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IEET > Rights > PostGender > Life > Enablement > Vision > Technoprogressivism > Staff > Hank Pellissier

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Japanese Asexual Activist-Artist Slices off his Genitalia, Serves at Banquet


Hank Pellissier
Hank Pellissier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jun 5, 2012

Mao Sugiyama - asexual artist/activist/entrepreneur - had his sex glands electively surgically removed in a Tokyo hospital on March 31 (his 22nd birthday). Post-op, he asked for and received his severed genitalia - frozen and double-bagged - that he stashed in his freezer. April 8, he tweeted a shocking invitation to watch the disposal of his defunct erotic parts. April 13, he cooked, seasoned, and served bite-sized morsels of his testicles, scrotal sack, and penis to five gourmands who dished out $250 apiece for the rarities, at a public banquet at Asagaya Loft A event space.

Seventy additional guests paid to observe the bizarre feasting, while dining on non-organ meat themselves (crocodile and beef).

Sugiyama’s gross receipts helped pay for the surgery, but his sex was permanently sacrificed via the penectomy and neutering castration. (His lost penis, he reports, had been 16.1 centimeters - 6.3 inches - long at maximum size.) Physically abandoning his gender extremities was precisely what he wanted though, because as an asexual he is totally disinterested in sex.

Sugiyama’s intention in the operation was not to be"transsexual”; he didn’t receive a constructed vagina in exchange. What’s in his crotch now? “E’s” a “nullo” or “smoothie.” (“E” is one of the gender-neutral Spivak pronouns used to define either gender, or, in eir’s case, people with no gender. Sugiyama tweeted that the surgery left em with a urethra opening for urination at the lowest point in eir’s crotch, in front of eir’s anus.

Will Sugiyama have any regrets? Or is e enjoying eir’s long-wished-for wet dream? Probably the former. E announced, in a pre-banquet panel discussion, that e’d gone on a pre-surgery one-month sex binge with anonymous internet sex partners, just to make sure e wouldn’t regret the operation.

(Media jokesters are rollicking in word-play. Huffington Post noted, “this chef’s got balls” and NowPublic.com says when “Sugiyama says ‘Bite Me’ - he means it.”) 

AVEN - the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, established in 2001 by college freshman David Jay - defines asexual as “a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” Asexual is not the same as celibacy, or sexual dysfunction. Multiple sub-categories exist under the asexual umbrella - ranging from complete dislike with even hand-holding, to having sex to satisfy a partner; from total disinterest in masturbation, to masturbating but not regarding it as sexual; from having “romantic” feelings, to being “aromantic.”

Sugiyama’s asexuality is in the nullo, smoothie, or MTE (male to eunuch) fringe; eir’s desire is to be non-gendered, as asexual as possible, so e can, e suggests, “wear transparent clothing.” E even attempted to burn off his nipples with sodium hydroxide. E is taking female hormone therapy and e wears a corset, apparently to counter-balance eir’s genetic masculinity and attain an androgynous figure.

Studies reported in The Journal of Sex Research and New Scientist have estimated that approximately 1.0% of the population is asexual. (One researcher - Dr. Anthony Bogoert - postulates that the figure is actually much higher.) Famous members of this sexual orientation group include American macabre writer/illustrator Edward Gorey, Scottish writer J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan author), comedienne Paula Poundstone (“I don’t like sex, so I abstain”), actress/standup Janeane Garafalo (celibate in a ten-year relationship), and Tim Gunn, fashion designer of Project Runway, who claimed, “do I feel like less of a person for it? No… not even remotely.” 

David Jay of AVEN aims to assist asexuals who feel they are “broken” by transforming the notion of defectiveness into a positive identity. In recent article inThe Guardian he expressed hope that asexuality would leap into a “third phase” that “challenges the mainstream notion of what constitutes a normal sex drive.”  In The Atlantic he also opined that he’d like to see the dominant culture, “stop defining our significant relationships only as those that are romantic or sexual,” and he suggested, “we celebrate sex in a way that is inauthentic…we… fetishize… sexuality… and equate it with the sum of our value and relationships.”

Back to the banquet: how is Sugiyama’s intimate surgery and personal flesh-sale a techno-progressive IEET topic? The episode, although tasteless to many, is chockfull of contentious bioethical and social issues. Here’s a few:

* Will other asexuals follow Sugiyama’s “reductionist” path? Cutting off “useless” body parts that only perform unwanted functions? Has he advertised the nullo/smoothie/MTE option to a wider audience?
* Will “smoothie” become an in-demand operation? Offered via competing hospitals, world-wide? (Thailand is currently a leader)
* Will health insurance policies be pressured to cover the costs?
* Will asexual emerge as an increasingly vocal identity group, with specific demands on the dominant culture?
* Will asexuality be acceptable as a lifestyle choice to the public majority, or will it be persecuted?
* Will asexuals align tightly with LGBTs, in the updated “LGBTQIA” acronym, that adds “questioning,” “intersex,” and “asexual”?
* Will religious groups support or attack asexuality? Will creeds that disapprove of sexuality regard asexuals as “holy” or “enlightened”? (In Matthew 19:12, Jesus states, “...there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”)
* Will surgically-removed body parts be legally delivered, to every patient in every nation? What about inner organs?
* What will the laws be concerning what you can do or not do with your removed body parts?
* Will selling and eating, or having others eat, your body parts - cannibalism - become a legal issue? (Japan has no laws regarding cannibalism; thus Sugiyama cannot be prosecuted)
* Will economically-marginalized people view Sugiyama’s banquet as way out of poverty?
* Will asexuality be viewed as a desirable lifestyle choice in the future, by workaholics, perhaps, who don’t want to be distracted by lust? Or religious people?
* When the “smoothie” operation becomes easily reversible, will people choose it for certain segments of their lifespan, when they don’t want distraction?
* Will the “smoothie” operation become a sentence delivered to rapists? (there’s a precedent, in China)
* Will asexual relationships - romantic and non-romantic - be explored and exalted in literature and the cinema?
* A study cited in Scientific American notes that castrated men in a Kansas institution lived 14 years longer than their intact peers. Further research is needed; will this absence-makes-the-life-grow-longer statistic (that resembles caloric restriction) become popular?

Asexuals already have a new flag, new organizations, Asexual Awareness Week, and new spokespeople, like AVEN’s David Jay (who’s been featured on The View, MTV, and France 24), or writer/Princeton student Katherine Chen who blogs at Lemondrop, or perhaps Gunn, Garafalo, Poundstone, or even Mao Sugiyama emself, who ironically has become a “chick magnet” for attractive 20-something Japanese women ever since eir’s organs were removed and swallowed in the public/pubic surgery/spectacle.

If significant numbers ever follow eir’s path there will also be… an Anatomically New Gender.

 

Additional Sugiyama Banquet Details

Eir’s genitalia was prepared on a portable gas cartridge burner. Sugiyama cooked them emself, under the supervision of a professional chef. Organs were garnished with mushrooms and Italian parsley. The scrotal skin had 3mm of pubic hair growth.

The diners did not savor the meal. The penis root was “hard, rubbery” and “spit out after a few chews.” Scrotum was “even harder and more rubbery.” The testicles were “soft and glutinous in the middle” with the look and texture of sea urchin sushi, and a fishy taste. One person who ate part of the penis became distraught after the event, expressing his regret that he “had lost his common sense.”

The recipes were donated to the Japanese website Cookpad.com. 

 


Notes

 

A CalorieLab.com article provided the food photo and bulk of information for this essay.  Additional photographs of the “food” are available there.  Not for the squeamish!

information about MTE (male to eunuch), Asexuality, and Gender Nullification at https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/tag/smoothie/

 


Hank Pellissier was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and an IEET Affiliate Scholar. He’s the author of two e-books, Invent Utopia Now and Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? He is currently at BrighterBrains.org
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COMMENTS


As a clarification - from what I have been able to figure out from other articles, Sugiyama is using the term “asexual” in a different sense than it is usually used. In Sugiyama’s case, the term “asexual” is used in the rather obsolete sense referring to a sex-less gender identity, something like perhaps agender or neutrois. It is NOT, however, referring to asexuality as a sexual orientation, which is how the term is usually used in most English-speaking countries. It is unclear how Sugiyama identifies with regards to sexual orientation.

