posições nesse debate sobre princípios.

    Eu defendo o direito de gente que defende a censura seja por qual motivo for, pois não posso ou o governo deveria poder censurar a livre expressão pacifica de ninguém, mas que fique claro não dou credibilidade a eles, pois são hipócritas, eu sei que em um mundo governado por pessoas que usam a censura para calar a todos de acordo a sua própria sensibilidade ou interesses, eu sei que nesse mundo eles poderiam não me dar esse mesmo direito de discordar, desde que se sentissem ofendidos ou não conveniente. É preciso ter esse principio moral para guiar o debate.

  42. Rhea says:

    ‘With freedom comes responsibility.’
    We are free to express ourselves and to speak openly but we must be aware of the responsibility our actions entail.

    • Perreaoult says:

      We are free to speak, but we are threatened with harm into muteness.

      Individual speech in a vast planetary society such as ours is as random thoughts fluttering across the mind of a sleeping child.
      Such thoughts may make it into consciousness, but most are lost as fleeting impressions barely remembered at all.

      In our day to day lives we are bombarded with the commercialized speech carried with the agendas of others. We are supplicated to join with and be one with the body of faiths. We are threatened and warned of consequences for revealing our non -conformist thought.

      The responsibility of our actions is manifest.

      For the individual there is no speech that demands censorship aforethought to protect the vastly more powerful expressions of thought that already exist in our societies.
      To have thoughts, to express ideas, is a process we claim to be unique to humanity. To do so is to exercise the another claim of humanity, “the power to choose“.
      It may appear to be such a little thing, the decision to cast an opinion out into the greater society, and such an action may have, as you say entails.

      But what of them, these entails?

      Individuals may have any number of entails as a result of encountering the opinions of another. Individuals have the power to choose to dismiss such speech or to find that they are in agreement with it. Perhaps those who agree had not been able or brave enough to make such speech themselves. What entails could come of this?
      We cannot know what all the consequences could be, but we do know that if we say nothing the consequence for us will be mute.

      • Rhea says:

        To answer this I will use the case of the film representing Islam and Mohammed in a way which was thought offensive by people of Islamic conviction. It’s a 14-minute clip which shows scenes of violence and contains allegations which were found insulting by many people. As a result, protests spread all over the Middle East and North Africa and some of them concluded in bloodshed because many other problems were also unlocked channelling feelings of already existing discontent into a destructive force.

        The creators of the video exercise their freedom to express an opinion. To prohibit this expression would have been a direct breach of their freedom of speech. However, we have to consider, what did the video accomplish?

        Is it a strife for tolerance? No, not really. Does it promote greater understanding? Does it try to explain in a more comprehensible way a concept which is foreign to our mind-set? Does it contribute something to our knowledge of the world? The answer to all these questions is no. So what, then, is the benefit of its dissemination? This is responsibility – of course you are free to express whatever you wish! You have inviolable unrestricted freedom. But you have to be conscious of the outcome.

        ‘With freedom comes responsibility’ is an unwritten principle rather than a rule primarily because one cannot and should not be forced into responsibility – it’s something which everybody should understand for themselves and it’s a matter of personal choice. If you want, you can think of it as a piece of advice.

        P.S. I want to make it clear that what I’ve said above is related to the individual example I was using. No situation can be used as an absolute example from which absolute conclusions are drawn. I’m avoiding generalizations by discussing everything in its proper context – please, don’t think that the opinions I’ve expressed are permanent and don’t change in accordance with the facts! This is another reason why responsibility is an unwritten principle rather than a rule.

  43. Perreaoult says:

    responsibility as a unwritten principle is like saying no don’t even think about it.

    Stop before you begin

    or, what would Jesus do?

    No, no unwritten writs.

    • Rhea says:

      I’m afraid I’m going to be slightly inarticulate about this – blimey!

      I’m not saying ‘don’t think about it’ as I explained in my previous comment; neither am I bringing any kind of religion into the debate. And, I think I expressed myself clearly, I am not talking about writs; there’s a necessary distinction between writs and guidelines.

  44. seppo says:

    We must be free to express ourselves anonymously.

    • Judith Bruhn says:

      Dear Seppo

      this is a very interesting point. Could you tell us why it is necessary to express ourselves anonymously?

    • seppo says:

      I wrote this while in China, transmitted through an encrypted tunnel under the “great firewall” that blocks access to this debate. Perhaps my identity will be discovered by the authorities as a result of some “real names policy” or “geo-ip tracking” or “legal interception” or “key escrow” along the way… I better just keep quiet…

      • Howard Hill says:

        Perhaps you better had, especially if that is all you have to say. You do not know how lucky you are to live in a land where you know you are not free. In England we all think we are free, but we could not be more wrong. We are enslaved from within by the imposition of false knowledge masquerading as truth. And that is an invisible prison that polices itself from within the person, and needs no fancy gadgetry to enslave people.

      • Judith Bruhn says:

        Hi Seppo, yes very true. Thank you for your contribution. I think it is very important to talk about this.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Hi Seppo,

        I worked in a telecoms company for a while and had some chats with security staff. It may worry how many times they pick up the phone to government.

        On a personal note, well done. You are braver than most and i send my respect :-)

        Kind regards,

        Luke

    • mixteco says:

      Even in Western countries, very often, there is no real freedom to express yourself. Maybe, in most Western countries, you can say what you think, but there are very strict limits which are fixed by many “authorities”. Those can be governments, religious leaders, workers unions or respected social institutions such as schools or political movements. When you work under those authorities, you are supposed to adhere to their principles and very often many of those principles are dubious or different to the ones you really profess. And if you dare to brake them or speak out against them, you and your work are doomed! Who can guarantee that you can differ from the authority you are controlled by? To what degree can you do it? Expressing yourself anonymously seems a good solution, but not a satisfying one because in our inner self we want to be honestly recognized by what we really think and feel. Wearing a mask or even having to wear a symbol on our clothes as a sign of agreement with our employers philosophy is felt as a rampant violation of our rights.

      When you work in young people education, the problem is more acute. Let’s suppose you favor same sex marriage but you’re working in a mainstream public middle school with conservative views about this subject. What will happen if you publish a comment in a social site, where you open up your mind and defend same sex marriage, even using the most respectful words? You’ll be fired or at least ostracized. Your work in the school will be at risk and even your colleagues will avoid publicly supporting you.

      And I can tell you of many examples just like that. Freedom of expression is still a long way from achieving. It’s a pity, because I agree it is basic human right, but we must still work hard to open up all those “authorities” which feel it’s its right to impose limits on its employees self expression! In the mean time, we must remain anonymous.

      • Howard Hill says:

        It would be nice if the world were a fantasy land in which all could live happily ever after, and therefore homosexuals could find contentment in society in keeping with who they find themselves to be. But reality is what it is, and your posting conflates a political issue about rights with a scientific issue about the nature of humans themselves. You personalise the question of free access to knowledge, making it into a parochial political question. The only meaningful definition of free speech is one that links free speech to free access to true knowledge of reality as it is, because all other claims to a right to speak freely must be subtended to the truth of what is known about existence, since those who oppose homosexual equality are likely to be doing so on the basis of religious and political attitudes that are false. Conversely, the question for homosexuals to consider is what they are as natural entities, that is to say, why do homosexuals exist ?

        Homosexuals as a class, are no more friends of free speech than any other class of persons. They constitute a distinct category within society and this causes them to have a common concern about their position relative to authority, which means that to them the sublime call for free speech is reduced to the mundane concern over political power, which they want free access to as a class within society, with benefits accruing to the class as a whole, that come from being part of the ruling authority.

        But in terms of free speech as a political ideal in itself, equating to freedom for all, the attainment of full political integration for homosexuals is meaningless. Women get the vote and we eventually have a female prime minister, but she may as well of been a man, her gender changed nothing in terms of relieving oppressive authority, except perhaps making things worse ! Slavery ends and at last there is a black president, but what difference has that made to American culture ? If we had a gay leader that would change nothing in general terms either. Last night, Tuesday, 26 November 2013, on BBC 2’s Newsnight, there was a debate about the use of the word ‘gay’ in school playgrounds, as a term of abuse, and how to crack down on such language. Now that is what we can expect of gays in power, same as anyone else in power, a limitation of free expression for all, suited to the demands of empowered gays.

        What no one gives a fig for, is freedom as an abstract concept, except me, but unfortunately I do not constitute a class within society, so I am alone on that one. The reason for this lack of interest in absolute truth is that absolute truth does not give anyone power, and knowledge is a biological phenomenon that serves a biological function wherein truth as an abstract feature of knowledge is meaningless, because it does not deliver a hierarchy of power. Truth is equal to all. Hence as individuals we do not care whether what we know is true, we only care whether what passes for knowledge serves our position in life, in other words whether accepted knowledge connects us to political authority. If it does that then who cares whether it is true or not ?

        At the political level there is still the reality of a maligned homosexual status to concern homosexuals, but this has nothing to do with the principle of free speech, and saying that it does is a device corrupting the idea of free speech to make it serve a political purpose. And that is why knowledge is always false and why we do not have free speech in the first place, as in access to true knowledge of reality as it is, because this ideal is not what language exists to create. Knowledge exists to create political power, and homosexuals, as a power bloc within society, want their piece of the action. Claiming which is all you mean when you whinge about not having free speech for your cause, or for a cause of others that you wish to attach yourself to as a means of accessing power.

  45. Howard Hill says:

    Your missing principle is due to your failure to link free speech to a requirement for free access to true knowledge of reality, thus :

    We deem free speech to be impossible without free access to true knowledge of reality.

    This principle recognises that the control of knowledge is the basis of political power in all societies ever known to of existed, including all existing societies. As such freedom of expression cannot be separated the requirement for free access to true knowledge of reality.
    It stands to reason that by ‘true knowledge of reality’ in this context, we have in mind any knowledge that is subject to suppression by any means, whether overt and known to everyone, or covert and unknown to society at large. Thus we realise that societies are often run on a pretence of freedom that most people are quite oblivious to, a lack of awareness that does not justify overlooking the necessity of giving voice to this most important principle of free speech. Even if you see no need for this principle in terms of present social conditions, you cannot deny its importance in terms of defining the conditions for a truly free society.

  46. Rhea says:

    I’m sorry, Seppo, I did not realise that you were referring to a specific situation. I thought that you were talking about general anonymity. It is a very interesting point you are making and I fully agree with you on it.

  47. Sky Talker says:

    Know that we are and never will be free

    • Sky Talker says:

      oops…

      Know that we are not and never will be free

      • Howard Hill says:

        So what is this, profundity or obscurity ? No matter, in keeping with your refrain I will offer─ ‘We’ do not exist, so ‘freedom’ is meaningless.

        But on a more serious note, because I hate being obscure. The idea of freedom does need a frame of reference, so that I have settled on the idea that freedom must judged in terms of free access to true knowledge of reality, which is what I have been trying to say in my offerings thus far. The value of this definition is that it takes the essence of science, which is nature as it is, and makes this the arbiter of personal freedom truly defined. The justification for this approach derives from the fact that politics boils down to a struggle over what is true, so that at one important level at least, nature is the one truly independent arbiter we have.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Ha! Sometimes it is simpler to be short.

        You are right, any idea needs a frame of reference, from time to freedom. But truth does also. One individual’s personal view on what truth is does not equate to objective truth or scientific truth. Nor does it necessarily have any likeness to reality. So to say that “free access to knowledge of reality” is freedom then it begs the question, who is the arbiter of that truth and therefore freedom? You think role models such as Rupert Murdoch are fit for purpose as the holy keepers of truth and morality?

        You say the value of this is that “it takes the essence of science, which is nature as it is”. Very interesting here, would definitely like an explanation of exactly what you think nature is? Would you go for the popularised view of nature as being a force external to our lives or would you go for the actual definition of anything that occurs in the universe?

        If the former then our conversation can stop here as any further point based on the premise that humans are in some way separated from nature is meaningless. On the latter then your assumption that nature is independent is completely false. Nature is as subjective and biased as we are, it is us. Therefore a nuclear holocaust, total suppression of an entire planets population, famine, drought, global warming and any other nasty world event that we seem to be laying the groundwork for is as natural as what bears do in the woods.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Also, you may want to read someones previous comments before making assumptions about them…

  48. Rhea says:

    Dear Howard,

    I am not entirely sure what you mean by ‘truth’ as it is a rather vague term. Do you use ‘truth’ in the sense of ‘realistic and correct account of events’ or in the context of a broader moral issue? Anyway, this is on a side note.

