* Posts by Simon McMullan

3 posts • joined 13 Jun 2007

At the Toyshop of Doom

Simon McMullan


I disagree with your comments regarding the irrelevance of morality in human behaviour.

Social Darwinism has been used to justify the most base behaviour by everybody from the eugenicists of the 1940s to the free-market libertarians of today, but the actual basis for SD is not logical. You espouse the arguements made by the religious in the face of rising atheism; if there's no god, then nothing matters, so we may as well behave as savages. To be an atheist is to be a savage. As Dawkins is fond of pointing out when confronted by this line of reason, are you really suggesting that the only reason religious people refrain from murder and rape is because they're scared of God? I take it that you are yourself an atheist (as am I) and are viewing this element of human behaviour through the prism of your disenchantment with the moralizing hypocrisy of the church, but you are mistaken. If anything, secularism has been an overwhelmingly positive force for tolerance and freedom; you cannot argue that human behaviour is becoming less civilised - how many vegetarians do you think there were in England 100 years ago?

There is such a thing as morals. Although they're intangible, they are none the less universal. The same moral standards apply across all human societies regardless of level of socioeconomic or technological development, race, or religion. I'm not going to go into the detail, but these things have been objectively studied by psychologists and philosophers, and they find that when presented with moral scenarios (is it morally justifiable to kill an innocent person in order to save the lives of 5 others? etc) that the answers are the same. You may argue they're not based on anything real, because there is no god, but your own arguement (we're just doing what comes naturally) is based on the same premise; that intrinsic human behaviour is a real force. As you say, justice exists because it has been invented.

More importantly, even if it is in human nature to kill and conquer, that does not mean we have to shrug our shoulders in the face of the inevitable. It is in human nature to enslave the vanquished, to rape, to steal, but we have power over our impulses. You are absolutely correct that a certain section of society will follow these impulses, and will not regret them. The murderers of Darfur probably will die old and powerful, but I don't think that we should sell them weapons just because they're always going to be out there.

In the 21st century we do have alternatives to hitting civilians with pointy pieces of metal when we're not happy with the way their leaders behave, and our economy really does not hinge on selling exquisitely designed killing machines to second rate despots obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses.

Simon McMullan

Only dangerous if used for their intended purpose...

Is it right to have an arms sale? Depends on what your selling, and who to.

Anybody who believes that the sale of weaponry contributes to democratic freedom is misguided. Although high tech systems make for impressive pictures, the international arms trade is all about small arms; guns, grenades, ammo, artillery, land mines, tanks. These items are the weapon of choice the despot, the tyrant, and the terrorist. All of the major military powers build their own kit - therefore, international arms sales' target audiences are, almost by definition, aimed at the ambitious third world gangster planning (or repressing) the next coup.

The arms industry brings in a lot of bling for the UK, but who from? People we should really not be supporting, that's who. Saudi Arabia, a theocratic monarchy in which it is illegal for women to drive, has been the UKs most consistent customer since 1997. Is it morally right to take their money? It's not going to be used on us (probably), but does that absolve us? What about selling arms to Bin Laden? Or Hitler? Would the boost to our economy outweigh the moral issue? I don't think so.

For those that say that weaponry is inert, and that responsibility lies with the user, I point out that these items have been designed for functionality. A landmine is stepped on and maims you. Napalm sticks to your flesh and burns you. A hollowpoint bullet expands in your body . Cluster bombs. Daisy cutters. The products of design, and far from inert. Could you justify selling equipment specifically designed for torture to the Saudis? How about a machine that skins humans ? What about a nuclear bomb? If not, your argument is invalid; you're conceding that there is a moral responsibility associated with the sale of the kit, but that the financial allure of the sale overrides any moral compunction.

Finally, whose money are you taking? Is it ethical to take the money from a despot when you know that the purchase of this equipment is taking food from the mouths of the poor. Can you really shrug your shoulders and say 'not my problem/If it wasn't us, they'd buy it elsewhere anyway'. This is also the argument used by opponents of civilian gun control with regard to acquisition of guns by criminals. If you sincerely believe this is logical, rather than just want to have a gun yourself, then, by the same logic, it's inevitable that Bin Laden or his ilk eventually get their hands on WMD, so we may as well sell it ourselves and make some money out of it.

If weapons really made the world safer, then arming everybody would result in less violence. Would you really feel safer if everybody had a gun?


Microsoft demos mind-bending photo app

Simon McMullan

Genius spotted in the crowd in Venice

Awesome demo - beats the hell out of explorer.

I was flying around the demo and spotted Stephen Hawking in the Piazza San Marco, which was a bit weird to say the least. Having an espresso with a blurry waiter, it would appear.

Link to the pic http://labs.live.com/photosynth/view.html?collection=all/ps/sanmarco/index1.sxs&im=images/IMG_3394.sdx