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How Can We Accelerate Technological Progress? – Panel Discussion with G. Stolyarov II, Demian Zivkovic, and Arash Amini

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Categories: Business, Culture, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II, Demian Zivkovic, and Arash Amini
January 24, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov invites panelists to offer their thoughts on the following question:

What actions can most people take to assist in the acceleration of technological progress so as to solve, within the lifetimes of those alive today, many of the major problems currently associated with the human condition?

Panelists

Demian Zivkovic, 23 years old, is a student of artificial intelligence and philosophy, and founder and president of the Arma’thwynn Society – an international transhumanist think tank comprised of a group of transhumanism-oriented professionals, students, and entrepreneurs interested in the interdisciplinary approach to advancing transhumanist technologies.

Demian has been involved in several endeavors, including interviewing Professor Aubrey de Grey, organizing a transhumanism lecture in The Netherlands now, and spreading “Death is Wrong” – Mr. Stolyarov’s illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension – in The Netherlands.

***

Arash Amini earned a BS Physics degree from UIC. Since his time at college, Arash was focused on scaling cleantech innovations as far and wide as he could manage.

Thus his affection for the private venture- the vehicle he believes moves information and goods faster than any other available.

While in his last semester at college, Amini started a 312 Aquaponics and went to research and develop industrial scale vertical farming. His latest venture, FarmTower Co is personalizing farming- bringing the site of production to the site of consumption.

He is the author of “DIY Aquaponics: The Definitive How To Guide” and curator of www.diyaquaponicsdesign.info.

In addition, Amini helps startups market their ideas, and grow their revenues without the need of investors. He spends his time ideating solutions to the world’s largest problems.

References

- SENS Research Foundation
– “Metformin” – Wikipedia
– “Spontaneous order” – Wikipedia

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If the Fed Has Nothing to Hide, It Has Nothing to Fear – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
January 19, 2015
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Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the dollar has lost over 97 percent of its purchasing power, the US economy has been subjected to a series of painful Federal Reserve-created recessions and depressions, and the federal government has grown to dangerous levels thanks to the Fed’s policy of monetizing the debt. Yet the Federal Reserve still operates under a congressionally-created shroud of secrecy.No wonder almost 75 percent of the American public supports legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.

The new Senate leadership has pledged to finally hold a vote on the audit bill this year, but, despite overwhelming public support, passage of this legislation is by no means assured.

The reason it may be difficult to pass this bill is that the 25 percent of Americans who oppose it represent some of the most powerful interests in American politics. These interests are working behind the scenes to kill the bill or replace it with a meaningless “compromise.” This “compromise” may provide limited transparency, but it would still keep the American people from learning the full truth about the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy.

Some opponents of the bill say an audit would somehow compromise the Fed’s independence. Those who make this claim cannot point to anything in the text of the bill giving Congress any new authority over the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy. More importantly, the idea that the Federal Reserve is somehow independent of political considerations is laughable. Economists often refer to the political business cycle, where the Fed adjusts its policies to help or hurt incumbent politicians. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns exposed the truth behind the propaganda regarding Federal Reserve independence when he said, if the chairman didn’t do what the president wanted, the Federal Reserve “would lose its independence.”

Perhaps the real reason the Fed opposes an audit can be found by looking at what has been revealed about the Fed’s operations in recent years. In 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank bill, Congress authorized a one-time audit of the Federal Reserve’s activities during the financial crisis of 2008. The audit revealed that between 2007 and 2008 the Federal Reserve loaned over $16 trillion — more than four times the annual budget of the United States — to foreign central banks and politically influential private companies.

In 2013 former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar publicly apologized to the American people for his role in “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time” — the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program. Can anyone doubt an audit would further confirm how the Fed acts to benefit economic elites?

Despite the improvements shown in the (federally manipulated) economic statistics, the average American has not benefited from the Fed’s quantitative easing program. The abysmal failure of quantitative easing in the US may be one reason Switzerland stopped pegging the value of the Swiss Franc to the Euro following reports that the European Central Bank is about to launch its own quantitative easing program.