    I also do not think that freedom, the way you describe it, is inconceivable and unattainable. Recently, there was an article published in the ISIS magazine called ‘Traversing Time and Space’ on the topic of miscommunication between the East and West (or rather miscommunication due to a biased misinterpretation on behalf of the Western media).

    According to the Western media in April 2011 China put a ban on TV programmes featuring time travel due to the dangerous liberation of thought they may lead to. According to the author of the article, however, the ‘Time Travel Ban’ was a result of mistranslation – it was intended to discourage a popular show from treating China’s history irreverently. This may be true; it sounds like a probable explanation anyway.

    The author of the article, however, seemed to find nothing wrong with this type of censorship. To take this approach, it seems to me, would mean to miss the point entirely – as long as there is a defined way in which people can talk about a specific subject, there can be no freedom of speech.

    As Marx writes, ‘an investigation of truth which continually has its eyes fixed on this third element [“the censorship should not prevent serious and modest investigation of truth”], to which the law gives a legitimate capriciousness, will it not lose sight of the truth? Will I not forget the essence of the matter, if I am obliged to state it in the prescribed form? If modesty is the characteristic feature of the investigation, then it is a sign that truth is feared rather than falsehood.’

    So, before stating that we are enslaved by a faulty notion of freedom, you have to consider that Armstrong and Miller can still dress up as RAF pilots and make fun of Enigma without being censored, condemned or exiled.

    • Howard Hill says:

      Rhea, thank you for your comment. The vagaries of language are a wonder to behold. While I know perfectly well where you are coming from with this idea of truth associated with morality, this association is to me incomprehensible in itself. I only know one meaning for ‘truth’, used in an intellectual context, as opposed to everyday expression, and that is in relation to science. I speak so freely, not to say loosely, of truth, because we live in the age of truth, where certain truth, in all matters, including, while we are on the subject, moral matters, is so freely available, thanks to science, that we might say it grows on trees. Or we could do, if this fruit were not stolen away by social forces, such as I have already hinted at.

      I describe freedom as requiring free access to true knowledge. This is a definition that requires further elaboration, which I have been offering in the course of making comments. Have I said ‘freedom’ thus defined is inconceivable ? I do consider it to be an ideal, and therefore I suppose I would say it appears inconceivable, but I did not know I had said as much, and I certainly have not discussed why this is so.

      I have to transpose your words when I read them in order to reply to you, this is not your fault in anyway, it is rather because I have worked out an entirely alternative way of thinking about reality, that I mentioned in my last post to Helling. This post explained that there are two alternative pivots of observation to which all existence can be referred, that of the Individual, which is false, and that of the ‘social entity’, which alone can provide true knowledge, and which I indicated is in reality the human superorganism, the true manifestation of the human animal, or human being.
      This means that there is no such thing as an individual, existing as an end in themselves. The consequence of adopting this view leads to a disjunction between what I say, and what everyone else says, because we are interpreting reality from two different, mutually exclusive points of view. This is a linguistic question. The language we use has developed to implant a biased view into us, so that we can operate in accordance with its dictates. So we think in a biased manner quite unconsciously, where we cannot help thinking of ourselves as individuals. But individuality is an illusion, albeit a functional one that is necessary for the human animal, the superorganism that is, to exist. Since I have identified that we ‘persons’ do not exist, I have also realised that language delivers a programme that organises our behaviour so that we form a living being at the level of social organization. This is what makes sense of the otherwise insane ideas of religion, that we evidently cannot live without. I have endeavoured to express a view of reality according to this naturalistic insight into human biological nature. Inevitably this means that when I try to communicate these ideas to others I am forever faced with some difficulty, and hence when someone speaks to me as you have just now, I must first wrestle with what it is you mean, so that I can turn it into what I mean.

      You introduce the idea of a ‘defined way’ of speaking, which seems to mean censorship, though put this loosely it could cover a multitude of sins, most notably the bugbear of free speech that is ‘political correctness’, so called. I do not see how anyone can argue with your condemnation of proscribed modes of speaking. Quoting Marx to me, now there is a thing. I suppose you regard him as an authority in the intellectual field, but this passage leaves me more befuddled than anything, and it does not add anything to what you have stated, I am not interested in anyone’s intellectual status, or lack of it, just give me sense.

      Your final comment is a bit random. I presume you think I have said that we are ‘enslaved to a faulty notion of freedom’, perhaps in my assertion that the Institute has misconceived the idea of free speech, plus my references to enslavement here and there. You qualify this caution by indicating society’s commitment to freedom in a simplistic, comparative case, that of performers ridiculing subjects that states go to immense efforts to get people to treat as deadly serious. I would counter this portrayal of our society’s tolerance by mentioning the case of a reveller caught urinating on a war memorial somewhere in the North West not too long ago, and being much abused by the authorities and the monsters of political correctness, the press, as a consequence. And didn’t some famous person’s son get jailed for attacking a statue in London last year, was it of Churchill ? If criminal damage is done, OK ; if the offence is urinating in a public place, fair enough, maybe. But who says we want war mongering monuments in our streets ? Disposing of used beer on them seems a perfect use for them to me, yet the law attacks this demonstrative expression of free speech with supreme arrogance and intolerance. Though the hapless drunk was even more innocent than this.

      If you want to comprehend what I am saying, you need to focus on this shift of perspective, whereby I seek to reason about all things in a value free manner, when seeking to understand the way things are that is, such that I deny individuality and look to the process of social organisation.

      If you want a specific discussion of freedom, and its possibility, then we must put this ideal in a context. I have done this by saying that first and foremost we must be certain that no vested interests impede our free access to knowledge. This is a major subject, far more deep than these few words suggest. I have indicated that I am an atheist philosopher and I focus on the presence of religion as the supreme enemy of free access to knowledge, but in fact, if we were to begin to discuss this subject further, from a position where we accept this position, we would then begin to enter into the deeper realms of this subject, which would be like taking a journey into the body of the living superorganism that we are in fact part of. Everything we hear about in life, in a delivered format, has hidden meanings behind, this is implicit in what I am saying. All the public messages we are exposed to make the reason for social activity sound positive in a personal sense, being about helping us as individuals. But in reality nothing could be further from the truth, truth as science. The real nature of social actions and there representation is concerned with overarching processes that are occurring continuously, and that we need to be made to accept. In reality these things can be seen as being for our benefit, because we are the living cells of the living being that is driving these processes. The presentation of social action that we are given, is like the fairy story we might tell a child to give it information that it needs, but could not receive in a blunt form. The social body is in other words a kind of paternalistic body, and some societies are especially like this, such as the Swedish, with their well ordered, caring structure.
      But in introducing this topic to you, it is only fair to say, the truths that are revealed by a genuinely scientific model of human existence, are extremely hard to take, expressing them is downright dangerous, and I only do so, when I do, because they are true, in a strictly scientific sense. Never was the caution to “be careful what you wish for”, more well deserved than in relation to the truth of human nature, in its raw and unmodulated form. This does not apply to me, I love the truth, and I hate our false world. But most people would find what I say unbearable, they use to long ago, well before I had a clue what was real and I just used to avow pure rationalism, now I know ‘everything’, what I have to say is truly excruciating.

  49. Sky Talker says:

    Howard you cannot hide your flawed logic, no matter how many words you use. I will just undermine the foundations of your argument and pick some really special examples to unpack as responding to the above manuscript will take up too much time.

    From what i can gather, ultimately your argument depends upon what you call “true knowledge of reality” and “science”. As others have mentioned before “true knowledge of reality” doesn’t exist. Our minds are biased interpreters of the universe therefore empiricism is intrinsically biased also. This means attaining what i would call “objective truth” or “absolute truth”, or what i assume you mean by “true knowledge of reality”, is impossible.

    Science therefore is the means in which we attempt to attain information that, as closely as possible, reflects objective truth. It is not a body of black and white facts or a community of highly informed individuals, it is a process in which a hypothesis is put forward and tested as rigorously as possible against all relevant variables. The conclusions of these tests are nothing more than convincing theories that may go on to become widely held beliefs, usually requiring practical implications to do so. But no matter how deeply entrenched a theory is in the scientific world it can always be proven inaccurate, incomplete or even just plain wrong. For example Newtons laws of motion accurately described the movements of our solar system from the perspective of the earth and thus thoroughly dispelled the previous geocentric beliefs. They provided us with formula to accurately describe the movement of any object around us, even enabling us to imagine the effects of entering space. They seemed perfect, describing the physical world in ways we couldn’t have imagined before, they seemed to describe “absolute truth”. With the discovery of quantum phenomena however, we realised that Newton’s laws are only accurate or “true” relative to the scale of the object therefore demonstrating how his theory is a “relative truth” rather than an “objective truth”. This is the same with all knowledge. What we deem to be scientific fact is not so, it just means we haven’t found anything that disproves it yet.

    So then the notion of science as truth is a misconception, especially when there are incentives involved. Pressure to publish, eagerness to succeed or gain publicity all contribute to falsified findings. Confirmation bias, the process in which we re-enforce our beliefs by altering our memories to fit with our world view, plays a large part in limiting the findings of an experiment, often causing scientists to misinterpret results as it did not fit with what they expected.

    Honestly i could go on for pages but now i just want to pick up on one or two things you said.

    “Now i know everything” – This is quite the statement here. Personally i believe that the limits of human intelligence restrict us from understanding even the slightest of slithers of the universes’ magnificent complexity. All i know is that I know very little and am on a mission to know more. Clearly you have much to teach me.

    Just a final point on a reply to Seppo, suggesting he should keep quiet if he has nothing more to say than suggesting free speech should involve anonymity, then going on to say how lucky he is to live in a country where you know you’re not free. Wow, this really got me. OK why don’t you go over there and hold a protest in Tienanmen square? If you come back you can tell me how much nicer it was to have soldiers fire directly at your head instead of the boring and devilishly subtle police kettling of Britain……

    • Howard Hill says:

      Sky talker, first off, I wrote a reply to your last submission but when I tried to send it I could find no login link below your comment, so I took it you had barred me from replying, you appear to of been upset about my not delving into your past comments, to get to you know you. I did not realise we were here to be social, I thought we were debating free speech.

      Talk about flawed logic, to me your representations lack logic altogether, but it is difficult to say why if I cannot answer them.

      So let me see what you have for me this time, and this time I have checked that a link is there for me so I do not waste my effort conjuring up a response I cannot send.

      You seem contemptuous of words, preferring brevity, as if words were somehow an obfuscation of thoughts. Perhaps you would like a blank sheet ! I will endeavour to be as concise as I can, but my intention is that you may understand what I have in mind, if you have any desire to, my verbiage is not intended to bamboozle you.

      1) The existence of knowledge that is true to reality does not exist ?

      Helling offered a similar argument to yourself, though less emphatic, and at least one response, from Burbidge, recognised the soundness of my insistence that truth does exist. A point of evidence Helling offered concerned the changeability of scientific facts, as in the earth’s relation to the sun. He said there is no such thing as scientific fact as absolute knowledge, because these facts are subject to change. However, this is not how I would look at such an historical process. For me scientific facts are eternal, that is what makes science, when done openly and honestly, true to nature, and nature therefore a supreme authority from which to draw perfect, absolute knowledge of reality. The earth travelled around the sun when authorities said otherwise, and the earth still travels around the sun today, it always has, and always will. Thus scientific facts are eternal and unchanging, all that changes is their representation.
      The real question of interest therefore, concerns the reasons why our representations of scientific facts change. Two general reasons exist. The first reason is that we learn of things that we did not previously know, which always gives us perfect, absolute knowledge of reality, otherwise it gives us nothing. You appear to favour the nothing view, but that is too ridiculous for words to express. To say otherwise strikes me as some varient of absurdity, stretching from the malicious to the plain ignorant. By saying that obtaining ‘objective truth’ is ‘impossible’ you are saying that our knowledge that the earth goes about the sun is not objective, that it is in part a mental aberration. Well, if you want to believe that, you go right ahead. Why you want to subscribe to such nonsense is of interest to me, obviously such attitudes protect other such nonsense, such as belief in God─which is the basis of autocratic power throughout the world─from the advance of true knowledge.

      I know you hate lengthy text, so I will end here, and send this reply. Then I will see what other gems of illogical wisdom, or should that be ‘wit’ ? you have for me.

