site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of April 10, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

13
Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

How about a pallet cleanser?

In the other thread a few people brought up surrogacy, and maybe I've spent too much time with TERFs, but am I the only one that overwhelmed with the feeling of Lovecraftian horror whenever it's brought up? The feeling is even more uncanny, because it's like I slept through some great societal debate where everybody decided it's actually a lovely thing that should be celebrated. Although maybe it's not all that bad, there's a certain "how it started, how it's going" quality to the NYT headlines. In any case the casual way it's supporters talk about surrogacy freaks me out even more than militant pro-choicers.

Then there's the whole slippery slope thing:

  • Love is love, we have a right to get married just the same as you! - Yes I agree!

  • We also have a right to adopt! - Sure! I mean I have my issues with adoption in practice, but in principle if there are kids without parents, and willing gay couples to adopt them I don't see an issue.

  • We also have a right to biological children! What? Do you expect us to be ok with not having children?

Wait what? Yes I do! I'm all for tolerance, and living and letting live, but you're not going to make me see this as a lovely family moment, and anyway I don't remember signing on to turning a fundamental human experience into an industry when I supported the gay rights movement. Accept the limits of your biology, and move on.

Which brings me to Dase's idea "postrat ┬źdon't mean-spiritedly dunk on a rationalist┬╗ challenge (impossible)". Indeed, I can't help myself, and even though I used to be rat/rat-adjacent, I find myself having growing disdain for the entire philosophy. There's a meme that's slowly gathering momentum, that all the trans stuff, and 72 genders is just a foot in the door for transhumanism, and after I heard the idea for the first time, I can't seem to unsee it. This twisted ideology will drive us to throw away our humanity, turn us into a cross-over between Umgah Blobbies and the Borg, or trick us into committing suicide, because there's a subroutine running on some GPU somewhere, that's somewhat similar to the processes in our brains. Given the utter dominance of the trans ideology, the vindication of the slippery slope argument, and the extrapolated trajectory of these ideas, I believe we have no other choice - Transhumanism must be destroyed!

A lot of sputtering disgust, and not much in the way of rational argument that I can see.

I am a doctor, my life's work is healing people, extending their healthy lives and keeping sickness and death at bay. I'm just less fundamentally incoherent than people who can perform such a duty and still not be explicitly transhumanist.

I applaud surrogacy. As far as I'm concerned, two people making uncoerced positive sum (to them) transactions is something eminently desirable, and if I find a specific case reprehensible, that's no grounds for me to stick my nose into their business. Someone suffering from infertility (or simply unable or unwilling to childbear) gets the gift of parenthood, and someone with a functional uterus gets a big chunk of cash, and a baby ends up with devoted and well off parents who are immensely motivated to care for it. Neither you nor I have any grounds to meddle, and I feel the same visceral disgust at your disgust as you do for people not harming you in the least.

If my libertarian tendencies weren't obvious enough, I also fully support people doing whatever the hell they want with their bodies, to the extent it doesn't outright harm others. You want to chop off your balls? Go ahead fam. Replace your nipples with subwoofers and your bones with titanium? Fuck my shit up. Not my business, not that I'd want to say no in the first place.

Despite my transhumanism, I don't endorse the modern transgender movement! Most of it appears to be pure social contagion in the mentally unwell, and even the best modern surgical and pharmaceutical interventions are far too crude to make you but a superficial mockery of the other sex.

But that's today's failure, not an indefinite moratorium on sex transition. If we had the technology to safely (ideally reversibly) transition people to the opposite sex at a cellular level, such that they were functionally indistinguishable from someone assigned the same gender at birth, then I see no reason to object! I wouldn't fuck a transwoman today, but I would fuck this hypothetical one, because all of my current objections such as the uncanny appearance, smell, texture, hormonal imbalance, infertility etc become utterly irrelevant.

At any rate, I don't expect to successfully argue you out of your aesthetic objections, I simply don't see a better reason for them than that you simply don't like it. That's perfectly fine, your utility function is yours and brooks no argument, but that should at least be obvious to others without such conditions.

That's all very fine, but the obvious point remains - surrogacy isn't like renting an apartment together, it creates by design a third human being, one with it's own interests, but unable to argue for them. As responsible adults, we're obliged to consider them too. it's not just an aesthetic. In addition, the modern cancer that is 'human rights' discourse offers no answers.

it creates by design a third human being, one with it's own interests, but unable to argue for them.

Ah yes, normal childbirth, I've heard of that too.

I am no fan of the usual mysticism around human rights, as if they fell fully formed from the heavens, but at the very base level, following the trends and consensus derived from- normal childbirth, Caesarean sections, pregnancy screening for birth defects, IVF etc, in the order in which they become ever less "natural" without really compromising the wellbeing of the future child.

I'm sure we can cobble together a reactionary or two to harangue me about IVF if we really wanted to, but that doesn't change the fact that a once controversial and deeply "unnatural" procedure has simply become unremarkable and only a true monster would object now. I can't really see a harm to the unborn child, barring marginal increases in birth defect rates that can be screened for, so once again, my libertarian self can't find an objection at all.

The day fetal alcohol syndrome becomes a punishable offense on the mother's part is when I accept that society's schizophrenic attitude towards responsible adults making their own child rearing decisions is simply coherent, because it's not. If you can let them get away with such harm to their future offspring without putting a gun to their head or carting them off to rehab, then you have no leg to stand on when upper middle class, well educated and conscientious couples engage in surrogacy.