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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Fallacy of 'Fairness'

Today's insightful article from economist Thomas Sowell raises some interesting points concerning the concept of fairness...

"If there is ever a contest to pick which word has done the most damage to people's thinking, and to actions to carry out that thinking, my nomination would be the word "fair." It is a word thrown around by far more people than have ever bothered to even try to define it.

This mushy vagueness may be a big handicap in logic, but it is a big advantage in politics. All sorts of people, with very different notions about what is or is not fair, can be mobilized behind this nice-sounding word, in utter disregard of the fact that they mean very different things when they use it.

Some years ago, for example, there was a big outcry that various mental tests used for college admissions or for employment were biased and "unfair" to many individuals or groups. Fortunately, there was one voice of sanity – David Riesman, I believe – who said: "The tests are not unfair. LIFE is unfair and the tests measure the results."

If by "fair" you mean everyone having the same odds for achieving success, then life has never been anywhere close to being fair, anywhere or at any time. If you stop and think about it (however old-fashioned that may seem), it is hard even to conceive of how life could possibly be fair in that sense.

Even within the same family, among children born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, the first-borns on average have higher IQs than their brothers and sisters, and usually achieve more in life. "



Politicians do like to throw the word around quite a bit. The so-called "fair tax", the Orwellian named "fairness doctrine". There's no shortage of politicians willing to rally others to their pet causes in the name of fairness. The article also contains these nuggets of truth.

"Just the fact that the lay of the land is different in different parts of Europe meant that it was easier for the Roman legions to invade Western Europe. This meant that Western Europeans had the advantages of the most advanced civilization in Europe at that time. Moreover, because Roman letters were used in Western Europe, the languages of that region had written versions centuries before the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe did.

The difference between literacy and illiteracy is a huge difference, and it remained huge for centuries. Was it the Slavs' fault that the Romans did not want to climb over so many mountains to get to them?

To those living in Western Europe in the days of the Roman Empire, the idea of being conquered, and many slaughtered, by the Romans probably had no great appeal. But their descendants would benefit from their bad luck. And that doesn't seem fair, either."


No, it wasnt their fault. It's interesting to note that those who often cry loudest about fairness are often the one's who will benefit most from the distribution of said "fairness" in whatever form they define it to be. Even to the point where they receive much more than disadvantaged others.


The atheist often times rejects belief in God precisely because he or she perceives the world to be quite unfair and a good and powerful God, (if He exists) would not allow that to happen. This attacks a strawgod and ignores fundamental lessons learned in Sunday School at the grade school level. That through the sin of one man, death entered the human race and it's been all downhill from there. Fortunately for us, through His Grace and wisdom, He provided a way out of misery and fear. He sent his only beloved Son to take our rightful place and to provide assurance that we can know Him and enjoy His presnse in this life and the world to come. If you are interested, just click here to begin a 2 minute presentation to begin examining the path to deliverence from all manner of woes that this world has on offer. No, I do not have a perfect life. Nowhere near. Yet I feel confident in knowing that an all powerful God exists and that He loves us. Nothing is more important than that. And nobody can take that away from me.




21 comments:

GCT said...

First of all, I find it highly ironic coming from an ID supporter such as yourself to be talking about fairness being bad. It's the idea of fairness that allows ID creationists to get their feet in the door in newspapers, etc. Creationism has no place in scientific discussion and would not if not for the idea of fairness and the lies of the charlatans that you seem to look up to. "Teach the controversy" is nothing less than an appeal to fairness. If people didn't care so much about fairness and showing "both sides" we might realize that on the question of evolution there is only one side. Evolution is the only side that is supported by the evidence and the only side that is scientific.

And, I can't let this slide:
"The atheist often times rejects belief in God precisely because he or she perceives the world to be quite unfair and a good and powerful God, (if He exists) would not allow that to happen. This attacks a strawgod and ignores fundamental lessons learned in Sunday School at the grade school level. That through the sin of one man, death entered the human race and it's been all downhill from there. Fortunately for us, through His Grace and wisdom, He provided a way out of misery and fear."

This is especially assinine. If god is perfectly just, then perhaps you can explain why some children die young and whether they go to heaven or not. Perhaps you can explain how it is justice to visit the iniquities of the parents on the children? Your whole entire religion is based on all of us being guilty for the supposed sins of other people. When you have intelligent answers (and it shouldn't be hard since it's in Sunday school, right?) then let's hear them.

Tracy said...

JD, I appreciate this post.

