Author Archives: Brett Alder

Where does morality come from?

A colleague brought this blog post to my attention.  I’d like to give the author kudos for a robust understanding of evolution and how some beliefs resulted in higher rates of survival during our distant past.

Here’s my reply to Kyle, which I would have posted as a comment, but his website would not allow:


Dear Kyle,

It’s a very nice post. Well done, and love the interjecting images. Lol.

I think you answered well the question of where morality comes from (given a godless Universe). However, that’s not the most difficult question I wrestled with as an atheist. Let’s follow my atheistic arc to understand why morality is very troublesome for us*:

Here’s how I “killed God”:

  • Does God exist? I don’t know.
  • Can you measure him with any scientific devices? No.
  • Is there any evidence that he exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of cosmology and evolution without ever “finding God”. Tracing things backward, they never end in “God”. Like Solar System Creation <- Galaxy Creation <- God!
  • “But people believe in God and he works in their lives!” That fine, but people believing in something does not prove its independent existence.  A summation of anecdotes cannot outweigh the lack of observable, verifiable scientific evidence.
  • Ergo, I don’t believe God exists.

So, as an atheist, you have these skeptical tools. This standard that you apply to beliefs. Morality (“the Good”) doesn’t collapse because it depends on God, but because it depends on belief. An intellectually honest atheist will apply the same standard to “the Good:”

Here’s how I killed the Good:

  •  Does the Good exist? I don’t know.
  • Can you measure it with any scientific devices? No.
  • Is there any evidence that it exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of anthropology and genetics without ever catching an image of the Good in a microscope or cultivating it in a petri dish. Tracing things backward, they never end in “the Good”. Like Proteins <- mRNA <- DNA <- The Good.
  • “But people believe in the Good and it works in their lives!” I don’t disagree with that, or the fact that the belief in ethics and morality have advanced us as a species and had a role in our survival. But you could argue the same thing about the belief in God. Again, people believing in something — even benefiting from that belief — does not prove its independent existence.  The Good is either directly observable and scientifically verifiable, or it is not.
  • Since there is no evidence in support of the existence of the Good, I do not believe it exists.

You’ve done a good job showing where the belief in morality comes from, but can you substantiate morality’s actual existence?  The truth is that it’s kind of an unbearable existence to live without a belief in any independent morality, which is why most atheists are loath to apply the same buzzsaw to it that they lustfully used on God.

* Remember that the rational part of my brain is atheist, the superstitious part is devout Mormon.


The FAA <3 Value

From the WSJ:

A Texas group that searches for missing people is fighting a Federal Aviation Administration order to stop using drones for its searches

The FAA said it must authorize anyone who wants to operate a drone in the U.S.—unless it is for recreation…

Mr. Geraghty deemed commercial drones to be the same legally as model aircraft, which he wrote aren’t considered aircraft under federal law—in part because the FAA itself historically hasn’t required model aircraft to comply with its rules for manned aircraft. If the FAA’s argument that all types of flying devices are aircraft, the judge wrote, then the agency should also regulate “paper aircraft, or a toy balsa wood glider.”

How do you justify the actions of a Federal agency blocking a search and rescue outfit from using drones?  Drones that save lives?  These drones must presumably operate over remote areas where the safety of the craft would be of minimal concern.

I don’t know how non-Valerians would square such a conundrum, but for Valerians it’s simple.  The FAA is made up of people, people like to control value, controlling the air is extremely valuable.  Why are they blocking Texas EquuSearch?  Is it because they’re evil? Hateful?  Want people to die in the desert?  Fear that a random cactus will be hit by a drone?  None of the above.  They just like controlling value and want as much as they can get.

The strongest protection is equal protection, and kudos to Judge Geraghty for saying that commercial drone flyers are entitled to the same protection as recreational flyers.  If the FAA wants to make a just rule If Congress wants to pass laws regulating flight, its rules should apply indiscriminately.  If they’re unfair for recreational flying, then they should not be applied to commercial flying.


