Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A reply to Bloomfield: Towards a completely empirical foundation for veganism



Josef Bloomfield's essay [1] is a well written exposition of why one doesn't have a sound case to logically intertwine 'spiritualism', say asserting the existence of metaphysical souls of animals e.g., with veganism: the standpoint which has at its core the principle that manipulating animals for our sole benefit is inherently wrong. I want to almost push his arguments to their proper intended logical conclusion, which he doesn't quite get round to since the piece lacks the clear-cut empiricism and rationalism found only in the sciences.

One point that I would like to make is that whilst reading the piece which continually states how veganism cannot be conflated with spirituality, I was almost dumbfounded to find this in the conclusive paragraph:

To conclude, if spirituality and veganism exist in a symbiotic relationship, this can only be a good thing. If a spiritual or religious person feels motivated by their spiritual beliefs to become vegan, we should embrace them. - Josef Bloomfield
which, to me, contradicts the whole previous build up. Obviously this probably wasn't intentional, but it is slightly confusing since the penultimate paragraph reads:

This approach has to be secular. Secular abolitionist vegan moral philosophy does not require one to reject any other beliefs, other than that animals are ours to use. The audience will not react against secular justice in the way they would against spiritual. A spiritual argument can quickly descend into religious debate, which is an area of debate that would be best to avoid. - Josef Bloomfield
So which way is it?  I believe the apparent contradiction and confusion arises intrinsically from the way many vegans justify their adherence to the principle(s) of  veganism.

Jo asserts that it is so easy and so blindingly obvious that the use of animals for food and other products is 'morally wrong';

It doesn’t take much coherent thought to realise that the use of animals is morally wrong. - Josef Bloomfield
but this is a logical fallacy. He is justifying the statement: 'the use of animals is morally wrong' because.. well...  isn't it obvious!?  It is similar to justifying that the objects we see are a superposition of quantum states in the classical limit because... well..  isn't it so darn obvious!?

He doesn't provide a logical or scientific justification for the main premise of veganism. This is very dangerous, it means that any vegan who thinks the same way cannot adequately defend the core of their beliefs. It is also harder to convert non-vegans who may be logically inclined (quite a lot of people) because they may just think that veganism is based on a lifestyle choice which won't necessarily, at face value, improve their lives.

One could argue that, on some animal inclusive happiness principle, it is morally justified. Since reducing the animals un-happiness and pain equates to a greater score of total happiness for all animal kind. The happiness principle has its shortcomings...  what counts as happiness? Different animals, including us, experience mental states of pain and pleasure differently so how can we derive an averaged happiness measure?  Also all seemingly sophisticated moral philosophies around justifying veganism are actually just sugar coated expressions of empathy.

Humans (some more so than others) are programmed genetically to experience empathy when our young are in pain, so that we take better care of them so that our genes are more likely to live on. This empathy facility affects us when animals are in pain too, this is because there has been no selection pressure to distinguish specific human pain from animals...  any pain like behaviour is sufficient to induce empathy.  So, my argument continues, moral stances of veganism reduce to this empathy facility. Many vegans are vegan because they feel empathy when they are shown terrible (and believe me they are terrible) videos of slaughtering, chicks being blended etc.

However this is not a valid logical justification to accept a moral ideology. As heart warming as it is to stand alongside those who base their moral actions on empathy, it is primitive and contradictory to our modern secular system. It is primitive because in this time we understand that to live a in a free, healthy and progressive society we must advocate science, not because it feels right, but because it works. Our emotions are prone to error and we have much more refined and rigorous tools of reasoning at our feet to use.

Towards a valid foundation

I would openly claim that veganism is irrational because it is spiritual, and therefore I would never be vegan. - Josef Bloomfield

Replace 'spiritual' with 'emotional' and, from the preceding arguments, you can see how some people would still reject veganism because they may see that at the heart of all the moral 'stuff' is irrational emotion. Before anyone shouts 'how can emotion be irrational?' you must remember that anything rational can either be a system of logical axioms (maths) or based on experimental induction. Emotion by its very nature precedes sophisticated language and is built up from instincts ingrained within our brains from billions of years of natural selection.

So where are we now?  We need to place veganism on a foundation where, like Josef rightly says, it appeals to the rational faculty within us. Since veganism involves the real world, the only area that can help us is the realm of science. We must base veganism on facts.