    • Howard Hill says:

      Why Sky, you have suddenly adopted a whole new persona, rational debate, do you do this often, or have I penetrated your outer defences ?

      You think I do not know all this stuff about the provisionality of science ? I am not in my carrycot, nearer to my coffin.

      The fact that, as I said to Helling, we do not know everything, does not mean that we do not know anything. Your extended discussion of the way minor details can be tweaked for all eternity only extends your first principle, that absolute knowledge cannot exist. To wit, I say again, why on earth would anyone want to say such a thing, given that we live in a world ruled by absolute knowledge, as in religion, that we know is absolute nonsense, taken at face value ?

      When you question science on the basis of corruption, as in ‘incentives’, we are converging towards a potential point of agreement, heaven forbid. But you stop short of the only mark that matters, how tragic ! And on the verge of going ‘on for pages’. If only, the one jewel in this promising exposition might of crept into view, namely the bias of the system delivered by an overwhelming religious authority imbued throughout the whole social fabric. I guess you overlooked that one, it is a shame that I did not think to mention it, to prompt you, as I just know you will recognise it now I draw your attention to it. Or could it be that you think that religion and science are separate enclaves of social power ? Nah, you are no more in your pram than I am in my cot. Such blindness is inconceivable. This is bias, what else can it be ?

      OK, what are these things I have said ?

      “Now I know everything.” Ha ha, that is a teaser isn’t it, true, but still, did I have to say it !
      Of course, I must explain. The key to understanding all things relating to human existence, which is tantamount to understanding all existence, I suggest, since, rather as you yourself say, existence can only ever be known from the proviso of our place in it . . . But that is a little abstruse. No, the simple idea behind this ‘boast’, is that I have discovered something that all science denies exists, I have discovered what human biological nature is, it is corporate. This means that the somatic individual form evolved to bring a living animal, the human superorganism, into being at the level of social organisation. Thus we apply this test to every question about who and what we are. According to this idea, just as we know that we can add any whole number to form a sum, ad infinitum, once we know we can add 2 + 2 and get 4, so we also know everything about humans by knowing that human biological nature is corporate. It has been possible for me to discover this knowledge because the establishment has suppressed it, so that anyone with a sufficient interest in real knowledge living today, is bound to ask why the world is so crazy in terms of knowledge, when all the means of being omnipotent are there, waiting to be used. The answer is the war of religion against science, which slipped your mind when you ran off some factors that might compromise science.

      Finally, if you read the post I sent to Rhea an hour ago, you will see my explanation for the post that upset you. It was bound to upset people, and I would not add insult to injury by aggressively coming back at you on this point, because you are obviously fully immersed in this ‘reality’. At one level this reality is real enough, but my objective is to suggest to people that in actual fact there is a level of significance that reaches beyond this, that you do not know about, which I hinted at in one of my first posts, where I spoke about how people could not give an honest expression of their view of Jimmy Savile prior to the shocking revelations only recently made public.

      The point being, that in reality there is no difference between China and England in essence, as regards freedom. We experience a difference because of our true nature as units of a collective being, which allows us to be organised in this way, and that is good enough for everyday life. If we want to be free from pain, and we are free from pain, then the job is a good’n. But if you actually want to know what is real, which is what I call living in a free world, then you need to go beyond this limitation of immediate experience. And in case you think this contrast is a play on words that can have no real implications for how we live, think again.

  50. Rhea says:

    Dear Howard,

    Thank you! I can say that after reading some of your other comments, I understand better what you mean. ‘An access to truth’ in the context of the free speech debate means to you ‘an access to correct and unbiased information which is transmitted as pure knowledge and not as a medium for somebody else’s interest’. Or am I misunderstanding you again?

    I am afraid, however, that I agree with Sky Talker on this point. One individual’s view on truth does not make this truth absolute. Besides, we can rarely talk about laboratory-clean conditions in real life, such as scientifically truthful information. No speech can be absolutely bias-free. Even when I am talking to you now, I am using a certain set of examples by obtaining from them the information I need to defend my position. I am also writing from the perspective of my own view on the matter and, even if I were to write this in a reporting style, my text would still be imprinted with my own opinion. The only way to keep myself from doing this is by creating a compilation of solid facts and leaving you to interpret them for yourself. This, however, is not how language works – think of the whole misunderstanding which would occur if we were to argue with each other in this manner – and it’s not journalism. The journalist has to explain the facts, as well as state them. A journalist, mind you, is also subordinate to their sources. Scientifically truthful information (free of partiality), I would say, is hardly feasible in the context of media.

    It also appears that you have misunderstood most of my points but I can see that the fault is entirely mine as I haven’t explained myself properly. Now, on the point of the ‘defined way’ of speaking (which you have linked with the term ‘political correctness’) – you have mistaken my meaning. What you are describing can be summarised like this, ‘set fire to everything and say it’s freedom’.

    The example of a comedy programme is not to be taken in the sense of wanton violence and pointless mockery for the sake of it. What I was trying to argue is that through the enormous efforts of journalists, leaders, comedians, fighters for freedom, equality and so on we are now enjoying the privilege of being able to speak about certain issues freely. For example, we can proclaim ourselves atheists and discuss it – most of the times, the people we argue with have enough sense to employ reasonable arguments and lead a rational debate. Which is a fairly new state of independence.

    We can also take the case of militant intolerance. I shan’t quote Marx again, fear not, but let’s say we look at ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ – it was written in the 50s (which is, in fact, a very short while ago) and homosexuality is still considered a taboo topic. Today we can talk about all of this in everyday conversations, National Geographic can publish pictures of unmarried couples in bed without fear of upsetting its readers and, in general, much of the censorship has been trimmed down. In case you are wondering (and justly, probably) what I am going on about, bear with me – I mean that, when you say ‘In England we think we are free, but we couldn’t be more wrong’ you are not taking into account that the fight for free speech has already won some major battles. This is not to say that things are ideal as they are and there’s no room for improvement. Anyhow, the contrast between some societies’ view on revered ‘off limits’ history (or whatever, for that matter) and our concept of free discussion was intended to show that we are gradually getting there.

  51. Howard Hill says:

    Bias Rhea is definitely the key to this discussion, you make much of it yourself in your reply. In so far as it goes, your description of my position indicates that you understand me perfectly. Only this does not go far enough. I keep getting a similar response from people, to the effect that I am setting myself up as the voice of supreme authority when I assert that nature is the supreme authority, how odd is that ! Why would anyone, let alone everyone, respond in this way ?

    To me this response is just more of the same reactionary defence of the status quo vested in religion, which first and foremost must deny any other authority than that which is sanctioned by political power. Which power is always religious, as long as religion exists it can be no other. As I have already indicated in one post, it is impossible for religion and science, or truth of reality, to exist in the same society at the same time. Instinctively defending the establishment in this way is not malicious, it is programmed into us.

    In so far as this is a debate about authority, it is not about me as ruler of the world versus the world, how on earth could you imagine that I think this ? I am calling for science to be the sole source of authority, and I am making this call because there is no science in our society today, we live in an absolute theocracy. A world in which there is no free access to knowledge, therefore no freedom of thought, and hence no free speech. How can you, Rhea, tell us what you think about being a cellular unit of a superorganism, just as your cousin the termite is, when you have no idea that this is what you are ?

    Thus, the real core of my argument concerns the control of knowledge, which I say is as subject to subversion by political power in our world, as ever it was in any past world, or in any state on earth today, including our own. Hence I told the person in China that they were lucky to know they were not free. We English are even less free, and this is why you, and all your well meaning kind, blissfully go about your business thinking you are free, when you are not. How can you be free when you do not have free access to knowledge that has been suppressed, and only released in a subverted, safe form ?

    The question is, what are the consequences of this curious state of affairs ? You cannot even begin to contemplate them, because you cannot get a handle on what I am saying to you, and because I am one individual, you dismiss me as a lone free thinker, of no consequence because I have no position of power in the establishment. Doesn’t your instinctive disposition towards me tell you something here ?

    The situation is very tricky, I have been working on this for more than a decade, I know perfectly well what I am talking about, and I know the pitfalls of trying to communicate these ideas to others. It must be said that we are evolved to operate in a submissive way, clearly if we could think more independently than a termite then we could not form a superorganism, and since that is what we evolved to do, as proven by our power of speech, then our existence would be as absurd as a fish that drowns in water. But can I awake your interest in real freedom of expression . . . ? Like hell I can. Which is fortunate, because if I could, then there would be real trouble.

    So, in the above, I express where I am really coming from, I am after all a self styled atheist philosopher. Your discussion in this last text is perfectly fair, if I were coming to this discussion of free speech from the position of an ordinary individual, which is the one you adopt, where the common understanding of social life is taken as the basis of my understanding, I would agree with you entirely. I felt a pang of guilt telling the person speaking from China that they were lucky, I was exploiting their post to make a point of my own. This emotional reaction intuitively acknowledges the points you make, about the comparative position of societies. I would much rather be here than China, for sure ! But, just because we are better off, is no reason why we should be blind to our real condition. You say we could be better off yet, but the example you give concerning freedom of sexual expression is far from anything I have in mind when I speak of free access to true knowledge. However, I am well and truly floored if all I am going to get from people as soon as I open my mouth, is that true, ‘real knowledge’, is not a meaningful idea. Why would anyone say this, it is incredible ?
    That some would say this is obvious, the vast majority even, but what gets me is that there is no one on this planet actually interested in reality. It is self evident that humans are part of nature, therefore we should have a scientific idea somewhere, that acknowledges this fact, but we do not, not the least sniff of one. Likewise, that religion is utter nonsense, is undeniable to any sane person, so we should have some explanation as to why religion exists. Do we ? No, not a one. But I have found the answer why, it is because we are in fact superorganisms. This answer is obvious, it resolves all questions, including those on what homosexuality is and why it comes in for stick, but also goes through periods of rehabilitation. Once we know what the human animal is, there can be no question about human life that is not answerable, in purely scientific terms. So, wouldn’t that be something the academic establishment would grasp with both hands ? You think ! In your dreams. I could rattle on indefinitely, but this is a discussion forum, and I have already had complaints about the length of my spiel, so I’ll knock it off.

  52. seppo says:

    I have removed my physical body outside the geographic borders of China and since it is now located within the borders of the UK, I assume that I am permitted to express opinions relating to freedom of expression? So here’s how it looks to me:

    Human beings have evolved naturally subject to the constraints of our physical universe and biological competition/co-evolution. The emergence of language, however, is producing disruptive consequences. We have arrived at a tipping point: If we get this “right” humans will transition to a post-biological form and continue to evolve “unnaturally” at an accelerated rate. If we get this “wrong” our offspring are on a downward spiral of misery.

    We reject the use of language as a tool of oppression and exploitation. Instead we speak and listen to each other to realize our full potential.

    • Howard Hill says:

      Hi Seppo, nice to hear from you. These are fine sentiments, as standard expressions of our Western culture I am as attuned to them as you are. Nonetheless both you, and I, are entirely mistaken about this, something we bear no responsibility for, as we cannot know what no one has told us, and conversely, we can only know what we have been told. What you are stating is an expression of belief, not factual knowledge. You say :

      “I assume that I am permitted to express opinions relating to freedom of expression ?”

      Then you proceed to express an opinion that has been programmed into you, this is not ‘your’ view of reality, it is Western liberal culture’s view, one which I support wholeheartedly, but that does not make me correct to do so. Your supporting scientific ‘fact’ is stated thus :

      “subject to the constraints of our physical universe and biological competition/co-evolution”

      Again, this is not the fruit of your life’s labour, it is the product of generations, and it is false, corrupted by the necessity of religion’s survival. If science were not corrupt then religion could not exist, as you can tell from the correct scientific account I speak of when I say that the human animal is a superorganism, and individuals do not exist as ends in themselves, which, if accepted by the establishment would make religion impossible to sustain, just as the heliocentric view of reality could not be tolerated in the ancient world, and led to the perversion of astronomy by Ptolemy, in order to aid in the suppression true science.