Letter from Me to Jim DeMint

Writing in response to this letter from the Heritage Foundation. 

Dear Mr. DeMint,

There’s probably not another person whose motives I find more unquestionable in Washington (with the exception perhaps of Ron Paul) than yourself.  I have a great respect for your intentions, principles and desire to strengthen America, her institutions, and her people.

Yours is a good letter.  It’s not just a sorry piece of political machination like I’m used to receiving from the Republican party.  Respectfully, as a former Conservative, could I help you craft your message differently to reach moderates like myself?

1) “Tax Day is April 15. It’s a reminder of a grim fact: you’re surrendering a portion of what you have rightfully earned to Washington lawmakers, who squander it on wasteful government programs.

Washington doesn’t just control my money, it controls many aspects of my life.  It tells me how to pack my luggage and how much time I will wait in line to get on an airplane.  It tells me I can get married and pass social security benefits to my wife, but a gay friend cannot transfer benefits to his partner.  It prohibits 23andMe from giving me information on my genetic medical risks.  It tells my employer to cut my medical benefits.  Taxes are just one piece of a big pie.

2) “Like you, we believe that the government should be limited and accountable.”

Let’s step back and ask, “What is the purpose of government? ” Maybe it would be better to define that first and then ensure the government is capable of carrying out its purposes.  I believe a government should protect the citizenry and the things we hold dear.  It should be big enough to do that, but obviously not so unnecessarily big that the government itself becomes a threat to us and our value.

3) “We also believe that taxes should be simpler, fairer, and lower…”

Again, all of this focus on taxes.  What I want to hear is, “We want you to be more strongly protected, more equally protected, and have more control over the things that are important in your life: your liberty, your speech, your travel, your time, your labor, your money.

4) “…– and that government should get out of the way to allow free enterprise to flourish.”

Here, we part ways I’m afraid.  Can’t you see that everyone wants to control more and more value?  Did you notice how Steve Jobs controlled a multi-billion dollar corporation but still wanted more — wanted to ensure that former Apple employees didn’t work for Google?  We don’t need the government to “get out of the way”, we need it to strongly and equally protect us and our value.  That is when we can get on with the flourishing part.

I assure you Mr. DeMint, you and I want the same things.  With a more robust message, you’d have a lot more success reaching young people.



Letter from Jim DeMint to Me

The Heritage Foundation
Dear Brett,Tax Day is April 15. It’s a reminder of a grim fact: you’re surrendering a portion of what you have rightfully earned to Washington lawmakers, who squander it on wasteful government programs.At The Heritage Foundation we have taken a stand against Big Government for more than 40 years. You can add your voice to this fight today by signing the Taxpayer Declaration.

Like you, we believe that the government should be limited and accountable. We also believe that taxes should be simpler, fairer, and lower — and that government should get out of the way to allow free enterprise to flourish.

Will you join us in this mission?

Sign the Taxpayer Declaration and join the growing number of patriots who say “no” to wasteful government spending and excessive taxation.


Thank you for your support for limited government and low taxes.

Jim DeMint

Welcome Ryan Parker!

Ryan and I have been the best of friends for well over a decade and have corresponded about every week over the phone or by email for most of that time.  We were oddly matched roommates in college.  Ryan was more interested in reading the university newspaper cover to cover every day than doing his school work, and I was intent on getting a 4.0 so I could earn a scholarship.

I would come home exhausted from studying all day and then, after the lights went out, Parker would pepper me with questions.  I was tired, and I frankly thought this midnight speculation was pointless, but each question was just interesting enought, and Parker such an engaging conversationalist, that we’d often find ourselves talking until 2 or 3AM each night.

Both Parker and I grew up as poor farm boys, he on a real ranch in Montana, and myself on a hobby farm in Nevada.  Having little exposure, we were experiencing the world for the first time and didn’t know how it worked.  I guess neither of us ever lost that childlike curiosity.