What will change if we base veganism on facts and what type of facts anyhow?

 Well there is vast evidence pointing towards the hypothesis that eating meat will greatly increase your risks for chronic diseases which of course include the cardiovascular form [2]. It has been shown that dietary choices  account for 30% of factors leading to cancer in Western societies, a study concluded that vegan diets lowered the risk of getting cancer by a significant amount [2 - cancer]. Veganism is a form of food restriction, you are avoiding meat cuisines, which isn't all so bad since any form of food restriction (not leading to nutritional deficiency) and increase in antioxidants from increased veg intake actually increases health [2 - vegetarian].


Grazing animals consumes huge amounts of food and land. There are many future problems which could affect you, your children... but mainly YOU in the future. Global warming is a prevailing issue which is serious and the meat industry plays a bigger role than you would have thought in ruining this planet. There will come a time when we have to invest in technologies which remove carbon from the atmosphere, this will be when you are still alive. The countries you live in will have to pay for this, this means you will via tax. So by reducing your meat consumption you will inevitably save money in the future and preserve that fresh(ish) air you love to breathe in when you wake up. By freeing up land used by animals after there population dwindles due to humans not forcing increased rates of birth, this land can be used for green urban areas which will help the growing population find living space but still make the world greener. Plus less methane being produced!!!  For articles and papers for veganism and the environment see [3].

It is facts like these and growing evidence that a plant based diet will help you live a healthier, happier life, internally and externally in terms of the environment you live in. So since denying scientific fact is a sign of insanity, which not many people are(?), and actually realising that by accepting these facts and adapting to them, via veganism or even just reduced meat consumption for starters, you will help yourself. This is pretty much the empirical foundation for modern veganism, or what it should be.

It works because the facts align with our genetic disposition to survive, to procreate and live healthy lives but also due to the pressures of becoming successful in modern day living. To become successful in any field of note requires alertness, clear thinking and energy...  all this emulates from a properly functioning brain and body. Plus having a scientific mindset, which respects facts when they are properly established, will enable you to adapt quickly to the ever complex realm of technology, medicine and society.

So now we see that veganism is not based on spirituality or emotional empathy (or moral philosophy you say?) but it is based on impartial fact. Facts do not require belief, they will remain a fact even if people do not take to it.. but those who deny will be at a disadvantage for it. People who accept facts and adapt to them will most likely thrive and become successful... with the propensity to do so happens to be installed in our genes and within Western culture.

So will you dine with the carnivores or take your first steps to a healthier, greener and scientifically literate you?



[1] http://www.ecorazzi.com/2016/09/20/spirituality-and-veganism-may-co-exist-but-cannot-be-conflated/
[2] Science for plant based diets:

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777.short - diabetes
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23169929 - cancer
http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/19166134 - vegetarianism- food restriction

[3]Science for plant based diets and the environment:

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1699S.short

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/global-warming/ - PETA

Monday, 27 June 2016

Could your genes make you racist ?


A  frightening awakening

The shocking result of the EU referendum has left remainers weeping in their pillows, the pound falling down the stairs and the xenophobic standing tall and proud. Politics has been truly shaken at its heart with the prime minister resigning and economic emotions flying high with no where to land.

One side effect of the success of the leave campaign has seen an emphatic spread of 'hate crime' and xenophobic outbreaks towards the Muslim, Polish and foreign community. I can only assume those who hold such dire and inhuman views believe that because a slight majority voted for leave it somehow justifies their actions towards benevolent, tax paying and culturally diverse citizens.

Racist graffiti was observed on the front entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in Hammersmith which is a direct act of hate crime.

This recent spout of such acts has been encouraged by Brexit but the hate and despise of immigrants and people of differing culture and ethnicity has been bubbling in many Brits minds for years. This is merely an opportune moment to strike. The leave campaign, whilst not explicitly promoting racism, has re-triggered the emotions and motives of many racist groups and in this sense it has been an absolute devastation in terms of dividing Britain.

Polish people have been migrating to the UK since world war II and Polish is the third most common language spoken here in Britain. I went to school with many Polish children and they have integrated within many communities very well, their stores and food becoming ever more popular with typical 'British' people.