As such, while Sugiyama’s story is interesting, he is not using the word in the same sense as say, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, and his “asexuality” is NOT the same as the asexual orientation, which you describe later in the article. While your information on asexuality (the orientation) is very good, it doesn’t really belong in an article about Sugiyama.

It’s an understandable confusion, but in the end the two are distinct phenomena, and should really not be conflated - it just end up spreading misinformation all around





/me screams hysterically





Cleander - ? It is quite clear what Sugiyama’s sexual orientation is.

First, note in mine and in the original CalorieLab essay - where e had a “sex binge” before eir’s surgery, to determine that e “wouldn’t regret the operation.” Eir’s conclusion after the sex binge was that e did want to have the surgery because e wasn’t interested in sex, i.e., e’s asexual.

Second, Sugiyama’s decision to have neither male or female genitalia obliterates eir’s ability to have sex with either gender, i.e., not interested, is e?

Third, although they are a fringe, extremist, way-out-there group, the Nullos, Smoothies, MTEs like Sugiyama self-identify as “asexuals” - see the last link in my essay.

Indeed, it seems to me that the people like Sugiyama are the most asexual of all.

What you might have wanted to point out - is that Sugiyama’s desire to be “non-gendered” is definitely not typical for asexuality. It does need to be made very clear that defining oneself as asexual does not mean wanting to be without gender.





I have interacted with another kind of sexual variation. There are those males who don’t want to orgasm. Orgasming restraint makes them progressively more sexually titillated, and generally this is linked with some kind of depression after they orgasm. Usually this is a type of submissive sexuality, where a Dominant instructs them to “not come”, often with the aide ofa chastity device, such as these.

(NSFW) - http://www.legastronomesexy.com/CMS/chastete1.jpg

There seem to be consistent themes here; a small penis, inability to sexually function, sexual trauma, strong and persistent urges to submit to strong male or female Dominants, a love for severe verbal, mental and physical submission and degradation - but these symptoms are not strong rules.. there are many exceptions…

I have been in contact with my exhibiting these traits, and quite a few want to be female, but “not all the way”, i.e. the “sissy” fetish. I know loads of aspiring “sissies” in Second Life, and there is considerable consistency in this field of fetishes. Some wish to “transform” in to extremely explicit porn star - like female shapes, with (futanari) or without the (fuck-dolls) penis, all with variable ranges of sexual submission, dominance, shame, lack of lack of shame, lust or lack of lust.

I am myself no stranger to some of these archetypes, being heavily in to the “hyper feminized succubus” fetish myself.

The most extreme cases I have come across are “pee tubers”, i.e. males who have the penis removed, but retain the scrotum. This will disallow them to actively masturbate, so in essence they’ll be forever sexually unable to function and frustrated and titillated. Clearly these males experience considerable pleasure from the arousal itself, but not from the actual orgasm. I know cases where the orgasm makes the persons break down in to a puddle of pure misery.

(NSFW) http://www.autocastration.com/

I have deal IRL with a few in this spectrum of sexual assertion in BDSM context, and one liked being tied up completely and rather aggressively - even severe pain in the scrotum area becomes reason for arousal. My ex also had these clients when she was involved in commercial BDSM play and she was paid to kick them (hard) in the groin, squeeze her heels on the scrotum, or embed the penis and scrotum with needles.

I don’t judge, provided these people are of an age where they clearly know what they are doing, and I always wonder at the undercurrent reasons in experience or neuro-chemistry in these cases.

What I wonder about even more is the remarkable hatred by “neuro-typicals” towards the entire field of sexual deviancy. The xenophobia itself is often so vitriolic it is in itself an interesting phenomenon. The xenophobia can range from just plain homophobia, to aggression and it can be acutely irrational in its severity.

My sexual deviancy in this might be “curious, clinical interest”, allowing me to explore and observe these fetishes in all their glory, clearly. Quite fun smile





Also, Japan

* http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/12/26/us-japan-sex-idUSTRE4BP18P20081226

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/30/japan

* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/japan-population-decline-youth-no-sex_n_1242014.html

smile





Can you imagine what Dale Carrico is writing on his notepad right now? smile





Uhuh *snickers* smile





“Stealth robot cultist Hank.. arghh, he’s (retch) setting me up…”





No no no, my reference to auto-castration and pee tubers and sexual submissives and sissies should not be intended as a sneer towards Dale Carrico. It was just a lateral observation?

Why do people always assume the worst of me?





Had nothing to do with you.
Dale’s a fun guy, a real gone-gasser.





“What I wonder about even more is the remarkable hatred by “neuro-typicals” towards the entire field of sexual deviancy. The xenophobia itself is often so vitriolic it is in itself an interesting phenomenon. The xenophobia can range from just plain homophobia, to aggression and it can be acutely irrational in its severity.”

I think basic disgust plays an important role. I certainly experience that emotion when I read or hear about some of this stuff. And, like genitalia, the important thing about emotions is not what kind or how big they are, but what you do with them. “Homophobia”, to take the most prevalent and much-discussed instance of this kind of thing, would not be so much of a problem if it was just that: fear and/or disgust. The problems arise when people try to justify their emotions by condemning behavioural patterns that are essentially none of their business, and/or depriving people who like to behave in those ways of their fundamental rights, or otherwise discriminating against them.

Unfortunately, many people are very bad at dealing appropriately with their emotions.





@Peter re ““Homophobia”, to take the most prevalent and much-discussed instance of this kind of thing, would not be so much of a problem if it was just that: fear and/or disgust. The problems arise when people try to justify their emotions by condemning behavioural patterns that are essentially none of their business, and/or depriving people who like to behave in those ways of their fundamental rights, or otherwise discriminating against them.

PETER, shame on you! That is my line wink





@Giulio Indeed smile

What we sometimes disagree about, of course, is what kind of behaviours can be considered “our business”, especially when those behaviours involve propagating false belief. But sexual deviancy is to be positively encouraged IMO, even if some forms of it see, gruesome to many of us.





I think Sugiyama pulled off an imaginative and informative taboo-smashing performance art event.

Yes, most of us are grossed out by his surgeries and the sale of his flesh, but…. why? Reductionism and Cannibalism… but was anyone harmed?

Sugiyama deserves praise, especially if he is truly getting what he wants.





Again. What is most interesting here is not what some people do, and whether or not this might be interesting or earth-shattering or amazing. The default should be obvious as hell - freedom for those who we grant self-determination, as far as they don’t harm others, end of story.

What IS interesting at this stage is the rampant xenophobia, the gut reaction of explicit horror, and *especially* the visible urge to crack down on what some consider “offensive”.

Face it - the human ape has an “intolerance instinct”. This is only logical - human primates must have had an active compulsion to make early tribal society consistent. And yes, we must have interventions in some cases - specifically where behavior X endangers the freedoms or safety of someone else.

And yes - this opens up a fairly interesting discussion - if some group of people claims to take a certain freedom, and claims their actions are an expression of personal liberties (say, a corporation called Montsanto), yet other people are implicitly driven to desperation, and then to suicide by the fall-out of the actions of the initial party, how the HELL can we resolve what impinges on personal freedoms?

Certain religious groups will hysterically claim that a “marital contract” is a conceptual property with closed definitions, and these people will fight tooth and nail to exclude certain groups to stretch up the definition of this “marital contract”. This is clearly a worst case scenario where both parties in the dialogue can not and will not compromise.  The same with the freedom of certain Libertarian minded as “to run a business as they damn well please”, and you end up with excesses as practices as, say, Montsanto.

So granted - we feel offended by certain things in the common world around us. So granted, we must and shall intervene (even with great force) in certain cases of what we find to be intolerable. And yes, at some point we end up with either Lax Talionis (thou shallt not eat sateed penis, dammit, or I’ll KILL you!) and all these inviolate dictums and laws.

Or we enter this horrific boring slow dialogue of deciding what should be law, what is “ethical”, what is part of the golden rule, bureaucracy, judges, cops, nanny state and endless bla bla bla.

Going back to this Japanese person severing eir penis, the PROBLEM here is the pervasive kneejerk reaction and disgust at some person doing something which some find “disgusting” or “unacceptable”. This person just violated a whole bunch of taboos, and provoked very strong emotions. The emotional response is what matters here. How strong are these emotions and how far are humans willing to fuck up the world on account of these urges.





