Morning Report: Awaiting the FOMC minutes 8/19/15

Markets are lower this morning on overseas weakness. Bonds and MBS are down.

The consumer price index rose 0.1% in July, less than forecast. Ex-food and energy, it was up 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. Shelter and medical care rose the most.

We will get the Fed minutes later on today. Investors will be looking for two things: the Fed’s view on potential wage inflation and the meltdown in China. For those worried about the effect of increasing interest rates, asset prices will undoubtedly be vulnerable to higher rates, however at least this time around, consumption hasn’t been driven by asset price inflation the way it was in the late 90s and the mid aughts.

That said, stocks are predicting a 100% probability that the Fed can hike rates without anyone blowing up.  St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard was warning about asset bubbles yesterday and the need to hike rates to prevent them from blowing up. The only asset bubble I see right now is in sovereign debt, and the Fed is up to their eyeballs in it.

Real average weekly earnings rose 2.2% last week.

Mortgage Applications rose 3.6% last week. Purchases fell 1.1%, while refis rose 7.2%.

Florida real estate is getting back to the go-go days of the mid aughts. Some are worried about another bubble, but if you look at the Florida FHFA House price index, it is still 29% off of peak levels. One other difference this time: the buyers this time around are not dominated by regular people – they are dominated by institutional investors looking to earn rental income and by foreign investors looking to move money out of their home countries. In other words, if prices collapse (and I don’t know what the catalyst would be), the economic effect will be much less.

Zillow has a good article on the first time homebuyer. They note how the median home price to median income ratio for the first time homebuyer has risen from 1.7 in the 1970s to 2.6 today.  That said, interest rates are much lower today than the 1970s. Note that the average years of renting has increased from 2.6 years to 6 years now. This probably represents the fact that people are waiting until they are older to get married and have kids.

63 Responses

  1. But trust me, ALL p-values for ALL AGW studies are Rock.Fucking.Solid.

    Since publishing novel results can garner a scientist rewards such as tenure and jobs, there’s ample incentive to p-hack. Indeed, when Simonsohn analyzed the distribution of p-values in published psychology papers, he found that they were suspiciously concentrated around 0.05. “Everybody has p-hacked at least a little bit,” Simonsohn told me.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

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  2. Razor ‏@hale_razor 4h4 hours ago

    Senator’s perfect pass bonks kid’s head: NEWSWORTHY!
    Planned Parenthood removes kid’s brain through face: crickets

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  3. I think there could be child porn on hillary’s server and the MSM would ignore it.

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    • lol….that is probably right.

      What is kind of interesting is that none of the other D candidates are talking about the scandal. It is almost as if their candidacies are just playacting and even they assume she is inevitable, and so don’t want to damage her.

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  4. it’s heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think.

    That cells are contracting the way they’re programmed to do. I worked for a few years for the chief of cardiology in his lab; I used to grow heart myocytes in a petri dish all the time. I’d plate them, grow them until they made an almost complete layer of cells, and then tap the side of the dish. Voila! The cells would start contracting in a ripple across the surface of the dish, just as they would in a layer of the heart.

    It’s physiology, not magic.

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    • Mich:

      It’s physiology, not magic.

      Complete non-sequitur. No one said it was magic.

      FYI, the “I don’t know what to think” wasn’t the result of wondering what was causing the heart to beat. It was a result of wondering how PP can so cheerfully do this to a living human.

      edit: Corked by KW.

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  5. They are afraid of being seen as attacking a woman. The candidates are going to be light on scandal-mongering, I’m afraid.

    ScottC: ““[The abortionist] has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. And I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus and it’s heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think.”

    So what’s the word on how RWNJs faked it and it’s all a lie? Because it can’t possibly true?

    Folks on the left, though they marvel at family values politicians and religious types who end up being gay or adulterous or child molesters, generally accept this new information immediately. There’s no doubt. No, “no, that can’t be right, they go to church”. The hypocrisy! The double standard! Even when the story stretched credulity, they generally have no accepting that some right winger or bible thumper was secretly a serial killer.

    But they idea that an organization filled with many people who, by necessity, is going to attract people who don’t mind or actually want to do a messy, morally-hazy job, has folks in it that might be skirting the law or acceptable public boundaries when aborting fetuses and preparing, ah, tissues for, um, donation . . . that’s unpossible! That’s crazy! It’s all a lie! They can do no wrong!