Our roles have been the same every since.  Parker informs himself of everything going on in the world, and I consider everything he educates me on and try to recognize patterns and see deeper meaning.  Even though Ryan contributed most to my discovery of Valerianism, it took me a while to get him to realize that it was fundamentally different from the Conservative views bequeathed to both of us.  Parker knew so much that only a robust and universal world view could bring everything together and make sense.  Once he was converted, It was very liberating to be freed of conventional thinking.

Since that time Parker has made vast contributions to Valerianism.  Early on he changed the focus from fixing broken Conservative arguments to describing how we can best help the poor and disadvantaged in society — something that carries a lot more meaning.  I’m very happy to have him as a co-author of this blog.


College Athletes Strike Back

Northwestern Wildcats Footballers Win Bid to Unionize


While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college. We want student athletes — 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues — focused on what matters most — finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.

Oh yeah, the NCAA <3 value, too.

Athletes (coerced into being Student Athletes):

For me this was just an opportunity to make things right and stick up for future generations and make up for the wrongs of past generations.


CAPA [College Athletes Players Association] attorneys argued that college football is, for all practical purposes, a commercial enterprise that relies on players’ labor to generate billions of dollars in revenues. That, they contend, makes the relationship of schools to players one of employers to employees.

Notice how college athletes are using equality — equating themselves with employees — in order to gain more protections under the law.   That’s the way things work in Valerian society.  No minority should be stripped of the right to sue for equal protection.

Definitely a step in the right direction.  Still wishing for a world where college-aged athletes completely controlled their labor and could contract it out with any party they wanted, at whatever pay they agreed to.  #AthletesShouldOwnOwnValue

Why do College Aged Athletes need to be in College?

Because their value is not strongly and equally protected.  If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Bill Gates, etc. etc. and you have some amazing programming skills and endeavors that compete with college, you have the option of dropping out and still pursuing your passion.

Student Athletes don’t have that option.  The NCAA took control over their value so you can’t be a standout athlete AND not go to college.  That privilege is reserved for non-athletes, sorry.

This leads to some very unfortunate outcomes:

Ultimately this begs the question of “Why do early adult athletics have anything to do with academics?”  The answer, “Because academic institutions control the value of college-aged athletes – if they want to play, they have to be in college.”

Public Servants <3 Value

The academics, Emory University professor Shivaram Rajgopal and Georgia State University accounting PhD candidate Roger M. White found that SEC employees tend to sell a company’s stock before the SEC takes enforcement action against the company.

The result, they wrote, were abnormal returns of about 4% for the market in general, and about 8.5% for the U.S. stock market.

Remember, control over value can always be monetized.

Politicians <3 Value

Do the Treasury’s actions amount to a backdoor nationalization of the companies? A full-fledged takeover would have required Treasury to put all the companies’ obligations — $4.9 trillion at the time — on the government’s balance sheet. A nonstarter.

Furthermore, nationalization would have required the government to provide compensation to shareholders for what it took. Now the government gets the benefits of the companies’ profits while avoiding any compensation payments.

“People disagree about what should happen to the G.S.E.’s,” said Matthew D. McGill, a lawyer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington who represents Perry Capital. “But if the plan is to wind them down, Congress provided a means to do that in the 2008 law — it’s called receivership, and it provides a host of procedural protections to claimants. What the Treasury cannot do is abuse its conservatorship powers to nationalize the companies and then, when it deems convenient, wind them down without the protections enacted by Congress.”

The Constitution does say that the government can’t seize value without compensating the owners…Is that passe now?

Monetizing Power

HT @UsefulAggregate

Quotes from the linked article on LBJ:

Asked in an interview whether Johnson’s status as a member of Congress helped his wife’s application, Corcoran said, “How do you think these things work? These guys [FCC staffers] have been around. You don’t have to spell things out for them.”

Mrs. Johnson’s ability as a business woman was not the crucial factor in the acquisition of the station or, once it was acquired, in its early growth. … Lyndon Johnson had worked at politics for years to achieve power; now he was working at politics to make money.