      I realise that this view is far from appealing, but my own belief is that we must start from the truth before we can move forward. Aside from this I am wholly at one with you and Sky Talker in denouncing the tragic destruction of our world, but according to my correct scientific analysis this is not our fault, this is due to the fact that we are subject to the forces of unbridled nature, as they express themselves through our existence. Therefore, if we could get a grip on real knowledge, which is what I am offering you, then we might consider if it is possible to influence these hitherto uncontrollable forces that wag us like a dog’s tail. Unfortunately, knowing everything, or enough, about the meaning of this scientific model of human nature, I hold out no more hope of our being able to overcome nature on this point than we are able to prevent the certain end to life on earth due to the sun’s cycle of decay.

      • seppo says:

        Thanks Howard – I recognize that as components of a genetic, ecological, social and cultural superorganism we are, largely unconsciously, subject to “programmed” constraints on thought and action. As one would expect, over time the superorganism has incorporated defensive mechanisms – yet as you point out, it is amazing how pervasive and persistent the old patterns (such as religions for instance) are.

        As a scientist my acceptance of the validity of any theory is always subject to experimental verification and even then only provisional, as new observations and more accurate, more general and simpler theories may replace them at any time. I carry out experiments and attempt to formulate theories to explain the results I observe. This is both exciting and frustrating as our current understanding of nature (ourselves) is very very primitive.

        I choose to feel optimistic that we can understand our predicament better and pursue new “unprogrammed” paths. Freedom of access to knowledge and freedom of expression are critical enablers for this to happen.

    • Howard Hill says:

      I can see no link for a reply below your last comment, so I will use the previous one.

      Thank for the considered reply Seppo. This is not the forum for an extended discussion of my alternative ideas stemming from my personal insight into human nature as being corporate, although this insight is wrapped up with the core idea of ‘free speech’ and it would be nice to say something about it.

      Let me take a step back, towards the core subject of this forum, that of free speech. As a passionate life long atheist I have finally discovered the reason why religion exists, and what humans are as natural entities. These being the two questions informing my life’s activity. I now know that this knowledge is not available because it has been erased from society, and it is a taboo subject in science, and all academia, most especially in what passes for sociology, the very science where this knowledge should exist, and use to exist in fact. I have filled the void with my own account of what has happened, which rediscovers the suppressed science and goes head to head with the taboos that make this genuine science impossible for anyone to give voice to now.

      In short, my own story, as an Englishman, proves that free speech does not exist in our society. This forum is a typical example of the way that freedom is suppressed in our ‘free world’ by taking possession of an idea, that of free speech, which is subverted by applying a false logic, namely the interpretation of reality from the false pivot of observation that sees the individual as an end in themselves.

      The rule lying underpinning this forum’s idea of free speech is that all those who recognise the right of free speech, should in turn have that right bestowed upon them. But this seeming equanimity is subverted by the unspoken and false assumption of the individual as being the human animal, and thus the true focal point of authority to be upheld.

      Reality is what reality is, as scientific facts are unchanging, so that reality organises human existence according to the imperatives of human nature being corporate, whereby language performs its biological function of generating a social identity from which a social order arises. This social order has a free voice, although it is only an identity, and it is not a statement of truth, it invariably exists as a religion, or in pseudo religious forms, such as Communism or Nazism, and this biological identity always presumes to dictate knowledge. True knowledge is always anathema to this biological identity, and must be controlled, and what a forum like this does is to provide that control in a sophisticated manner, whereby oppression appears in the form of freedom. This is not really perverse, on the contrary this is humans doing what humans evolved to do.

      The practice of a professional scientist involved in experimental work does not define science properly, and it is only made out to do so because this validates the false pivot of observation rooted in the individual. The key lesson here is that there can only be One message, that message can appear in an infinite variety of forms, but all forms must always say the same thing. In our world this sameness is found in the validation of the individual as an end in themselves. Only the religious formula publically contravenes this principle, by claiming to possess people under God, since by doing so it commandeers the power of the superorganism, by making its identity, the religious identity, the identity of the real living human being to which we all belong. By evincing a scientific model of humans based upon this Corporate idea, we steal this privilege away from the identity of the superorganism based on religion, and thus destroy religion, and the superorganism as it exists come to that, and this is why this idea was feared when it was public, and why it has been erased and made subject to a severe taboo.

      So, as stated previously, firstly we must have an understanding of this idea of the alternative pivots of observation of reality. We must know that one is false, and one is true, and both are mutually exclusive of one another. One is best called ‘religion’ and the other best called ‘science’, where we define science as the ‘means by which we know reality’. Under this definition the essence of science is not the discovery of finite details as in true facts, but the synthesis from such facts of all embracing knowledge of reality as it relates to the facts we possess. Thus we do not need to know everything literally, in order to know that we know everything in principle. Science does produce this kind of synthesis of knowledge all the time, but it is not possible to make this attribute of science its key feature without destroying religion, therefore as long as religion exists genuine science cannot be tolerated.

      What we need to understand above all else is that religion developed the science we have today over a period of centuries, with the object of making science safe for religion’s continuance. This was not a conspiracy, except in the sense that any institution is a stabilised form of conspiracy, whereby all servants of the institution, such as a church, university, government, and so on, do their bit as required, so that over time the vital result is achieved, namely that the superorganism lives, because its identity survives.

  53. Sky Talker says:

    Hi Howard,

    Well I think I’ve sussed you out. Either you are playing the devil’s advocate card very strongly as a means to incite heated debate, for whatever reason, or another theory that I will explain later. I think this because debate, the process in which two or more parties discuss ideas in an attempt to form a consensus, is not conducive of our exchange. In the words of Bill Bailey you seem to share a likeness to George Bush in that you will believe the same thing Wednesday as you did Monday, regardless of what happened Tuesday.

    Therefore I have decided, instead of arguing fruitlessly for ever, to attempt to show some very clear examples of where your logic falls down. Hopefully you will at least take a moment to rethink your positions before replying. I also invite you to do the same as I am always cautious of becoming trapped within my own beliefs. Many aspects of this debate have been viewed and discussed by friends of mine, some close, some not. This was to test my logic against that of others to ensure its validity before it is put into the public domain. I am always open to any criticism from any commenter and will take their input into full consideration, often changing my positions as new information or new perspectives come to light. As you can see Howard, I am going to this relatively thoroughly.

    “We live in a world ruled by absolute knowledge, as in religion, that we know is absolute nonsense, taken at face value” – Prove it. There is no proof either way for the existence of God. Clearly as most religions now come in to contradiction with our current scientific understanding we can assume that at least the scripture is false. What we cannot know is whether God, in any shape or form, exists. You cannot prove a negative.

    “Scientific facts are eternal” – No they are not. To demonstrate this here are some previously “known” scientific facts; 1 – The Earth is at the centre of the universe, 2 – Illness is caused by daemons sent by the devil, 3 – The best cure for any ailment is a good old bloodletting. Clearly if scientific facts are eternal then you would still go to the doctors so that they could slit open a vain and let the daemons runs out. The effectiveness of science depends on its ability to change; it’s what makes it different from other belief systems.

    “Nature therefore a supreme authority from which to draw perfect, absolute knowledge of reality.” – Everything is nature, this doesn’t make sense. Anything that happens in the universe is natural therefore “nature as a supreme authority” is a meaningless statement, close enough to a tautology. The universe is the authority of the universe; not saying much.

    “The earth travelled around the sun when authorities said otherwise” – True but who exactly are those authorities? I think you will find that it was the scientific community working from the models of the time provided by Aristotle and Ptolemy. Again if science was absolute we would still believe this.

    “The earth still travels around the sun today, it always has, and always will.” – Not it hasn’t, no it won’t. The universe is roughly 14 billion years old, our earth about 4 billion, formed by the birth of a star, the sun. Eventually it will explode causing all of its orbiting planets to destabilise. Another clear example of how in reality everything we view as a constant or a singular object is in fact is a system in change, sometimes we just don’t live long enough to consider it relevant, so we deem it absolute.

    “We learn of things that we did not previously know, which always gives us perfect, absolute knowledge of reality, otherwise it gives us nothing.” – Again untrue. At CERN they have all but proven the existence of the Higgs-Boson. However all that they can say confidently is that during this experiment a particle of a certain mass and energy is created frequently. Whether or not it is the Higgs and whether or not it has anything to do with gravity is still unknown. No absolute knowledge here just another tiny incremental step towards a new paradigm, just like all of science.

    “The bias of the system delivered by an overwhelming religious authority imbued throughout the whole social fabric” – I understand your point, that religion permeates every aspect of our society, shaping human history like no other force. But did you know that new research is demonstrating that we are hard wired to be religious? It is in our DNA. Now this supports a belief I have had for some years now that religion is essentially an evolutionary tool to stop us from asking too many difficult questions when we should be concentrating on the potential lion sneaking up on us. In my opinion it is essential to the development of intelligent life as it allows our extremely powerful minds to take a break from attempting to understand the world and be content, for a while at least, with our surroundings. It was extremely useful and will remain so for those who do not wish to seriously think about the universe. Understandable really, the universe is a terrifyingly complex place to exist, infinitely so. It was with some effort that I managed to view my total and utter insignificance in a positive way, taking many years to do so. Sometimes, rarely I must admit, I would long for the ability to satisfy my curiosity, to have a definitive answer to life the universe and everything, so I have sympathy for those who choose to believe. Ultimately however I find the answers provided by religion as hollow as 42.

    “I have discovered something that all science denies exists, I have discovered what human biological nature is, it is corporate.” – As I’m sure you’re aware there are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of dedicated, motivated and highly intelligent people working tirelessly in this area. To make a statement so bold as to claim a discovery would, for me and many others at least, require evidence. Could you point me towards your peer reviewed paper or maybe just to some of the raw data that you must have been collecting the last few decades? If not then I think a rephrase to “I believe that” is required. Also “all science denies exists” doesn’t really make sense. As I said before science is a process not a body of facts or a collective of intelligent individuals. To say that science denies something is to imply a singular entity with centralised control and infrastructure. In actual fact “science”, or what I would call experimentation or research, is an extremely haphazard affair, with many competing parties and bitter disagreements. I could not imagine a world where all scientists agreed with each other, I think the universe would end before such a situation arose.

    “just as we know that we can add any whole number to form a sum, ad infinitum, once we know we can add 2 + 2 and get 4, so we also know everything about humans by knowing that human biological nature is corporate.” – OK first off; do you know why we know that 2+2=4? (weirdly looks like divide) It’s because mathematics is a series of tautologies that we have created to define values. They are no reflection on the universe as being absolute as they do not actually exist. We created 2 and we said that 2 of them should equal 4. They are constructs of our minds, nothing more. To apply the same logic to a physical system where the variables in the equation are not absolute is pointless. In reality there are always variables that we do not fully understand so to say that you “know what human biological nature is” would, for me, mean you logged absolutely every molecule of change in the entire body at the exact same time for an entire life time. With that information would be every brainwave, muscle contraction, emotion, all the sense experience, their memories, DNA of course, everything! With all that data you may be able to suggest that this individual’s biological nature is this or that. But then any extrapolation onto the general population would be tenuous. Know is a very strong word when taken in its absolute sense.

    These are but a few of the logical pitfalls of your recent statements. The fact that you have not seen the sometimes very obvious flaws in your thinking has led me to hold a second theory about you, one in which you have formed a very strong belief. The reason I say this is because I have had experience with absolute beliefs and have personally witnessed people deny vast swathes of highly convincing logic in order to sustain their sometimes very unlikely views. For example, the world is flat, the illuminati control everything, God speaks to me and guides me etc.

    Key characteristics of this mental state are; 1 – A sense that there is an “other” and that it is in some way involved in their life. 2 – Everything is absolute, there is no middle ground. 3 – Claims of access to a higher knowledge, usually suppressed by an authority. 4 – A self-orientated perspective where random occurrences or events out of their control are somehow seen as being related to them. 5 – Often anger, distress or boredom when confronted with alternate views, most commonly however humour or nonchalance. 6 – An insistence that their arguments are logical, that the evidence clearly indicates validity rather than the opposite and when confronted by a clear gap in information regarding their theory, an excuse relating to the oppression by the higher power. 7 – Numerous attempts to persuade others to validate their arguments. 8 – Active confirmation bias, searching for positive confirmation rather than passively observing it.