    Like a faithful flock when it turns out the pastor has been playing post office with the young church secretary and might be looking at an out-of-wedlock baby . . . cries of approbation and attacking the messenger. But not: “Huh. I’m still all for abortions and stuff, but maybe Planned Parenthood needs some more oversight or something.”

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  6. @Michigoose: “It’s physiology, not magic.”

    I think the point is the person witnessing the act probably felt like the fetus was viable at that point. So felt morally queasy about the whole thing.

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  7. @brentnyitray: “I think there could be child porn on hillary’s server and the MSM would ignore it.”

    They might ask her. Then she could answer honestly: “Prom? Perms? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with this term you’re using—porn? I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is, but then, I never used that computer for anything but text emails. Anything else I wouldn’t know about.”

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  8. The idea that the fetus isn’t alive never made logical sense. of course it’s alive. its just do we care. the problem for the abortion rights crowd is that the tech is changing and we’re seeing exactly what that means.

    reminds me of a Dennis Leary skit. fetus are becoming less “cow” and more ‘cute otter.”

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    • nova:

      The idea that the fetus isn’t alive never made logical sense. of course it’s alive.

      Of course.

      All of the obfuscation about whether it is alive just suggests to me that even the radical pro-choice crowd understands the moral reality of abortion advocacy, and that the only way to justify it is to deny the obvious humanity of that which they want to destroy. It is the same reason that the pro-slavery crowd tried to deny the humanity of blacks, and why the Germans denied the humanity of Jews. It was/is the only way to comfort their conscience in the face of their actions.

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  9. Another link on The Federalist story has a link to this:

    Five Things Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” Gets Wrong

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/03/13/five-things-neil-degrasse-tysons-cosmos-gets-wrong/

    Sometimes, I really miss the world before the Internet. Now, there’s a critic and an editor to correct everything about life, review it, or completely contradict it.

    I mean, all legitimate points. But still. I missing watching Cosmos with Carl Sagan on PBS. Those were the days.

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  10. “The idea that the fetus isn’t alive never made logical sense.”

    Heck, flies are alive and I kill them all the time. Cows are alive (at some point before being turned into delicious, delicious murder-steak for me to eat while chortling). I suppose it’s an effort to frame the debate, as it’s silly to argue that a tumor is alive, and who would care if we took one out? But it’s more about optics than logic.

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  11. @mcwing: I followed the link on science being hard, and there’s a serious disconnect in there. Science being hard has nothing to do with how easy it is for people (scientist or not-really-scientists) to fake science for attention. It is not about the difficulty of getting a rigorous result, it’s that people can fudge the numbers and get attention and get cited before anybody finds out anything is wrong, if they ever do. That’s more a problem with the politics and, for lack of a better term, “insular circle jerk” that surrounds people who are, technically, scientists, or merely style themselves as same.

    The best science, I suppose, can be done by anyone, but we know it’s legit with private companies put billions of dollars on the answer being right. That’s science!

    BTW, I easily demonstrated Republicans have a negative effect on the economy. I’m ready to be published in a respected scientific journal!

    And then I proved Republicans have a positive effect on the economy. I’m ready to be published in another journal. I love science!

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  12. @ScottC1: Also noted in the article, the fetus appeared, for some reason, almost exactly like a full term infant. Which would reasonably making the stopping and starting of the heart as a science trick morally objectionable to some. Not necessarily evidence of a nascent fetal soul.

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  13. @Scottc1: ” It is the same reason that the pro-slavery crowd tried to deny the humanity of blacks, and why the Germans denied the humanity of Jews. It was/is the only way to comfort their conscience in the face of their actions.”

    I feel like there’s a difference between denying humanity and denying “aliveness”, even if the distinction is pedantic. All our food products are, at some point, alive. Insect we struggle to kill and other vermin are “alive”. They aren’t human, but they are certainly alive. Trying to argue abortion is not killing anything “alive” because it isn’t alive but is analogous to an unwanted skin tag seems logically incoherent.

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    • KW:

      I feel like there’s a difference between denying humanity and denying “aliveness”, even if the distinction is pedantic.