Life is not fair and extreme "fairness" is rarely the answer to social/political situations. For example, I think this whole thing of extreme taxing of big business & the rich is counterproductive; we need these people so the rest of us can have jobs, we all benefit when they are incentivised - no we all will not be at the same economic status.

I too, am grateful that God is better than fair to me. I deserve eternal separation from God but instead He gives me the opportunity to receive eternal life with Him.

Ginx said...

Two things:

1. Conservatives say that poverty is fair since people don't deserve mercy, because you're a Social Darwinist. It's fair that CEOs amass wealth and run companies that exploit both workers and customers. And it's fair to say you're a fascist.

2. Christianity is fair. Follow simple rules for a finite time and live for eternity in heaven. Very fair. It's just full of shit.

photogr said...

Fairness is what you make fair if you are in a position to regulate it. I don't think being a Christian, an athiest, or a scientoligist has any thing to do with it.

I have no ill feelings to CEOs of large companies tha started the company from nothing and made it highly successful while sharing the growth with the ones that helped make it happen but I do have a problem when they gouge their employees and amass large salaries for their selves at the expense of others ( employees or clients) which causes the company to fail. That is the case where they regulated a fair playing field for their own advantage with unfair tactics.

Poverty is unfair but every one has the opportunity to get out of poverty if they would only learn how to play the game. Of course that takes intelligence and hard work. Not sitting around and saying how unfair life is.

JD Curtis said...

I find it highly ironic coming from an ID supporter such as yourself to be talking about fairness being bad

I agree with Sowell that oftentimes "fairness" is ill-defined and unobtainable in many cases.

"Teach the controversy" is nothing less than an appeal to fairness

Sort of. It's more of an appeal for people to not be so closed-minded as to immediately dismiss certain options in an off the cuff manner and that the availability to other origin of life explanations are on the table. If ID fails to answer someones questions re: origin of life, then they will reject it and consider another model. Likewise Darwinism.

If god is perfectly just, then perhaps you can explain why some children die young and whether they go to heaven or not

We don't have the advantage of seeing the entire story through the eyes of a timeless, eternal God. I don't know why certain kids die at a young age. Neither do you or anyone else for that matter. Insofar as if they are in heaven, from godandscience.org, the link at the bottom of this page with numerous pages on different types of subject matter, quotes Deuteronomy 1:39 "Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it."

Your whole entire religion is based on all of us being guilty for the supposed sins of other people

We disagree. Through Adam's sin the entire human race is fallen, however on Judgement Day, you will be judged on your own sins like I will be with mine. we won't be judged because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

I think this whole thing of extreme taxing of big business & the rich is counterproductive; we need these people so the rest of us can have jobs, we all benefit when they are incentivised

Thanks Tracy, I agree. I read this over at another blog today and thought it was right on with what you said..."In the 1990s, there was a general feeling abroad among the chattering classes that they had had it too good for too long. People were enjoying the inflationary boom, the debt-fueled boom, but at the same time, in the way that middle classes do, they were starting to feel guilty about it. Maybe we've had it too good for too long. Maybe we should start thinking about more important things than money. And so you had lots of people going organic and talking about ethical lifestyles. This intellectual climate coincided with activists like James Hansen of NASA and Al Gore pushing for this vision of a world that was doomed by Man's greed and consumption. It hit the spot perfectly. There was the famous conference that Al Gore staged in Washington on the hottest day of the year. They opened all the windows the night before, then closed them in the morning so the air conditioning broke down. Of course, it was sweltering inside as they announced the news that the world was in trouble and it was all Man's fault." Link

I too, am grateful that God is better than fair to me. I deserve eternal separation from God but instead He gives me the opportunity to receive eternal life with Him

Right. If we all got what we deserved then we would ALL be in Hell.

JD Curtis said...

Conservatives say that poverty is fair since people don't deserve mercy

People deserve mercy. Poverty sucks. I can't think of another country with more opportunities to escape grinding poverty than the US. I think it goes back to what PHOTOGR just stated.."Poverty is unfair but every one has the opportunity to get out of poverty if they would only learn how to play the game. Of course that takes intelligence and hard work. Not sitting around and saying how unfair life is."

Christianity is fair. Follow simple rules for a finite time and live for eternity in heaven. Very fair

We didnt make the rules. If you disagree, then create your own planet, people and everything they would need to sustain themselves and institute your own rules.

SmartLX said...

"The atheist"?

That's one of the latest in a long line of paranoid monikers for members of the other: "the savage", "the Jew", "the infidel", "the Hun", "the Negro". The singular in place of the plural says, they're all so alike that there might as well be only one of them, and I've got them all pegged. It is singularly and pointlessly insulting to be lumped together like this, even though you softened the generalisation with "often".