Quantitative easing is just the latest chapter in the Federal Reserve’s hundred-year history of failure. Despite this poor track record, Fed apologists still claim the American people benefit from the Federal Reserve System. But, if that were the case, why wouldn’t they welcome the opportunity to let the American people know more about monetary policy? Why is the Fed acting like it has something to hide if it has nothing to fear from an audit?

The American people have suffered long enough under a monetary policy controlled by an unaccountable, secretive central bank. It is time to finally audit — and then end — the Fed.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Achieving a Bright Future: Opportunities and Obstacles – G. Stolyarov II Interviews Demian Zivkovic

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Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Demian Zivkovic
January 19, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov invites Demian Zivkovic to discuss visions of the future and humankind’s prospects for achieving a bright future in time for us to experience and enjoy it. The discussion focuses on the following questions:

(1) What do you consider to be humankind’s best opportunities for achieving a bright future within the next several decades?
(2) What do you consider to be the greatest obstacles to the realization of such a bright future?
(3) How could such obstacles be overcome?

About Demian Zivkovic

Demian Zivkovic, 23 years old, is a student of artificial intelligence and philosophy, and founder and president of the Arma’thwynn Society – an international transhumanist think tank comprised of a group of transhumanism-oriented professionals, students, and entrepreneurs interested in the interdisciplinary approach to advancing transhumanist technologies. Demian has been involved in several endeavors, including interviewing Professor Aubrey de Grey, organizing a transhumanism lecture in The Netherlands now, and spreading Death is Wrong – Mr. Stolyarov’s illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension – in The Netherlands.

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Review of Robert Wilfred Franson’s “The Shadow of the Ship” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
January 17, 2015
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Shadow_of_the_Ship_Cover

               The Shadow of the Ship by Robert Wilfred Franson is a science-fiction novel set in a universe with a unique premise for methods of interstellar travel. A novel with strong individualist and life-extensionist themes, this book has much to recommend itself to libertarians and transhumanists alike. The Second Edition of The Shadow of the Ship was released in Kindle format in December 2014, after Franson regained the rights to the work from the publisher of the 1983 First Edition. The Second Edition contains major enhancements, including more extensive character development, explanation of key aspects of the world within which the novel takes place, and an ending that clearly sets the stage for additional books in what is to be Franson’s Overflight series.

                Space travel in The Shadow of the Ship is accessible to a society that is otherwise technologically far behind our own. The Trails Culture is dispersed among tens of worlds but lacks access even to most twentieth-century technology, such as powered flight or electricity. A series of trails across the “meadow” of subspace connects planets and can be traversed by caravans conveyed by waybeasts (squeakers) who are uniquely suited to crossing them. The book’s protagonist, Hendrikal Eiverdein Rheinallt, is originally from Earth and has been stranded within the region inhabited by the Trails Culture ever since his spaceship crashed on a nearby world. He and his friend Arahant, an intelligent aircat with the ability to speak and compose operas, are “bloodswayers” – practitioners of a rare and challenging discipline that allows the channeling of the body’s energies toward repair and rejuvenation. Rheinallt and Arahant are therefore indefinitely lived and more resilient than ordinary humans, though not indestructible. Rheinallt is approximately six centuries old and endeavors to use his vast scientific knowledge to eventually find his way back to Earth. In the meantime, he carefully advances the scientific and technical knowledge of the inhabitants of the Blue Free Nation, the most tolerant and least regimented of the societies within the Trails Culture.

                The book’s events take place aboard a caravan headed by Rheinallt with the purpose of investigating rumors of a crashed starship along the Blue Trail. The starship would be a paradigm-changing find for the people of the Trails Culture, as it would permit space travel without the limitations that the Trails pose; it could also be Rheinallt’s means to return home. The caravan includes many travelers who join out of scientific curiosity or a desire for fame, while others have more personal motives. Accompanying Rheinallt is his wife and beast-master Whitnadys, as well as a small contingent of crew to defend the caravan and provide essential logistical support. Although Rheinallt is the captain of the caravan, interactions aboard are largely guided by a spontaneous order without explicit laws and with virtually no authority for the captain to impose preemptive restrictions or discipline. Rheinallt, apart from making sure that the caravan is properly organized and maintained, only has the same prerogatives as ordinary passengers – such as the right of self-defense and the ability to protect the caravan against threats that have already manifested themselves. He considers the circumstances carefully and is reluctant to resort to force unless the existence of a physical threat is incontrovertible, as he does not wish for the passengers to lose trust in his leadership or the legitimacy of his decisions.