      The only way to deny the humanity of a human fetus is to deny that it is a life in the first place. A human fetus by definition is not an insect or other vermin. Not even the most obtuse and dishonest of abortion’s defenders could agree that a human fetus is a life, but then argue that it isn’t a human life.

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  14. I’m guessing the final PP video will be the dissection of a wriggling, crying infant.

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  15. Even that would probably be ignored by the likes of the WaPo and NYT.

    No question. It is amazing watching the MSM in action any more. They are just PR firms now.

    You have to consume both right wing and left wing media anymore to know what is going on.

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  16. @Scottc1: “Even that would probably be ignored by the likes of the WaPo and NYT.”

    And the Obama admin, as everyone would say that “people” or “experts” who had examined the videos had determined they were fraudulent. I bet it’s time like these that Google and Microsoft think: “damn, we should have also offered abortions. Then we’d be bulletproof.”

    @brentnyitray: “You have to consume both right wing and left wing media anymore to know what is going on.”

    Seriously. For folks (on the left) who constantly complain that Republicans or conservatives want to roll back the clock to the 1950s or the 1900s, they certainly seem to embrace a journalism model out of the 1800s.

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    • KW:

      For folks (on the left) who constantly complain that Republicans or conservatives want to roll back the clock to the 1950s or the 1900s, they certainly seem to embrace a journalism model out of the 1800s.

      I wonder how different it actually was during the 1900s. My suspicion is that the MSM has always been a cheerleader for its favored causes and candidates, subtly and not so subtly pushing an agenda rather than reporting honestly and objectively. (Walter Duranty was reporting for the NYT back in the 1930s.) It was just less obvious in the past because 1) as Brent points out, they left-leaning MSM used to have sole possession of the megaphone and so it was harder to know the actual truth of things and 2) the mainstream left itself was much less progressive/radical than it is today (the current D’s are leaps and bounds further left than historic D mainstays like JFK, LBJ, and Truman), and so it was used to push a much less radical agenda. But I suspect it was doing back then basically the same things that it does today.

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      • Who would have guessed…Planned Parenthood gives out “Maggie” Awards for “media excellence” to reporters who “…enhance the public’s understanding of reproductive rights and health care issues, including contraception, sex education, teen pregnancy, abortion, and international family planning.” And reporters actually gleefully accept them. But of course their coverage of PP and abortion is perfectly objective.

        What self-respecting reporter would ever accept such an award? Sort of like if the RJR Tobacco company gave out “media excellence” awards to health reporters for their coverage of lung cancer, or Mobile-Exxon gave out “media excellence” awards to reporters for their coverage of so-called climate change.

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  17. The left wants to go back to the pre-Fox and pre-Internet days when they had sole possession of the megaphone.

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  18. @kevinwillis1

    I think the point is the person witnessing the act probably felt like the fetus was viable at that point

    That was my point–the fetus isn’t viable simply because it has a heartbeat. That’s just a heart doing what a heart does; blood flow is the first thing established as an embryo develops. . . long before it has a brain, let alone a peripheral nervous system.

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    • Mich:

      That’s just a heart doing what a heart does…

      Indeed…pumping blood in order to sustain life.

      …blood flow is the first thing established as an embryo develops. . . long before it has a brain

      I guess you didn’t watch the video. The baby had not only a beating heart but also a brain, which was harvested after its face was cut open with scissors.

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  19. @Michigoose: “That was my point–the fetus isn’t viable simply because it has a heartbeat. That’s just a heart doing what a heart does; blood flow is the first thing established as an embryo develops. . . long before it has a brain, let alone a peripheral nervous system.”

    I think in the case as described it was pretty fully developed (indeed, a fetus with no real brain or peripheral nervous system also has a very tiny speck of a heart, and would not likely have been worth calling someone over to watch start and stop). So, viable or not, the impression to person witnessing the event (if the reportage is trustworthy, and, if not, it’s a very odd anecdote to manufacture) would have likely been of viability. As described, the fetus appeared fully formed to the person describing the experience. Then there’s the whole brain harvesting thing . . .

    Which is dancing around the larger issue, which is that venerated institutions, including Planned Parenthood, are made up of people and people are fallible and can potentially do bad things, as much as one might agree with their overall mission and oppose the mission of those calling them out on their bad behavior.