The classic thing to say is that many working class people believe their future labour is being snatched away by immigrants and the like, they assert that immigrants should be put second place to them on the job market even if they are more hard working and cheaper labour. However many racist people do not just hate one single community of people, say just Polish or Muslim, but any community which differs to theirs. It seems to extend beyond jobs, fear of terrorism or religion but towards an innate hatred to that which is different to them.

Is there something...  biological going on here?

The Gene hath you by thy neck


Genes provide the instructions for proteins which dictate how your body develops and how it functions. They are the main stars in the show known as evolution and we are merely the vehicles, carrying them on generation after generation.

Now anything your genes instruct (to produce your phenotype) has been selected over great expanses of time, so the behaviours and biological make up of humans must serve a purpose to help propel genes into further generations. We can ask whether there would be any obvious advantages to having a gene, or collection thereof, which encourages a human to stick with other humans who look like it and who come from the same territory. 

If someone has the same skin tone as you and was born in the same place as you it is more than likely that they share more genes with you than say, a dark outsider. This means if you were to protect those who are physically more like you etc. from competing outsiders then similar genes will be more likely to be passed on to the next generation. This makes quite a lot of sense in terms of selfish genes. 

Potentially the selection mechanism for this wouldn't have to be extremely strong, maybe it was enough only to have genes which share resources with similar humans and protect them from danger in particular... it doesn't necessarily have to encourage the hunting of different humans.

Maybe the wide spreading of xenophobia and racism around the world is based upon a common inherited 'racist' gene. Obviously not everyone has this potential gene expressed in them as we see tolerant and multicultural societies existing in our modern world... but maybe because this gene was suppressed by other genetic factors? The environment? Or modern ideologies overriding genetic dispositions?

We can surely question the selective advantage of such a gene, if it were to exist. I proposed early that it may be advantageous for humans to protect those who are physically similar to them, in case they share the same genes. This would, in theory, increase the copies of that gene in the next generation. 

If we consider a small community who only breeds with themselves, under the influence of this said gene, then they will eventually become inbred and increase homozygotsity within cells (duplicate alleles of the gene present). There have been numerous reports of birth defects, learning difficulties and weakened defences of the inbred. 



These defects would surely put the human at a disadvantage in terms of producing offspring, whether it struggles to survive in order to mate or simply it is not sexually attractive, hence those genes will become less frequent within the gene pool.

There is growing evidence that intermixing i.e. interracial breeding which produces heterozygotsity within the cell increases parasite, disease and other harmful disorder resistance  (Professor Bill Amos - Cambridge) also a trait which produces more symmetrical facial structures occurs more in mixed raced adults (Dr Mark Shriver - Penn State).  In fact, many of us find humans of the opposite or same sex attractive solely because they are different... there seems to be a genetic advantage in this view too.

So there could potentially be a gene which protects those similar to oneself however the selective advantages are not convincing and it cannot explain how waves of racist people arise in modern societies, it surely must be something cultural not entirely, if at all, based on genes. Genes can encourage aggression, intelligence and many other things but something like xenophobia and nationalism is surely a cultural phenomenon and we must therefore bring in the right technical Cavalry. 


What do you meme it's me? 

Drawing analogies with the gene, the meme is the cultural unit in which a new form of evolution acts upon. Memes can be considered to be ideas, literal internet memes, snippets of music, art, isms and fashion accessories. Anything that can be imitated and copied by other humans acts as a meme. 

To illustrate the concept quickly just imagine 4 people on the tube, one starts humming a coldplay song, the other hums too but messes up a few times and the others copy him and so forth. The small errors in imitation lead to mutations of that meme. This means memes get passed on (like genes), have variation (like genes) and instruct (like genes) .... all this necessitates a selection process.

Now back to racism. Think of our modern and complex culture as a huge ensemble of memes living in subsystems called meme-pools which consist of memes competing with each other to be copied from human brain to brain. Now maybe it is possible that ideas based on xenophobia, while seemingly created by radical politicians from history etc. , have in fact evolved (in a meme-like fashion) so as to manipulate human brains to copy it.

The idea instructing its brain to be hostile of foreign ideas and values in such a way as to protect itself and fellow cooperating memes such as fundamentalist religion, right wing politics, fascism and nationalism. The idea manipulates the human into sharing it for its own survival without seemingly benefiting those who believe it.