@Khannea

Yes: how far hi,ans are willing to fuck up the world because of their strong, irrational, negative emotions and their inability to deal with them sensibly. In one sense the “horrific boring slow dialogue” is exactly what enables us to do better than Lex Talionis, and some people even like this kind of thing, but I agree that the real story is about emotional response and how those emotions are handled. Some people are positively addicted to disgust and outrage.





Maybe they should become addicted to fascination and curiosity. It isn’t such a big leap.





They’d need to become fascinated about their emotional reactions first, and a lot of people are more scared of them than anything else. Then there is status: in many cultures and sub-cultures there is (still) a huge pressure to conform, and expressing outrage against deviancy of one form or another can be an effective way to gain status.

The bottom line is that there is no sure-fire way of convincing people who don’t want to be convinced. One needs to lead by example, and we need to continually reinforce memes that celebrate harmless diversity. What can help, though, is to recognise the emotions of the -homo- and other phobes as legitimate. It’s not even hating the sin but loving the sinner: it’s about acknowledging that many people might prefer to live in a world where these things did not exist, and refraining from suggesting that they should be ashamed for having such feelings, while at the same time making it clear that you will fight tooth and nail to defend people’s right to live how they please, so long as they are not causing clear and direct harm towards others.

@Giulio Once again you will tell me I’m stealing your lines smile which in a sense I am. But I still draw a distinction between sexual (and other behavioural) deviancy and propagating false belief. The latter is in my view far more pernicious, and while we should generally eschew any kind of censorship or discrimation, I still think it’s important to speak out against false belief, whether religious or other. While also being fascinated and curious, of course.





@Peter - Like you, I find this story very disgusting. But I have a simple and effective thumb rule to handle deep emotional reactions, based on answering the question “Who is the victim?” If there is no victim, there is no crime, and it is not my business. As simple as that.

Re “I still think it’s important to speak out against false belief”

Applying my simple thumb rule, if you speak out against (what you consider as) false beliefs, there is no victim and thus no crime. If you take actions to harm or oppress those who hold what you consider as false beliefs, including verbally inciting others to violence and oppression, there is a victim, and thus there is a crime, and this is where I draw the line.





All fine and dandy - but, am I the only one considering the possibility of a merely pathological explanation for Sugiyama’s actions?

I mean, it is surely possible to diagnose some kind of body integrity disorder (BIID), and Apotemnophilia in particular. There are many similar cases. Those who suffer from this pathology chop their limbs off in order to reach psychological relief, to feel whole, to match their own mental body-identity. Even if I personally agree with Thomas Szasz regarding the value of psychiatry - we should, at least, recognize that we might just be discussing about the action of a man with specific neurological dysfunctions - and possibly even curable ones. Ramachandran himself made very interesting researches on the subject, also hypothesizing viable therapies.

Of course, the consequences of this deviancy fall entirely on the person who desires them. Nobody else gets hurt - therefore, there is no reason to outlaw such practices, or to minimize their publicity. Just, let us use the same tolerant attitude with all public recommendation of insane behaviors. I mean, a priest who publicly recommends chastity to teenagers is not doing anything different. I am not sure everybody here would be just as tolerant with public displays of traditional, religious deviancies - like chastity, monogamy, and such.

There is also a big ethical issue regarding the doctor(s) who assisted Sugiyama in completing an irreversible, highly disruptive surgical procedure, without any medical justification. Clearly, they violated Hippocratic principles. I really do not know if doctors have to take the Hippocratic oath in Japan. It is not a mere formal issue. Would we be ready to excuse a doctor who helped a deluded religious fanatic to reproduce the signs of crucifixion on his body? Shouldn’t that doctor be blamed for helping a clearly insane individual in realizing his self-disruptive projects? I honestly do not have an answer for these questions myself.





@Giulio We concur smile

@André
To some extent I share your misgivings, but before describing Sugiyama as “clearly insane” I think we need to clarify what we mean by “insane”. I don’t see any particular evidence that the person in question was or is deluded in any significant or relevant way. (we are all deluded in some ways, of course.) Similarly, before we describe the desire to chop off one’s limbs as “pathological”, which is admittedly an understandable and in many ways natural point of view, we need to clarify what we mean by “pathology”. In particular there is a danger of circularity: we describe as “pathological” or “insane” desires or behaviours that we find disturbing, and this in turn comforts and reassures us.

In the end it is up to each individual what attitude e wants to take on these issues, but from my utilitarian perspective something along the lines of Giulio’s latest comment seems pretty essential. The main caveat that I would cite is the presumably real risk that Sugiyama lives to bitterly regret eir decision. But is it our, or the doctor’s, business to make assumptions to that effect? My impression from Hank’s article is that this was a very carefully and thoroughly planned and thought-about decision.





Being Asexual is not so strange is it? Many religious monks, Buddhists and yogi’s already abstain to the point of asexuality, and with complete non-interest in sex?

I can forsee a future where pregnancy and natural child birth would become inefficient, cumbersome and rare? Mental and VR stimulus for sexual wants and needs will become easy and commonplace? What need then for penetration at all?

I don’t see anything shocking about “smoothies”, (which is a kind of enlightened and nice name for this?)

Eating your loose change is a bit unpalatable however?

Pretty soon there will be an Orgasmatron in every home?





PS..

A most enlightening medical series to watch is “Embarrassing bodies” aired on UK Channel 4OD (on demand) - checkout some genital horror stories and ops on there, and you’ll most likely be more open to the idea of “smoothie” Ops?





The ideal end situation is universal freedom, in all cases. Add sustainable consumerism to that and we are there. Now the human brain and adjacent neurology may seem to be like a mountain, and bigger than the universe, but actually it’s quite small. It might be subject to reverse engineering in our lifetimes, and I would favour this process, regardless of the consequences. Many may not like it, or even regard it as commensurate with their imagination on how the world works, but nobody yet knows the full extent of what might be possible. I hope, the deniers also hope, and neither of us know.

The culmination of my imagination might be a programmable and bugfree human brain, something weighing less than the current 1400 grams - but is nevertheless more robust, exorcised of bugs, optimal, more malleable and a lot faster. I am not sure how much (and how fast) we can disentangle the human brain, but let’s say it can be made into a dense rare earth processor about a kilo. This would be the quintessential human identity core, and it would gravitate towards “read only”, as to make it tampering/hacking proof. Adjunct to the HIC should be extensions - addon processors, memory devices and other - to enrich the default. These addons should be more malleable.

The HIC must entail a most essential morality (what makes the essence human a desirable state), and that includes freedom, self-awareness, joy, creativity, intellect. Everything that makes being human valuable, and most of what makes it currently crap edited out.

In my case I would want a HIC adjunct to a very humanoid body, and I’d want to be able to change mental and physical functionality several times during the day. This may entail making the physicality itself modular, with snap-on limbs and appendages.

Which brings me to the above - sexuality. The human sexuality (and in particular in this case, the testes) is such a huge part of the human carriage, I suggest just ritually snipping off and ceremonially recycling it won’t do the trick of a full excision. It’s odd enough that castrati live quite some bit longer, suggesting to me that male sexuality is quite a physiological burden (as I know it is - all those poor men) and somewhat comparable to being born a severe drug addict.

In this ideal future my freedom should extend to creative ability, savant faculty to concentrate, supernatural prowess to facilitate sexual engagement. Of course in doing so my HIC should have an unspeakably strong ego compass - as there are many sollipsist bears on this road - I could easily envision becoming enmeshed in a million spirals of addictive obsession, each of them a slow suicide.

In that regard Mao has already taken an advance exorcism - ‘edit’ out the dross (snipsnip!) and concentrate on the primal HIS. I wouldn’t as much recommend this drastic measure but I’d certainly advocate studying the end result with keen interest.





@Peter
“In particular there is a danger of circularity: we describe as “pathological” or “insane” desires or behaviours that we find disturbing, and this in turn comforts and reassures us.”
To be honest, I did not find Sugiyama’s actions disturbing, I have learnt of much more disturbing human behaviors. The immediate feeling that the story triggered in me - was pity. But this is quite irrelevant anyway.

Insanity and mental illness are not (merely) names for our incapacity to comprehend excessively atypical behaviors. Yes, there is that component. But here we are talking about permanent, irreversible damages to a body. Probably, that Japanese man is going to suffer from urinary incontinence, and related infections for the rest of his life. Psychiatrists call a certain behavior “pathological” when it hurts the patient himself, or those around him. This is the mainstream definition. The notion of damage here is of course primarily physiological - it refers to the destruction of the functionality, and the integrity of the body. So, I think that mental pathology might indeed apply to this case. Sugiyama is not merely eccentric. I am not disturbed because he broke a sacred taboo. I am sorry for him, because he hurt himself.