                Apart from the mostly anarchistic order aboard the caravan – a reflection of the broader lack of centralized authority within the Blue Free Nation – there are competing visions presented in the book, including an attempt by the Federated Trailmen, the area’s guild of caravaneers, to bring subspace travel within their sphere of control, as well as the efforts by the government of Fleurage – a world on the Yellow Trail – to clamp down on political dissent and quash “subversive” innovators who threaten an establishment rapidly spiraling toward totalitarianism. Various passengers on the caravan represent these conflicting visions, which come to challenge Rheinallt’s ability to peacefully coordinate the expedition.

                As much of the novel centers around the mystery of the ship and the stories of the passengers aboard, I will not delve into too much detail regarding events that are crucial to the story’s suspense and surprise. I note, however, that the Second Edition contains significant additions, including thorough expositions of the main characters’ backgrounds and key aspects of Franson’s universe – such as subspace travel, the bloodswayer discipline, and the cultural and technological environment of the Trails Culture. The newly added content allows for foreshadowing of important discoveries and a more definitive elaboration on the threads of the story that would be continued in subsequent novels of the series. Furthermore, the revised ending is quite moving and immerses the reader more deeply into the novel’s characters.

                Indeed, the characters of Rheinallt and Arahant should be of interest to all supporters of indefinite life extension, as here we have fine examples of literary protagonists who do not senesce and are not condemned to an inevitable demise – and who are also intelligent, rational, benevolent, witty, creative, and resourceful. Their range of abilities and vulnerabilities is much closer to what actual indefinitely lived organisms would experience: they can still suffer from accidents and external physical harm, but they lack a built-in expiration. Therefore, their interactions in the environment of subspace are still fraught with peril, but they have sufficient abilities and strengths to give them a fighting chance – much like the fighting chance we humans will need when faced with the many phenomena in the universe that are far bigger than ourselves. The more positive examples of protagonists with unlimited lifespans arise in fiction, the greater will be the cultural acceptance of the idea’s eventual application to our world. For this reason and many others, readers should eagerly anticipate the continuation of Franson’s Overflight series, which will finally bring the universe and ideas of The Shadow of the Ship into renewed prominence after more than three decades.

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“Death is Wrong” Reviewed by Robert W. Franson of Troynovant

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Categories: Education, Philosophy, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Read the excellent new review by science-fiction author and literary essayist Robert W. Franson of Death is Wrong. The review is published on Mr. Franson’s website Troynovant, which offers extensive literary and philosophical analysis.

Here is an excerpt: “Death is Wrong is a short book, clearly written and easy to read. I like the personal approach: it doesn’t talk down and is quite accessible. A striking concept presented quite reasonably and supported matter-of-factly. There are apt quotations from a variety of thinkers, including several of my personal heroes of modern times: Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Friedrich Nietzsche. These people and some scenes from nature are nicely illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov. For readers who want a little more about the background concepts, there is a brief Appendix discussing the seven basic causes of senescence, such as cell loss and atrophy. There are some links for further learning. It’s a good book, entertaining and thoughtful, and certainly gives us a challenge to think about.

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Revolutions Eat Their Parents – Article by Peter St. Onge

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Categories: History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Peter St. Onge
January 13, 2015
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Left-wing revolution is one of history’s biggest bait-and-switches. Both for the intellectuals who hanker for the grapeshot, and for the marginalized peoples who get concentration camps instead of the anti-capitalist utopia they were promised.