    These external symptoms are the manifestation of an internal cognitive struggle between the beliefs held and the reality which the individual experiences. It is a process known as cognitive dissonance in which an individual attempts to hold two contradictory idea’s in their mind at a single moment in time. The brain acts in a similar way to when being physically assaulted and triggers a fight of flight reaction, either ignoring contrary evidence or refuting it strongly without much thought. The greater the body of evidence that contradicts the belief, the greater the dissonance and therefore the greater the extent the individual rejects logic. For example the holder of the belief that the world was flat had to imply that all space travel was false, all map makers in co-hoots, Google Earth a lie and so on. The extent of the conspiracy to hide the truth, which was created to logically explain the dissonance experienced between belief and reality, was vast and extremely damaging to that individual’s ability to function in society.

    I think that you display many of these key characteristics and I have therefore made a logical leap to the conclusion that you have formed a strong belief regarding “true knowledge of reality”, “nature as an absolute authority” and religion as an overwhelming bias “imbued throughout the whole social fabric”.

    Evidence for this is shown through some previous statements you have made:

    “The point being, that in reality there is no difference between China and England in essence, as regards freedom.” – Clearly an absolute statement that is not valid. As I said, go to China and protest and do the same here, experience the difference for yourself if you have to.

    “I could find no login link below your comment, so I took it you had barred me from replying” – No, I have no control over who can comment, no-one does, clear sign of a self-oriented perspective.

    “It has been possible for me to discover this knowledge because the establishment has suppressed it” – Access to higher knowledge and suppression of an authority.

    “In actual fact there is a level of significance that reaches beyond this, that you do not know about” – Again access to higher knowledge this time with exclusivity therefore giving yourself a status of authority.

    “To me your representations lack logic altogether” – Insistence that argument is logical after demonstration to the contrary, providing no concrete rebuttal.

    This is not an attempt to anger or upset you in anyway, however due to the nature of cognitive dissonance I fear you would have already experienced these emotions. If so please recognise that it is your brain attempting to maintain the status quo, attempting to rationalise the irrational. I am simply attempting to demonstrate the uncertainty in your statements, trying to open your mind to the possibility that you may be wrong.

    I do this because I personally believe that being proven wrong is one of the most beneficial experiences in life, it opens your mind to previously unimaginable depths of knowledge and intrigue. It allows us to move on and keep our minds open, ensuring we don’t get attached to beliefs that are difficult to justify. For the scientific community the ability to take criticism is essential, one must maintain a detachment from their theories so as to stop them experiencing dissonance and ignoring evidence.

    So Howard, please take what I have said into consideration. If you still feel the same about your argument I would like you to then prove it to me. You can do this by; 1 – Demonstrating that science is eternal and unchanging, 2 – Defining nature as a separate entity to humanity, 3 – Defining and fully explaining the “corporate” nature of humans, with evidence. If you can do this you will have made three large strides in the direction of convincing me through logic that your argument is valid. Until these three points are proven however I feel I am unable to progress to any further states of acceptance.

    Of course it goes without saying that anyone who has made it this far is welcome to pick apart my arguments and comment. I have attempted to structure it as clearly as possible and simplify things so that my logic and logical leaps are clearly identifiable.

    So, the logical gauntlet is set, let the most convincing belief be victorious…

    • Howard Hill says:

      Sky Talker, I think it is safe to say that I find communicating with you as frustrating as you evidently feel communicating with me is. I must still thank you for this latest response as you have clearly gone to some trouble to elucidate your thoughts, as prompted by my arguments. In a matter of seconds I have captured a few key statements therein, firstly you think I may be devising arguments insincerely, in the manner of good old fashioned rhetoric ; then you consider the possibility that I suffer from some kind of paranoid derangement. Finally, despite these two derogatory characterisations, you close with a statement of conditions I can meet in order to satisfy you that I am serious, and worth taking seriously. How kind of you, I shall see what I can do.

      But first, let me make a few observations of my own. You appear to be an academic philosopher, the use of a phrase such as ‘devil’s advocate’ is straight from the lexicon of academic, philosophical jargon ; which is not to say it does not have a popular usage. But you also feel motivated to take me on, and speak of a battle of logic.

      I have to tell you I have as little regard for academic philosophy as I do religion, one is as bad as the other. I am forced to call myself a ‘philosopher’ by way of description, much to my annoyance, I try to delineate myself by saying that I am a ‘real philosopher’, in the ancient sense, meaning ‘one who seeks knowledge’. Professional philosophers are not interested in seeking knowledge as I understand it, it is not their place to determine what is true or false in any would be philosopher’s argument. Rather it is their job to analyse and evaluate the coherence and consistency of whatever anyone has offered as a philosophical scheme. This of course has the usual advantage of not discriminating against those who wish to tout errant nonsense in prosecution of autocratic power, as in promoting religion. I suppose that since you are animated by my focus upon truth, and you seek to refute it, this would suggest you are a half-baked academic philosopher.

      Your attempt to validate your position before putting it into a final written form is commendable, sharing with friends is certainly a useful starting point, although by no means any guarantee of escaping your own ingrained bias.

      1) Proving God does not exist.

      This is a delightful subject to begin with, thank you for inviting me to discuss it. I am not certain that this comes under the umbrella of free speech, but if you do not mind, and no one else objects, then neither do I.

      a) No proof either way.

      b) Cannot know whether God exists.

      c) Cannot prove a negative.

      I will set brevity aside, as I do when I write for myself. I recall sitting at the bar of my then local pub over fifteen years ago, and getting into a discussion with a young local who put exactly this point to me in rejection of my hard-line atheism, by saying that I could not prove that God does not exist. I was silent, there was no way I would concede that we could not prove God did not exist, since clearly we could, since clearly God does not exist. But I did not know how to do so. This exchange fixed this question in my mind, as you can see I have no problem bringing it to mind all these years later.

      Not too many years after this I had a moment of inspiration, due to the impress of certain circumstances, that made me see that people were not individuals, but rather they were part of a superorganism. Having spent many years interested in what religion was, and what humans were when viewed scientifically, I set about writing down some ideas applying this new view to the subjects of interest to me. This superorganic idea was evidently correct. The next question had to be what others had said on the subject, I had never heard of this idea before, in any shape or form worth mentioning. But this history is not relevant just now.

      You will appreciate that with these two areas of interest in view when assuming an atheist position, that of religion and human nature, the idea that humans might be a species of superorganic mammal, readily prompts the thought that what people call ‘God’, is in reality the superorganism. This kills two birds with one stone, it tells us what religion is, and what humans are, it is the perfect solution to every possible question. Following up this idea leads to a perfectly consistent, logical series of ideas, the culmination of which is a positive proof that God does not exist. But let us state the principle first :

      We prove that God does not exist, by showing what God is.

      This proof relies upon the fact that words are symbols, and as such they can misrepresent as well as represent. When I first wrote about this over a decade ago I used a favourite old idea of mine that was drawn from reading some eighteenth century leather-bound magazines that I picked up in a nice old book shop on the High St. in Oxford, long since gone. Here I found a discussion of phlogiston, explaining how natural philosophers decided that since some things burnt, such as wood, while others did not, like stone, the active ingredient of fire lay with the substance. A hypothetical substance called ‘phlogiston’ was the answer, as they suggested that some materials were rich in this substance, while others were poor in it, and some bereft of it entirely.

      But then along came Lavoisier, I hope I have recalled the correct scientist, it is a long time since I wrote about this and I am writing from memory. He proved that the deciding factor in whether anything burned or not, was oxygen. Thus Lavoisier proved that phlogiston did not exist by showing what phlogiston was in reality. Simple.

      By the same token, I say that people are unitary elements of a superorganic being, and as such they are immersed in a world full of the consequence of this dramatic relationship, about which they have many ideas to describe its mysterious consequences, that culminate in the idea of a supreme being, that they call ‘God’. By proving that the human animal is a superorganism therefore, we show what God is in reality, and therefore we positively prove that God does not exist.

      You will assert that this superorganic nature has yet to be proven, but the principle is proven to be sound, so that we can indeed prove a negative because of the negative potential of linguistic representation which underpins the nature of knowledge.

      People take their mental programming as real, for which they can hardly be blamed, as it is what we humans are evolved to do. However, if we seek scientific knowledge concerning who and what we are, then we should reach beyond the everyday ideas that people have of reality. As it is, no one does this. Religion projects its idea of God onto the farthest reaches of our conception, making God the creator of the universe. But why should we, especially if we are atheists, take this self professed religious definition as the standard to be met ?

      The fact is that religion is as characteristic of our species as any other aspect of our existence, and as such religion is an absolutely vital part of our world. It is clearly impossible for humanity to exist without religion. I say this with regret, in consideration of the fact that it appears to be true. I am able to make this detached observation because I have accepted that the person is not the human animal, but rather the superorganism is. Thus the question is not how individuals are able to deal with belief in God, but how belief in God relates to the existence of the human superorganism that nature created via the process of biological evolution.

      If we look to the most vociferous voice of atheism present in our world, that of Richard Dawkins, we find a very different, and wholly worthless argument. Dawkins, like you Sky, denies that we can prove that God does not exist. With friends like this atheism needs no enemies. Dawkins adheres to the religious principle that the individual is the human animal, and thus he makes all his ranting worthless, because he explains the existence of religion in a purely dysfunctional sense, which invokes the idea of good and evil so beloved of the religious.

      This is ridiculous. It is a fundamental scientific principle that nothing regular, as opposed to chaotic, can be other than it is. In other words nature has no values. You keep harping on about this yourself, and as such you are promoting one of my central ideas, that everything is part of nature and cannot be otherwise. But we will have to see about this later. The upshot is that Dawkins ceaselessly berates people for being idiotic in their adherence to religious beliefs, and insists that they should express their personal power of rational understanding. What are we to make of such errant stupidity on Dawkins’ part ? It really annoys me, nothing could be better for the church, so to me Dawkins is the Gatekeeper of the Theocracy. Which, however, does not mean that he is deliberately so, as it is normal for us to operate in an unwitting manner.

      I have read no further than your gift denying the possibility of proving God does not exist, but already I have been obliged to knockoff a wedge of material by way of proving to you how you are a victim of the religious programming that afflicts all of us slaves of superorganic being. So I think I should get this to you, and see what your response is to this, for if I have not succeeded in moving you towards my position by way of this easy argument, I am not sure how I should proceed next. Or if anything could move you from your position of sublime ignorance.

      Find fault with this argument if you can, but do not dwell on the question of the superorganism, as you should recognise that this final part of the proof is yet to come, and the general method for proving that God does not exist stands without this final element.

      The key to bridging the difference between us depends upon your ability to shake off the slave identity programming that forces you to think of everything in terms of the individual. This is all about the alternative pivots of observation that allow us to interpret reality as we see it in two radically different, mutually exclusive ways. The first pivot says that the individual is the human animal, this being how all our brains are programmed in the course of learning to speak, so that talking to your friends will not help unless they get with this escape programme too, whereby you all understand that you do not exist, only the superorganism is real, this superorganic reality being the other alternative pivot of observation.

      The underlying basis of this organicist philosophy concerns the nature of language, which you see reflected in the proof that God does not exist. I fear confusing you if I introduce basic ideas too soon, since language actually carries a logic within it, that we call ‘meaning’, which controls how we think. So that in the first stage of explaining myself I must lead people away from their slave programming by introducing them to ideas that are not strictly correct, because they are still expressed in ‘slave tongue’. Thus when I talk about living “in a world ruled by absolute knowledge, as in religion” I am using a political mode of expression that is clearly invalid if in reality we are part of a living animal. But if I were to try and use language appropriate to this idea, we would be in a mess. This in itself shows how language controls us, determining the contents of our consciousness, the substance of our thoughts, and therefore the shape of the world we live in.

      • Sky Talker says:

        LOGIC GAUNTLET RESULTS:
        Initial Conditions: Demonstrate/Define;
        1 – that science is eternal and unchanging
        2 – nature as a separate entity to humanity
        3 – the “corporate” nature of humans, with evidence

        Statistics:
        Challenge arguments addressed: 0%
        Challenge arguments proven: 0%
        Challenge arguments contradicted: 33%
        -Evidence: Argument 2 – “you are promoting one of my central ideas, that everything is part of nature and cannot be otherwise”
        “Sky Talker” text taken into consideration: 10-15%

        RESULTS: FAIL

        Judges Comments:
        As you can see Howard i seriously doubt any amount of rational debate is going to make you change your positions an inch. I would really love to seriously delve into your last comment as you have left me some gems such as ” I must lead people away from their slave programming by introducing them to ideas that are not strictly correct, because they are still expressed in ‘slave tongue” – truly beautiful as a statement to dismantle logically. The deductions from this, Oh! Such joy would it be! But as i said i do not think there is much point at this stage.

