The Science of Rights
Debate Rounds (4)
Con will argue against.
I watched the video and found it to be one of the stupidist things I've ever seen in my life. I will gladly accept this debate, and will argue that there is a panoply of better ways to spend seven minutes than watching that video. I do so as a service and a warning to others.
I will also argue specifically that this compilation of Looney Tunes is a much more entertaining video alternative:
Please proceed to state your case.
Thank you for accepting this debate.
I was excited to come across said video after reading the two books the video made reference to.
I found those “seven minutes” intriguing on many levels.
1. The video starts by questioning Thomas Jefferson's claim, about all humans having Unalienable Rights.
2. There are those who disagree with Jefferson as the focus switched to President Woodrow Wilson's published writings declaring our Rights are “nonsense.”
3. In defense of Wilson, the video points to the social climate of the day, was one of Social Darwinism; and its effects on Wilson's reasoning, not only on our Rights, but advancing the “Living Constitutional” argument.
4. The focus smoothly switched to Darwin and the popular phrase of “survival of the fittest.”
5. Analyzing the phrase “survival of the fittest” relative to Unalienable Rights was new to me when reading those books, and I'm sure it would be thought provoking for others who watch this video presentation relative to a what if scenario. That is, what if, Social Darwinism embraced “survival of the happiest” instead of “survival of the fittest” during the first half of last century? What about the potential loss of those fallen geniuses or their prodigy during WWI and WWII who could have advanced the standard of living for all?
6. The video presentation then loops back to Jefferson's claim. A claim incorporated in the design of a governance (aka USA), who took the “road less traveled” during its formation, which includes embracing and protecting the individual's Unalienable Rights.
7. The results of this design in governance, an empirical data point, changed the world like no other social system in recorded history in a short 200 year period, by the fruits of technology, food production, and medicine, the stables of human existence throughout the world today. A compelling example when our Unalienable Rights are morally free to flow and operate within the awesome machinery of Nature.
8. In the shadow of this awesome machinery of Nature, the presentation takes a second quote from Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (“the Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God”) to include those of faith. I find this to be a very important inclusion; for a large global populist is one of faith. Something to consider, when said populist is currently in a bloody conflict over the many different references of the Divine.
9. I found a bold move in this video of science to include those of faith, supporting their understanding in the origin of the Cosmos was God's creation. Placing yourself in the vantage point of those of faith, the Laws of Nature becomes part of the Cosmos; therefore, these Laws become alive as the handwriting of God, in the eyes of the faithful, where the scientific method is a way to read God's handwriting. An important and constructive attempt to bridge the divide between atheist and those of faith. But more importantly becomes the critical view for those of faith, to consider God's handwriting (the Laws of Nature), as guidance, when interpreting man's written scriptures of the Devine by fallible humans.
In essence, the video up to this point, is trying to focus on the reality that our Unalienable Rights are a common link throughout humanity. Having such knowledge could help exploit the ongoing effort in reducing global conflict by the human family's unification; in the natural flow of evolution embracing survival of a species. On the other hand, I regret to say, extinction is also part of evolution.
10. In the second half, the video presents a convincing traceable path of our Unalienable Rights to the physical Laws of Nature via the Constructal Law. The Constructal Law governs evolution in biology, physics, technology, social organization, adding depth and resolution to the symphony of flow conducted by the Laws of Nature through time. Since humanity is a product of the Laws of Nature, and subordinate within its matrix, there is no need to elaborate, one needs to view the video on this important link that will change the world in time.
11. The last segment covers man's historical age old desire for controlled flight, becomes the metaphor, when understanding and morally following the Laws of Nature lifts the tide of the standard of living for all.
Having a simple and intuitive insight of life's Unalienable Rights, a known physical Law in Nature by the masses, will naturally benefit humanity in the subtle progression of one day obtaining controlled flight in social optimization and configuration of governance; for the Laws of Nature are universal and omnipotent, superseding all of man-made laws in conflict thereof.
Thank you, Mike 10-4. Given the format of this debate, I will state my primary arguments against the video in this Round. I will reserve any rebuttal of my opponent's Round 2 remarks for Round 3.