This would mean racism is not innate but acquired through different forms of imitation and it is spread culturally. Memes arising from tolerance, reason and inclusion directly pose a competitive threat these xenophobic memes and hence a clash occurs (we are obviously in the midst of such a clash now). 

Thinking in terms of memes and culture this way is very different to how we normally think of things, it could offer a unique and potentially scientifically interesting perspective into how cultural trends and political movements work. Also it could offer an explanation to how many people acquire ideas and how ideas seem to take control of them, making them do acts which do not directly benefit them economically or in terms of passing their genes on.

It could be a mixture of genetic dispositions and memes taking advantage of these, two distinct replicators manipulating humans for their own endeavour. Only future advancements in understanding many-human-systems, genetics and even memetics will lead to more specific and clear answers to these interesting questions.

All I can say is this...   multiculturalism and the diversification of ethnicity and language brings great benefits to societies in terms of  advancement in knowledge, peace and genetic prosperity. 

LOVE ALL DESPITE THEIR DIFFERENCES!

  




Monday, 25 January 2016

The Protein Folding Problem









What is a protein?

  Most people are familiar with the word protein because quite a lot of food has it and protein, as we are told, is good for muscular recovery. But proteins are much more than that. Without them our body couldn't function at all, they are the diverse workers which reside in our cells and allow our food to be digested properly, our brain to function to its full potential and to avoid our muscles wasting away.

Proteins are polymers, meaning they are strings of repeating subunits called monomers. Monomers are the basic units of proteins and consist of a class of 21 amino acids:


Table of Amino Acids.

These different amino acids bond together via N = H or C = O hydrogen bonding to form the lengthy protein chains. This bonding is due to a chemical reaction. As you can see, there are many amino acids so the natural question to ask is: does the ordering of amino acids matter ?  The answer to that question is a huge yes! It matters because different amino acid sequences lead to different folded states of the protein polymer chain. These different folded states result in the protein doing a different job. If proteins folded the same way irrespective of their amino acid sequencing life as we know it could not have evolved all those billions of years ago. 

It is compelling to note that DNA, the helix molecule which contains the important genetic code, has a structure which does NOT depend on the sequence of the bases inside the helix. This fact ensures the helix molecule can be used as an efficient information storage medium. 

So what's the problem?

So we  have gathered that proteins are important and their folded structure depends on the sequence of the amino acids along the chain. The problem here is what causes the protein, which is initially a floating spaghetti like structure in water, to fold? Most useful proteins in biological organisms contain very long chains of amino acids and have a huge amount of possible states that they could be in. Theoretically it would take the protein to make trial and error movements, testing each possible state, before finding the right 'native' state which it needs to be in to do its job.

This would require huge expanses of time, obviously evolution would have sieved this out in the very early stages of life.... and in a sense it did. It is experimentally known that proteins fold on a time scale of milliseconds to seconds, which presents a paradox...  how does the protein get into the 'native state' without testing all or most of the possible states. This is known as Levinthal's paradox.

It is assumed (yes only assumed) in the general statistical physics and chemical community that what helps proteins fold so quickly is thermodynamics. In particular the driving force for protein folding is entropy, a measure of disorder, and hence a minimization of a quantity known as the Gibbs free energy. The protein chain starts out as an ordered linear string and due to most of the bases being hydrophobic (repelling water) the water around it forms ice like cages which forces the protein into a more compact shape. This most compact and stable of these shapes is called the 'native state' and it is the state which has the lowest Gibbs free energy. 

However all is not simple. There is not just one simple minimum for proteins. The minima of the Gibbs free energy function form a rough landscape full of different wells of differing depth. As the protein is also undergoing brownian fluctuations but also being forced into compact globules by the hydrophobic bases it travels through this energy landscape. Sometimes its 'shape' gets stuck due to it being in a temporary minimmum well but this may not be the most stable and the shape is relaxed slightly until being forced into another compact shape determined by yet another minimum well.

In reality the forces causing the protein to fold have to interact on a atomistic level, the atoms of the water solution interact with the atoms of the bases of the protein. To simulate these atomistic collisions is an extremely computational problem, which requires taking into account the position of many many particles and computing huge amounts of tiny interactions. These simulations are called molecular dynamics and some ingenious approximations have been made but to simulate a whole protein fold solely based on molecular dynamics is.. quite simply... near impossible currently.