“Revolutions eat their children.” This observation, by a journalist during the French Revolution, was only partly true. In reality, revolutions eat their parents. In particular, history’s left-wing revolutions eat the left-wing intellectuals who made them happen. By “left-wing” here I mean revolutions that explicitly aim to use government power to reshuffle society. To remake society so it matches whatever version of “justice” strikes its promoters as attractive.

Of course, in such reformist revolutions the eggheads are just an appetizer. History’s reformist revolutions move straight on to the main course: the marginalized and minorities who were often the revolution’s most passionate supporters to begin with.

The left-wing revolutions of the twentieth century have all followed this pattern: midwifed by utopian intellectuals, power is quickly seized by political entrepreneurs who play to the basest instincts of the common people. Even in the most “civilized” places, such as “anything goes” Weimar Germany or 1950s “playground of the stars” Cuba, these newly enthroned are happy to see those eggheads and their “perverted” friends interred, tortured, hung from the nearest lamp post.

The litany is depressing. Especially for any tenured radical drawing taxpayer money to cheer on the violence. Mao famously boasted of “burying 46,000 scholars alive” meaning he shipped them wholesale to concentration camps so they would shut up and die. Pol Pot’s radical communist movement famously executed intellectuals in the thousands, extending to anybody who wore glasses. Even the supposedly “cool” regimes like Fidel Castro set up concentration camps for homosexuals, while the Soviet Union illegalized homosexuality for over fifty years, outdoing by a mile that light-weight hater Putin.

Most ironically, given his campus stardom, radical hero Che Guevara gleefully and personally executed homosexuals, whom he detested, while helping set up Fidel’s network of camps across the county to torture gays and effeminate men into renouncing their allegedly wicked perversions that were supposedly the product of morally corrosive capitalism.

Why do reformist revolutions enjoy executing both left-wing intellectuals and the very “vulnerable groups” so near to the leftist heart? Because power has its own logic. Because any government based on violence has to constantly watch its back. And that means it has to appeal to the basest instincts of the masses. If the masses hate gays, or Jews, or the eggheads, then the government will do what it’s told, stuffing the Gulags with gays, Jews, and eggheads. What the basest people hate, omnipotent government hates.

Why are intellectuals so blind to this horrible pattern? Presumably, they hope this time is different and that the campus radicals and their pet politicians will hold on this time. If history is a guide, they will not. Instead, their revolution will get snatched from them by political entrepreneurs and turned into their worst nightmare: a revolution that is anti-intellectual, anti-gay, racist, and anti-Semitic. No matter how pure the birth of the revolution, history suggests this is what it will come to.

This gives no pleasure to point out. None of us want radical leftists hanging from lampposts, or executed in Che’s office for his entertainment. What we do wish is that violence-promoting reformers would have a bit more respect for the fire they play with. For them to study a bit more history. To understand why it is, always and everywhere, so dangerous to ride the tiger of unlimited government.

The left thinks it can control the tiger of the masses unleashed. It cannot, and indeed it will be the first to hang. And that would be very sad for us all, left and right.

Peter St. Onge is an assistant professor at Taiwan’s Fengjia University College of Business. He blogs at Profits of Chaos.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Reading, Fast and Slow – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Tags: , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
January 13, 2015
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When a book has a lot to offer—meaty ideas, well-crafted language, a plot that sings, characters that move me—I want to take my time with it. I want to savour it and make it last. On the other hand, there are some books that I want to have read, but that I’m not really looking forward to reading. Also, there are just a lot of books out there, and only so many hours to devote to reading in a given day, year, or lifetime. What if I could savour the best and speed through the rest?

Thanks to a Boston-based start-up named Spritz, I should soon be able to do just that. The company has developed a text-streaming technology that apparently allows readers to increase their reading speeds dramatically without loss of comprehension or retention, and with no special training required. Normal reading is like walking, in that you do it at your own pace. In contrast, “spritzing” is like being on a treadmill, with words coming at you one at a time at a pre-determined (but adjustable) rate. It also takes advantage of what the company calls the “Optimal Recognition Point” in each word. That may sound a bit hokey, but a quick trip around the Spritz website, where you can test out the tech for yourself, should dispel your doubts.

