Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gun Ownership Myths

Many recent conversations on gun control have sparked my need to look it all up. Since most people I speak with are pro-guns I thought I'd collect some data and post it here.

Where do you stand on Gun Control?

To be clear: I like the idea of having the right to own a gun. I just don't want one anywhere near my family or home.

So, you're for and against gun control?

It seems a bit contradictory, but this isn't a simple subject and the people generating the discussion are not helping. Examples include the NRA trying to stop government funding for safety research or Congress creating laws that do not allow the public to see Gun Store compliance records. Here is a list of pro-gun arguments that I think need some looking at:

1. Owning a gun makes you safer.

If you own a gun you have a higher risk of accidental death, suicide and homicide from a gun. In 2011, you were ten times as likely to be shot & killed in an argument than to stop a crime. In fact, for every time someone uses a gun in self- defence seven times as many die from assaults & murders, eleven times as many die from suicide attempts, and 4 times as many die in gun related accidents. Most of which happen near the home.

Of households with kids and guns 43% have at least one unlocked firearm. When testing kids, one third of 8-12 year-old boys who found a handgun also pulled the trigger. In Philadelphia you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot if you carry a gun and your odds of dying are 4.2 times greater. In states with higher gun ownership we have higher homicide rates (see graph above).

Even for women, having a gun in the home make you nearly 6 times more likely to be shot by a husband, boyfriend, and ex-partner than to be murdered by a male stranger. If you're in an abusive relationship you are 7 times more likely to be killed if he has access to a gun. In states with higher gun ownership rates, women were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than in states with lower gun ownership.

2. An armed society is a polite society.

This is simply not true. If anything it fuels aggression. Armed drivers are more likely to make obscene gestres and follow other drivers aggressively. Stand your ground laws have led to a 7-10% increase in homicides in the states that have them. Even concealed-handgun licenses make people more likely to threaten other people.

3. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

This one's my favorite because it assumes that without guns the same number of people would die each year. Guns do have an effect on homicide rates. For example states with the highest percentage of gun owners have a 114% higher murder rate than the states witht the lowest percentages of gun owners. States with gun restrictions tend to have lower rates of death by guns.

4. The Government Is Going to Take Your Guns

The thought here is that the Government is somehow going to pass a law that requires you to turn in your guns. Not only is this unlikely, it is also unconstitutional. We have no idea how many guns there are in the US, but there are approximately 260 million guns here, most of which are owned by private citizens which will outgun all enforcement agencies 40 to 1.

5. We don't need more gun laws we just need to enforce the ones we have.

2 out of 5 guns were purchased through a private seller which does not require a background check. 40% of inmates that used guns in their crimes purchassed them privately. 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn't pass a background check. Undercover researchers were able to convince 20% of licensed California gun dealers to sell them handguns. All evidence that our existing laws are unable to properly deter mis-sale of firearms.

Ban Guns?

Heavens no. We just need to figure out a better way to get things done. I'm not sure what that is yet and you can bet I'll make a post about it when I do. Till then, think for yourselves. If you don't want the risks, don't buy the guns or at the very least: make sure the guns you have are hard for even you to get to.

Be safe.

Friday, April 18, 2014

New Logical Fallacy - Exhaustion

In the last year I've run into a new type of logical fallacy. It was hard to recognize, but I hope to explain it well enough here to help you recognize it.

What happened?

While discussing the age of the earth with one of my friends I encountered a new source of frustration. The discussion went something like this:

Me: The Earth is obviously older than 6,000 years.
He: I have seen nothing to prove it is older than 6,000 years.
Me: Radiometric dating shows it to be 4.54 billion years old.
He: Radiometric dating is wildly inaccurate.
Me: They established it with things that we know the age of. Like polar ice.
He: Polar ice could have been laid down during the flood.
Me: No, they have annual layers that have been counted.
He: Then how did these planes in Greenland get placed 250 layers down? <link>
Me: I don't know about your example, but trees also can be used to measure time.
He: None have lived longer than 6,000 years.
Me: But they can match up rings of dead trees with those of living trees to give a continuous history longer than 6,000 years.
He: Which means there are no trees that are older than 6,000 years.

...it goes on like this.

Wow, I mean, wow.

It was frustrating. We went through one proof after another. He refused to accept each proof for one reason or another. He was probably pulling from some Young Earth website or book. Since I am not an expert in any of these fields I am unable to properly establish any of these extremely viable proofs. I point out how I could see one of these being wrong, but all of them seems unlikely. He points out they all come from the "Scientific Community" and therefore are all able to be wrong as part of a systematic failure of this "Community."