So there are many problems...
  1. How can we prove analytically that proteins really do fold because they want to minimize their Gibbs free energy?
  2. How much computer power does it take to fully simulate, at an atomic level, the protein during folding?
  3. Can we fully replicate the stability of the folded protein in real time?
  4. Can we form any program which... given the sequence of amino acids could determine an immediate folded state?
These are some of the pressing questions in the field of theoretical and computational protein folding. Is there another computationally inexpensive way to do this?

Taking a step back, then compute the acceptance probability

One way which is reviving the field is to not focus on the computationally heavy molecular dynamics.. but to attack the density of states directly. Since it is okay to assume the native state is at a minimum of some Gibbsian like energy function, we can simply sample the density of states and 'roam' the free energy landscape until we hit the deepest minimum.

This can be done using specialized Monte Carlo techniques e.g. umbrella sampling and Wang Landau algorithms. These techniques start from a partition function (which counts all possible states of a system) and begins to sample the density of states by making trial changes to the system i.e. moving a part of the protein to another point and seeing if it is energetically favorable according to some acceptance criterion. If you are interested in Monte Carlo algorithms I recommend reading the original paper by Metropolis, Rosentbluth and Teller on the Metropolis algorithm.

In the field today there are improvements to Monte Carlo algorithms which allow bigger systems to be simulated and a better sampling of the free energy landscape. 

All in all it is a very exciting area of research one which has huge biological significance and could impact our medical world. 

 

Friday, 14 August 2015

A Defence of Offence: Why We Need To Offend



What do we mean by offensive remarks and gestures ?

We live in an extremely interconnected society where we can communicate with a large amount of people, some we have not even met, from varying cultures and places. Our culture is a wondrous array of different idealisms, trends, fads and belief systems with its diversity being shown in people around the world.

With this diversity of ideas and belief systems comes an inevitability, due to ideas contradictory to one another or senses of egoistic superiority, which is disagreement. This happens everyday on the internet where anonymity aids the ferocity of arguments between theists and atheists, supporters of different football teams, groupies of competing boy bands ad infinitum. It also happens in person between members of family, where the traditional views of parents conflict with the liberal aspects of their young or between friends and even strangers. 

As we are humans and have evolved the capacity to feel, for better or worse, during these spouts of disagreement a lot of people react negatively to their ideas being challenged or mocked. This negative reaction is also shown when people are themselves slated with nothing to do with the ideas they think to be true. These reactions vary in intensity and some even use violence to air how 'offended' they feel. 

A mundane example could be that you meet a tourist from a different part of the world who visits your city and upon meeting you describe how great your city is and then he describes how great his city is also. Then you both realise that your own city is better and start to bicker on who lives in a better place, the tourist feels offended and leaves angrily. This is basically the 'patriotic offender' who believes his birthplace is the best solely because he was born there by chance and slates every other country or territory. 

A more pressing and extreme example is when the Western media mocks the prophet Muhammad of the Muslim faith or burns the Q'ran which evokes extreme reactions from the Muslim community because they feel offended that their religious faith and articles are being mocked or publicly disagreed with.  

So offensive acts explicitly challenge or contradict another idea which causes negative emotional reactions from their believers, it also includes ad hominem (insulting each other on personal traits) attacks also. 

Therefore we can say being offended equates to being in a negative emotional state where you feel your own traits and beliefs are being negatively portrayed. The discussion then revolves around whether a persons right to avoid this emotional state weighs more than having the right to challenge other peoples beliefs and traits. We shall come to see that people can avoid being offended and still be challenged at the same time.

An argument against offence based on Bentham's happiness principle



  One simple argument against the right for people to offend and protecting the right to not be offended comes from the greatest happiness principle. This principle states that in a society the general happiness of its citizens should be its main priority.

 The argument goes like this: Being offended is a negative emotional state in which X is not happy, the offender Y gains a small amount of happiness for offending X. It is shown that in general the magnitude of happiness Y gets is smaller than the loss of happiness of any X. So therefore there is a net loss of happiness every time someone gets offended, so the government which looks to put legislation in place to protect its citizens and provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people should make offensive acts illegal. 