I am not condemning Sugiyama, obviously. I think nobody has the right to make him suffer to tolerate the presence of his own genitalia. Many people suffering from BIID feel indeed much better after the amputation. So, paradoxically, damaging healthy parts of their body has therapeutic effects in some cases. This is why this pathology is so controversial for medical ethical standards. However, doctors might have tried some more conservative therapy to reestablish the psychological well-being of Sugiyama. Personally, I regret many choices I took when I was around twenty. I really hope that Sugiyama will be still happy about his decision when older.

@CygnusX1
Celibacy and surgical de-sexualization are quite different in my opinion. They are both pathological behaviors from a purely physiological standpoint. However, the second entails many additional problems (incontinence, hormonal imbalances, infections), that make it somehow worse. As I said elsewhere, I always respect even the most extreme religious choices that do not directly harm anyone else. Men should be free to abstain from sex, or to starve themselves to death. I might even be sympathetic (in abstract) with certain practices that amplify the mental dimension thanks to the mortification of the flesh. But we should not let our sympathies blind our analysis. And, I would never recommend an amputation - or celibacy - to anyone.





“Celibacy and surgical de-sexualization are quite different in my opinion.”

Yes but there is common commitment similar for both. The latter is undoubtedly a commitment to the former?

“However, the second entails many additional problems (incontinence, hormonal imbalances, infections), that make it somehow worse.”

Agreed, yet this can be corrected. I would say that having to take hormone replacement therapy for the rest of one’s days is the “bigger” burden and setback, (if you have mind that is?)


btw: Good point regarding monogamy above, another reminder to/of being mindful of our obligations towards acceptance and tolerance of the ideals of others?





In the current extremely flawed and broken world people get sick, they have pain, they go insane and they die.  I wish it weren’t so but they do. I have lost a few people that were extremely dear to me just recently, one is my ex spouse who I basicly expect to hear she’s dead any day now.

Can I do something about that with the tools at my disposal? No. Nobody can. We can not (yet) save the multitudes any more than the many who might can, would want to save my ass from my own inadequacies.

We still stand neck deep in the ocean of Darwinan selection. We are still in Hell. But over there is the light, and if we move cautiously and deliberately we might amble ashore in to the new era of life in this part of the galaxy.

I have seen a grown, beautiful and acutely intelligent woman rake hooks in her back skin, her ass, and all her limbs and suspend herself for the better part of half an hour, as her skin stretched and bled. She hung there in nothingness, here eyes rolled away in what appeared to be bliss. By any fair definition she was mutilating her own physicality.

The question is - is the imposed spectrum of (pity, disgust, xenophobia, moralism, political correctness, religious sensibility, profit maximalization, medical ethics, state paternalism, nanny state, etc. etc)-driven interventionisms BETTER or WORSE than these acts?

In same cases (say, child abuse, Monsanto poisoning the planet, the Israeli settlers will-nilley executing children, incompetent power plant managers in Japan risking the death of half the planet by virtue of sheer incompetence) there seems to be a justifiable curse for immediate and assertive intervention.

But, to stretch the question of “being honorbound to intervene”, should we bomb Syria? Invade North Korea? Station armies in the Congo and Uganda to hunt down Kony? ... use drone strikes and specter gunships, consistently bombing journalists, women, children because we need to act against Teh terrists? ... lie and corrupt the legal and political process to get rid of protesters and whistle blowers? ..spread human sterilizing nanoids in parts of the developing world to reduce human birth rates? ...resort to unilateral global engineering ?

The question is - what level of intervention is compelling and necessary and where does the price of intervention exceed the cost?

I know, we all have this human urge to act against what we instinctively experience as “unacceptable”. Sadly the world doesn’t work that way and the monkey instinct to enforce conformity is brother to the monkey instinct to commit acts of racist violence and outright genocide.

We as a species are what we are because we have an innate instinct for persecution.





Andre, Peter—I have not interviewed Sugiyama directly, although it would be interesting to do that, and I will try to find him on FB.

I find it very premature to pity him, feel sorry for him, or define, label, categorize and judge him in any way. We don’t know him, and it seems quite patronizing, Andre, to extend your “BIID” and “pathological” analysis to him. “sacred taboo”? - what is that?

People get tonsils, appendixes, tumors, fingernails and hair removed all the time - Mao wanted his sex glands removed because he didn’t want them. very proactive. I, too, hope he doesn’t regret it, but I am sure he has thought about the consequences of his decision more than you or I have.





http://www.spi0n.com/un-transsexuel-cuisine-en-public-son-appareil-genital/





@Hank
I am not patronizing, obviously. And, at the same time, I am perfectly entitled to feel pity towards him, or towards any other organism on this planet. Compassion is not a matter of choice. Besides, I remind you that feeling pity is not a form of moral condemnation. I think I made quite clear that I respect his voluntary castration. My words were not merely rhetorical. I sincerely respect his extreme decision, and his wish to give a public message. Just, I really do not feel like celebrating this man as a transhumanist hero.
I merely suggested a possible alternative interpretation of his actions. Also, I suspect that a number of professional psychiatrists would agree with the analysis I proposed - maybe some would diagnose BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), instead of BIID, but I am pretty sure almost everyone would confirm that Sugiyama’s behavior is pathological, according to contemporary medical standards. You might try to interview a few psychiatrists on the subject - just for curiosity.
When I wrote about “sacred taboos”, I was implicitly referring to your own comment above, and also to Khannea’s. You both admit that he broke many taboos. And taboos are sacred by definition.

Quite obviously he did not remove a tumor, or tonsils. He removed several healthy parts of his body, parts that have very important physiological functions. Imagine, instead - that he removed his eyes to see a spiritual light. How would you consider his actions in such case?

By the way, I asked you a couple of questions about Tibet/China, commenting one of Giulio’s articles (Yes, I am a believer). Maybe you overlooked my post, or you were just too busy to reply. I am still curious about what would you answer - in case you feel like answering.

@Khannea
I agree with you, absolutely. While I consider Sugiyama’s actions probably pathological, I would never intervene to stop him, or force any kind of cure on him, against his own will. All the points you make are absolutely valid. Inaction is the supreme form of respect, I believe. And no peaceful living structure should ever face unwanted interventions from other organisms. No matter how bizarre and disturbing are the actions and the form of this living structure. The personal, convolute way each of us decide to design his or her own existential experience is something sacred in my opinion.





@Andre - I don’t object to the word “taboo” - it’s the word “sacred” I object to. Since we established via a survey that the majority of IEET readers are not religious, you cannot be surprised if someone here gets annoyed by your use of the religious word “sacred.”

Also, yes, of course, you can feel pity for Sugiyama if you wish, and of course, yes, I can object to your pity. Your pity connotes an attitude of superiority, that Sugiyama is messed-up and you are not, that you are neurologically normal and he is not.

IEET is defined as “techno-progressive” and I regard your pity for Sugiyama as anti-techno-progressive.

I suspect your pity is, directly or indirectly, religious-based. I grew up in a religious household that felt “pity” for all sinners and anyone “deviant.” My opinion on this type of “pity” is that it is self-righteous and condemnatory.

People who feel good about themselves get extremely annoyed when people pity them, you understand that, don’t you? You say your pity is “compassionate” but he didn’t ask for your pity, did he?

What you are telling Sugiyama with your “pity” is that he is pathetic and deserves your sympathy. Your “pity” that you think is “kind” is passive-aggressively telling him that he is unhealthy.

“Pity” is also a word I have heard Christians use to describe their feelings about gays and other sexual minorities.

To conclude, I don’t think extending “pity” to Sugiyama is kind at all, I see as disguised hostility.

PS -  I don’t recall your questions about Tibet. I sent you a link about an article I wrote on Tibet - perhaps I assumed the answer to your question would be found in my article.





A few days ago I was visited by three Jehova’s witnesses, a very pallid and skinny teen girl, and two adults. I talked to them, and they were doing an intervention, which was clearly in part inspired by my choice of clothes when walking outside.

After 45 minutes of extremely respectful talk they left. I had not used any abusive or foul language, just asked return questions. I was very polite, yet the poor girl was in tears -  and one of the adults was flustered and visibly irate.