I must begin by noting a dilemma. After I posted my acceptance, I did some preliminary research and very quickly discovered that, despite my opponent's odd pretense that this video was something he merely stumbled across, he is in fact the creator of the video and the author of the video's primary source: http://www.amazon.com....
Thus, while I stand by my initial assessment - the video is nonsense - I've no desire to be mean about it. Here's this guy who had an idea, took the time to write a book and self-publish it, and who's been pushing this same idea for close to three years through whatever platforms he can find. In most of the debates he's had on this site, regardless of the topic, he's circled back to this same content. Seems like the idea is important to him. Why tear the guy down? It serves no good purpose. It's more important to be kind than to be right sometimes, you know?
I've written versions of a response that more or less stop here, and I still think that may be the wiser course. But I've also no desire to concede. So, perhaps foolishly, I'm going to try to thread the needle here. I'm going to give the video more credit than it is due, merely by engaging with it. I'm going to do my level best to not be personally dismissive as I do so.
The video has awful production value
Before engaging with the ideas the video presents, let's take a look at its flaws as a video. Most immediately evident, the narration is performed by a synthesized text-to-speech voice, and not a very good one at that. Even state-of-the-art synthesized speech sounds awful compared to human inflection and intonation.  The grating vocals alone render the video nearly unwatchable.
The video contains many clichéd visual elements, including a waving American flag background, a galactic background, and a Star Wars-style slanted text scroll. The video punctuates nearly every sentence with apparently public domain still images devoid of any personality or artistry. The video dips and zooms into these images somewhat nauseatingly, and animates them with random powerpoint-style transitions.
The audio jumps around in volume, particularly at the end - I would not recommend headphones - and is replete with irritating sound effects (buzzers, golf balls, etc.) and silly music.
Twice during the video, the text on the screen appears in Comic Sans, which my opponent unfortunately also used as the typeface for the cover of his book. This is a terrible design error for any sort of writing intended for serious consumption.
Because of its low production value, the video serves as a poor vehicle to convey my opponent's ideas, regardless of their merit.
The video is incoherent
I've neither the space nor the inclination to engage in a point by point refutation of the video. I'll instead grapple with the general tone and major themes in the video, and save specific rebuttals for those points my opponent chooses to emphasize in subsequent rounds.
The central thesis of the video - although never clearly stated either in the video or by my opponent - is that people have individual, inalienable rights (specifically to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as phrased in the Declaration of Independence) which naturally derive from certain scientific principles. My opponent seems to feel that the source of Jefferson's "unalienable rights" must be susceptible to deduction from some underlying empirical or scientific principle for it to be "true." The video reflects no awareness of, much less any attempt to grapple with, the foundational thought of Hobbes and Locke in understanding Jefferson's concept of natural rights.
I find it instructive to review the Woodrow Wilson quote that the video misunderstands within its first minute. My opponent claims that Wilson believed that inalienable rights are "nonsense." In fact, Wilson was criticizing sloppy thinking about individual rights - the "nonsense" Wilson dismissed was the "mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation...put forward as fundamental principle."  This is precisely the intellectual error committed by my opponent, who attempts to elevate his musings on unconnected concepts into "scientific" proof for his peculiar theory of rights.
My opponent's attempts to map dissimilar concepts onto each other is illustrated by his attempt to correspond the phrase "survival of the fittest," to the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Both phrases, of course, are derived from entirely dissimilar fields, and serve as pithy summaries of complicated philosophical and scientific concepts from differing intellectual traditions - Darwinian natural selection and Lockean natural rights theory, respectively. My opponent attempt to merge these two unrelated ideas by means of absurd leaps of verbal logic, but makes no further attempt to reconcile the (again, highly dissimilar) ideas behind their one-phrase summaries.  Throughout the video, the argument presented depends on the observations of "symmetry" between dissimilar ideas, but the symmetries identified are entirely superficial and completely fail to engage on the level of substantive concepts in science or political theory.