    Put another way, it seems clear Planned Parenthood gets special treatment from many quarters that would not be afforded any one else, just as it gets targeted in ways that rarely occur for other organizations. As such, a little more ethical supervision internally in their organization might be wise. And caution as to how they talk to people they barely know and what they show and communicate to new hires might also be a good idea. They can not always depend on the special regard with which many hold them to insulate them against every potential behavior.

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  20. PP is being treated the same way by the right as the left treats factory farms.

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  21. Indeed…pumping blood in order to sustain life

    Indeed. . . not. The fetus’ heartbeat and blood flow have nothing to do with sustaining its life. That is what the placenta and the umbilical cord are for. The circulation is to eliminate waste via the umbilical cord.

    The baby had not only a beating heart but also a brain, which was harvested after its face was cut open with scissors.

    The brain at that stage is literally nothing but jelly with a functioning brain stem. Scott, I’ve done autopsies on newborns and very young infants; I can assure you that there was nothing going on in that little bag of goo, other than at the brainstem level.

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    • Mich:

      The fetus’ heartbeat and blood flow have nothing to do with sustaining its life.

      Well that is certainly an interesting notion. You have a lot of experience with women whose fetus’ hearts no longer beat, but who have not miscarried and have gone on to deliver a living baby? I need to meet these miracle babies.

      The brain at that stage is literally nothing but jelly with a functioning brain stem.

      Literally nothing? There is no way a bright scientist like yourself could distinguish between fetal brain matter and a jar of Smuckers? How very odd, then, that PP is able to sell that brain matter to places like Stem Express for top dollar, when $2 and a trip to the grocery store would do.

      I can assure you that there was nothing going on in that little bag of goo, other than at the brainstem level.

      Nothing going on? Really? It wasn’t actively going through a process that would (sans the scissors to the face, of course) develop into a mature, functioning brain? So the “goo” turns into a mature brain how, exactly… by magic? A little fairy dust perhaps?

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  22. And caution as to how they talk to people they barely know and what they show and communicate to new hires might also be a good idea. They can not always depend on the special regard with which many hold them to insulate them against every potential behavior.

    That is true. It brings to mind the time a woman who was a PETA activist applied to work in the lab I was in at the biotech company. Fortunately, she wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and listed her PETA involvement on her application.

    You should also bear in mind that they thought that they were talking to people who were legitimatlly interested in the process of tissue harvesting. It’s people like that PETA applicant and these “journalists” who make people paranoid about simply doing a job that they were asked to do. I have yet to meet anyone who does abortions, or tissue harvesting, or autopies simply because they want to get their jollies that way.

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  23. I can assure you that there was nothing going on in that little bag of goo, other than at the brainstem level.

    PP’s problem is that little bag of goo looks like an awful lot like a tiny baby. I don’t have a problem with the tissue harvesting as I don’t think a baby has a right to life until at least birth, but based on society’s reaction to video of a live whale-shark being sawn in half I suspect the final video (one in which I speculate will be the dissection of a wriggling, crying baby) will be very hard for the public to tolerate

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  24. @Mcwing: “PP’s problem is that little bag of goo looks like an awful lot like a tiny baby. I don’t have a problem with the tissue harvesting as I don’t think a baby has a right to life until at least birth”

    I don’t think they have a right to life until they are at least 18 and out of the house.

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    • A priest, a minister, and a rabbi are out fishing together in a rowboat.

      They are discussing when life begins. The Priest says “at conception, obviously”.

      The minister says “when the fetus is quickened”.

      The rabbi is quiet. Finally, the priest says “Joe, what do you think?”

      The rabbi looks thoughtful, and says that for Sarah and him life began when the dog died and the kids left home.

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  25. @Michigoose: “I have yet to meet anyone who does abortions, or tissue harvesting, or autopies simply because they want to get their jollies that way.”

    No doubt, but folks who do stuff day in and day out get conditioned to it and it becomes easy to forget how their normal lives and normal activities look to the outside world. Thus when their normal existence is exposed to people from the general public, there is inevitably a lot of shock and outrage and the explanation offered don’t hold much water with people.

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  26. Thus when their normal existence is exposed to people from the general public, there is inevitably a lot of shock and outrage and the explanation offered don’t hold much water with people.

