One more time: Correcting the ignorant on utilitarianism

I wrote some time ago about Michael Hartwell’s poor grasp of philosophy. Specifically, I went into detail about why he has no idea what utilitarianism even is. However, one thing has been bothering me for quite some time and I want to address it now. Here is what I want to address from Hartwell:

Utilitarianism, in its most basic sense, is committing an evil act to counter a greater evil.

I’ve touched on my issue with this asinine statement, but I want to make sure it is out there in the open as much as possible. It just gets under my skin when someone is this monumentally wrong about something.

Utilitarianism defines what is good as that which maximizes pleasure and reduces pain. Generally, more weight is given to reducing pain, but that is getting into the details and isn’t important here. What is important is that we’re talking about an ethical theory which is in and of itself defining what is good. This cannot be anymore clear. And all the other ethical theories do the same thing. In fact, holy texts do it, too. That’s why it is often futile to argue with certain fundamentalists. Sure, by normal standards we would say it was evil of God to say rape victims had to marry their rapists, but the fundamentalist is going by the assumption that good and evil are defined by the Bible and, more specifically, God. Since God, by definition, can do no wrong, then his rape command cannot be evil. Or so the story goes. The difference, however, with Enlightenment period ethical theories is that they are based and built upon reason.

So I have two problems with saying utilitarianism is committing an evil act to counter a greater evil. First, that could just as easily be phrased, ‘Utilitarianism is committing an act of greater good in order to counter an act of lesser good.’ Talking about evil is nothing more than dishonest spin. Second and more to the point, it makes zero sense to analyze an ethical theory from within if one already has an assumption of what is good and evil. It’s possible to do that analysis looking in from the outside – we do that all the time – but one cannot simultaneously assume the perspective of a given ethical theory and an outside perspective. It would be like criticizing a hockey official because he didn’t call a touchdown when someone scored a goal.

What’s the harm in naturopathy?

It’s no secret that naturopathy is pure quackery. Indeed, part of its premise is vitalism, a concept which has no physical basis. It is the practice and love of those who are no better than 9/11 conspiracy nuts or birthers; it’s nothing more than a hipster-like reaction to something that has been established as true. And it comes with great harm:

Anne M. Adkins
Wichita, Kansas – Kidney failure
January 6 – 26, 2004
She traveled to Utah to be treated by a holistic naturopath. She received large doses of vitamin C, chelation therapy and colonics among other things. Within weeks she was suffering from kidney failure.

Lorie Atikian
Age: 17 months
Ontario, Canada
Died (malnutrition, pneumonia)
September 25, 1987
Lorie’s parents, concerned about modern food additives, were advised to give her an organic vegetarian diet. She was also treated with herbal & homeopathic remedies and an energy machine. Her parents were convicted of neglect.

Cameron Ayres
Age: 6 months
Fulham, west London, England
May 1999
Cameron was born with a rare but treatable disorder, but his parents distrusted conventional medicine. A nurse/homeopath begged them to take him to a doctor, but they refused. He died.

Raj Bathija
Age: 69
Westminster, London, England
Both legs amputated
September 2005
He saw a “natural health practitioner” famous for treating celebrities. He was given nutritional advice and massages. Later, he was taken to a hospital where his legs had to be amputated. He is suing the practitioner.

Debbie Benson
Age: 55
Fort Bragg, California
Died (cancer)
July 15, 1997
She had a deep distrust of traditional medicine, so she sought out naturopaths and other alternative practitioners for her breast cancer. It raged out of control and she died.

Catherine “Cat” Elizabeth Bresina
Age: 17
Wheatridge, Colorado (from Wisconsin)
Cardiac arrest
March 25, 2004
Cat’s family took her to Colorado for what they thought was an inventive therapy for her disease. An injection she was given during the treatment caused her heart to stop. Charges were later filed against the naturopath.

I’ve only given 5 of the 200 instances of naturopathy-induced harm from that one website. Just imagine how many more there are every year throughout the world. And not instances of simple malpractice or clerical errors or bad luck. These are instances of ignorant, untrained individuals trying to play doctor. I have no respect for these people.

Happy Father’s Day

If God did exist, he would be the most evil father in history. Let’s be thankful, then, that the pro-infantacide, pro-genocide, pro-rape, pro-thought crime, anti-liberty, anti-women bigot is entirely a piece of fiction.

Happy Father’s Day.