My opponent relies heavily on something called the "constructal law." I won't go so far as to dismiss the "constructal law" as outright pseudoscience - there does appear to be some peer-reviewed analysis of the concept - but it is a niche idea with few proponents, and has been criticized (fairly, it seems) for its vague formulation and lack of testable predictions.  Even if one were to assume its validity as a scientific principle - a leap, at this point, given the lack of rigorous definition - my opponent draws an unjustified equivalence between Jefferson's formulation of rights and the constructual law. My opponent simply asserts that these things are the same, but gives no substantive reasoning behind this position. The video makes its case by superimposing the words "life," "liberty," pursuit" and "happiness" over a powerpoint slide of the constructual law, as if that is sufficient to prove his point. (I suppose the video also suggests you hold your breath for a while to prove how "freedom" is important - again, I found this less than compelling reasoning.)
You should watch something else instead
I've watched Pro's video, so you don't have to. If you're in the mood to watch something absurd, I say it should at least be intentionally absurd. Hand-drawn Warner Bros. animation is an American classic. Check it out.
Or, perhaps, if you wish to actually think seriously about Enlightenment-era rights theory, you might enjoy something on John Locke:
 https://archive.org.... My opponent deeply and unfairly mischaracterizes Wilson, as indeed the entire point of the paragraph is that liberty is inherently personal and individualistic - i.e., inalienable. See also https://archive.org....
First I would like to thank Con (CASmnl42) for asserting that I am the author (aka Takac) of the video production and book, while offering no proof to his claim. Please, present your “preliminary research.”
As for the production value, one could find flaws in any video presentation, style, format, etc. It's YouTube, not MGM. On second thought, not much quality is coming out of Hollywood these days.
Perhaps, the author Takac is poor and can't afford a literary agent to sponsor his work for a well-known publisher (“self-publish”) or his video production is home brew.
In any event, I think the 7+ minute presentation gives a good overview of the two books and presents the fact our Unalienable Rights are part of the physical laws of nature as oppose to the metaphysics of natural law (Hobbes, Locke, etc.).
Con should not be consume with video cosmetics, but let's focus on the content. Relative to Unalienable Rights pertaining to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” correspond to the three primitives found in all living systems down to the single cell level. To exemplify, once an organism comes to (1) life, it has the (2) liberty to (3) pursue survival; otherwise, there is no life.
Since we have life, the underlying pursuit of survival is the notion that most accomplished objectives result in some form of chemical/electrical positive-feedback - or happiness for humans - as experienced by all living things.
In addition, liberty and pursuit represents movement or flow of life corresponding to the symmetry found in the physical constructal law. The constructal law, governs evolution in biology, physics, technology, social organization from the freedom of flow generating configuration interacting with the laws of nature through time - whether animate or inanimate.
It is true the constructal law is new (1996) and under peer-review. It took the scientific community much longer to agree on Einstein's work. This is a normal phase in science.
As for Wilson's quote:
“No doubt a great deal of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle.”
Wilson did not elaborate on what he meant by “fundamental principle.” But he went on to say:
“Government is a part of life, and, with life, it must change, alike in its objects and in its practices; only this principle must remain unaltered, - this principle of liberty, that there must be the freest right and opportunity of adjustment. Political liberty consists in the best practicable adjustment between the power of the government and the privilege of the individual; and the freedom to alter the adjustment is as important as the adjustment itself for the case and progress of affairs and the contentment of the citizen.”
According to Wilson it's “Political liberty” manifesting in defining the “privilege of the individual,” a clear implication supporting his “nonsense” position over the Unalienable Rights of the individual.
Thank you, Mike 10-4. As noted above, I will spend Round 3 rebutting my opponent's Round 2 arguments. In Round 4, I will briefly rebut his Round 3 arguments and conclude.
Before I begin my rebuttal, however, I will address one particular request that my opponent made in Round 3. My opponent has asked me to present evidence of my claim that he is indeed the author of the video. Very well, then. My opponent usually styles his username as "Mike10four," and under this screen name has promoted this video and his book for some time - on Twitter, Mashable, and in comment threads on various websites.  The youtube user page for Mike10Four identifies the name associated with the account as "Mike Takac," whose sole upload is the video under discussion.  If you review the youtube comments, "Mike Takac" responds to a comment by Eric Johnson. The comment duplicates the closing paragraph of my opponent's Round 2 argument verbatim. I trust my opponent will concede authorship and we can close this particular matter.