    Quite

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  27. I think the implication of your rejection of the notion of morality is that you must not think that anyone has any rights. Outside of a strictly legal context, rights claims are moral claims. I doesn’t any sense to me to say that morality has no objective reality, but then to say that a person has a (non-legal) right to X.

    To be fair, I rejected the notion of a Universal Morality that is unchanging. I tend to think that a society’s morality changed over time.

    I agree with you though, the concept of inalienable rights is an impossible square to circle.

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    • McWing:

      To be fair, I rejected the notion of a Universal Morality that is unchanging.

      The reason I linked to the comment which I linked to was because, although our larger discussion was about the existence of objective morality, I had specifically suggested that, because of what you were arguing, it seemed to me you must reject the idea of morality altogether. You responded “I think that is probably true.”

      I agree with you though, the concept of inalienable rights is an impossible square to circle.

      I only think that the idea of rights is nonsensical within a context in which the concept of morality is rejected as a fiction. I, of course, do not reject it as such, and so I have no problem squaring the idea of inalienable rights with my beliefs.

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  28. Where do those rights come from?

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    • McWing:

      Where do those rights come from?

      That is an interesting question, and the short answer (as I have said in the past) is that I don’t know. Philosophers have been thinking and philosophizing about that since the dawn of philosophizing. Rand claimed they derived from our nature as rational beings. The founders credited an unnamed “creator”. Others attribute them to God. Again, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that a belief in the existence of some thing called “rights” has been with us for over a millenium, and the acceptance of natural, individual rights has been a cornerstone of the stupendous advancements in civilization that we have seen for going on 300 years now. So my inability to identify their source does not compel me to assume they do not actually exist. And, frankly, even if they are merely a figment of the imagination, a belief in and acceptance of them has been such a boon to human civilization that I would say it behooves us to continue the charade (if that is what it is) for our own sakes.

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  29. @Scottc1: “This raises another interesting question…suppose Jenner was convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail time. Does he/she get sent to a male or female prison? Do criminals get to choose based on how they “identify”?”

    According to “Orange is the New Black”, they do.

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  30. What parts of morality would you consider Universal and unchanging?

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    • McWing:

      What parts of morality would you consider Universal and unchanging?

      I’m not sure what you mean by “parts”, but I guess I would say all of it.

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  31. Ok, would you say there was an correlation between the legal age of consent (for marriage) and what society views as a moral age of consent?

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    • McWing:

      Ok, would you say there was an correlation between the legal age of consent (for marriage) and what society views as a moral age of consent?

      Since “age of consent” is a legal concept, I’m not sure one can sensibly talk about a “moral” age of consent.

      I think the basic issue that your question raises is the point at which a person becomes capable of exercising his/her own rights without review or intervention of a 3rd party rights protector (ie parents/gaurdian/the state). Because moral notions, including rights, are grounded in the human capacity to reason, quite how those notions apply to children has always been a challenge to think about because children do not necessarily have, but are generally developing over time, that capacity to reason. And that development is a function of many things, including life experiences, education, brain development, and probably even innate ability. Those may be correlated with, but are not necessarily a hard and fast function of, age.

      But to answer your question directly, I would imagine that in our society the legal age of consent is correlated with a general societal view of when children will have, on average, finally developed that capacity to reason to a point where they can generally understand and act on what is in their own best interests. And, not insignificantly, the capacity to understand moral concepts themselves.

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  32. Point is, marrying off a daughter at the age of 12 is perfectly moral in one society and completely immoral in another society. How is the morality of it universal and timeless?

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    • McWing:

      Point is, marrying off a daughter at the age of 12 is perfectly moral in one society and completely immoral in another society. How is the morality of it universal and timeless?

      Easily, as people can be wrong about their moral claims, just as they can be wrong about their claims regarding any other aspect of the universe.

      If one society teaches its young that the earth is 6,000 years old, and another teaches its young that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, do you conclude that the earth has no definitive, objective age?

      If one society declares that God is omnipotent, and another declares that there is no such thing as God, do you conclude that there is no objective truth to the question of God’s existence?

      As with literally any claim about the nature of the universe, the fact that two people or two societies disagree about whether the claim is true doesn’t mean there is no external truth to be known. Why do you insist on dismissing the possibility that a given person or society can be mistaken in its moral claims?

