Science, Religion, and Human Trafficking

All in one semi-easy to read, hastily thrown together, and poorly edited post!

Let me begin as usual by lamenting about my inability to post due to grad school. Although, I finally figured out architects and why I don't fit in at school. Wait for it... people become architects because they like design. They are fascinated with the beauty of things more so than the average person. They become architects because buildings are the biggest things you can design. Essentially, they are artists with egos. This is why me and my ideas will never fit in here, but that's fine because:

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If they're original, you'll have to ram it down their throats." - Howard Aiken (he built one of IBM's first computers)

Bare with me here for a moment:

Recently there's been a mostly academic battle over global warming vis a vie some of my favorite economists and bloggers. Notably the authors of Freakonomics Levitt and Dubner and another favorite blogger, Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman.

It starts with this flame piece by Joe Romm, a respected environmental blogger, about the new book Superfreakonomics which prompts Paul Krugman to weigh in. Levitt and Dubner (authors of the book) realize what's going on and then reply which then sets off another two posts (1,2) by Krugman and the grand finale (great read) by Nathan Myhrvold; a man of which Bill Gates said “I don’t know anyone I would say is smarter than Nathan."

How do we understand such smart people essentially flinging poo at one another from their ivory towers?

I first saw Johnathan Haidt in a TED talk a few months ago. It was one of the best talks I've ever seen. Well now he's back with a Q&A on health care as it relates to his previous talk. Those are both must see/reads. Here he gets at what I want to talk about:

"I did say that in-group, authority and purity are necessary for the maintenance of order, but I would never give them a blanket endorsement. Rather, my message to secular liberals is, Don't dismiss these entirely. Be wary of them, sure; they can motivate violations of civil liberties and human rights. But we need them at times, and to a limited degree. Above all recognize that matters related to ingroup (such as immigration, or the flag), authority (such as crime and punishment), and purity (such as sexuality) are the ones that take on a kind of religious importance for most Americans, because they are about binding groups together around sacred values. Liberals often trigger outrage by ignoring these concerns in their pursuit of social justice, or of efficient policy."

In his TED talk one of the issues that Haidt speaks about is how liberal people will often view certain aspects of eating and exercise as an act of "purity." Think, Wholefoods, organic, spin class, yoga, and other stuff that's kind of nice minus the piles of bullshit you have to walk through to get to their real substance. Whereas more traditional people generally associate purity with sexuality, morals, etc. That is, to liberals (read: most college professors) certain issues generally outside of morality take on a moral meaning. Things like what you eat and global warming are increasingly no longer scientific discussions (although who really talks like that anyways). So when the authors of one book, who admit that global warming is a problem and are working on a reasonable solution, suggest that perhaps the current path we're taking to fight global warming is unrealistic, people - smart people, lose their damn minds because you've just touched something very dear to their psyche. Essentially, arguments take on a sense of religiousness.

Which brings me to the sex trade. I watched a movie tonight called Lilya 4-Ever (Hat tip: Vija via Todd). It was a good movie although I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It was sad to say the least, but it portrays the sex trade in a manner that is quite believable. In fact, I imagine that's more or less just how it happens.

Here's my issue. This is one of those subjects that elicits what I earlier termed the "PETA version of how a slaughter house operates." Is it true? Sure, sometimes, but how do most of these things really operate? In this case, I think the only people who know are those actually involved... and I'm not convinced that a lot of them are giving in depth accounts of their activities. Talk about lack of incentives on all sides.

My issue is this. I am in favor of legalizing a regulated form of prostitution. Do I know exactly how this will work or what the unintended consequences will be? Nope, my heads in the sky. It's my belief that it'd have a similar effect as would legalizing drugs. Drug dealers go out of business and people get a safer product at market prices. There are, of course, all sorts of downsides. I just think the upsides outweigh them in both of these cases. But if the positions in these newly regulated legalized brothels are filled by what are essentially slaves who are forced to have sex... yea. Not okay at all.

The argument I'm hearing over and over is that more or less anything to do with prostitutes, escorts, and strip clubs involves the sex trade. Most guys have been to a strip club. According to what I'm being told, many of those women are slaves. Really? When I think of human trafficking and the sex trade I think of a shady brothel or escort service run by scary men operating completely outside of any sort of law. Am I completely off base? I'm not saying this stuff doesn't exist. I know it does. My question is, to what extent is this true? I have no idea, but I'm just not convinced that other people know either. And again, if prostitution were legalized and regulated (so that no slaves could be "workers") wouldn't that serve to curb the sex trade?

There's so much to say here, and most of which I know little to nothing about. I just want some reliable data.