This is the first argument I thought of against people offending others and it is literally bursting with erroneous assumptions, impracticalities and just shoddy thinking. Firstly, if we play along with Bentham's principle for a moment, we assume that over time restraining offence will lead to a happier society but will it?  I mean some offensive remarks actually do lead to useful debates on hot topics in the society be it vaccinations, education, science and how people should live their lives so maybe allowing offensive remarks can lead to people changing their minds (in light of arguments etc.) in order to live easier and happier lives. So restraining offence might not actually be the optimal way to increase happiness in a society.

I cannot stand the principle of happiness. It assumes that happiness is a precisely measurable quantity and in order for society to place efficient laws there would need to be a 'happiness calculator' for every action a citizen would do. Happiness is a complicated thing, scientists do not exactly know what constitutes the mental state of happiness and they are far from measuring it well enough for it be the base of all law in a society. Also the argument and principle assumes that happiness is the only ultimate goal of a society.. is it?  There doesn't seem to be any evidenced based reason to assign any ultimate goal to a human society. 

So this argument against offence is really a very weak one. I hope to have done it some justice and it is an argument many people do use, they really think that they have a right to not be put in this emotional state of being offended but underneath this thinking there seems to be no strong argument. 

Let's move on to a more challenging argument against offence. 

An argument against offence based on incitement of violence


This argument stems largely from John Stuart Mill's 'Harm principle' which was originally formulated in his great book 'On Liberty'. It is of great contemporary importance in moral discussions and in direct application of laws on hate speech. Mill's words on the principle are exemplary and it would do this discussion justice to show them here: 

‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’ - J.S. Mill (On Liberty (68) ) 
 Let's look at another extreme example which is racial hate speech. If I was to publicly share my hate towards another race either verbally or in written form there would be a huge uproar. People would congregate and share their extreme negative feelings of being offended towards me. As racial hatred has such a deep history of pain, suffering and evil some people on getting offended by my remarks will simply strike me down out of rage as if there extreme feelings of hatred toward me compelled them to use violence to stop me. Who is the wrong?

Well my racial hate speeches obviously led to a congregation of very upset people and those that used violence wouldn't have needed to if I didn't start my speeches in the first place. So it seems my racial hate speeches incited their violence towards me and potentially anyone with me or any passers by out of emotional rage. As violence should be prevented at all times because allowing violence leads to a barbaric and chaotic society we should therefore ban any speech which leads to a possibility of violence. So  offensive speech should be banned because it always elicits a negative response which could lead to violence.

This argument, which I have purposefully constructed weakly for the time being, seems stronger than the argument from happiness as it is true that most humans in today's world do believe that the prevention of violence is a shared interest. However one of the assumptions made in this argument is that all offensive acts are done to cause violence or are intrinsically useless. Another thing to be challenged here is that do all offensive acts carry the same probability of inciting violence? If I offend Paul from my work because I thought his car was ugly is this likely to cause violence?  In that case many people would say Paul is in the wrong if he reacted violently to that remark even though it could be classed as offensive.

We should take a step back and justify why harm and violence are bad things in the first place. Mill argued that freedom should be the basis of a society and this should be in the form of a democracy because no absolute ruler is infallible and knows exactly how a human society should live. People should be able to experiment with their lives as they wish and he argues that this will lead to a diverse society where people will find their own happiness, will take different paths to finding what is true.
To avoid a complete anarchy he invoked the harm principle which stops other people impinging the freedoms of others through the medium of physical harm. If I hurt you I violated your freedom to be harm free or injury free etc. through non-consenting harm I am in a sense minimizing your freedom and this jeopardises the core values of society.

This value of freedom isn't picked out of thin air though. Mill used a utility argument to basically say that as humans are fallible (even scientists) and we do not know the best way to live a life it would be easier and more efficient if many people just experimented on their own accord. If there was no freedom but just a complete absolute ruler where everyone lived the same lives this might not be the best way to live as the ruler is finitely intelligent and may be wrong. So instead of wasting time all living the same lives we should all live different lives.

So going back to our argument then offensive speech that incites violence should be made illegal but not all offensive speech should be banned. This is because we are all fallible and if we cannot challenge and stimulate debate with one another then how can society progress? How can the civilians decide for themselves how to improve their health, wealth and happiness if they are protected from differing and potentially contradicting views just because they might get offended and get angry.  As the society is a democratic one and the government cannot be fully relied on for generating new ideas it is essential that diverse civilians debate with one another on the ideas they believe to be true and useful.

There needs to be a compromise. This is a hard topic to think about and legally it is sometimes done on a case by case basis, there is no universally agreed way to approach the line at which the apparent harm principle acts.


Throughout this debate however we have assumed that being offended is somehow pressed upon us, that we are forced into this emotional mental state without a choice. However I am going to argue that people can make a concious choice to be offended or not and with choice comes a way out of the harm principle for offensive remarks. As the state under the guidance of the harm principle can only exercise power on an individual if he restricts the freedom of another without their consent.

Eradicating the debate all together and defending all free speech

I like the harm principle. It makes sense. It makes sense because at its foundations it takes into account our own fallibility, the ability to test and try, gives power to individuals and allows them to develop in their own way. It implies that any dictatorship will fail over time and lead to a non progressive state whose citizens are not given their own volition to develop physically and intellectually ( I say volition as some choose to run their life into ruin). Most modern democracies use the harm principle in developing laws, some still have mountains to climb in applying it to all aspects of life however. So we will accept the harm principle as something that should be implemented in society and it represents a protection of individuals physical freedom.

Going back to the racial hate speech...the angry mob will no doubt want to commit violence to stop me but surely they can't cause harm to me because they would be restricting my freedom without my consent. By standing and shouting racial hate speech am I harming them?  Well I am not restricting their freedom physically as they can still move around as they please and they can also move away to stop hearing me. So it seems I am not harming them at all because they have a choice to be here or not. If they feel negatively towards me then so what they can choose to be here listening to me. Also I think they shouldn't really feel anything towards my speech and they can choose how they feel. 

Let me elaborate. If someone calls you names at school like fatty or shorty you might choose to feel angry... but why? All you should be worried about is if what they say is true or not... if it is true then they are simply stating a fact and what I do with facts is my own choice, there is no use in reacting emotionally to facts. If what they say is false then it doesn't matter, they are wrong and falsehoods don't apply to the real world. So really any emotional reaction to any remark is a choice and is unnecessary. Of course you can have the freedom to react emotionally to statements but any grief caused by that reaction is of your doing. 

When I talk about truth and false I am working within the confines of analytical and empirical truth. If something is true mathematically (analytically) then it's true due to the axioms of the system, if something is true scientifically (empirically) then there is substantial evidence to the claim being put forward.... if you cannot decide there and then if something is empirically true you should reserve judgement. 



So any offensive remark can be allowed because we have a choice to how we react to such remarks. Also we should only really be concerned with the validity of the remarks. If there is a homophobic parade shouting 'God Hates FAGS!' or 'Gays Are Stupid!' then we can just say well there is no evidence for God so the first one is false or we should reserve judgement (for those agnostics and really bad scientists)  also there is no evidence showing lower intellectual ability in homosexuals so the second one is false. So these paraders look quite silly shouting false or meaningless statements and we cannot get any use out of them so we should use our freedom to walk straight on by. No harm done either way. 

Some people will argue that these remarks are not challenging us in the sense that they can help progress society and these remarks are there just to try and incite violence. However we have already argued against such a response because who are we to say these remarks won't help society when we ourselves are fallible.. if they are shown to be false then that doesn't mean we should ban them... should we ban all false claims according to science? Of course not because science is fallible too but in a 99.9% sort of way i.e. most established theories are assumed to be certain but there is of course a small chance that some experiment in the universe will falsify it. 

Also some will question whether we truly can choose to not be in an emotional state or not. Well I think because we have evolved in a certain way it may seem like this, our instincts are strong. However we can train ourselves easily to become emotionally disciplined and I think most people can control how they think. Of course we can be manipulated visually and audibly but we can choose the way we feel or at least act. 

This part of the argument is the most controversial as modern science cannot really state exactly the proportion of control we have over our emotions. I believe that most medically and mentally healthy or non deficient adults are responsible for their actions and really only explicit physical manipulation can cause another human to commit harm which is itself a harm. 

So allowing all speech even if it is false or appears to have no value to society should still be allowed to be spoken because they do not cause harm in the sense of restricting freedoms and they are not responsible for others causing harm. Only the human or being doing the directing harming is responsible and the state has the right to exert power over him to prevent further harm.