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  33. As with literally any claim about the nature of the universe, the fact that two people or two societies disagree about whether the claim is true doesn’t mean there is no external truth to be known. Why do you insist on dismissing the possibility that a given person or society can be mistaken in its moral claims?

    Based on your assertions that there is a Universal Morality does it follow that it can be known? If so, how?

    I don’t discount wrongness or rightness, of morality and in my example I didn’t say which one was right, I said that they were opposed. I keep asking you the wrong question I think, not whether you think there is a Universal Morality but whether it can be known? So, can it?

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    • McWing:

      I keep asking you the wrong question I think, not whether you think there is a Universal Morality but whether it can be known? So, can it?

      Is there such a thing as moral knowledge? Sure, I think so. Complete moral knowledge? No, but that is no different than the rest of our knowledge about the universe, which is also constantly changing based on new information/experiences.

      But more importantly, I think, is the fact that any moral claim is a claim of moral knowledge, whether it is actually legitimate or not. If someone says that black slavery is morally acceptable, I take them to be making a statement about objective reality that is either true or not. They are not simply making a claim about their own preferences, like saying steak tastes good. That is why (as I mentioned the last time we talked about this) your repeated use of the term Universal Morality is unnecessary and redundant. To talk about morality is, necessarily, to talk about an objective reality. Someone’ “personal” morality is simply their own personal claim to knowledge about assumed moral truths that are, in fact, universal.

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  34. My personal claim to moral knowledge is merely a claim to follow principles that I think will help me succeed within the bounds of the rules of the society I live in. I like some of them and dislike others. I don’t know if the principles are universal in that if adopted by all people across all societies they would lead to the individual’s success (or that societies success) since I think what’s moral doesn’t transcend society but is shaped by each society.

    How do you know what you think is moral is true? What I mean is how is it you know that your morality is the true morality?

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  35. If your saying that I believe that people do not possess
    unalienable rights, correct. Rights exist only as far as societies agree that they should exist, I wish they were unalienable but I can’t take myself to take that leap of faith. If using the existence of people’s belief in a morality as evidence that there is a universal moral truth than isn’t people’s belief in a creator evidence that there is a creator? Do you believe there is a creator?

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    • McWing:

      Rights exist only as far as societies agree that they should exist…

      Which is to say that they don’t exist. Period. To assert the existence of a (non-legal) right to something is to say precisely that pursuit of that something is sanctioned by justice regardless of what anyone else, and particularly society, says. When abolitionists argued that slaves had a right to their freedom, and that slavers had no right to possess another human, the were arguing in opposition to what society thought, and we’re claiming that what society said was wrong, immoral, unjust. According to your understanding, however, those abolitionists were wrong by definition. According to you, slaves had no right to their freedom, and slavers did indeed have a right to enslave other humans precisely because “society” said they did. In other words, your view is that it is logically impossible for “society” to be said to have sanctioned the violation of the rights of anyone. Because if society sanctions their violation, they are not in fact rights. This may really be what you believe, but if so it is an extremely idiosyncratic and a-historical understanding of the term. It is definitely not what most people mean when they speak of (non-legal) rights.

      Your definition also makes your claim which started this thread, that you don’t think babies have rights until at least birth, rather odd. How can individuals have a personal view about whether a right exists if if its existence is strictly and only a function of what “society” already says? Mustn’t that individual view necessarily be whatever “society” has already decided? But then again, what is “society’s” decision if not a consensus of individual decisions made by those that make up society? So what society thinks is a function of what individuals think, but what individuals think can only be a function of what society has already decided. Not sure how you plan on squaring that circle, unless you simply declare that rights is a meaningless concept in the first place.

      If using the existence of people’s belief in a morality as evidence that there is a universal moral truth…

      I am not using it as evidence that there is an objective moral truth. I am saying that individual claims about morality (this is wrong, that is unjust) are evidence that those individuals already accept the existence of objective morality. It represents an agreed upon premise upon which further discussion and logic can be built.

      Do you believe there is a creator?

      No. But I am left with enough unanswered questions that I am not at all dismissive of those who do.

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  36. Which is to say that they don’t exist.

    You can claim they exist but if there is not an agreement among enough people to ensure it, then they don’t really exist is a meaningful sense.