I think I pulled up Makarios on this more than once, which is one reason why I stopped talking to him. I'm disappointed that you also employ it, but given that you're such a fan of Vox Day (author of The (Irrational) Atheist, for crying out loud) I'm not really surprised.

JD Curtis said...

Would you feel better if I had just said "Atheists" instead? If you don't care for it I'll try to avoid it in the future, but it seems sort of ticky-tacky to me.

SmartLX said...

That would be nice, thankyou.

I realise it's a subtle thing, and it wasn't likely that you meant anything by it, but those from who you learned it such as Beale use it very deliberately. It's a long-standing linguistic precursor to prejudice.

tinkbell13 said...

It's more of an appeal for people to not be so closed-minded as to immediately dismiss certain options in an off the cuff manner and that the availability to other origin of life explanations are on the table. If ID fails to answer someones questions re: origin of life, then they will reject it and consider another model. Likewise Darwinism.

JD- What you have failed to answer into this equation is that people want explanations with evidence. ID fails to answer questions because it has no scientific evidence to support its claims. Just because they can appropriate scientific language does not mean that it is a valid discipline. There is no empirical evidence to support their claims, they do not experiment, they do not publish their reports. This is why the Supreme Court ruled that it is not evidence based science.

However evolution (Darwinism) is now an absolute fact. "It is grindingly, creakingly, crashingly obvious that if Darwinism was really a theory of chance, it could not work."Richard Dawkins. Scientists can quickly replicate evolutionary process within 10 days in a test tube with bacteria that has a rapid life cycle. There is inquiry, conjecture, experiment, data, and interpretation of results. And, the body of knowledge continues to grow. The scientific method has provided us with so much knowledge and insight into our past and future. The same cannot be said for religion. It stays the same, and fights to stay tied to the darkness of the past.

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
Richard Dawkins

Yes, JD, beware of generalizing. It is cruel and demeaning.

JD Curtis said...

Really LX, if I read an article by an atheist that started out The Christian often times thinks that.. I don't believe I would think anything of it. But I'll try to refrain from it in the future.

Tracy said...

As far as poverty goes, I by no means believe it is always the fault of poor people that they are in the state in which they find themselves. I believe that very roughly you've got about 1/3 if the very poor in this country who have just had extremely bad luck; that if the same events happened to you or I, we too would be the same situation as they. Then another 1/3 of the poor are chronically mentally ill. The last, roughly, 1/3 may very well be poor due to their own addictions and other issues.

JD Curtis said...

Thanks Tracy. One thing that Sowell, (the author of the above article) points out is that often times, in this country (US), those at the bottom of the income scale find themselves in significantly higher income brackets within a relatively short time frame (a couple of years). Again, I think this all goes back to what photogr stated earlier.."Poverty is unfair but every one has the opportunity to get out of poverty if they would only learn how to play the game. Of course that takes intelligence and hard work. Not sitting around and saying how unfair life is."

SmartLX said...

Actually, there are a few pieces around which do refer to what "the Christian thinks". Try Googling the phrase. Those that aren't actually by Christians telling other Christians how they should think and behave are not terribly flattering.

Ginx said...

Some of you guys are giving this retard way too many words.

GCT said...

"Sort of. It's more of an appeal for people to not be so closed-minded as to immediately dismiss certain options in an off the cuff manner and that the availability to other origin of life explanations are on the table."

Not "sort of." It simply is. ID is being touted as an equal of evolution regardless of the fact that ID has zero evidence in favor.

"If ID fails to answer someones questions re: origin of life, then they will reject it and consider another model. Likewise Darwinism."

ID doesn't answer any questions, so I'm glad that you'll be rejecting it now.

"We don't have the advantage of seeing the entire story through the eyes of a timeless, eternal God."

Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. You can't claim that god is fair and then when unfairness is pointed out claim that you don't have enough information to know if god is fair or not. Sorry, but logic fail.

"Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it."

Funny, that's exactly what happened to Adam and Eve isn't it? They were punished for acting even though they didn't have knowledge of good and evil before they ate of the fruit that gave them that knowledge.

"We disagree. Through Adam's sin the entire human race is fallen, however on Judgement Day, you will be judged on your own sins like I will be with mine. we won't be judged because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit."

How can you be so wrong about your own religion? The reason we are being judged at all is because of what Adam and Eve did. The reason that we are judged as guilty until given god's grace and the reason you claim we all deserve hell is because somehow the actions of Adam and Eve have been passed down to us through god's rules. IOW, we are bearing the brunt and automatically guilty because of the supposed sins of Adam and Eve.

"Right. If we all got what we deserved then we would ALL be in Hell."

If justice is getting what one deserves, then all humans should end up in hell. That some do not shows that god is not just. But, either way I have to point out how anti-human and insane the idea is that all humans are deserving of infinite torture and punishment. How hateful.

JD Curtis said...

ID is being touted as an equal of evolution

In what way? A popularity contest amongst biologists?

ID doesn't answer any questions

And the fairytale of abiogenesis does?

You can't claim that god is fair and then when unfairness is pointed out claim that you don't have enough information to know if god is fair or not

You are claiming that you do not think God is fair in your opinion. We have neither the vantage point of God to see all that is involved in each event nor the concept of it's impact through the centuries. God is good and He gets to define the good.

The reason we are being judged at all is because of what Adam and Eve did. The reason that we are judged as guilty until given god's grace and the reason you claim we all deserve hell is because somehow the actions of Adam and Eve have been passed down to us through god's rules.

What I meant to say (and I'm not sure that it came across) is that we are not judged for Adam's sins but our own. The reason we all deserve Hell is through our own sins, whether they be of commission or ommission.

GCT said...

"In what way? A popularity contest amongst biologists?"

Really? C'mon, you read the press releases from the ID people with their perpetual whinging about how ID is scientific and better than evolution, etc.

"And the fairytale of abiogenesis does?"

A) Evolution is not the same thing as abiogenesis, and it's telling that you try to conflate the two.
B) We don't have all the answers, but we do have some facts and empirical results from empirical experiments and studies. All ID has is "goddidit." "goddidit" is a non-answer. It doesn't tell us anything.

"You are claiming that you do not think God is fair in your opinion. We have neither the vantage point of God to see all that is involved in each event nor the concept of it's impact through the centuries."

You are dodging the point I just made. If you want to hide behind not having the vantage point of god, then you can't rightly make judgements that god is correct even from his vantage point. IOW, my objection stands. You can't have it both ways.

"God is good and He gets to define the good."

Then you are not using the word "good" as everyone else understands it. You've made a meaningless statement. You may as well have said, "god is hymptergub and he gets to define the hymptergub." (There's a word for this type of statement that is escaping me right now.)

"What I meant to say (and I'm not sure that it came across) is that we are not judged for Adam's sins but our own. The reason we all deserve Hell is through our own sins, whether they be of commission or ommission."

Yes, I understood that quite clearly and then I made my objection that you aren't dealing with.

JD Curtis said...

Look, Jesus didnt leave for us a detailed, foot noted, 4 page, double-sided research paper as to why there is suffering in the world that wecan refer to. It was brought up in one place in the Gospels and I submit it for your review. From John, 9th chapter..

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."

The "sins of his parents" theory to attribute the man's suffering was a popular worldview at the time and Jesus said that wasnt the case. Analyze the above and let me know what you think. and not in a sound byte either. Use what can be considered a source from a Bible Scholar rather than a skeptic's website and begin your search for truth today.

GCT said...

"Look, Jesus didnt leave for us a detailed, foot noted, 4 page, double-sided research paper as to why there is suffering in the world that wecan refer to."

Then you can't assume there's a good answer for it.

"The "sins of his parents" theory to attribute the man's suffering was a popular worldview at the time and Jesus said that wasnt the case."

Yet the Bible also claims that god will visit the iniquities of the parents upon the children to quite a few generations! The Amalekites were wiped out because of what Amalek did generations earlier (that's the stated reason in Samuel) and it's not the only example. I can't help it if your scriptures are hopelessly contradictory or don't align to what you wish they said.

"Use what can be considered a source from a Bible Scholar rather than a skeptic's website and begin your search for truth today."

What you really mean is use a source that you agree with and says what you want it to say. But, why do that when I've instead gone right to the source material? (And, of course, you cite no Biblical scholar. Your assertions above are simply your opinion, which apparently automatically carries more weight than mine or any other skeptics, eh? Again, why should I take you seriously, especially when you can't be assed to even do the minimal amount of work required to educate yourself or put forth any effort into intellectually honest debate?)


Lastly, none of what you wrote actually tells us why an omni-max god that supposedly doesn't like suffering would allow it - nay cause it - to happen. You're avoiding the questions and the objections, just as you always accuse others of doing. Et tu JD?

GCT said...

Note of clarification. When I wrote, "What you really mean is use a source that you agree with and says what you want it to say," it should not be implied that all Biblical scholars agree with JD. I do, however, have the feeling that JD would dismiss any that don't agree with him as not being "True Biblical Scholars" or being biased or something else.