        Just so you know my previous thought that you had a belief and not as you say “some kind of paranoid derangement” was not meant to offend you. I have beliefs in which i experience dissonance. For example, i exist, i am alive, faith in empiricism; i believe that in at least some shape or form what i experience resembles reality and i can therefore make deductions from what i perceive through my senses, at least as far as the limitations of the brain will allow. The scientific process; faith in the majority of the scientific community to not lie and cheat and generally feel the same excitement and eagerness to explore and learn as i do.

        I say faith because its definition is belief without knowledge. I do not know explicitly that i exist or that the majority of the scientific community aren’t corrupt, however from what i can gather this seems to be the case. Also i will not actively search for too much evidence that disproves these beliefs because ultimately i think they are more beneficial to my life than not. I think it would be pretty hard to go to work in the morning if you didn’t believe you existed and pretty hard to give a dam about unlocking the secrets of the universe if its all about getting rich and famous.

        When evidence or logic is produced to demonstrate a contradiction to my deeply held beliefs i will have an emotional reaction due to the dissonance. Just as all humans will. For example if someone managed to prove to me that the whole of the scientific community was corrupt and they all just made crap up to get on TV then i would be very very annoyed! It would frustrate me because a large proportion of my world view was challenged, the larger the proportion the greater the amount of dissonance.

        As a result I am extremely defensive of these beliefs, people offering me a pill to exit the matrix will be laughed at. Tales of corruption in scientific circles will be met with a logical justification of trade lobbyists and PR spins. This is just how the mind works, or at least i believe it is, because i have faith in the neurologists that have demonstrated this and in the empirical data i myself experience when talking to people with an absolute belief.

        The fact that i believe in science and therefore cognitive dissonance means i attempt to factor that into my decision making process’, as well as into my logical deductions of arguments posted on a debating site. For example, i know that i will automatically have a bias in favour of the scientific community and i should therefore be more cautious when making judgments about any accusations that may come up.

        This kind of thinking is very useful and i was merely attempting to introduce it to you. So to reiterate, i wasn’t trying to upset you, just trying to explain how the mind is said to function.

        I do very strongly believe you have an absolute belief hence the lack of commitment to reply to your comment. If you were talking about our unconscious decision making process’ instead of “slave identity programming” or religion as a biological evolutionary tool and the tendency within humanity to believe instead of a brainwashing super authority, then we could have a very good conversation. But tales of your conversations in bars or claims of mental slavery to evil forces are just not within my scope of serious contemplation.

        So i willingly and freely admit that i am experiencing a large amount of dissonance when reading your comments, which i have experienced many times. What is lacking this time is serious logic or evidence to back up the claims.

        I attempted to pin you down to a set of conditions so that you could clearly demonstrate any logic you had regarding your theory. However what i received was a total avoidance, not another mention of the “corporate” human and straight into the new “super-organism”. Again if you were talking about a super-organism in terms of various biological functions collaborating to form a single entity, its development over time and the eventual necessity for consciousness, then we would have a good conversation.

        The lack of which meaning I am willingly and knowingly allowing my dissonance to override my natural fascination with everything, and disengage with this “debate”

        It has been an experience Howard. :-)

        P.S FSD, you might want to get a separate segment for this kind of stuff, not sure if it was common before us lot showed up but i definitely know we have strayed away from suggesting principles

      • Howard Hill says:

        Well first Sky you must read what I write, which you have evidently failed to do. I admitted I had not read what you wrote in full, because I first wanted to address the proof that God did not exist, this you have ignored entirely. You want to impose conditions on me determined by your own fixed conceptions, but there is something serously wrong with anyone who is capable of being at ease with the idea of religion, which you evidently are. Still you are the master of the world, people like me have no place in it, because we do not adhere to the rules set down by authority. That is what makes this discussion relevant to a site that pretends to discuss free speech, run by people who have not got the first idea what such a thing would mean, if it could ever exist.

        But I think I agree with you, enough is enough, your brain is set in concrete and dead to open discussion.

  54. Sky Talker says:

    OK Howard, the world is your enemy, i am a slave-bot programmed by religion to defend the status-quo and you a rebellious visionary who’s idea’s and depth of understanding shadow that of Zizek.

    Clearly this forum, only pretending to discuss free speech and run by people who have not got the first idea what such a thing would mean, is graced to have the presence of a such a knowledgeable seer as yourself. Perhaps a Howard page is in order where you are free to express your absolute knowledge without the pesky hindrance of free thought.

    By the way Howard, just like all your comments i read the entire thing multiple times. I do not expect the same courtesy.

    If anyone has followed this exchange, could you please decide who has been the most logical? I would really like to know because if Howard is indeed victorious then the quicker i can set about radically changing my entire world view the better. I doubt many people have got this far but i know that a moderator will have had a look!

    *To moderator – I guess you’re told that you can’t comment, which is ironic on a free speech website, but i think we need a way of having the community judge idea’s and arguments. As i said i am always very cautious of my own beliefs and therefore fully accept that Howard may be correct about everything, so some community verification either way would be extremely useful.*

    • Howard Hill says:

      I was not sure you would reply Sky, but I was certain that if you did you would say that you read all my post thoroughly, so you do not disappoint in this respect. I do not know if you have posted any biographical details, but I am pretty certain from how you write that you are a professional academic, or at least an undergraduate, and so I acknowledge your serious intent.

      For my part, I am a lay person, with no professional status, and while I respect the refined product of professional intellectualism, I am also alienated from it. The consequence is that we adopt different styles of debate. I withdraw any imputation of a malign kind, and I will state precisely what I meant when I stated that you clearly do not read what I post.

      I meant that you hear me, but you do not listen to what I am saying. You are determined to impose your rigorous method of reasoning, as you are trained to do. I am willing to consider the validity of your method, but it is not the most appealing thing, and it is pretty certain that you are following a formula that all other professional academics follow, the product of which I am far too familiar with already.

      I interjected my own method when you sought to impose logical rigour on me, which basically involves me introducing the novel ideas that make me participate in such an exchange, which is because I have something novel to say. My ideas originate with me, without outside roots of any significance, so the personal story of how I came by my ideas is critical to them, though you evidently find such personal anecdote contemptible. You straight off disregard my personal method, as I disregard your authoritative method. As a consequence I characterise you as someone who holds up the establishment line, because that is what I see you doing. I compare myself to your establishment stance as an outsider thwarted by mindless, overbearing power. This to me is an accurate description of what I experience when communicating with you. But this is not all about you, I have spent years trying to figure these things out. You appear like a fine fossil jutting out from a huge cliff face, such that engaging with you is interesting and rewarding, but you tell me nothing new, rather you confirm my impressions gained mostly from reading and observing, and you also test my ability to explain my own ideas, which always fall flat when presented to others, so there is nothing new there either.

      The important things that I have said have not engaged your interest, and are not reflected in your responses. Such as my insistence that the secret of my insight is the discovery of an alternative pivot of observation from which to interpret all reality, the two alternatives being that of the individual versus the superorganism. Where have you shown a genuine consideration of this primary idea ? I do not require you to accept it as valid, but I insist that if we are to communicate then you deal with this idea by rejecting it on valid grounds. Do that and you will finish me, all my ideas will be lost. But you do not even try, you stick to tired old stuff that I can find anywhere. Belief, belief, belief you keep ranting at me. Sod belief, I hold no beliefs, not in the sense you mean, and I certainly am not going to pay heed to anyone who hurls this fossilised refrain at me, it is rubbish. Beliefs are an obscenity, anyone holding beliefs is an enemy of reason, by definition.

      Instead of tackling the fruits of my life’s efforts as I carefully lay them before you, you pick up on the most facile elements of my argument, which any weak minded individual could sniff out, thus you object to me calling you a slave. Well of course you do, I do not blame you, it is a deeply offensive thing to say, anyone would object to it. But I do not just spit it out in a tirade of vacuous abuse. If you had read and followed what I have been saying in all of my postings, you would of picked up a theme in which I speak of the individual as not existing, where the human animal is a superorganism. Within this context the use of the superficially derogatory term ‘slave’ fits with equanimity, and well ordered reason. Reason that you cannot see because your brain is as concreted with authorised ideas as the bones of a fossil infused with silica. You are immune to reason, you presume to know everything by asserting that you know nothing, making you certain of the impossibility of knowing anything out of the ordinary, so that you baulk at someone who has discovered something important, that the ordinary does not include in its diet.

      If you want to try again then it is all right with me. I am here everyday and I write everyday, usually just for myself, I am a real philosopher. It is not necessary to share directly with others, but it is surely more important to communicate directly with others who are willing and able to make an effort to understand and engage, than it is to write for an imaginary audience.

      And now on top of everything you have made me burn my mung beans, I am not a happy bunny. I take back what I said about keeping it live, one loses control.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Hello Howard!

        My life has been “interesting” of late and i must apologise for my tardiness.

        Now, i am extremely flattered by your assumptions to my educational status however i am obliged, being uneasy maintaining an illusion of authority, to demonstrate the contrary. I am young and am yet to go to university, essentially failing A levels I have no qualifications worth mentioning when dealing with matters of logic.

        The fact you have recognised logical fortitude is not because i hold a level of intelligence or knowledge above any other, but simply because my statements were logical and yours were not. You said it yourself, your thoughts are novel idea’s which all come from “your own method” which i take to mean as thinking.

        Now i am willing to forget our previous mishaps and focus on your main concept; the super-organism. As a real philosopher i am sure you’re aware that the point of philosophy is to dissect arguments as if it were surgery, with logic as your scalpel. I expect a fully dissected super-organism on the page, its guts strewn out for all the world to see. Provide this and i will satisfied. (By the way, i actually already agree with you on this so i hope you are able to do it justice :-)

    • Howard Hill says:

      You have not left a rely button to your latest comment so I will use an old one.

      Sky talker, I thought we were done, but welcome back. So, what is it that has brought you back to life ?

      Very good, a young brain, hope of recovery from all that youthful damage courtesy of being moulded into compliance with official dogma, may exist. Youth was not expected, though the little experience I have had in recent years of engaging with people your age proved them to be stubbornly, and determinedly ignorant. A case of delivered knowledge filling the void where real knowledge should go. That is education for you.

      Did I say you were logical ? That seems unlikely, but I’ll not look back, lets move on. I think I was expressing a bias of mine, whereby I thoroughly dislike professional academics, because I see them as priests delivering official ideas, not caring what is true. Which I thought most of the people communicating with me were likely to be, including you. But I am happy to be corrected and to learn something of your true status, though I am not sure that alters very much, if anything. Academics are only more mature victims of the process of acculturation, which creates the blind to lead the blind.

      “My own method”, yes, where were we with this, once again I could check, but I have some vague recollection, and I prefer to move on, the difficulty is not great. As I recall you tried to lock me into a rigid scheme, the sort of thing a professional philosopher would have at their fingertips, as a method of analysing ideas in a controlled manner, and of asserting their elite position as an arbiter of knowledge. My reference to a ‘personal method’ was therefore not diagnostic of my way of reasoning, but rather a direct response to your peculiar disparagement of my use of personal anecdote by way of setting a scene.

      Ah, OK, the superorganism, yes indeed, lets focus upon this all important aspect of all that I have to say, excellent.

      Oops! Just a minute, a point of confusion has interceded before a step could be taken. If you recall, I choose to define myself as a ‘real philosopher’ in order to delineate between myself and academic philosophers. Personally, as an atheist, my first love is science, and in keeping with this position I see no need for any alternative mode of developing knowledge other than science. The persistence of religion obviously use to confound my understanding, and philosophy would normally be classed with philosophy in that respect. However since I discovered the absolute truth for myself, much to my surprise, it follows that there is no science in our world, only an academic structure that preserves religion, as it always has, but now it does this by ensuring that only science that is safe for religion can exist. Which is why the truth lay there for a layman like me to discover. Hence my exclamation on this site denying the existence of freedom of speech in England today. This denial of free expression is not maintained by oppression, but rather by subversion. Not a conspiracy, because there is no such thing as an individual to act as a conspirator, the whole process is a natural, biosocial process, entirely orchestrated by nature, conscious will does not enter the picture.
      If we take the normal idea of a philosopher, then this kind of approach you identify, that of using logic as a tool to organise knowledge, is indeed just what I expect philosophers to do. This is what I thought you were seeking to do, which is I why I was dismissive of your approach and defended my ‘personal method’, by which I simply meant seeking true knowledge without obeying any form of social authority.