One possible use is quickly finishing a book that started out promising but is proving somewhat disappointing. I hate to abandon a book, and I’ll only do so if it feels like a complete waste of time. But I would have been happy, for instance, to step on the gas about halfway through The Luminaries, which won both the Governor General’s Award and the Man Booker Prize last year. What began as an intriguing tale of murder and mystery set during the 1860s New Zealand gold rush, packed with lots of well-defined characters, was not ultimately very fulfilling, in my opinion. Satisfying endings are not terribly common, but in this case, I found myself caring less and less about the characters as the story dragged on. With a really good novel, the opposite happens.

If this technology pans out, I’ll have more time to spend with higher quality books, which is reason enough to be excited. But as the cost of reading (in terms of time) falls, simple economics suggests that most people will probably read more, which frankly would be great. Just think: A wiser, more knowledgeable, more empathetic world may be right around the corner.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness.

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We Must Proudly Reassert Free Speech and Universal Western Values – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, History, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
January 12, 2015
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The horror of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine – the murder of 17 people – journalists, policemen, and ordinary shoppers – by Wahhabist Islamist fanatics in Paris on January 7-9, 2015, highlights the stark threat that religious fanaticism poses to Western civilization. The perpetrators of this barbarism have thankfully been eliminated due to the concerted, decisive, and careful work of French police, who managed to destroy the murderers and hostage-takers without harming or terrorizing innocent, peaceful civilians in the process. But unless the Western world resolutely affirms the untrammeled right of free expression of ideas, the already commonplace heckler’s veto over speech will turn into the murderer’s veto.

Mr. Stolyarov explains the need for an assertive revival of Western Enlightenment values (which are also universal human values) and a widespread, unconditional defense of freedom of speech – in order to prevent humankind from relapsing into the muck of barbarism.

References

- “We Must Proudly Reassert Free Speech and Universal Western Values” – Article by G. Stolyarov II – January 12, 2015
– “Excellent News from Turkey Regarding the Possibility of a More Humane Islam” – Post by G. Stolyarov II – November 28, 2008 – Excellent News from Turkey Regarding the Possibility of a More Humane Islam
– “German Newspaper Attacked After Publishing Charlie Hebdo Cartoons” – The World Post – Kirsten Grieshaber – January 11, 2015
– “These Are The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons That Terrorists Thought Were Worth Killing Over” – The Huffington Post – Catherine Taibi – January 7, 2015
– “Transhumanism” – Wikipedia
– “Wahhabism” – Wikipedia

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We Must Proudly Reassert Free Speech and Universal Western Values – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, History, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
January 12, 2015
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je_suis_charlie_fist_and_pencil

The horror of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine – the murder of 17 people – journalists, policemen, and ordinary shoppers – by Wahhabist Islamist fanatics in Paris on January 7-9, 2015, highlights the stark threat that religious fanaticism poses to Western civilization. The perpetrators of this barbarism have thankfully been eliminated due to the concerted, decisive, and careful work of French police, who managed to destroy the murderers and hostage-takers without harming or terrorizing innocent, peaceful civilians in the process. But unless the Western world resolutely affirms the untrammeled right of free expression of ideas, the already commonplace heckler’s veto over speech will turn into the murderer’s veto.

Anything but complete, unconditional condemnation of this attack allows the murderers and thugs to win. Anyone who claims, “I condemn the attack, but…” is blaming the victims and suggesting that any provocation, any motivation is capable of forming an acceptable causal connection between peaceful expression of ideas and murder. For those who resolutely defend the Western values of individual rights and secularism, the only question should be, “Does the expression of a viewpoint ever, under any circumstances, justify the death penalty?” If the answer is a resounding “No!” – as it should be – then there can be no “but…”.