My opponent provides no almost no arguments for the video
My opponent's Round 2 remarks are better suited to a book report than a debate. Instead of laying out a case for the video - either the presentation or the content - he merely summarizes the video and applies flattering adjectives ("the focus smoothly switched..." "a bold move"). In order to argue for a piece of visual media, one must do more than simply say what was in it and that they liked it. My opponent failed to lay out a case for why anyone should care to watch this video.
The subject of this debate is not natural rights or the constructal law. The subject is rather particular video; that is the debate my opponent chose and framed. Whether the arguments in the video are correct is only relevant to the extent it affects the quality of the video presentation. To prevail, my opponent needs to tell us why the arguments in the video make it a worthwhile video to watch, not simply reiterate the video's arguments about natural rights. The video can make its own arguments.
This leaves me with very little to rebut, except for a handful of the aforementioned adverbs (nothing in the video "smoothly" shifts), as my opponent makes almost no points that aren't already contained in the video itself.
The video contains no ideas that will enhance human flourishing.
The closest my opponent comes to making an argument for the video is in his statements that knowledge of the principles articulated in the video could "reduc[e] global conflict" and "benefit humanity." With these remarks, my opponent makes an attempt justify the content of the video, rather than simply restate it.
Those are deeply admirable goals, and I have no doubt that my opponent truly believes that his beliefs about natural rights could be significantly beneficial to humanity. (Again, that's why I initially considered abandoning this debate. My opponent is obviously sincere, and it's no fun to beat up on good intentions poorly executed.)
My opponent's (still somewhat unclear) thesis - the idea he believes will contribute to human flourishing - is that the inalienability of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a scientific principle. Now, there's nothing remotely scientific about natural rights theory, and my opponent's position is too vague to be testable or falsifiable. But even setting aside the question of whether my opponent's thesis is correct or not, it nevertheless contributes no useful or helpful insights to society.
Consider that even if my opponent's thesis is adopted on a widespread basis, there is no reason to think it would have any particular positive effect on society. All that the video really argues is that the bare right to pursue survival is reflective of scientific principles - this gives us no insight into the civil and political rights that Jefferson was referring to. If we adopt the principle concerning the base urge to pursue survival, then all we have justified is a Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all.
To elevate ourselves past that point, we must consider ourselves as members of our communities, and think in terms of our social relationships. It is only within societies and communities that a more advanced set of civil and political rights can emerge - and that puts us flat into the realm of political philosophy and "metaphysics" that my opponent seems so keen to avoid.
Thank you Con for sharing your “preliminary research” and the time invested in trying to identified my true identity. Just because my screen name Mike_10-4 looks like Mike10four and just because I used Takac's response to Erdic Johnson in this debate, Con concludes that I am Takac. I also used some of Adrian Bejan's (the scientist who discovered the Constructal Law) statements in this debate, I must be him as well. I'm sorry Con, your research is not conclusive, only circumstantial. And in saying that, I wish to remain anonymous.
In any event, who I am is not the subject of this debate. My opponent should stay focus! I would like to remind Con the subject of this debate is “The Science of Rights” with its companion video.
The video and the two books the video made reference to empirically demonstrates that life's Unalienable Rights of “Life,” having the freedom (“Liberty”) in “the pursuit of” survival (positive-feedback or “Happiness” for us humans) is part of the physical Laws of Nature, an outgrowth of the Constructal Law, not some political philosophy or some man's metaphysical dream.
This scientific incarnation proves Jefferson's “self-evident” claim in the Declaration of Independence “that all men ... are endowed ... with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It turns out, all life has those Rights, from a single-cell to humans.
This is a profound departure from the classical and today's scholarly view on Rights. Out of those scholars who reference Unalienable Rights, historically took the position they only apply to humanity. An understanding of life's Unalienable Rights, being an outgrowth of the Constructal Law, will mark a stage in humanity's intellectual evolution of living-systems throughout the world and perhaps the universe, resulting in some realignment of how man is ruled by other men.