Sounds like a conspiracy.

It sounds that way. The purpose of his effort is to drive me to throw up my hands in frustration and say "fine, believe what you want." At which point he feels he has won, and therein lies the fallacy. It is similar to the fallacy fallacy. Since it attacks some piece of the proof as to render the whole ineffective. Though it is different from the Burden of Proof fallacy where the burden is passed to disprove. Science is making the assertions and of course they have proof. And thus we have the:

Exhaustion Fallacy

Presuming your argument is correct if you can get your opponent to give up the argument.

Truth is not dependent upon the tenacity of the people arguing about it. If someone refuses to agree that 2+2=4 and is willing to argue the point till their opponent walks away, it does not mean that 2+2≠4.

Well, at least it's over.

Not really. I thought it was limited to my single discussion, but this seems to be a popular tactic with people who support the Young Earth assumption. It was used by Ken Ham against the ill-prepared Bill Nye. I saw it used recently against one of my friends on facebook. Even my own brother used it against me.

How fallacious.

Before you get caught up in an argument like this, look for the warning signs:

  1. You are the one with the burden of proof. Even if it's well established science, as soon as you decide to champion it, you have the burden of proof.
  2. They are taking an extreme position against easily explainable science.
  3. They continually take advantage of your non-expertise in the subject by continually poking holes in the proofs you use. Proofs that are widely accepted by experts in their respective fields.

It's a logical fallacy then.

The really sticky part of this fallacy is that they are invoking the expectation of proof which they have a right to expect. Being obtuse and trying to exhaust the claimant does not make them right, nor does it render your argument false. It just allows the intelligently-defiant, ignorant to feel justified in remaining so.

Be logical.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mormons and Rated R Movies

While having a discussion about the Oscars with my brother he mentioned that the Prophet clearly stated that we should not watch Rated R movies. This prompted me to go actually look it up and it turns out, as I previously suspected, this is not true.

You weren't having a discussion with your brother?

No, that the Prophet said we're not supposed to watch movies that are Rated R. I have heard this from many different people over the years and I must have looked into it at some point because I always get this feeling it's not true.

So what did the Prophet say?

I could paraphrase, but why not put the actual quote and reference here:

"We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading." - Ezra Taft Benson, April 1986 Conference. To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright”

He begins that talk with "Tonight I would like to speak directly to you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood." This talk was clearly directed toward the young men of the church which is clearly understood to be the Aaronic Priesthood holders 12-18 years of age. This is the first mention of Rated R movies by a Prophet and with good reason too. In the 80s it was becoming cool to be under 18 and see a Rated R movie. I remember my friends that year trying to buy tickets for Aliens, Platoon, Stand by Me and the like.

What about girls?

He left that out for some reason, but that didn't stop people from believing he meant everyone. All the subsequent mentions of Rated R movies I found fall into these categories:

  1. Quotation - This is where the general authority (Seventies) quotes Ezra Taft Benson's talk often only using the "Don’t see R-rated movies" part and omitting the context (Kofford). This implies that the Prophet has said no when he said no to the people who shouldn't see it.
  2. Personal Preference - This is often stated as "I would never watch another R-rated movie again (Bednar)" or "in our family we have decided to not see R-Rated movies." And I applaud them for using their God given agency.
  3. No Reference - This one is almost as bad as #1. The speaker/writer says "the prophets have told us not to" and leaves it at that. The fact that no Prophet has commanded the people to avoid any specific rating of movie eludes them.

So we all should watch Rated R movies?

No, we should stop saying a Prophet commanded us to do so. This falls in line with saying the Prophet commanded us not to have caffeine, chocolate and doctor prescribed drugs. He didn't and I wish Mormons would stop saying he did. This has become part of Mormon culture and it is not a good facet of our people. We should choose for ourselves the good from the evil. Why else are we given the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Christ if not to discern for ourselves?

So, banning Rated R movies is not a commandment?

Nope, and sad is the day when the Prophet says so. It will mean that the membership of the church is incapable of making good content watching decisions for themselves and their families. "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward" (DC58:26).

Be discerning.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Homeopathic Remedies & Homeopathy

You have heard these words spoken from time to time, usually to help shore up the validity of some product. "My Naturolpathic Doctor recommends homeopathic remedies." "My kid's teacher suggests Airborne®, it's homeopathic." They have an interesting meaning and I think everyone should know.

What is homeopathy?

Good question, it was created by Samuel Hahneman in 1796. It was during a time when bloodletting and purging were still being practiced. With all this bleeding, sweating & vomiting going on there had to be a better way.

Was it homeopathy?