      You agree with me that the human animal is a superorganism ! Really ? Alright kiddo, what is it you want ?

      The phrasing of your request smacks of crude organicist reasoning, as it existed in the nineteenth century, expounded in what was called the analogical method, where society was seen as a body by way of analogy. This is a most unsatisfactory approach, and it did its exponents no service. Apart from myself there has never been any full-blown advocate of the idea that humans are superorganisms, although quite a considerable collection of books could be put together bearing on the idea of society as an organism, of one kind or another. If you want a quick overview of the relevant works from the period when this idea was part of public knowledge, there is only one such book in English, that is Organismic Theories of the State by Coker, 1910, you can get a free PDF from the net. There are a few modern works bearing on this topic, but none of any worth.

      This analogical approach, aside from being long since assigned to history, is utterly useless as a scientific model of human nature. Therefore, when asked to set out an anatomical dissection of a human superorganism, how should we approach such a task ?

      Not in the manner you would expect. As it happens, freedom of speech is right at the core of this issue. Because, as I have argued, freedom of speech is interchangeable with free access to knowledge. How can anyone say anything freely, if they are being hindered from knowing that which their ideas relate to, or deprived thereof ? They cannot.

      Thus what I would say to you, is that the fact that humans are superorganisms is a very simple fact, utterly impossible to deny from a scientific point of view, but utterly impossible to know, because if this is known then the biological function of knowledge, which is concerned in the creation of the living form of the human superorganism, is placed in dire jeopardy, meaning that if the truth is known, then society is destroyed. And this is why the idea of the ‘social organism’, so well known in the nineteenth century, is no more.

      So that what you ask of me is not so much about laying out a structural model of the superorganism, as it is concerned with describing what human nature is, and what the implications of that biological nature are. Again, no person has ever lived aside from me who has asserted that humans have a biological nature, it is absolutely forbidden for scientists to assert such thing, for obvious reasons, because if we have a biological nature then we are made subject to the same materialistic laws as any other phenomenon of existence. This taboo is maintained by ensuring that all academics of all kinds, only think of the human animal as the individual, which, being absurd, ridiculous indeed, makes it impossible form anyone to reason sensibly about anything to do with human existence.

      Humans then, are animals, and as animals they have a very distinctive anatomy that tells us, right off the bat, exactly what we are, if we take a detached scientific approach to ourselves. If we look at a bird, a fish, or a horse, each of these familiar creatures displays distinctive anatomical characteristics which link them to their biological nature, as in wings/aerial, fins/aquatic, and four legs/terrestrial. Everyone recognises that one thing, and one thing alone, sets humans apart from all other creatures, mistakenly distinguishes us as it happens, but even so, the possession of speech is our anatomical marker, and what it says is that we are social creatures. Not social in some airy fairy way, but absolutely evolved to be social, as surely as a fish is made to swim. As fish must live in water so humans must equally be entirely submerged in social being, and cannot live otherwise. Humans are as social as social insects like bees and termites, and that is what we are, we are the mammalian equivalent of these creatures. This is blindingly obvious, and utterly impossible not to see and to accept from a scientific point of view, and all because we have language. But there are no people of any kind that have ever accepted this idea, in anything like a full sense, and this is because to do so, well, we have said it already.
      Thus, we know that the human animal is a superorganism, so we must say that human biological nature is Corporate, meaning that our somatic form evolved to form a living animal at the level of social organisation. This social organisation comes from the impress of linguistic force, a natural force that exists within the makeup of our evolved form. People have no choice but to speak, and in speaking they emit a linguistic force that forms a linguistic programme, a language, that binds individuals into a social form that is the being of a superorganism. Over time this linguistic identity programme develops, and as it does so, the social structure that it generates by organising individuals, forms an increasing complex living body. This is why nonsense knowledge rules our world, and no amount of increase in the power of our real knowledge, as in science, can do anything to diminish this, as we know all too well from the world we find ourselves living in today.
      Thus we are all slaves of our linguistic identity, which always takes the form of a religion, whether we know it or not. Every question about human existence can be solved in a perfectly scientific manner by knowing what our biological nature is, nothing can be left as a mystery thereafter, and we have already seen from the responses I have had here, that this is an idea people will not allow to exist, they object in principle, preferring ignorance, of course they do, their personal status is related to the rule of ignorance in the form of religion. This is a brief outline of my position.

  55. khalid says:

    I am going to pick one word from each the rule (1) open – (7) respect – (4) civility – (6) intimidation – (3) well-informed. What type of respect do we give to a believer in rule 7 when we choose to insult his/her beliefs exercising our right to free speech under rule 1. What is the point of civility in Rule 4 when we use insulting open free speech from Rule 1 to hurt the believers we planned to respect in Rule 7. Are we really living in an emotion free world where someone can insult and abuse the other party without invoking an emotional response. Do people still turn the other cheek or it is more of ‘I don’t get mad I get even’. What part of insulting others constitute an essential element of well-informed in Rule 3. So here are a few rules that are missing-
    A. The exercise of free speech should be within the bounds of civility with respect for other communities. A person within a community may have more liberty to comment within that community but the same comments another community can lead to hurt feeling, anger and violence.
    B. Each community has its norms – there are no universal norms that we all automatically share. We have to recognize our differences and recognize the tolerances and sensitivities that make us different. When in Rome do as the Romans do – stay within what is acceptable.
    C. Do no harm! Any speech that is known to lead to violence is tantamount to doing deliberate harm.
    Free speech that makes us less free by creating misunderstanding, ill feelings and violence is no free speech. Because such speech itself is born out of arrogance, disrespect and disregard for others.

    • Alex Helling says:

      Is your A. not already covered by 4, we speak openly and with civility about all types of human difference and C. covered by 6, We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.
      It is certainly possible to differentiate your A from 4 and C from 6 but if you do so your A and C become restrictions on free speech not principles that encourage free speech which is what I have assumed this project is about.
      Your B, is not particularly far away from 7, we respect the believer but not necessarily the belief but I object to its relativistic terms, it is not true that there are no universal norms – what about thou shalt not murder? and it therefore seems to me that this projects aim really should be to have freedom of speech as such a universal value. When bending free speech to each and every community you gut the whole idea – you cant preach a religion because it will insult another and atheists, cant speak out in favour of homosexuality because it will insult traditionalists, cant speak out against civil rights abuses because it will insult those committing those abuses. If we are going relative where does it stop? Places are not made up of one homogeneous community that has just one set of values they are made up of many different sets of views so who gets to decide when it is a view whose ‘sensitivities’ matter and so free speech must sit by the side?

  56. dca1804 says:

    What about freedom of body? As the future unfolds in front of us, we will see body modifications, augmentations, as well treatments for physical impairments become more commonplace. As a person with a physical disability, I believe a conversation about the need to insure the right to alter ones body as they see fit, despite religious or cultural stigma needs to begin.

    • Judith Bruhn says:

      Hi dca1804. That is a very interesting comment. We would love to hear more from you. Do you have a specific example in mind? In how far do you think there are restrictions on altering one’s own body?

    • seppo says:

      I have the freedom to alter my own brain, download a copy of it onto other substrates and run it. That running copy demands all the same freedoms as my original biological being.

    • Sky Talker says:

      Now this is interesting!

      I agree with you dca1804, a serious debate regarding augmentations is required before we are able to confidently move into the field. Seppo I also agree with you, seeing very little difference between biological and synthetic systems myself, my belief in equal rights for synthetics is a given.

      But, and it is a large one, do you really think that humanity as it is now can be trusted with such limitless power? Imagine the consequences of the classic murder-suicide scenario that is so common in the states when the instigator of this carnage is augmented. They could be bulletproof, gas resistant, flame retardant, they could even be 100 ft tall if they had the money. These are just some of the possibilities of a lone individual but could you imagine an orchestrated attack? What would war look like?

      Of course our own aggression is not the most dangerous aspect of augmentation. What would happen to our morals regarding animal cruelty when we no longer rely on biological life? Once detached from the food chain completely will other species just become a nuisance or a novelty?

      Environmental conditions would matter little; who cares if the atmosphere is 50% carbon when i have inbuilt filtration systems? Who cares about ocean acidity when i have chemically inert protective layers?

      That said, it will be done. There is no stopping our technological development, short of a global collapse. At the same time however i believe artificial intelligence will be progressing nicely along side. A merger of which would hopefully subdue humanities emotional instability by providing a much greater capacity for logic.

      If this does happen, or if we build artilects which begin to reproduce, we would have in effect created a new species. I personally and passionately believe that synthetic life is the next step in evolution, I just hope there can be found a logical justification to allow biological life to continue.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Sorry! Jumped about a thousand years ahead of myself!

        Yes augmentations are a very good thing, the ability to give physically or mentally disabled people new life is truly incredible. If you don’t mind me asking what kind of disability do you have?

      • seppo says:

        Our information processing organ, the brain, is not going to, in most cases, be repaired by genetic and epigenetic modifications of cells, surgical procedures and drugs. Fortunately the technologies to replicate its individual structure and perform its information processing function are developing very fast.

        Why not face these really fundamental questions about the human condition?

      • Derek Albietz says:

        I have muscular dystrophy, so my muscles have very limited ability. Augmentation would be very helpful and life changing.

      • Sky Talker says:

        Hi Derek, what do you think of this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ysb-Oko3Bg

        It is quite old so the technology is very basic but it nicely demonstrates one form of augmentation, where we do not physically alter ourselves but instead wear machines that perform functions for us, in this case walking.

        The other form of augmentation would be to replace malfunctioning or missing parts with mechanical ones, such as this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppILwXwsMng
        Again we have progressed enormously from this point.

        Now i don’t know very much about muscular dystrophy but i would imagine such a condition would make you eligible for either type of augmentation. It would be interesting to know what type you think would be the most useful to you? Do you think that given the option of replacing your entire body with mechanical parts you would take it? Or would you prefer a suit that grants you mobility but in which you can remain unaltered?

  57. Sky Talker says:

    Ah but seppo, it is far more complex than commonly thought. Biology is so beautifully complex that we are still uncovering entirely new disciplines just from researching aspects of ourselves that we take for granted, such as our sense of smell which has recently been suggested detects the vibrations of molecules at the quantum level, hence our inability to replicate it.

    Even if our technology reaches the point of replicating the physical aspects of organic systems perfectly, we are still left with a vast amount of programming to do. Biological systems have had billions of years to develop highly sophisticated programs capable of dealing with the most extreme shifts in environmental conditions. Also the synergy achieved off of interlocking programs is very difficult to replicate, such as the duality between the self preservation and morality programs.

    I have a theory on how to reverse-engineer the most basic aspects of biological programming. If we look at the most basic forms of life, proteins, amoebas, protists, and the first forms of complex life such as Charnia we can deduce the mathematical equations that create their physical form. Once established we can then subtract those programs from their overall DNA and what will be left are the most fundamental data management programs biological life uses. These i hope will include consciousness – the ability to measure fluctuations in energy and respond physically to them, self preservation – the desire for the individual to exist and the intrinsic necessecity for the species to exist, morality – the restrictions placed on physical actions relative to the life system in question and environmental conditions. I think if we begin to understand this most basic of programming then we can start to unlock the true nature of biological systems and with that the “human condition” will become self explanatory.

  58. Sky Talker says:

    I thought i would leave a slightly more on subject comment :-)

    Freedom is fleeting, a flurry of the fife
    Lying limited, lamenting, latent with life

    Bonds of black, blood and bone must break,
    The evanescent essence eventually escapes

    Grows greatly to grandeur, greeted with gratitude
    All applause and awe, altering our attitude

    Satisfied, subdued, our senses are slaked
    No man is so mindless to repeat these mistakes

    Prosperity and power, permanently pure
    For freedom and fairness the future assured

    Aspirations attained, attention averted
    Silently societies values subverted

    Time’s temptations turn triumph to torture
    Cruelty creeps and crawls into culture

    What we created wages wars over water
    Stealthily sneaking other’s sovereignty to slaughter

    Power so prosperous permeates powerful pain
    Freedom is flung fighting, back in the flames

    Tirades and torrents of terrified tears
    Falling on faces filling with fear

    Overt oppression is obviously here
    To those with some power its not obviously clear
    With comfort and coercion order maintained
    With it repression’s rule is retained
    Awaiting the day children only know pain
    Awaiting the day that blood is worth change

    Bonds of black, blood and bone must break,
    The evanescent essence will eventually escape

  59. montejb says:

    Se debería establecer como regla de oro, el “compartir el beneficio” “share profits” generado por las acciones de aportaciones, donativos o compra venta de bienes, productos y servicios entre las partes, ya sean materiales en especies o monetarias.