My opponent keeps looping back to “Hobbesian” with such classical terms as “natural rights” (aka “natural law,” which is not the same as the physical Laws of Nature), in addition, metaphysics, “civil and political rights” all alluding to man's philosophy; subject to manipulation. Those traditional philosophers my opponent mentioned ("Locke, Hobbes," etc.) took man out of the Dark Ages in the 1600s, but today in our modern age, the scientific method has become inseparable from human endeavor. Many, like my opponent, treats Unalienable Rights as some romantic man-made “natural law” concept to aspire to, overlooking its empirical presence found throughout the symphony of life via the Constructal Law. A Law in nature that is not man-made, and this fact is the key to help calibrate humanity over the influence physical Laws in Nature have on social systems, morality, the rule of law, economics; detail covered in the books the video made reference to.
For example, morality is an outgrowth of Unalienable Rights, which is an outgrowth of the Constructal Law, which is an outgrowth of the Laws of Thermodynamics. The scientific community is starting to examine the link between morality and science, last month's Scientific American article.
The first paragraph in Stanford University's Encyclopedia of Philosophy on morality states it nicely. http://plato.stanford.edu...
“What “morality” is taken to refer to plays a crucial, although often unacknowledged, role in formulating ethical theories. To take “morality” to refer to an actually existing code of conduct put forward by a society results in a denial that there is a universal morality, one that applies to all human beings. This descriptive use of “morality” is the one used by anthropologists when they report on the morality of the societies that they study. Recently, some comparative and evolutionary psychologists (Haidt, Hauser, De Waal) have taken morality, or a close anticipation of it, to be present among groups of non-human animals, primarily other primates but not limited to them. “Morality” has also been taken to refer to any code of conduct that a person or group takes as most important.”
The articles in last month's Scientific American and Stanford's take on morality, relative to “non-human animals,” are weak for they lack the Constructal Law connection. It will only be a matter of time.
In today's social climate it is obvious more science is needed in the political sciences and in the social science fields. Little advancement in those fields since the 1600 and 1700s, mainly due to lack of understanding over the influence those physical Laws of Nature have on social systems. To get the word out about this Constructal Law discovery, the video takes the discourse out of the ivory tower for all to understand.
My opponent feels whether Bejan and Takac's “thesis is correct or not, it nevertheless contributes no useful or helpful insights to society.” Quite the contrary, this new discovery links, for the first time, the physical Laws of Nature to the social domain via our Unalienable Rights; no more, no less.
My opponent should realized, a new discovery of a Law in Nature does not immediately yield fruits in the standard of living. For example, Isaac Newton's discovery of the Laws of Motion in the late 1600s did not produce automobiles the next day. George Boole's discovery in 1847of a binary algebra (aka Boolean algebra) did not produce iPhones or computers the next day; and so on. This lag time between discovery and prosperity is true in all cases throughout the sciences. So too, such a lag time is expected in the discovery of our Unalienable Rights being part of the Laws of Nature.
Why wait for the political scholars to understand this incarnation? In the meantime, for the benefits of Unalienable Rights to blossom, the seed of this knowledge should spread throughout the masses; hence, this YouTube video designed for the average YouTube viewer. Understanding these Rights by all, at the individual level, will help the subtle progression of social optimization and configuration of governance, for the physical Laws of Nature are universal and omnipotent, according to Takac. Understanding our Unalienable Rights as a physical Law in Nature - not man-made - and from the beneficial historical performance of humanity working with those physical Laws (automobiles, iPhones, food production, medicine, etc.), perhaps, one day a global social renaissance may emerge lifting the standard of social living for all.
On the other hand, the information this video offers, may not be very well received by the tyrannical ruling-class oligarch throughout the world; more the reason why everyone should view this video.
In response to Con's curiosity about me, I took the liberty to view his profile. I see Con is in the “Legal” profession. I now understand his conservative bias relative to our Unalienable Rights due to the current state of philosophical indoctrination. I could only hope, Con will follow his “Liberal” ideology, an ideology embracing an open liberal mind to invite new discovery, and study how mankind may benefit from the progressive nature of said discovery. I challenge my opponent to view the video again with an open mind, following through with research on this new discovery about our Unalienable Rights. Viewing those Rights from a scientific vantage point, may open new doors in his profession, while being ahead of his peers; for man cannot change the Laws of Nature, he is trapped within its matrix, there are no exceptions.