The Western values that developed over millennia of philosophical evolution and finally emerged brilliantly during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment are universal human values – affirming human dignity and decency, the potential for peaceful cooperation among diverse viewpoints, the superiority of the creative mind over brute force, the potential for the human condition to be elevated through reason and persuasion, not intimidation. The Age of Enlightenment tamed Christianity in the West, turning it from a religion of bloodthirsty Crusaders, superstitious witch-hunters, and intolerant inquisitors, into a relatively soft cultural force that, at any given time, largely echoes the prevailing moral climate some thirty years prior. Christians who have been influenced by the Enlightenment – and even those who reject it, who have nonetheless found it necessary to adapt to the world it shaped for over two centuries – accept, with the exception of a fringe of fundamentalist fanatics, the basic preconditions for life in a civilized society, including the respect for the political, economic, and philosophical freedoms of those who think differently from them.

The Islamic world still awaits its own Age of Enlightenment, though some Muslims have, to their credit, accepted the Western Enlightenment as their own or attempted a courageous modernization of Islamic theology. Those Muslims who say “Je suis Charlie” are my allies, and I wish to see more Muslims embrace this attitude. But they have an uphill battle to fight – not just against their fanatical co-religionists, for whom no human life is sacred, but against the purveyors of postmodernist political correctness in the West, for whom the avoidance of giving offense trumps the necessity of standing on principle when the stakes are high. And the stakes are high indeed: if the murderer’s veto can result in any idea becoming inexpressible due to self-censorship and pressure from the “reputable” elements of society, then it does not matter what laws or constitutions say. If a sufficiently large element of society exists, whose members have a hair-trigger for offense and will kill you if you infringe upon their arbitrary taboos, then freedom of speech becomes a legal fiction, and de facto blasphemy law is the reality.

The best protection for freedom of thought is its frequent and prominent exercise by as many people as possible. Had prominent newspapers and magazines given frequent circulation to the wittily and refreshingly irreverent cartoons that Charlie Hebdo produced – which does not, by the way, rule out also publishing critiques or rebuttals from any other peaceful perspectives – then the murderous quartet that planned the Paris attacks would have had trouble choosing a target. Indeed, much about Western culture and lifestyles “offends” Wahhabist Muslims today, yet we do not see Westerners being routinely shot for failing to pray five times per day, facing Mecca. Almost everything about Western science, representational art, music, and clothing is inimical to Wahhabist Islam, yet the purveyors of these ubiquitous aspects of Western life – many Muslims among them, too – go unharmed by the fanatics. If politically correct fears are allowed to marginalize any form of expression for fear that it might “offend”, then any person who dares stand up for that expression – as is that person’s inalienable right – becomes a target for those who would relinquish even their own lives in order to cow a society into submission to their twisted, progress-stifling ideology. Political correctness accelerates the transformation of rights into taboos, until nothing of importance can be said, and any act of substance, any design to improve the human condition, would involve maneuvering through a minefield of hysterical, volatile, contradictory, and irrational “sensibilities” of the offended parties du jour.

So what is the solution? The elimination of the murderers themselves does not guarantee that similar murders will not recur. Indeed, the few courageous newspapers that reprinted the Charlie Hebdo cartoons have themselves become victims of threats and even an actual attack on the Hamburger Morgenpost in Germany. The solution is to resolutely reject victim-blaming, and for the prominent political, journalistic, and cultural figures of the Western world to themselves espouse the sentiments that the murderous fanatics considered so enraging. “Je suis Charlie” is a decent start, but a reiteration of the messages of particular cartoons would be far more effective. If the cartoons were republished on whitehouse.gov, parliament.uk, and elysee.fr, as well as the websites of all other national governments and publications with large readership, then a strong signal would be sent that Western societies still stand for the complete ability of any intellectual expression to occur, without its author receiving the death penalty or the kind of politically correct condemnation that invites the executioners to try. While it is not the role of governments to opine on matters of religion, it is their role to protect the rights of their constituents against infringement. Standing by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons – and similar critiques of any religion – would be a stand for the safety of anyone who would express a controversial or unpopular idea. Without a clear promise that such safety will be pursued, free speech means nothing in practice, since the expression solely of bland, prevailing, or popular ideas can occur in any society, with or without legal protections. We should be thankful to the few publications that did re-post the Charlie Hebdo cartoons – such as the Huffington Post, which presented a prominent sample here.