In doing so did I violate any sacred taboos of any “believers” ?

Can I say “abandon all hope ye who enter here?”





Tsk.. Tsk.. Here we go again! Just when you thought it safe to get back in the water? The intelligent debate gets dragged into the mire of religious bigotry once again? *yawns*

The term “Sacred” need not be so literally attached to religion? What I find “sacred” is both freedom of speech, expression, and the choice to sexual preference as described here.

Hank.. Still pushing the agenda I see? I notice that the recent poll was not open for very long? Why not keep it open to gain even greater statistical benefit and wider picture of visitors beliefs and readership? Exactly how many voted in that last poll? My count was approx 170 - no big thing to boast about?

Q: what if someone decided to do exactly as described here, but for the love of their God? Would you then find this “offensive”? Hope not?





@Gank re ““Pity” is also a word I have heard Christians use to describe their feelings about gays and other sexual minorities. “

“Pity” is also a word I have heard atheists use to describe their feelings about gays and other sexual minorities.





@Hank
My questions regarding your moral views about Tibet/China were triggered by the reading of your very article, they came afterwards. However, I do not expect you to go back and scroll the whole discussion to find my questions. Probably you have better things to do anyway.

I honestly do not understand why the (redundant) expression “sacred taboo” annoyed you. If its because of its religious taste, also the word “taboo” alone should trigger similar reactions. Taboo is an exquisitely religious notion by itself. Anyway, this is really not important - at least for me.

“IEET is defined as “techno-progressive” and I regard your pity for Sugiyama as anti-techno-progressive.”
And I regard your denial of scientific, medical explanations as very much anti-techno-progressive. We already have castrations and eunuchs since thousands of years. Personally, I do not think it represents an insightful techno-progressive trend. Where is the technological advancement? Nothing new under the sun.

“What you are telling Sugiyama with your “pity” is that he is pathetic and deserves your sympathy. Your “pity” that you think is “kind” is passive-aggressively telling him that he is unhealthy.”
This is your arbitrary interpretation of my thoughts. And it is - also - a rather unkind, hostile labeling of my person. Can’t I say that I (reasonably) believe that he is indeed unhealthy? Are you serious? When someone tells me that I should quit smoking cigars because that is an unhealthy behavior, I know that they are right, and I do not think they are being aggressive. Why should I be so paranoid? Pity means just pity - it means that I am sorry that he hurt himself. Period. Why such an obvious, positive human feeling have to be interpreted as an act of aggression? Do people nowadays know how real aggressions look like?

I do not know what kind of religious background you had - it might be interesting to have biographical a sketch, at this point. But you are very wrong in suspecting a religious basis behind my words. Probably, if I saw Sugiyama in person, I would not even reveal my pity for him, depends on the context, and on his personal character, and so on. I would be just curious to get to know his ideas - and his emotions - better.





Yeah! Like when Mr. T says, “I pity the fool that tries get me in that plane”, he’s not talking religion nor God?





Cygnus - yes, about 170 voted in that poll.  Percentages were the same from the first day to the last day. I don’t think the results were the least bit surprising.

Giulio… weak try, with your comment. 

Did you read Lawrence’s essay today? 

Here are two current USA trends -

Gay Marriage is quickly gaining acceptance, it is now supported by 52% of the public, with 42% disapproving.

Atheism and the Non-Believer demographic is quickly increasing, and people are abandoning church-going.

Those two trends are related.

To conclude, because I really am not going to repeat all this -
I see Futuristic Thought as Secularist,
and BackWards Thought as Religious





Andres -

there is immense difference between:

castration inflicted as punishment

castration for “religious reasons”

a smoothie operation and a public eating of the unwanted organs.

The latter seems like a celebration of asexuality -

the others were not.





I think it’s a shame, I always used to dote on folkloristic movements and LARPs. I will miss that religious stuff as it fades into obscurantism.





Giulio -

if you didn’t read Lawrence Krauss’s essay today -
here’s my favorite part of it:

“...when organized religious groups gain power of any form over the state, over women, or over children, the results inevitably lead to restrictions on liberty based on discrimination.

Happily, the number of adults who claim some religious affiliation has been dropping in the United States at a steady rate, from 91% in 1948 to 77% in 2008, and most recently in the UK the number of adults surveyed claiming no such affiliation was as high as 50%.

It is thus possible to imagine a time when religious adults, and the institutions with which they are affiliated, will be in the minority.

...Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty.

The sooner we are without it, the better.”





But why keep highlighting and supporting this Anti-religious feeling in every article, even where it has no relevance? Instead, it is the opposite which should be highlighted, (that of no relevance)?

OK, riddle me this.. 170 votes, thousands of hits on articles - what’s wrong with this picture? Who visits but does not comment or vote in polls? What is the demographic of these visitors? Most importantly, WHY are they not bothering to contribute? Lazy, indifferent, too busy, afraid?

You want a paradigm shift in global consciousness towards secularism, then earn it - encourage the rational and open debate with theists and believers willing to show interest in techno-progressive ethical issues?

 





Cygnus -

if you read the News article that the poll results were in,
you will note that the articles that promoted atheism
got much bigger hits, than the articles that were pro-religious.

This, and the poll %, indicates several things to me:

1. IEET readership is largely atheistic, and they read atheist articles happily, but they ignore - comparatively - the religious articles.

2. As editor, my responsibility is to provide articles that interest IEET readership. Future publication of articles will reflect the % indicated in the poll - for example, there will be a significantly higher factor of atheist reading material than there will be Christian or or religious material.

3. My time expenditure should also be based on the % that the survey conveyed. Should I spend hours a week arguing with Christians who represent 10% of readership? No. Should I spend my time encouraging debate between this 10% and the 60-70% majority? No.

There are many other more important projects for me and IEET to do.

I’m interested in IEET covering gender and sexuality issues, in H+ in popular culture, in promoting space exploration, in advertising life extension and neurological breakthroughs, in the rights of persecuted minority groups, and in political philosophy issues.

okay, onward to all that, and goodbye again to this religion topic.





Hear! Hear!

But please do not shun theists whom express interest and concerns with all of the issues described above?





@Hank re “if you didn’t read Lawrence Krauss’s essay today - here’s my favorite part of it:..”

I happen to agree with his, and your, opinions about “Organized religion, wielding power over the community.”

I make a difference between the faults of organized religions and the honest feelings of believers. But we have discussed this before. You will not persuade me, and I will not persuade you. Let’s discuss other things.





@CygnusX1: “The intelligent debate gets dragged into the mire of religious bigotry once again? *yawns*

Exactly. What the hell have religion to do with this? These atheists must be really obsessed with religion, they keep dragging all discussions there.





@Hank
“okay, onward to all that, and goodbye again to this religion topic.”
This sounds particularly ironic, since it was you who inexplicably steered the discussion towards religion vs. secularism in the first place, when we were discussing other issues - as CygnusX1 immediately noted.

“I’m interested in IEET covering gender and sexuality issues, in H+ in popular culture, in promoting space exploration, in advertising life extension and neurological breakthroughs”
... except when these neurological breakthroughs falsify the ideological premises behind a certain, arbitrary (and, in my opinion, a little delusional) theory of human sexuality.

Why a voluntary castration for religious motivations is essentially different from a smoothie operation (i.e. a voluntary castration) for unclear, personal motivations? I really miss the essential difference here. You seems to imply that the very same personal mutilation can be a great thing or a despicable thing, depending how the amputee justifies his actions. I hope you do realize that your argument if quite far from rational.

“The latter seems like a celebration of asexuality - the others were not.”
So, religious asceticism and cloistral celibacy are not a celebration of asexuality? Seriously? Maybe you should read about how often the members of early Christian communities were practicing self-castration and abstinence. Also, I suggest you to learn something about the Skoptsy sect, the most famous religious group that promoted an integral"smoothie” ideology - castration in men, mastectomy in women. Very progressive indeed.

Probably, you meant “secular celebration of asexuality” instead. So, explain to me, please, what are the secular reasons behind such old fashioned, but “techno-progressive”, mutilations? And do not repeat - to promote asexuality, because that is tautological. Why self-amputation should be regarded as progressive? I might understand that people with BIID feel psychologically relived after the amputation of the unwanted part. This is a valid secular reason. But it is also a reason that reveals the pathological genesis of such desires. Again, “pathological” does not mean - immoral, or criminal. Should we substitute the term with “differently-healthy”, maybe?