    When abolitionists argued that slaves had a right to their freedom, and that slavers had no right to possess another human, the were arguing in opposition to what society thought, and we’re claiming that what society said was wrong, immoral, unjust.

    Well, if they were from a slave state they were arguing against society, but were they arguing against society if they were in/from Massachusetts? No.

    According to your understanding, however, those abolitionists were wrong by definition.

    You understand that abolitionism is a (very, very recent) historical development, right?

    According to you, slaves had no right to their freedom, and slavers did indeed have a right to enslave other humans precisely because “society” said they did.

    The entirety of human history deemed slavery an acceptable and moral practice. That being said I don’t think its a very efficient way to organize a society and I wouldn’t want to live in one that did think and practice as if it was. I’d like to think that I’d fight against it.

    In other words, your view is that it is logically impossible for “society” to be said to have sanctioned the violation of the rights of anyone.

    What I said was that rights are what societies agree them to be and ensure them. We can say they exist independent of that but do they really? I’m not so sure.

    Because if society sanctions their violation, they are not in fact rights.

    Slaves had no rights until society said they did through the 13th and 14th amendments. After Reconstruction and Federal troops left the South, did former slaves and their descendants really have rights? History says no.

    This may really be what you believe, but if so it is an extremely idiosyncratic and a-historical understanding of the term. It is definitely not what most people mean when they speak of (non-legal) rights.

    I agree with this. But so what? Or, as Andrew Breitbart would have said, “And?”

    Your definition also makes your claim which started this thread, that you don’t think babies have rights until at least birth, rather odd. How can individuals have a personal view about whether a right exists if if its existence is strictly and only a function of what “society” already says?

    I’ll repeat, if society won’t ensure a right, it doesn’t really exist. I don’t like it but can’t think of an alternative way to think of it if there is no creator/grantor of those rights.

    Mustn’t that individual view necessarily be whatever “society” has already decided? But then again, what is “society’s” decision if not a consensus of individual decisions made by those that make up society? So what society thinks is a function of what individuals think, but what individuals think can only be a function of what society has already decided. Not sure how you plan on squaring that circle, unless you simply declare that rights is a meaningless concept in the first place.

    I guarantee that I have moral views that differ from society, so that circle is squared already. While we live in a society and some amount of consensus is required there is some amount of independent thinking, as you know. Maybe I’m just not understanding you on this.

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    • McWing:

      While we live in a society and some amount of consensus is required there is some amount of independent thinking, as you know.

      I think that independent thinking is a prerequisite for the formation of a consensus. Which is exactly why I think your reliance on a societal consensus to tell you whether and which rights exist is problematic. Society cannot form a consensus without individual members of that society making their own, independent assessment first. That is what a consensus means…widespread agreement amongst several individuals about some question. In order to say there is agreement among individuals about question X, those individuals must have come to a prior, independent conclusion about it. And in order for individuals to make that prior assessment, they have to believe there is some objective truth to the matter.

      Does God exist? There may be a consensus in a given society that there is a God, but only if most of the individuals that make up that society have first concluded, on their own and independent of any consensus, that God does exist. And in order for them to do that they must believe that there exists is some objective truth to the issue, independent of what any one or even many individuals may think about it. Either God does exist, or he does not exist, regardless of whatever consensus may eventually arise. In other words, it is possible for the consensus to be incorrect.

      The same is true if you substitute morality or rights or any given instance of a claimed right for “God” in the above. This is a fundamental, basic problem with the moral subjectivist viewpoint and the idea that morality has no independent existence except as determined by society. It is fundamentally self-contradictory.

      If you say there is no such thing as morality, and no such thing as rights, and any society that says otherwise is fooling itself, then while I may disagree, at least I can understand and process your claim. It is internally coherent. But when you say that society itself determines what is in fact moral and which rights in fact exist, I think your claim is fundamentally incoherent. There is no way for “society” to define what is moral and which rights exist in the absence of a presumption that they exist independently of whatever society might say.

      Btw, on this:

      Slaves had no rights until society said they did through the 13th and 14th amendments.

      Again, to be clear, the rights I am talking about are non-legal, moral, natural rights. I maintain that, if such rights exist, they exist even if they aren’t recognized and protected by the legal system. And if they don’t exist, then they remain non-existent even if the legal system purports to protect them.

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