To encourage the expeditious arrival of an Islamic Enlightenment, a clear distinction between “moderate” and “radical” Muslims should be made. Every cultural figure of prominence should emphasize the following minimal criteria to be considered a “moderate” Muslim:

  • Complete rejection and denunciation of any killing motivated by religion
  • Opposition to the enactment of blasphemy laws or any laws prohibiting the criticism of any religion
  • Opposition to the legal establishment of Islamic sharia law in the West
  • Opposition to the persecution and/or prosecution of any person, Muslim or otherwise, who refuses to adhere to sharia law
  • Opposition to the persecution and/or prosecution of “apostates” who choose to leave Islam for any reason
  • Opposition to all laws that bring special restrictions upon women, homosexuals, atheists, and others, based on gender, sexual orientation, or lack of religious belief
  • Support for the right of those who disagree with any tenet or practice of any variant of Islam to peacefully express their disagreement or criticism, even if such expression is uncomfortable to some Muslims and offends their sensibilities
  • Recognition that any individual should have the right to draw Mohammad or any other religious figure, and the choice to exercise that right or not is a purely personal matter.

Finally, the alarming tendency of many long-time residents of European societies to drift toward fundamentalist Islam should be culturally combated by means of a New Renaissance of Western culture. For those who consider, rightly or wrongly, contemporary Western life to lack a sense of purpose or direction, there are far better antidotes than a murderous creed of militant fanaticism, whose spread is explained by its function as a “mind-virus” that short-circuits logical thinking and renders its carrier impervious to empirical evidence. Here, the damage done by the postmodernist critics of Western culture and its universal human values should also be reversed. In particular, the idea of progress – of the ability of humans to dramatically improve their condition through the application of reason, science, and technology – should be revived and asserted with renewed vigor in all areas of life. Beyond survival, what is the purpose of life? To achieve progress, to uplift human lives by harnessing the laws of nature to solve previously insoluble problems.

The humanism of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment should be extended into its logical next phase – transhumanism: the application of science and technology to overcome age-old limits to the human condition. The deployment of the next generations of technologies – from medical breakthroughs to efforts to colonize other worlds – should occur as rapidly as possible in all fields. No amount of help is excessive in pursuing this goal, and so anyone can find meaning in contributing. While we implement such a decisive push forward along the path of progress, we should also remember that we stand upon the shoulders of giants. Great historical achievements of Western art, music, science, literature, architecture, and engineering should be emphasized and celebrated. The achievements of Middle Eastern thinkers of the early Islamic era – prior to the lapse into doctrinaire orthodoxy that occurred due to Al-Ghazali’s influence during the 11th century – could also be incorporated into this celebrated legacy, as doing so would show many Muslims that their own cultural history offers a way out of the quagmire of fanatical intolerance. New cultural monuments should emerge, inspired by the achievements of the past but also embodying an aspiration toward a better future. The legacy of the Enlightenment, in particular, could by itself create an exquisitely sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and proudly assertive cultural manifestation that would have far more to recommend itself than an orthodoxy based on a seventh-century creed ill-adapted to a hyper-pluralistic world of accelerating technological progress.

The murder of human beings for the expression of ideas draws humankind back into the muck of barbarism. It has no place in the twenty-first century, and no part of the world can claim itself to be civilized unless it decisively resists and neutralizes such threats to free speech. The threats, however, have metastasized beyond the individuals who carry them out. A major reassertion of the universal human values of the Enlightenment must happen in order to defuse the hostile environment in which these threats incubate. All decent human beings everywhere are welcome to take part in the revival of these values. Perhaps one day all of us can once more raise our eyes to the stars, without the fear of descending into the quagmire of savagery in which humans murdered each other over disagreements for vast stretches of history, until the Enlightenment raised some of us out.

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The Importance of Free Speech to Human Progress – Article by Iain Murray

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Categories: History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Iain Murray
January 10, 2015
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From Principia Mathematica to Charlie Hebdo

 

The massacre of 12 cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris this week should remind us to ask: Why is free speech so important?