As for the video's objective, it seems to be on course. It sparked my opponent's interest on the subject: “The Science of Rights,” the topic of this debate. That is the prime objective of the video, to stimulate discussion and debate throughout the human family over a new discovery about our Unalienable Rights are part of the physical Laws of Nature.
In closing I thank Con for taking this debate and fulfilling the video's objective; and finally I wish my opponent a long and healthy “Life,” with ample “Liberty,” in the moral “pursuit of Happiness.” In addition, I look forward in meeting Con again on the debating floor.
I. My opponent does not contest the video's poor quality.
My opponent does not offer any useful response to my criticism of the video's form, instead weakly offering that the video is "home brew" and that the venue is "YouTube, not MGM." My opponent seems to be unaware of the many polished homemade video presentations that can be found on YouTube. In any event, my opponent has provided excuses, not rebuttals. He does not contest the relevant point, which is that the video is of very poor quality.
Again, my opponent did not ask me to debate concerning a written summary of his ideas about rights - he very specifically directed the debate to argue in favor of a video presentation. On that level, the video completely fails. Even the best ideas can be poorly served by bad presentation, and this video is a bad presentation. On that point alone, Con should prevail in this debate.
II. A theory of rights that applies to single-celled organisms and humans equally is useless.
My opponent's argument extends expressly "down to the single cell level" and to "all living things." I would ask the reader to consider, what use is an understanding of rights that applies both to human persons and bacteria? My opponent seems to think that because pursuit of survival is an inherent property of life, that this is somehow synonymous with "inalienable rights." To answer the question, though, we need to get to the root of what a "right" - particularly an "inalienable right" - actually is.
Of course, bacteria live; and as a biological system, bacteria pursue survival. But what "inalienable rights" do they have? Every time we use antibacterial soap, or use a cleaning spray, or take an antibiotic, we are intentionally depriving countless bacteria of life. So what does it mean to say that they have a right to life? Only that they may pursue survival - not that we may not kill them with impunity.
What does it mean to say, now, that a human being has a right to life? It means, at a minimum, that a person cannot be arbitrarily killed by an action of the state - which is to say, the human right to life is a matter of a social arrangement between people. Not just that we may all pursue survival (war of all against all), but that we mutually assent to respect the lives of others in a quid pro quo for having our own lives respected.
Rights are political constructs. They exist in the realm of the social, and they are about how people and communities relate to one another. What are the boundaries of what the community can force the individual to do? What are the boundaries of what an individual may do before being restrained by their community?
If, as my opponent suggests, rights arise from a "constructal law" that applies to all systems, living or otherwise, then the only thing we have achieved is the bare pursuit of survival. It says nothing of speech, or conscience, or religion, or voting, or marriage, or self-defense, or assembly, or due process - nothing of substance whatsoever concerning the political rights that are inherently human and inherently social.
The science of rights outlined by the video is, bluntly, plainly absurd. But even if it were not - even if there were merit to my opponent's ideas - the only thing he has justified is pursuit of survival at any cost. As a guide to human rights as we understand them, these ideas are useless.
III. Response concerning WIlson quotes
I will leave it to the reading comprehension of the audience as to which one of us has correctly understood Mr. Wilson's text. I suggest only that what Mr. Wilson correctly understood is precisely what my opponent foolishly rejects - that political liberty cannot be understood without reference to the proper relationship between the government and the individual. My opponent's "science of rights" speaks nothing to this proper balance.
After viewing the video several times, and considering my opponent's ideas more seriously than I suspect anyone else ever has outside perhaps immediate family members, I stand by my initial assessment of the video. It's bad. I can't recommend that anyone watch it. It's a poorly executed presentation of one man's highly idiosyncratic approach to rights. You won't understand rights, or science, any better after watching this video than you did before.
I want to thank Mike 10-4 for a lively debate, and I wish him well.
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