I tell you what I think. Voluntary castration and similar ascetic practices smell like religion from far away. And I am talking about the worst kind of religion. The one that tries alienate people from the reality of their material existences, just to find relief into an imaginary world, a world where their inadequacies, their pathologies, their weaknesses - become their strengths. It is just the old theme of Contemptus Mundi. I just did not expect to find it here.





@André re “[Hank:] okay, onward to all that, and goodbye again to this religion topic.” This sounds particularly ironic, since it was you who inexplicably steered the discussion towards religion vs. secularism in the first place, when we were discussing other issues - as CygnusX1 immediately noted.”

I have the very strong impression that it is the militant atheists here who are obsessed with religion and keep going back to it, even when the discussion is on other things.

The others, believers, agnostics and reasonable atheists, accept the fact that we will never agree on this point, and focus on the things that we can agree on.





@André
“Psychiatrists call a certain behavior “pathological” when it hurts the patient himself, or those around him. This is the mainstream definition. The notion of damage here is of course primarily physiological - it refers to the destruction of the functionality, and the integrity of the body. So, I think that mental pathology might indeed apply to this case.”

As you say, the damage in this case is physiological, and the question is whether we should be defining harm in this way or not.

Regarding the actions of Sugiyama vs religiously motivated mutilation there is an important difference, namely that the latter is clearly, ,or at least much more likely to be, a result of delusional belief.

Re whether the doctor in question should be reprimanded, isn’t your suggestion that he possibly should be inconsistent with your insistence that we should not get in the way of people like Sugiyama “harming” themselves? In fact, of we were to consider such behaviour pathological then I think I would be more sympathetic than either you or Khannea with the idea of trying to prevent, or at least quite strongly discourage, the person from taking such action.

In any case I agree we should not be styled as “non-technoprogressive” for voicing our misgivings, and pity, like disgust, is a perfectly legitimate emotion to feel. Once again, it’s what you do with it…





@Peter
Re role of doctors/prevention

As I said, I do not really have a definite opinion about how a doctor “should” behave. We have a paradox here. Because probably, the most practical way to help him - is to harm him. If I was his physician, I would have expressed my professional concerns, I would have advised him to consider different, reversible solutions to his sense of physical uneasiness, and possibly recommended cognitive behavior therapy. That said, if he insisted on asking for a castration - I would perform it.

I would not focus much on the nature of beliefs (delusional / non-delusional) behind people choices. Many neurological syndromes are related to specific damages to certain regions of the brain. So, you have perfectly rational people, that do very unusual, disturbing things. Some of these people come up with some kind of justification (typically delusional, sometimes religious - depending on their upbringing), and others simply seem not to mind. My caveat was about giving too much political significance to the acts of a possibly pathological case. That is all. At the personal level, if Sugiyama is happy with what he has done and the long-term consequences, I sincerely happy for him. Otherwise, I am sorry. My comments were meant to cast some doubts on the connection between our notion of “progress” and similar actions. My respect for the personal case is, and always will be, absolute.





@Giulio re “The others, believers, agnostics and reasonable atheists, accept the fact that we will never agree on this point.”

I certainly DON’T accept this, since I find such a point of view dismally defeatist, and also that it suggests an unhealthy unwillingness to question one’s beliefs.

On a somewhat more pedantic, but nevertheless IMO important point, I really don’t think you should be using the word “believer” to denote the religious/theistic, since this (along with Alex’s preferred “people of faith”) promotes the inaccurate and unhelpful myth (prevalent amongst both the religious and the non-religious) that atheists do not exercise faith.

In fact I answered “atheist” in the poll, not because I am really any more atheist than I am agnostic, but because we were asked to chooses between belief systems, and to me agnosticism is less of a belief system than a refusal to adopt one. By contrast, atheism certainly IS a belief system, and therefore atheists are also believers.

By the way, it’s not necessarily bad for atheists to be obsessed with religion. We all agree, don’t we, that certain religious beliefs and practices need to be rooted out? Religion-obsessed militant atheists are playing a valuable role in making this happen. Really not something anyone needs to get defensive about in my view.





Let’s all just agree that-

One day we might have the technology as to have Mao-san have a degree of sophisticated surgery we might all be *jealous* of ea. Right now medical science has still not much progressed beyond the obsidian flint. Probably in the future we’ll all be dead, but if I get my wish Mao-san will get a degree of additional treatment (and that might I get them too) we will all greatly enjoy.  I am sure Mao-san would agree with a more facultative treatment by then (on tuesday e might opt for the modular triple-feature special pleasure graft. Call me then ok?)

The religiously inclined may get their fun grafts and removals (designer stigmata? Laughing buddha ecstacy craft? holo-emitted aura? Odinian lightningbolt (tm) emitter?) and that would be GREAT. I will make sure I’ll get mine and turn myself in to a walking/talking/fornicating and most definitely post-human and post-sin religious icon.

Wake me up when we are there ok?





@André

Once again I agree with your caveat.we have different views on how “absolutely” we need to defend individual freedoms, but we’ve discussed that before, let’s not get into it again here.

I do want to insist those on the issue of belief. The fact that neurological “damage” (or simply abnormality) is frequently a cause of “abnormal” behaviour doesn’t in my view lessen the importance of making sure we iron out any delusional justifications before agreeing to a procedure. Giulio says that some of us (atheists) are obsessed with religion: I am obsessed, more specifically (and also more generally), with false belief. I agree one can go too far with this (hence my support for Giulio’s concept of “soft rationality”), but if we are to build the kind of futures we want - for example those we have been discussing in relation to Dick Pelletier’s recent timeline for tech progress - then we need to work much harder than most people currently are in eschewing false belief.

One of my beliefs is that an accurate worldview combined with clarity of purpose is a robust and flexible recipe for success. Delusional beliefs can often be very motivating and comforting, but they leave one vulnerable to neurotic reactions to that annoying little inconvenience known as evidence, and I also believe that those neurotic reactions (which include failure to recognise and appropriately channel our emotional responses) are responsible for a great many of the world’s evils.





@Khannea
Glad we’re back to the positive visions: sounds good to me smile





Well Peter, as you may come to realize - “I do both”.





@Peter re “I certainly DON’T accept this, since I find such a point of view dismally defeatist, and also that it suggests an unhealthy unwillingness to question one’s beliefs.”

Let me be more precise then: I will never agree with you (and I suppose you will never agree with me), because I consider beliefs as a personal thing, and I don’t feel any need to question my or others’ beliefs.

What you think, is not my business.

What you do is also not my business, provided you don’t harm others. If you do something that harms others, then I will have to consider it as my business, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

This was my last comment on this topic. We all have made our points very clear, and now we are just repeating ourselves.

Yes, thanks to Khannea for bringing tolerance and sanity back to this discussion. I totally agree with her last comment.





OK, one more thing to make things clearer, and this is really my last comment on the topic.

I claim the right to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, God, the Omega Point, Unicorns, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the divinity of Diego Maradona, and the right to choose or build a belief system based on some or all of these.

I claim the right to tell others about my beliefs, but I pledge that I will never force others to adopt the same, and I pledge that I will never harm others based on my beliefs.

At the same time, I will use any means (yes, any means) to protect these rights.





Giulio, it’s that second pledge that interests me: the pledge never to harm others based on your beliefs. It’s a very strong commitment, and would need to be nuanced and defined more precisely to be in any way achievable.

I agree that this discussion about beliefs has at times been tediously repetitive, but I have certainly learned from it, and I suppose (hope) I am not the only one. And one of the points I have been making repeatedly is that we all harm each other in all sorts of subtle pervasive ways. And one of the ways we do that is by nurturing false beliefs.

A pledge is worth something only to the extent that it is credible.





@Peter

Re ironing out any delusional justifications before agreeing to a procedure

I noticed that you attribute great value to the correctness of belief systems. You probably noticed that I am more inclined to evaluate their practical consequences (maybe this makes me more of an utilitarian then you are? smile )

A delusional belief is a false representation of reality. We can agree on this. We might also agree on a certain methodology that would allow us to establish weather or not certain theories are truthful. Experiments can indeed falsify theories. Sometimes, however, we simply cannot establish a falsifying procedure. Certain religious contents and certain scientific principles are not falsifiable, by definition. So we have really no method for establishing weather or not they are delusional. The descriptive content of many beliefs is literally beyond our reach. Therefore, we can only evaluate these beliefs by their practical consequences. 