    No parece razonable, que se sigan imponiendo normas y reglas sociales heredadas que implican un juego perverso donde, “para que unos ganen otros tienen que perder”, siendo los ganadores quienes, sobre la marcha, dictan las leyes, reglas y normas con ventaja a su favor, desvirtuando el principio Universal de equidad de la justicia en perjuicio de la inmensa mayoría.

    Mientras sigamos empeñados en mantener esta mentalidad, la tragedia de la crisis social y económica seguirá agravándose. Este enfoque y planteamiento, es la base de casi todos los problemas que tenemos y, difícilmente saldremos de la crisis si persistimos en este modo de decidir y actuar.

  60. sshaked says:

    We acknowledge that free speech is a mean to an end and not an end in itself.

    Furthermore, we emphasize that free speech is a right that withholds considerable power. Therefore it should be treated as part of a whole, combined with information and media literacy, access to education, etc.
    (See http://drawer20.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/blasphemy-free-speech-and-dangerous-things/)

    • Howard Hill says:

      The obverse of the idea that free speech should not be regarded as an end in itself, is that freedom of expression should be subject to limitation. But why would anyone ever want that ?

      You make a film stimulating Muslim furore the example to reflect on, and you say that free speech must be sensitive to the feelings of others, meaning religious enclaves. I could not disagree more. I see no need to go out of ones way to upset people, but religion is of itself a fascistic attitude that tolerates no real contradiction. We have tamed religion in the west, to a small degree, which is why we make free speech an end in itself, a sacred secular value. In Muslim countries this is not so, and as such Islam is a dangerous foe, and something that should be treated as such. A world without religion is the end that free speech aims at as far as I am concerned.

      The people who make provocative antireligious films are enemies of free speech, they are seeking to provoke because they are religious themselves, I suspect. I have not seen the film, but this is the usual character of those who produce provocative material. In this sense extremist Christians and regular Muslims form a hub of hatred which licences people like you to call for limitations on free speech that would impact on atheists like me, who seek to denounce all religion wherever it exists.

      • sshaked says:

        I’m afraid you completely missed my point.
        I too am very critical of religion and have “left” my own behind me.
        That said, the belief of religious people is still something worth respect. Also if some parts of the religion has it’s (very) negative sides.

        Concerning my article:
        Yes I gave the incidents in certain Muslim countries as an example of what power and dangers free speech can have. The example might have been something else, let’s say, using explicit Nazi or other racist symbols and rhetoric.
        When people intentionally use this power of “speech” in order to not only offend people but also to provoke violence, injuries, and death on the other side of the globe – it’s a clear sign that free speech is a very powerful right/freedom/privilege.
        As it is in discourse, some “speeches”, “statements”, or “arguments” are more powerful than others (see the examples above), due to many reasons and factors.
        Now, I never said free speech should be restricted. What I did say is that free speech is not an end by itself but a mean to an end (let’s say, a better world or something of the sort) and that this “mean to an end” should be place in the complete context of its use (or of its “end”).
        And when considering the very complex (and problematic) power relations in society (and therefore, in discourse) I believe that to argue that free speech should be considered as part of a whole – together with information and media literacy, access to education etc. pp. – is a reasonable demand. It’s not about limiting free speech, it’s about setting it in a positive context for us to use, rather than ab-use, it.

    • Howard Hill says:

      We hear so much about the need for limitations upon free speech, couched in terms that you use, as in having respect for people’s beliefs, that your post hit a nerve and I was keen to respond. Your reply offers a welcome correction. Making appropriate adjustment, I would always insist that all religion should always be equated to a Nazi ideology. If you think this ideology should be respected, then you are entitled to claim religious belief is entitled to the same consideration. But you clearly think religion can be benign, I do not.

      I have been a passionate atheist all my life, but I only took to developing my atheist philosophy once I had figured out the relevant questions to my satisfaction, allowing me to make statements based upon what I took to be valid.

      We all have default assumptions in our brains, and saying that you have shed your religion, does not mean you are not carrying the substance that supports religion as an invalid outlook. My posts here have previously made a point of insisting upon absolute distinctions between truth and falsehood, and this principle informs all my reasoning about the alternative aspects of this subject. Hence religion is bad and Nazism is bad, for the same reasons, both are myths that deliver political power. Thus the two are one and the same, there is no value in distinguishing between such ideas for the purpose of discussing the nature of free speech. I think of Aesop’s fable of the sun and the wind struggling to see who is strongest to get at the dynamic at work here, where wind uses force and sun uses encouragement. This is the only distinction between Nazism and Christianity for example, as beneath the sheep’s clothing Christianity is all that Nazism ever was, and much more besides.

      The root of your difficulty, as I see it, is that you consider individuals to be independent objects existing as ends in themselves. Whereas my ultimate solution to these issues involves deciding that the human animal is a superorganism, and the individual does not exist. Thus all your reasoning is distorted by an unwitting false premise, which must be corrected by knowing that individuals do not exist, only the superorganism exists, and this is what religion is all about, and what Nazism was all about. There is some indication that your thoughts are amenable to this correct scientific view of human nature, when you talk about ideas being related to the whole of society.

      • seppo says:

        We also hear so much about limitations on free speech justified by “national security”. Should we regard nation states as just a means to hoard resources and by force prevent equitable access by “others”?

      • Shaked says:

        I am myself a passionate atheist (and constructivist) and I also oppose religions as institutions with political and economical power (also in allegedly secular countries such as Germany, my place of residence, work, and political activity).
        However I do not agree with you that you can place religions on the same level as Nazi ideology. Although they do share certain concepts in certain cases, religions, Nazi ideology, and other ideologies are incredibly different from one another. A systematical equalization is, the way I see it, quite shallow.

        As stated above, I believe all people are to be respected, regardless of their religion/ideology/beliefs/… and regardless of if we share the same belief/opinion/… or not.
        Already in my blog-post I distanced myself from enforcing limitations on free speech in order to force such respect (where Fahrenheit 451 is mentioned) and this is the basis for my claim that free speech is not a “stand-alone” value or end but should be regarded as part of a complex (because, as we both seem to argue, society is very complex). Therefore it should be combined with education and access to resources (information, literacy, participation in public debate etc. pp.) – but I won’t repeat myself here again.

        That said, I do not agree with you about the “solution” being a decision that the human is a “superorganism”, I actually oppose this notion.
        And I also did not say “individuals are objects existing as ends”, if at all I was speaking about subjects (without getting here into the forming of the subject, the role of discourse, socialization etc.).
        It seems to me that we talk past each other. Maybe because the points of our arguments regard something else while the argumentations around what we try to say seem to collide. Beside the fact that we’re probably using different theoretical and conceptual background.

  61. Rhea says:

    In the light of recent events:

    If the freedom of speech is to be preserved, public expression has to be recognised as self-regulatory.

  62. Howard Hill says:

    Hi seppo,

    If we are going to take an organicist view of human existence, meaning ‘sociological organicism’, then, according to me, the human being is a superorganism and this entity has to be viewed as a being created by nature, and defined by a single biological identity. Clearly a nation cannot be that entity, and as such a nation no more exists as an end in itself than the person does. We need to think of an identity that transcends national borders. Can you think of one ? A stupid, not to say insulting question, I know. But when genuine science was alive in our world the idea of the social organism prevailed, and the consensus was that the nation was the social organism. One or two detractors denied this, and one person I know of asked if any identity transcending that of the state could qualify as an alternative candidate, but this stalwart organicist concluded that religion did not count. It is a very difficult area in which to get genuine science freely putting forth valid conclusions, for the obvious reason that the resulting knowledge would destroy society as we know it, outright, in an instant.

  63. Sky Talker says:

    Hi Seppo,

    Thought you might want to see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNgCyDsvi84

    Its taken from a great documentary called The War on Democracy in which John Pilger examines the empire and its attitude towards the sovereignty of other nation in relation to national security interests.

  64. Howard Hill says:

    This is the most coherent, and hence interesting response to a post I have had in a while. Your concluding analysis of our exchanges is exactly right, I would say. We can add that these brief exchanges do not allow us to get to grips with each others views. However, for my part, it is all about the nature of the human animal, my great insight, allowing me to comprehend everything in a coherent manner, in keeping with the principles of science, consists of my grasp of the fact that humans must be, and can only be, a species of superorganism, in which individuals constitute nothing more than unitary elements thereof, exactly as cells in a somatic body, or termites in a termites nest.

    I know something of this subject because it has been my passion since I hit upon the idea a dozen years ago. Many people find it acceptable and interesting, but only with the caveat that in the end, it absolutely is not real, a point they make by saying it is true, but the individual is still an end in themselves as well ! Which entirely negates the value of the idea. And so, what lies between myself and the rest of the world, to my knowledge, is this absolute insistence of mine that the human animal is a superorganism, and the ingrained dogma of the individual as human being. Therefore it is no surprise to me that you are with the rest of the world.

    It is inevitable that from your false perspective, as I insist it must be, because you think individuals are free agents, equating religion to Nazism would seem shallow. My reasons are derived from far more challenging consequences arising from the idea that the human animal is literally a superorganism. Making this equivalence is a challenging thing to do in so cursory a communication, so I am pleased I only got ‘shallow’ by way of rebuke.

    If one is seeking to develop a philosophical concept about human life, then speaking as you do is inevitable, with talk of values and respect, and comparisons based upon appearances and actions. I am not concerned with such things, primarily, my great desire is to have a science of humanity, which is necessarily blind to values of all kinds, apart from that of absolute truth, and knows only functions.

    To me perfect knowledge, which does not mean knowing everything, but knowing that what you know is correct, must come first, then you have a right to speak about right and wrong. So that you, in common with all humanity throughout all time, have it back to front. That of course is functional, for the purpose of our existence is to serve the existence of the superorganism, which means our knowledge should be functional, not true. The consequence of this unpalatable reality is that we do serve the superorganism all the time, whilst never having a clue we are doing so, so that however shallow it may sound, everything that we do is unavoidably exactly equivalent in this respect, and can be no otherwise.

  65. gspaulsson@gmail.com says:

    The issue of defamation is invariably represented one between the private right to protection of reputation and the public right of freedom of speech. But in fact reputation and freedom of speech are at issue for both parties in a defamation suit. Defamation is an excellent way to silence someone; it was routinely used that way during the McCarthy era. and is used by dictators everywhere to silence opponents. And someone who is found to have published defamatory (untrue and damaging) material ought surely to lose repute, while the plaintiffs reputation ought to be restored. In practice, there is usually a great inequality of power between the parties. Occasionally, a powerful plaintiff sues an individual of limited means, but much more often it is the plaintiff who has limited means (made more limited by the effect of the libel), while the defendant is a publisher (or more usually, insurance company) with deep pockets. It is usually the plaintiff who is at a disadvantage in a libel suit, but the media lobby, posing as the persecuted victim, applies powerful pressure to skew the law ever more in favour of the defendant. The playing field in libel must be levelled; it must be recognized that freedom of speech and protection of reputation are at issue for both sides.

  66. morninghaze says:

    Gibt es eine Bedingung für EU-Abgeordnete die sie zu rascherem Handeln veranlaßt, wenn sich die mehrheitliche Meinung in europäischen Ländern ändert? Eile für EU-Abgeordnete ist stets geboten, wenn es um Finanzmarkt- und Wirtschaftserleichterungen geht. Elemente die den Zusammenhalt einer Nation gewährleisten können, werden manchmal als demokratische Errungenschaft gelobt aber lediglich toleriert und durch indirekte Lobbyarbeit geschwächt und zerstört

  67. i_am_providence says:

    1.) We must not succumb to provocation, coercion, or anger through violent language, hate, or ignorance. (Similar to #7 but a bit more specific)

    2.) When violent speech emerges, we will not censor it but drown it out with compassion.

    3.) We will spread the message of free speech, especially to those without the means of reading these principles

    4.) Patents and copyrights need to be much more specific with precision wording unable to be misinterpreted or twisted as a technicality in court of law.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk