Emergent Principles of Human Nature = Inalienable Rights

Part 1 of a series of posts defining the Emergent Principles of Human Nature. This effort is an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I explain inalienable rights without including god. Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.

Throughout human history we have attempted to find meaning in the world around us.  We do this imperfectly because we are imperfect beings in an imperfect universe; perfection is an unattainable unknowable state which only the deluded think they understand.

As a group we have tried many approaches to find this meaning.  We have given this discipline a name, Philosophy, and established schools of thought within the discipline as varied and as many as there are philosophers in history.  Down through the ages we have dallied with gods and flirted with the idea of the absence of gods, and fooled ourselves that we group of blind men can fully describe the elephant with only our hands and words.

I do not harbor any delusions about the ability of one uneducated man to be able to perfectly describe the universe or establish it’s meaning; for myself, I can only hope to find my meaning within the universe.  To this end I have pursued my lifelong obsession with philosophy; and when I say obsession I do not mean that I have exhaustively read the treatises of other philosophers.  I have done some of that, but I have found that most philosophers aren’t actually interested in exploring naked truths.  They are more interested in explaining why the world is the way they perceive it.

After that fashion, I guess I’m no different than they are.

However, I think that meaning can be found that is universal, objective.  It was because of the word Objective that I first allied myself with Objectivists.  Ayn Rand in her ultimate folly thought she understood the natural universe perfectly. Her writing on the subject, compelling as it is, is incomplete at best.  At worst, her work is used as it is today; to justify horrors by those willing to enact them, citing her works in ways that the author herself would never have condoned. Her claiming of the title Objectivism for her philosophy is illustrative of the massive ego of the woman herself, made obvious by the study of her life, if you are simply inquisitive enough to take up the challenge.

Within every lie is a kernel of truth, as the saying goes, and within the brashness of Objectivism is the truth of materialism, the denial of post-modernism and it’s still-born sibling, solipsism.

The original challenge to define inalienable rights was issued because god; and yet god himself is a hopeless contradiction, a failure of man’s imagination to grasp that the complexity around us is achievable through time multiplied by error alone. The uncreated creator is a substitution for understanding, not an explanation. Accepting this conclusion, it fell to me to offer a real explanation for the concept of rights; an explanation grounded in science out of necessity, since scientific evidence is the only demonstrable way to objectively prove anything.  At least, the only way that we’ve yet discovered.

Aristotle’s unmoved mover may indeed exist, the god of scientists and philosophers, the natural god, but that god does not offer explanations beyond mere existence itself.  It falls to us to explain what things mean to our own satisfaction.

The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. why what I am writing about cannot be simplistically pigeonholed as natural rights will be discussed in the next piece. This piece hopes to offer up a bare bones explanation of inalienable rights, and their grounding in science.  The planned series of posts to follow will embroider nuance into the bare structure I’m presenting here.

The theory of emergence  provides the grounding for inalienable rights.  While rights are vested in the individual, it is only through seeing the interactions of individuals that the pattern of rights becomes clear. There is no concept of property when alone on a desert island (where Rothbard’s simplistic outline of rights fails) all of everything the sole inhabitant of the island touches is his property by definition; but the individual marooned on a desert island cannot hope to do more than survive while his health endures, alone on an island.  Simple survival is the least of any of our human aspirations.

Most of the concepts we deal with on a daily basis emerge from our interactions with others.  Money is a concept that becomes useless in a social grouping small enough to provide for it’s own needs. Families everywhere struggle with introducing money into the social structure of the household, grapple with educating children on what money is, what it means, what is it’s value. If you corner any given individual and challenge them to define money, most of them will be unable to do so beyond showing you a physical representation; which is not of itself a definition.

In groups large enough that the contributions of the individual cannot be valued and compensated accordingly, money becomes a necessity. How else is the individual who makes widgets all day to be afforded to directly purchase food and shelter for his continued existence? When the value of the widget cannot be directly translated by the average person into a quantity of food, the quality of shelter? Money makes that possible, however it is defined. Money is an emergent system, an outgrowth of human interaction.

But rights are not systems themselves. Rights are principles that systems are based on.  Like systems which emerge from human interaction, the principles that those systems are based on are also emergent; revealed through the interactions of individuals.

That money should have a definable value to the individual is a principle (albeit flawed) of the monetary system.  All of the systems around us that we take for granted are based on these principles that most of us never even bother to seek out, let alone question.  Jefferson’s (through Locke) immortal listing of Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness is, as it says in the Declaration, truncated. There are many other principles that can be inferred from the interactions of individuals, there for anyone to see if they simply take the time to look.

Which is why what we are wrestling with here is Human Nature, not ideology, theology, or the natural world as revealed in the study of other animals. How we as humans value each other, or fail to value as the case may be. The nature of the human animal, as it relates to other human animals within the structures we create for ourselves. As I observed in my first outing on this subject;

A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his [human nature] enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights in spite of the full force of government and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. 

In the broadest sense, Emergent Principles of Human Nature represents what most people mean by inalienable rights; what has been lacking up to now is some way of objectively defining why rights cannot be separated from the person; this is satisfied in the concept of emergence.  They cannot be separated from the person, because they are only revealed through common interactions with other individuals. Without them, survival in a group is impossible because the basic needs of the individual cannot be met; and any system created that doesn’t take them into account will fail through the actions of individuals intent on fulfilling their own needs.

Rights are not listed on some government document. They aren’t granted by sovereignty, even your own.  They emerge from the requirements for human life, and the process of securing those requirements on an individual basis.

I finished my first entry on this subject with the observation, That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written. Apparently I have the gift for understatement, as the length of the many posts to follow should reveal.

The Ethics of Brain Death

I’ve been meaning to post on this subject for a few weeks now. Abortion politics has bleed over into end of life decisions, clouding the issue of what life is or isn’t as established by science and medical practice.

There is a medical phrase which communicates when a human body no longer has the capability of generating human consciousness.  That phrase is brain death. Experiencing brain death is to cease to exist even though the physical form is still present. It doesn’t even take brain death to alter a person into someone else, as numerous articles on the subject have discussed, and destroying someone’s brain in order to control them or alter them is rightly considered a crime unless engaged in for reasons of justice or life-saving intervention. Should even those instances be outlawed, because they kill a person, creating a new person? The brain is the seat of consciousness, the basis upon which human life is generated.

As Arthur Caplan discusses with Lindsay Beyerstein on Point of Inquiry, The Ethics of Brain Death: The End of Life, the State, and the Religious Right.

The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain-dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has secured for her the feeding and breathing tubes for which they had been fighting.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl’s family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken on 5 January.

The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have received 28 days ago, when doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland first declared her brain-dead.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery 9 December, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead on 12 December.

Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.

The Guardian, Family of brain-dead California girl

In that episode of Point of Inquiry he points out that the case of Jahi McMath represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved, since the child in question has been pronounced dead by clinicians in the state. Has been pronounced dead, but remains on life support until current day (she has since been taken off of life support and buried. The family wants her date of death to be revised. –ed.)

He also talks about the Marlise Machado Muñoz case (NPR story) in which Pro-Life Republicans in Texas have crafted laws that keep this woman’s body alive, costing the hospital thousands of dollars daily, on the off-chance that the fetus she died carrying isn’t also damaged (and it looks like it is) so the cost is quite literally wasted. Someone else needs the space that her corpse is kept in and will possibly die because of this farce.


The First Question, The Right Test

That is not what the Bible says, that is what it reads

Dr. Lawrence C. Keene For the Bible Tells Me So

I’ve toyed with a half-dozen articles for this blog on the subject of belief. The first question of introspection, probably the first question ever asked would probably be:

Why am I here?

Douglas Adams noted in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the importance of asking the right question if you want to understand the answer (42 In his version of events) this lead to the creation of the Earth as the universe’s largest computer, capable of answering the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything. If we want to understand the answer to the question why am I here? Then we should probably be sure that is the question we want answered.

I have not talked about religion or my beliefs here before this post, but I have talked about them elsewhere. I created the phrase Atheism is Not a Belief System when I authored the thread on Dan Carlin’s BBS forum, a thread that is now over 500 pages and several years old, and that was my first attempted blog post on the subject of belief. I was simply transposing that argument there from here, or rather, trying out the ideas I would eventually put here. When I created that thread it was the only search return for that string when typed into Google; now there are several hits with that exact title. I consider it a good thing that I never managed to finish compiling my points from that thread to post here.  I don’t think I understood the question I was seeking answers to when I started it.

Let’s talk about Religion Then was one of the titles I tried to kill the thread with, later in its life. When you talk about religious particulars the important questions are lost, and the dialog becomes a childish set of opposing monologues espousing nothing more than my beliefs are better than yours. That title was inspired by the angry religionists (and denialist atheists who really did want another religion) who insisted that not-basketball was a sport. The childish set of opposing monologues went on for hundreds of pages on that thread.

I could poke fun at religion and the religious all day long, but I know that there really isn’t that much difference between believers and non-believers in a general sense. The non-believers ask questions about things that believers will not when it comes to the subject of religion, that is the only major difference between the two groups. Let’s talk about Religion Then would have been a tally of religious transgressions similar to ones found in other places, like FFRF’s documenting priestly excesses, the kind of content that can be found on any number of opinion sites on the internet these days.

In the end, I don’t have enough hatred for religion as a social structure to want to hurt people I know and love. People I know who are religious, who will not be able to separate the attacks on religion from their beliefs. I’m not an anti-theist, I’m just an atheist or a freethinker, and atheists simply have no gods which was the point of using the phrase Atheism is Not a Belief System in the first place.

I toyed with titling this article Why Atheism? At first, because The Wife wanted to know, why did I have to call myself an atheist? Why I would want to be associated with the most hated group on the planet?  In the end that title turned out to be the wrong question. I don’t want to be an atheist, which is why I altered my personal identifier from atheist to freethinker. After I did that, most of her questions fell by the wayside.

Why Existence? Is the right question, but not the right title for the article. Why existence is the first question, the one question that sparks all other questions. Why am I here to ask this question? Why do I exist?

This question ties directly into what I have come to identify as Emergent Principles of Human Nature. Without that question, there are no principles to define, there is no introspection that requires answers. A religious person will answer “I am here because god placed me here.” or some variation on that theme. Which is all fine and good, as far as unmoved movers and Spinozan gods goes.

If, however, you want to drag Jesus or his Abrahamic god-father into this article, then I must explain the minimum standards you have to meet in order to have your beliefs taken seriously anywhere outside your own head. Are you ready? Then I’ll describe the minimum standards for my accepting the existence of your Abrahamic god.

I’ll agree that there is a supreme being who offers judgement and whose will must be followed on the day that he submits himself for questioning and verification by a certifying authority. The test I would suggest? I’d pick one from the bible. It should be easy enough for Jehovah/Allah to replicate if what the Bible says of him is true. Dig up the recently deceased, certified as dead, someone who was embalmed and known to be buried. Have Jehovah/Allah breath life into the corpse and then question the newly revived person as to the particulars of his previous life. If it is the same person (which should be an impossibility given what we know of biology) then Jehovah/Allah has demonstrated his powers over reality itself.

Until that time, as a pragmatist, I’m going to stick with best practices as suggested by applied science to determine what rules we should follow. I am sorry to disappoint the believers out there among my readers.


This was an article stub that I maintained for years hoping against hope that the Atheism is Not a Belief System thread would give me something to hang onto, some kind of concise way of defeating all religious arguments and deflecting the atheophobic that I hadn’t even realized existed until the thread hit page 500. Once I realized that I was dealing with fear of atheism and atheists and not just hatred or misunderstanding, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to convince anyone with words alone.

It was at that point that I contrived the right test, since the right argument was never going to win the day. It was also about that time that I decided the softer label, freethinker, would at least allow me to have conversations without triggering fear in the random religious person that I might be talking to. That is about as far as I’m willing to go to spare the feelings of the delusional that surround me. Let John Wathey explain it to you:

The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing by John C. Wathey

…or why god is a substitute for your parents. The blog version of Atheism is Not a Belief System is here:

I spend most of the beginning of that article describing my experience trying to shepherd that thread through its years of existence. It was not a pleasant experience but it was educational.

Inalienable Rights Defined

(Originally posted here)

I had a request the other day to elaborate on how I would define inalienable rights without including god as the architect. This is a summation of what I’ve posted before on the subject.

Simply put, You exist. You exist as a individual, capable of sustaining your own life. The requirements for you life to continue can be conceptualized into ‘rights’ that you possess as a living, thinking being. You have the right to continue in your life, since you are capable of sustaining it barring intervention by others. This right is secured by the rational capacity of the individual, linked to the corporeal existence/free will of the individual, which manifests as actions in ‘self defense’.

Your ‘right to life’ leads to corollary rights. Existence is measured in time, and time (spent wisely) yields game/crops/shelter or ‘property’. You have a right to (justly acquired) property because your continued existence (your ‘right to life’) depends on being able to dispose of your property (the manifestation of productive life) as you see fit. Following this type of chain, you can produce several ‘rights’ that a person should reasonably expect to be ‘allowed’ to exercise. Liberty is the corollary right that ‘allowing’ falls under, since there would be no question of the free exercise of your rights if you did not have others with equal rights to contend with.

Since we all equally exist, we should all have ‘equal’ rights. The rights are inseparable because they stem from what we are. A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his free will enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights *in spite of* the full force of gov’t and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. The unjustified killing of a person is therefore a destruction of a value equal to your own, and should be dealt with harshly by those who value the rights they possess.

That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written…

Mea culpa review, 2017. I haven’t updated the page recently, but if you go to Emergent Principles of Human Nature you will discover that my mental obsession with this topic has produced some fruit. Fruit of questionable value probably, but something at least. 

Abortion Argument in the News Again, Must be Election Season

This is an older article. Here is the Abortion: as natural as life itself article.

I see this subject pop up at every election cycle. I doubt this time around will be any different. I’m so tired of this argument. I’ve been involved in online debates on this issue for more than 10 years. I’m tired of it because I know the right answer, but neither of the entrenched sides of the discussion care to recognize it no matter how many times I try to re-explain it to them.

Abortion wastes potential life, not a life itself. For it to be a life there has to be brain function and breath; facts which the pro-lifers gloss over in the quest to save the unborn. Question: how do you save children from their own parents? Even the born ones?

Medical abortion is a wasteful and costly procedure and so should not be used casually. Waste of potential, of any kind, is repugnant; but there is more than one potential at risk here.

A woman has the right to use and abuse her own body as she sees fit. Dictating to her the sacred nature of the potentials she is faced with is an invasion of her privacy. Question: why isn’t male masturbation illegal? It too wastes potential life. If she has no privacy, why does he have privacy? If individuals have no privacy, then neither do businesses. Can you imagine corporations opening the inner workings of their board rooms to public scrutiny? Can you imagine why Roe v. Wade remains and will continue as a decision? (Wrong again. -ed.)

The right answer is that gov’t has no business being involved in abortion; it shouldn’t be banning it, and it shouldn’t be paying for it, it is wholly a decision of the individual involved. She does not have a right to an expensive medical procedure, nor does the husband have a right force his will on her. If you men don’t like this fact I suggest you don’t plant seeds where they aren’t wanted. It is a private matter and the right to privacy exists whether you will it or not.

There is a need to determine, as a measure of justice, when life can be proven to exist (without destroying privacy) so that those who are in fact taking life meet with the justice they deserve. I haven’t heard a logical answer, other than the one handed down by Roe from anybody to date. I would resist any statement, by any group I was affiliated with, other than one that encompasses this simple fact: Declare what life is (Human thought. Human words. Human action) and declare the need to hold it as a supreme value.

Anything else is a waste of time, and violation of rights which I hold sacred.


This was originally posted in the Google group Objectivist, a group I created back in the days when I was sincere in my belief that I was an Objectivist and not simply fond of the quaint notion that we can all see objective facts, understand them, and act accordingly. It was a much simpler world then. It was posted in response to a proposal from the We The People Coalition Yahoo!Group, the gist of which is lost to history.

Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside of my deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

The last article I wrote on this subject was this one, in which I come out unambiguously on the side of choice, science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that. 

If You Don’t Like Abortion, Don’t Have One

Sitting in the car listening to three confirmed christians (if Austin is the liberal island in the center of the conservative ocean of Texas, then why don’t we have any atheists on the airwaves around here? Sorry, lost track there for a second) sound off endlessly about the rightness of an anti-abortion stance, and listening to these three self-proclaimed conservatives express apparently genuine confusion as to why the abortion issue is the litmus test for potential judges. From what I’ve seen it’s not a litmus test, as in a piece of paper that is one of two colors based on the acidity of the solution it’s placed in, it is rather a weathervane that shows which way the hot air is blowing during any given political season. That these three talking heads can’t see it just shows their rank in the political game.

If there really were a litmus test for supreme court judges, it ought to be the constitution that forms it. The test (as is fitting) should be in the form of a single question and answer. “What is the meaning of the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution?” Unenumerated rights. Limited powers. Any potential judge that does not concede the existence of a right to privacy, of a limit to state power, does not have a place on the bench within the US court system. Good luck getting a straight answer there.

This is one of those arguments that I’ve had so many times with so many people that I could convincingly argue both sides in a continuous monologue that looked like a dialogue. I don’t think I’ll do that. It would go on as long as the so-called debate (if two sides engaged in endless name calling could be labeled a debate) has gone on already, and none of you would read it.

This is a faith based issue with the devout believing or being instructed to believe in a particular fashion on both sides of the argument. The Fascist Right (what I fondly refer to as the Religious Reich; what is generally mislabeled ‘conservative’) believes that it is the correct stance of the state to confirm their loathing of a waste of potential and to require women to carry pregnancies to term, no matter what. For those on the right, correct thinking is paramount, the resultant unpleasant reality is punishment for incorrect thought. The socialist left (Tree huggers if you like, I don’t have a cutesy name of my own for them) believes that it is the correct stance for the state to confirm a woman’s right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, with funding as necessary. For those on the left, correct actions are paramount. We should always feel good about what we are doing, even if forced to.

What the two sides have in common is the desire to wield force in the form of law, and require others to bow to the whims that they worship. This is, in truth, the common thread of all the political footballs that come into play with each and every election and decision. What the players on the field (or the pawns on the chessboard, take your pick) never seem to understand is that the leaders on either side of the issue don’t have any core disagreements. They are all willing to force others through law to behave or believe whatever they deem correct at any given minute. The issues are simply how they maintain control and distract attention.

“But wait” you say, “The Republicans are poised to reverse Roe v. Wade! How can you be so cavalier about this?” It’s easy. The Republicans have no intention of reversing Roe v. Wade. They would be fools if they did. The reason is constitutional.

Roe v. Wade establishes a right to privacy. To reverse that is to make us all wards of the state (some would say we already are) and to make all claims to privacy by persons, including the multinational corporations, null and void. I just can’t see the Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gates’ of the world signing up for that type of punishment. So excuse me if I don’t take this threat seriously. The Right to Privacy will continue to exist (as it did unenumerated before Roe v. Wade) and with it the availability of unpopular medical procedures, including abortion. Sorry folks, them’s the breaks.

In libertarian circles there has been an uneasy truce on the issue of abortion for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, we have believers on both sides of the issue here too. It just doesn’t get contentious (generally) because we don’t acknowledge that the state has the authority to force someone to bear children on the one hand, or the authority to levy taxes to pay for abortions on the other. We’re more than happy to let the individuals involved make decisions for themselves. It’s what tends to work best.

I hear you saying “what about protecting life, dammit?” That’s all fine and good. First, prove that there is a life, a life with a conscious mind, a will to live (not just autonomic responses) the presence of brainwaves, preferably; and then show how you will preserve that life without harming the life (and by harm I mean economic as well as physical harm) of the mother-to-be, and you might have a telling argument. Otherwise we are still back at individual choice.

The short version of this is if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. That should limit the decisions to the individuals with a real stake in it. The women.


Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside when I came to a deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. (Wayback Machine version of the original article) What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

I have come out as unambiguously on the side of choice in recent years., science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that.