There was a real clinical case I once read about. There was this man who believed he had to clap his hands every five minutes, to avoid elephants to enter into the room. The doctor was interviewing him, asking him to detail his views. At the certain point the doctor asks - “but don’t you think that, from what you can see around you, your constant clapping is useless?” The guy replied “from what I see around it works perfectly - did you see any elephant in the room?”.

My point is that both the doctor’s and the patient’s view regarding the effects of clapping hands are unfalsifiable. We have no RATIONAL way to establish which one of the two is delusional.

So, maybe, if we allow anyone to hold his or her unfalsifiable beliefs, without trying to sanitize each other’s views - and focus on practical consequences - we can make more productive dialogs with each other, and collaborate towards the same, positive end.





“Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you”

A pledge worthy of credibility, but whence from? Certainly not scientific knowledge/wisdom.. subjective? Hmm.. think not. Rational.. Universal.. indeed yes?

Some say this philosophical wisdom dates back 4,000 years. I would really like to know if this orginated from a “single” human, as this would be intriguing, yet I very much doubt that it is even a meme that orginated with Homo Sapiens?

So whence from this Universal ethic.. the Spaghetti monster? Santa? Does it matter if one nuture’s the false belief that this pledge is from a disputable source?

The source may not be defined as credible, yet the pledge is worthy!

enter agape love….





ps..

Love expressed Universally, and in an expansive and plutonic sense may also be described in terms as asexual?

This is the highest value/ethic that I personally attribute/intimate from this article, (aside from any aesthetical motivations on behalf the person)

idealist.. indeed - yet rationality alone does not define what we are as humans. If you still love Santa, I respect your integrity at very least.

 





“Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you”

Holy shit that’s a dead horse. It may be a nice theoretical starting point, but sadly the world is to complex for this maxim.

Take for instance me and Giulio’s favourite moral dilemma - can a nanny state take money from people who work and give it to people who do not or can not work? The objectivists would say “no fucking way”. So they are against the interventionism of moralist statism as to redistribute income. They refuse to comply, and some of them would use violence to make this refusal.

On the other hand, I have a point too, for without such interventionism I’d have been dead by now.

So if we are to start on this endless diatribe of when intervention and golden rules are applicable please make these conform to the following realms of ‘shades of grey’

- do we allow two females to marry. If so, do we ‘allow’ two females to raise a child. If so, do we allow these females to genetically engineer a child from both parents. If so, do we allow these females to make genetic selections as to make sure their offspring is genetically a lesbian?

- do we allow corporations to own intellectual properties or patents? If so do we allow corporations to leverage the judicial system to inflict gross and excessive legal consequences for violating these IP’s and parents? If so do we allow biofirma corporations to use this excessive legal force to enforce ambigious or awful international laws on intellectual Property and patency ownership as to disallow dirt poor farmers, or aids patients, to “pirate” patented treatments or hybridized patented seeds. Convict them as thieves for long sentences?

- do we allow the US government to use military means to attack people outside its borders without declaring war? Do we allow the US executive branch to make these decissions without any oversight? Do we allow the US executive branch to make these decissions consistently targetting noncombatives? Women and children? At funerals? Just after a first attack as “a double tap” to hit associated family members? And then arrest or “disappear” journalists who report on this?

- do we intervene when a state steals land from people who uses to live there for generations? ..doing so blatantly and ignoring international treaties? Killing innocent civilians? ..women and children, often in plain view of foreign journalists?... then arresting those journalists on trumped up terrorism charges?

I can go on and on. My point is that various forms of “moral outrage”, “pity”, “xenophobia”, “fear”, are not often what they say they are. The US might be morally outraged over an Assange. I regard what Assange did (and does) as the barest minimum to expose certain gross criminal activities in rich nation foreign policies, and consequently as “heroic”. Even worse - what certain nutcase terrorists did on 11 september 2001 would be perfectly understandable from a nationalist Saudi Arabian perspective. The alleged terrorist act was an unacceptable crime (even IF it happened as we are made to believe it did) but can be perfectly rationalized as a severe act of desperation by a ruthless oppressed devoutly religious people.  In other words, american national freedom fighters would be perfectly in their rights flying planes in the Masjid al-Haram if Saudi would be doing the same shit in the northamerican continent as americans are right now (and have been for 20-odd years) doing in the middle east. So, each back and forth would be an acceptable intervention?

This whole back and forth on this post thread has been a postage stamp sized debate on “feelings” on what should be “acceptable”, and on the validity of “nonverifiable convictions”. Point is that we as humans are so hideously under-equipped to judge what is fair, I urge the most extreme caution on making bold statements what might be fair and what not might be construed to be respectively “fair”, “just”, “prudent”, “necessary”, “moral”, etc.

Mind you I am not a relativist. I do believe an actual functional moral system is out there somewhere. I believe the likes of David Pearce or the Terasem clique have a good clue in what direction it lies, and I believe we need some seriously transhuman applied technology to even get anywhere close to pursuing some actual cosmic and real and inter-subjective justice or goodness.





@Khannea re “me and Giulio’s favourite moral dilemma - can a nanny state take money from people who work and give it to people who do not or can not work?”

No, this is certainly a conflict of interest, but I don’t see it as a dilemma. I know very well where I stand: the right of many persons to eat has priority over the right of a few persons to buy one more Ferrari or private jet.

re “This whole back and forth on this post thread has been a postage stamp sized debate on “feelings” on what should be “acceptable”, and on the validity of “nonverifiable convictions”. Point is that we as humans are so hideously under-equipped to judge what is fair, I urge the most extreme caution on making bold statements what might be fair and what not might be construed to be respectively “fair”, “just”, “prudent”, “necessary”, “moral”, etc.”

I totally agree. I also agree on Peter’s “what emotions you feel is not important, it is what you do with your emotions that is important.”

For example, going back on topic, I find what Mao San does totally disgusting. But I stand for his right to do what he freely chooses to do with his own body parts, without harming others. I don’t like what he does but I support his right to do it, and if he needs help in defending his freedom I will be there to help him.

@Peter re “we all harm each other in all sorts of subtle pervasive ways. And one of the ways we do that is by nurturing false beliefs.”

No, this is very nice in an all-is-connected, New Agey way, but there are limits.

I said that I support the right of Mao San to do what he wants in his own living room, without harming others, even if I find it disgusting. Similarly, I have the right to burn incense and pray to The Holy Diego Armando Maradona in my own living room, without harming others. To those who don’t like, I simply say: if you don’t like what I do in my living room, without harming others, just keep the fuck out of my living room, and everyone will be fine.





Ok Giulio. 

Now you buy a T shirt manufactured some place, and it turns out doing so makes you accomplice to slavery. Or your country is part of a military alliance that bombs the shit of people, for oil. You base your moral ideals (which are in the bigger picture nothing more or less than the religion of someone else) on your convictions, but we all remain extremely ignorant (or at least apathetic) that even gross inaction may signify being an accomplice to great evil. We all thing we live in a neutral state, or an ethical “black slate”. This may not be true.

What if 50 years from now The Great Reconing starts - a great world reconcilliation of all outstanding debts, overseen by AI’s. What if those AI’s conclude - ah Mister Prisco, had a car, consumer, likes meat. Your outstanding karma is -1568. That means you OWE all other mindkind on this planet a rather stiff debt. We’ll reduce your basic income from a dignified level to a subsistence level for a total of 54 years. To pay off outstanding moral debts.

See what I mean to say here?





@Khannea re “See what I mean to say here?”

No





Just by living in this world, in the early 21st century, by a transcendant objective standard, you might be “held accountable” for as yet undefined moral violations, or might be “held accountable” for having benefited from the suffering of other people.

How offended would you be if you would be sued for such outstanding debts at some time in the future? I.e. a global singleton arrives and calculates all wrongs done, and it decide, by virtue of an amazing process of deliberation, you are to be excrutiatingly poor for several decades. As means of compensating your share in global wrongs done in your name.





@ Khannea.. Ok you almost had me there.. and certainly the Universal rule is never valued where pseudo democracy is concerned - yet this is a peer-to-peer rule, to be applied on equal footing and ethical basis between individuals yes?

Governments/bodies/corps/societies certainly do exclude themselves from such fundamental principles.