For a time, yes. We should get more into the explanation of what it is. There are four parts to homeopathy: the preparation, miasms, dilution & the proofing.

Well, if they proved it...

Ludicillin, for all your ludicrous problems.That's not what the proofing means. They would test all kinds of things on healthy people and record what symptoms they developed from these substances. So if Ludicillin turned you green and broke wind often they would wright that down and that is a proofing of that substance.

Miasms

So once we know what causes a set of symptoms we know that the substance resonates with those symptoms. What this means is that if someone walks in with green skin the doctor should ask "Do you fart a lot." If the patient asks yes then you should give them Ludicillin (you know, the thing that causes those symptoms).

Surely you don't give them the cause.

Well, actually you don't. One of the things homeopathy was trying to fix was doctors giving poisonous agents to their patients to hopefully cure them. So good ol Hahneman said the medicine should be diluted. And he said the more diluted the medicine was the more effective it would be.

Really?

Well the patients didn't need to know how it worked, just if they got better or not and since it was much more effective than poison, vomiting & bloodletting, people thought it was a good idea.

How dilute?

If you take a gallon of the Ludicillin and put it into 9 gallons of water you get what is called a 1 solution. If you put 1 gallon of the 1 solution solution into 9 gallons of water you get a 2 solution. 1 gallon of 2 solution in 9 gallons of water, 3 solution, etc. So a 1 solution is 10 gallons, 2 solution 100, 3 solution 1,000, etc.

What kind of dilution are we talking about?

For homeopathy, they want 28 solutions and 30 solutions. I've even heard of a 32 solution. So, for a 30 Solution you would have 1 gallon of the Ludicillin in 999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 gallons of water.

That's a lot of water.

You probably need an image of how big that is. A 30 solution would make a sphere with a radius of 966,811km (1,611,351 miles). That's a ball of water 70% the size of the Sun or 2.5 times the distance to the Moon. Now imagine dumping 1 gallon of your medicine into the ball, shaking it up, and pulling a cup of that out. How much of the medicine do you think would be in that cup? Avogadro put a limit on that.

Avogadro's Limit?

Yes, if you take a 1 part of a 23 Solution there is a 50% chance there will be 1 molecule of the substance in it. So a 30 Solution has 1 chance in 20,000,000 to have 1 molecule in it.

Is homeopathy a sham?

In not so many words, yes. It's fine when people are trying to fix a runny nose or a headache. The placebo effect should help them. It becomes a problem when they claim to fix more serious issues. Homeopathic remedies will never fix any ailment.

Be healthy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Too Many Mormon Infographics

They keep churning them, so I'll keep posting them: Another installment of Infographics created by the Mormon Church.

Mormon Youth SeminaryYouth Seminary

Teenagers in the LDS church attend Seminary. Where I grew up we would go to seminary before school from 6:15-7:15 am. We'd get out just in time to start High School at 7:50 am. Kids in areas that have a high percentage of LDS people will often get "away time" so they can attend Seminary during school hours. Our High School does just that, and there's a Seminary building right next door. Crazy.

Mormon Missionary ServiceMormon Missionary Service

People always love the missionaries. I know, because I was one. Surprisingly everyone loved me anyway. This infographic covers some cool statistics about missionaries.

The difference between Mormon Temples and ChapelsThe Difference Between Mormon Temples & Chapels

There are a lot of people that have seen our Temples and seem to think that's where we all meet on Sundays. We don't. This oddity breeds a lot of speculation of what we actually do in Temples that ranges from the offensive to the obscene. The truth would disappoint you all.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Marriage Does Not Define Same Sex Unions

This term is what is used to define a union between a man & man or a woman & woman. It is being incorrectly used and I think the gay community should be offended.

Here we go again.

Maybe. It's been on everyone's mind more than it probably should. It has been discussed on this blog more than once. Mostly because this is where I put my possibly offensive political and religious opinions.

So what's different?

Marriage does not define same sex unions.

Nothing, everything. I'll start with quickly defining marriage. It is used to define a union between a man and a woman. The word marriage actually includes both man and woman in it's etymology. The latin "matrem" means mother and the latin "monium" means the action, state or condition of. Together they define the creation of a state where the woman becomes a mother. The word actually defines traditional marriage.

But the world has changed.

Not really. 95% of women on the planet have been married to a man by age 49 (1). That means 95% of women know what marriage means. By sheer volume of understanding, the definition of marriage stands.

But the laws & rulings?

There have been laws passed and rulings made in the last decade that have been trying to change the definition of the word. We can all vote to change the meaning of water, but water is still two hydrogen and one oxygen in a chemical bond and no amount of money and lawyers will change that.