It is more than an inalienable individual right; it is fundamental to human progress. That is why it is one of the most important institutions of liberty.

When we look at the history of the freedom of speech in the West, we see that early on it was tied up with the freedom of the press, which is why the terms are used interchangeably in American constitutional theory. Yet, for most of the West’s history, the idea of “publishing” was meaningless. Books were copied by hand, first by scribes hired by Roman nobles to copy books they liked, then by monks in medieval scriptoria, with the more ancient texts copied as practice for copying the more important religious texts. As a result, many texts were lost, with others surviving by mere chance.

Having assumed the role of guardian of learning, the medieval church was ill-disposed toward innovations that threatened its position. The suppression of early English versions of the Bible is a case in point. Information traveled slowly, impeding the progress of intellectual innovation.

The printing press changed all that, as it brought about the first series of real struggles over freedom of speech. Ideas could travel more quickly, and literacy exploded.

As people could finally read the Bible for themselves, Reformation movements grew all over Europe. Then they took to using the press to spread other ideas. In response, the church and its allies in positions of power took steps to restrain this new free press. In fact, early copyright law arose from efforts to regulate the production of printers.

It should not surprise us that early libertarians were often printers. “Freeborn John” Lilburne was first arrested for printing and circulating unlicensed books.

The great poet John Milton wrote perhaps the first great defense of free speech when the English republican Parliament reintroduced censorship via the Licensing Order of 1643 (censorship had effectively been abolished in 1640 along with the Star Chamber, which tried Lilburne). In his Areopagitica, Milton passionately demanded freedom of the press and tolerance of heterodox publications, saying, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

The licensing order lapsed in 1694 as a result of the Glorious Revolution of 1685, which instituted a more liberal constitution in England and helped to inspire the American Revolution — and eventually the Bill of Rights and First Amendment. But the Areopagitica is still with us. Fittingly, the US Supreme Court cited it as an authority on the inherent value of false statements in the landmark case New York Times v. Sullivan:

Even a false statement may be deemed to make a valuable contribution to public debate, since it brings about “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” Mill, On Liberty (Oxford: Blackwell, 1947), p. 15; see also Milton, Areopagitica, in Prose Works (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1959), vol. 2, p. 561.

The free press opened new communication channels for theoretical innovation. It is often noted that Sir Isaac Newton was born the day Galileo died. What enabled Newton to take Galileo’s experiments and turn them into modern physics was the printing press. Newton published Principia Mathematica in 1687, and revised it in 1713 and 1726. The book was published by the Royal Society, founded in Oxford in 1660, which essentially invented peer review (see this here fascinating series of videos on the society’s role in the invention of modern science). Newton’s book spread throughout Europe, which would not have been possible under earlier regimes where printing was tightly controlled.

Central to the principle of a free press is the right to be wrong — which enables peer review and criticism in the first place. It is also central to scientific and technological innovation and experimentation, and therefore also central to economic progress, which has led to the great explosion in human welfare we have seen over the last two centuries. Free speech allows more ideas to “have sex,” to use Matt Ridley’s phrase, and that is why societies that are frightened by the consequences of this ideological sexual revolution are those with the most severe censorship laws.

At this point, one might argue that it is absurd to compare a “blasphemous” cartoon to the Principia Mathematica. But that would be a mistake. As Stephen Law has written for the Center for Inquiry, the point of such cartoons is not to cause offense, but something far greater:

More often than not, the lampooning is done with intention of shattering, if only for a moment, the protective façade of reverence and deference that has been erected around some iconic figure or belief, so that we can all catch a glimpse of how things really are.

It is exactly that goal — to help us determine what actually is, rather than what is simply asserted — that free speech and free inquiry make possible. As an institution of liberty, free speech must be defended wherever it is attacked. (My colleague Hans Bader has written elsewhere about letting down our guard.) Those who seek to suppress free speech want to keep mankind mired in poverty and ignorance, subject to their own whims and beliefs. They cannot be allowed to succeed.

Iain Murray is vice president at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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