Can there ever be such a thing as true, comprehensive, informed and interactive democracy? I hope so, and once more minds become “interconnected” then pathologies will be more readily experienced and understood, ironed out, and the golden, (silver), rule will shine through, like a golden sun from the great God Santa?

Although.. I cannot substantiate the existence of any such thing.

@ Giulio

“For example, going back on topic, I find what Mao San does totally disgusting.”

Really? you surprise me indeed.. can you not envisage a cyber angel with absolutely neither, or both accessories? What about your new shiny robot body.. would it be a smoothie? Mine would!

Sometimes you Robot cultists are so fickle

;0]





Well, I wouldn’t eat the fried penis, for one. It looks way too fatty and my stomach can’t handle those unhealthy fried meats.





@CygnusX1 re “can you not envisage a cyber angel with absolutely neither, or both accessories? What about your new shiny robot body.. would it be a smoothie? Mine would!”

My ideal shiny robot body would be a smoothie indeed, but I find the idea of eating human body parts disgusting, especially if they are mine.





@Khannea re “How offended would you be if you would be sued for such outstanding debts at some time in the future? I.e. a global singleton arrives and calculates all wrongs done, and it decide, by virtue of an amazing process of deliberation, you are to be excrutiatingly poor for several decades.”

I think everyone, including “excrutiatingly poor” people, should be given by the society a basic income sufficient for a basic but decent life, with enough to eat, a house, education, entertainment, and free time. I guess a future society that sues me (and all other westerners) for outstanding debt would be this kind of society. So, why not?





@André

I agree that, ultimately, it is the practical consequences of belief systems that matters. There are certainly instances where I would very happily peddle all sorts of delusional beliefs (e.g. “he went that way”). I am capable of sitting through entire conversations with people who are clearly delusional in some way without pointing this out, because I believe that to do so would be unhelpful.

But it remains my belief that, other things being equal, non-delusional beliefs (combined with clarity of purpose - that’s also essential, of course), provide the most robust and flexible basis for success and well-being. If Giulio wants to Maradonna in his living room then that’s fine with me, right up there with Khannea’s “walking/talking/fornicating and most definitely post-human and post-sin religious icon”, but if he were to go round seriously trying to convince others of his delusions I would certainly have something to say - and not only because of the “hand of God” smile Because by peddling such delusions, Giulio would be harming others.

By the way, in your clinical example the patient’s delusion can easily be falsified. He just has to stop clapping for five minutes plus one second, and see if an elephant walks into the room.





By the way I didn’t mean to actually use “Maradonna” as a verb:)
I meant “worship Maradonna” (the scoundrel).





@Peter re ““worship Maradonna” (the scoundrel).”

Maradona, with one n.

God Save the Queen!

In 1986 the Argentinian TV said “The Falklands (actually, Malvinas) are avenged!” after Maradona’s miracle.





@Peter re “in [Andre’s] clinical example the patient’s delusion can easily be falsified. He just has to stop clapping for five minutes plus one second, and see if an elephant walks into the room.”

The patient would probably persuade himself that he sees an elephant in the room, or that a special astral conjunction made the elephant invisible… I think Andre’s point is solid.

But my point is even more solid: what harm does the patient do to you, or to anybody else, by clapping his hands every five minutes? Since he does no harm to anyone, why don’t you just leave him in peace? From a utilitarian perspective, it is good if one person is happier and nobody is less happy.





@Giulio

My profuse apologies! (for misspelling your idol’s name) smile

Re hand-clapping: once again, if the patient wishes to clap his hands every five minutes in the privacy of his own padded cell, that’s fine with me. Except…this patient was obviously missing out on a large slice of life because of this behaviour which in many situations would be unacceptable for obvious reasons.

Of course, one can always redefine and reinterpret one’s beliefs in order to accommodate whatever evidence comes along. The religious are experts at that; similarly, scientists wishing to retain their belief that the earth was the centre of the universe went to great lengths and complexity to adapt that belief to fit the available evidence, while retaining the existing paradigm. But eventually Occam’s razor wins, and the sand-castles are washed away. But only if there is someone out chasing false beliefs. Otherwise the darkness lingers, with harmful and sometimes catastrophic consequences (as the eurozone may be about to find out).





By the way, if I was in the place of the psychiatrist treating the patient, I wouldn’t primarily be trying to argue or reason with him. I would be looking to understand and expose the underlying causes of this delusional belief. Clearly, the patient was at some level taking comfort in this belief, which was justifying a compulsive disorder. Rather than directly opposing the belief, I would be encouraging the patient to talk about it, and gradually steer him or her to a healthier way of perceiving the world, and provide him or her with the resources needed to overcome the compulsive urge to clap every five minutes. Reason would be a part, but only a small part, of my strategy.

But this is in a private, clinical setting. When dealing with the paddlers of false religious belief, even of a apparently benign nature, one needs to be more direct and less indulgent. Such people are generally not suffering from any compulsive disorder; instead their delusions are serving them very well in their (often subconscious) quest for status and resources. One needs to shift the incentive structures so that persisting in their delusions, and thus spreading the poison, works less well for them.





@Peter
“in your clinical example the patient’s delusion can easily be falsified. He just has to stop clapping for five minutes plus one second, and see if an elephant walks into the room.”
The problem is that the patient will never stop clapping, he suffers from a compulsive disorder. To make him stop clapping, you need to tie his hands - disrupting his routine, and therefore causing him a great emotional distress, and pain probably. You need to be a sadist to torture him like that, only to prove that no elephants will come inside the room. This is why Giulio’s point is so morally valid. It minimizes pain, fear, and uneasiness for everyone. Can you be more utilitarian than that?

Anyway, also, from a purely theoretical standpoint, that patient is indeed unfalsifiable, as Giulio points out. There are infinite ways to make new facts compatible with his old theory about elephants, rooms, and hand clapping. He just have to add a new, ad hoc hypothesis, as all scientists have done for centuries to defend their theories. That lunatic might just say that - well, it always worked in the past, as facts prove his point, now somehow things changed. He simply needs to figure out another routine to prevent elephants from entering into the room. Most likely, the new routine will involve another subject that prevents him from clapping hands.

This is why Popper warned that unfalsifiable theories are not scientific. They are logical and everything. Just they fossilize our thoughts and cannot be refuted by any possible experimental evidence. That said, some of these anti-scientific theories are fundamentally important, even for science itself. Consider, for example, the principle of uniformity behind physical laws. Highly unfalsifiable, maybe even delusional, yet absolutely fundamental for what we have today in physics books.

This is why I do not consider Sugiyama’s beliefs particularly important. If he castrated himself because of some pathology, he might have rationalized his actions in some way, to make them appear as the logical consequence of some (more or less delusional) belief. We all do it. What matters is weather or not he is going to feel better now, and in the following years. The only factor that should matter to a compassionate fellow human being is - Sugiyama’s happiness, on the long run. Does it make any sense to care about true beliefs here, or anywhere outside a lab?





saltus in demonstrando?





@Peter
By the way, at the moment, the mainstream treatment for similar compulsive disorders does not involve reasoning indeed. Typically, the psychiatrist challenges the patient to complicated even more his routine(s). The idea is to arrive to a point when the patient himself will not be able anymore to perform his demanding rituals - and will drop them altogether. One man, for example, had always to return twice to his home, to check if he closed all windows. The doctor motivated him to check also doors, drawers, and so on. Soon, the poor man became so busy that he returned to the doctor saying that he just could not do it - and he quit (most) of those rituals.

It is important to note that - there is no cure for compulsive disorders in general. However with that strategy many cases have been almost solved. So, Peter, in case you need to count how many times you chew before swallowing, or in case you you need to check five times the alarm settings - just make things worse first, it will get better eventually smile





I’m a bit suspicious of “there is no cure”-type comments in medicine, which is indeed rife with limiting beliefs. I suspect that one can do much more with mindfulness techniques then many medical professionals, even specialists, are aware of. I’ll admit that this is essentially speculative, but somehow there must be a way to reprogram the way in which the urge is being processed by the brain. Labelling something as a “compulsive disorder” can be helpful, but not if it leads to learned helplessness.

Anyway we’re straying off topic. My main point was that what one might wish to do clinically in the case of an individual that is using an obviously false belief to justify compulsive behaviour may be of limited relevance with regard to what we should do about delusional beliefs that are circulating in wider society.





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