So gay folk can't get married?

Yes. Society has bombarded them with the idealism of marriage their whole lives. Why shouldn't they want to add that label to their unions? They love each other, they want to start a family, they want to be just like everyone else...but they're not.

How rude!

Stop right there. What is wrong with not being like everyone else? They go on parade celebrating their differences. They fight in court to have rights applied to them as a seperate protected group (and rightly so). They have gone out of their way to point out how they are proud to be different.

But they're not?

This argument is much like a stereotypical Feminist demanding to be a man. Not demanding the same rights as a man, but demanding to legally be a man. Not a sex change, that's a whole other discussion. She demands to have her birth certificate say man, her employment records to say man, her tax returns to say man, legally a man in every way, but she's still a woman. A true feminist would find this idea offensive. What is wrong with being a woman that you would need to legally be a man? Fight for the rights not the label.

How does this apply to gay marriage?

They're fighting for the wrong thing. The label does not define them. They will forever be fighting people to agree with their new label when it does not fit them. Just like a the woman above arguing with someone that she's a man when clearly she's not. I think the gay community should be offended.

Well, they are mad.

They should celebrate the virtues that make them who they are. Not try to conform to a label that they can never live up to. The gay community needs to understand this before they find that their victories are hollow.

Hollow victories?

Yes, this is not like slavery. Slavery was about denying human rights to people who are human. Gay marriage is about fighting to obtain a label to define something that label does not define. Many of the rights are already available and more are being won every day without the offending label. So it doesn't matter if you are fighting to call alcohol water, when what you want is the right to drink alcohol.

And can get drunk?

This is not something that goes away with the generations. 100 years from now they will still know the etymology of marriage. They will still know that 2 men or 2 women cannot have children on their own. They will still know that a happy household with a mom & dad produce happier and healthier children. If it looks like a goose, walks like a goose, honks like a goose it's not a duck, but it doesn't mean that geese are lame.

Honk if your gay!

Do not hate your brother's & sisters because they disagree with you. My gay friends are dear to me and I am tired of them hurting over something that shouldn't have hurt them at all.

Be equitable.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bad News Agencies and Outlets

I'm tired of bad news outlets. They spread misinformation, hate and ignorance.

How to spot a bad news outlet:

  1. Their links are only to their own articles.
  2. The links are only to other extremely similar small news outlets (or sister outlets).
  3. There are no links to the original source (or the original source is #1 or #2).
  4. They clearly have a strong opinion.
  5. They only have articles about a very limited idea scope (ie. all anti-democrat see #4).

Bad NewsPosting things on the Internet is really cheap. These outlets make their money from advertising so they make sensationalistic articles to drive traffic and therefore money to their site. Let's help put them out of business by not giving them the satisfaction.

Says who?

Whenever I see an article posted by a friend, the first thing I do is look for references. What did they base their opinoin on? Anyone can say that unemployment is going down, but without numbers to back it up it's just opinion. So in number 3 above I say always look for references, but you might run into another problem when checking references:

Incestuous Links

I have friends that have strong opinions. They will sometimes say pretty crazy stuff and I can link to them as a reference to shore up a crazy argument. Links will make me look more reputable. In the end I'm just doing what I said in #1 & #2 by linking to my friends and that's not a basis for establishing fact. Link to real data and real data sources! So if the Liberal News references their site and their sister sites like Liberal Monitor & Liberal Factbook, I will probably dismiss them as not reputable. You'll notice they link to similar sites that:

Say what they mean.

I know that seems like a good thing to say what you mean, but sometimes that leads to saying you mean that your way of thinking is the only way. "Being fiscally conservative is the only way to run a government" sounds like their mind is made up and they're only going to use facts that support their pont and none that oppose it. #4 above is a red flag that lets me know to look for #1-3. Since they have a strong opinion they probably have:

Tunnel Vision

Ever notice how someone extremely passionate and misinformed about something begins repeating themselves over and over? The Los Angeles Times, Reuters and even Cracked cover a large variety of subjects which adds to their impartiality and consequently their reputability. Many bad news outlets focus on a very narrow range of subject matter: All environmentalism, all conservativism, all liberalism or all anti-mormonism (gotta have a plug). These -isms should be another red flag.

Read Smarter

As you read around the internet remember these issues when you see a new article. The more you vet your news outlets the better informed you will be and the better equipped you will be against them. When someone who only reads these kind of outlets come to you with an article that "will change your whole outlook." You will be able to ask questions like: "how come they don't have references?" "Why do they only link to their own articles?" "Do you really think Chocolate tastes gross?"

Be aware.