Chicago Wants More Crime

It hasn’t even been a week since McDonald v. Chicago, and lawmakers are already trying to find ways to get around the Supreme Court ruling.

Via the Wall Street Journal:

The day after the Supreme Court cleared a path to overturn this city’s ban on handguns—among the toughest in the U.S.—frustrated city officials began Tuesday to consider new measures to circumvent the high court’s ruling.

At a tense City Hall meeting packed with citizens holding up photos of children who’d been shot, city aldermen discussed forcing gun owners to purchase liability insurance and to undergo criminal background checks and periodic firearms training. They also peppered a firearms-law expert and Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis with questions while promising to pass something meaningful.

Chicagoans, it seems, just don’t get it.

Leaving the Constitutional arguments aside, most gun-control advocates ignore an important factor in the roles that handguns play in criminal activity: that criminals, much more often than not, obtain guns the same way they do everything else… illegally.

That’s why, as drug prohibition lessons have taught us, regulating the market won’t do any good if there’s a healthy black market thriving. In fact, unlike drugs, a heavily-regulated market actually hurts the public, because it keeps guns out of the hands of decent law-abiding citizens at the very times and places where they’d need them most.

John Stossel echoes this observation in a recent article for Reason magazine:

Suzanna Hupp and her parents were having lunch at Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, when a man began shooting diners with his handgun, even stopping to reload. Suzanna’s parents were two of the 23 people killed. (Twenty more were wounded.)

Suzanna owned a handgun, but because Texas law at the time did not permit her to carry it with her, she left it in her car. She’s confident that she could have stopped the shooting spree if she had her gun. (Texas has since changed its law.)

Today, 40 states issue permits to competent, law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns (Vermont and Alaska have the most libertarian approach: no permit needed. Arizona is about to join that exclusive club.) Every time a carry law was debated, anti-gun activists predicted outbreaks of gun violence after fender-benders, card games, and domestic quarrels.

What happened?

John Lott, in More Guns, Less Crime, explains that crime fell by 10 percent in the year after the laws were passed. A reason for the drop in crime may have been that criminals suddenly worried that their next victim might be armed. Indeed, criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.

Of course, gun laws are largely a distraction from the real issues that are known to be strongly correlated with high crime rates: namely poverty and education. Guns are merely an easy scapegoat: just like violent video games and Marilyn Manson albums.

Let’s just hope that these well-intentioned efforts to curb violent crime by discouraging gun ownership don’t backfire.

Yet Another Flaw in Intelligent Design Creationism

Creationists whine a lot about the difference between macro and microevolution, as if there really is a difference. Saying you believe in microevolution but not macroevolution is kinda like saying you accept inches but not yards. Despite this well-established scientific fact, it is the purported “impossibility” of macroevolution that underlines nearly all creationist criticisms of evolutionary theory.

David Eller of the Skeptic Society brings us a very intriguing criticism of the Intelligent Design movement‘s own failure at providing a viable theory to account for both change from species to species and change within a single species. He starts with summarizing the problems creationists would face by rejecting microevolution:

A more likely answer, however, is that ID creationists do not deny microevolution because they cannot deny it. It is perfectly obvious and incontrovertible that it happens. We see variations in traits, even wholly new traits, emerge in existing species routinely and ordinarily. Bacteria and viruses (micro-) evolve new drug-resistant strains. Insects (micro-) evolve into new types. We humans have even artificially (micro-) evolved dogs and cats, for instance, into a plethora of different breeds, and with genetic technologies we stand on the verge — or have crossed the verge — of (micro-) evolving all kinds of plants and animals. It would require a suicidal degree of stupidity to deny that microevolution happens rather often and easily. Scientific creationists insist, however, that such events have nothing to do with and lend no credence to macroevolution.

Eller goes on to point out that all Intelligent Design arguments (blood clots, bacterial flagella, the eye, etc.) are really just microcreationist arguments, and (apart from being untenable themselves) can not be usefully applied to questions of macrocreation.

One of the many serious charges against microcreation is that it does not offer any specific mechanisms for the creation process. If a flagellum or an eye or a clotting system is designed, how is it designed? A claim is not scientific or theoretical merely by taking factual topics as its subject; a scientific or theoretical answer must suggest some mechanisms or means by which those facts came about. Just saying, “It is designed” says nothing. What are the steps in the design process? How is that design implemented into real physical matter? If such questions cannot be answered at the microcreation level, then it is useless as a premise for the macrocreation level.

I’ve made these criticisms before, but this is a nice way of turning a creationist argument on it’s head and applying it to creationism. Especially in the conclusion:

For, in the end, microevolution is nothing more than descent with modification over the short term, and macroevolution is descent with modification over the long term. Put another way, macroevolution is merely the accumulation of microevolutionary changes. The only difference between them is time-scale. The same thing cannot be said about microcreation and macrocreation.

The whole article is kick-ass, and I suggest you check it out. Skeptic was one of the first magazines I turned to in my “re-education” that presented the facts in a responsible way, so naturally I always make it a point to recommend it to anyone who values the truth.

(via eSkeptic)

Ron Rosenbaum is an Idiot, Too

Generally, I’ve found that self-identified agnostics fall into two main categories (a) atheists who want to keep their friends, and (b) accommodationists and self-righteous non-believers who don’t own a proper dictionary.

Ron Rosenbaum is clearly a member of the latter camp.

He wrote this article for Slate that’s filled with the same sneering and obvious strawmen that’s so typical of diatribes like this. His argument is basically that agnosticism is the only real skepticism and that atheism is–get this–a faith-based position. Wanna see my surprised face?

Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence. (And some of them can behave as intolerantly to heretics who deviate from their unproven orthodoxy as the most unbending religious Inquisitor.)

I’d delve further into this (and believe me, there’s plenty to delve into), but the fact is that the sort of atheists Rosenbaum has a problem with just don’t exist. Maybe you’d be able to find a handful of atheists who claim to be certain that there isn’t a god. But they’re every bit a fringe position as people who think the Earth is flat.

Most atheists, myself included, are more than willing to admit a lack of certainty in our position about the supernatural. And most atheists don’t adopt this mystical “faith position” that’s so oft mentioned, but rarely demonstrated. I’ve never met anyone claiming to be an atheist that’s said “I know there’s no god. I have no evidence for this, but I believe it to be true.” A statement like that would actually be laughable to me.

Ultimately, though, I think Rosenbaum’s biggest failure is that he doesn’t seem to grasp the difference between saying “I know there’s no god,” (which no one in their right mind does), and “I don’t believe in god.”

Atheists are people of science and reason. And science is all about the best explanation. The best explanation so far is a godless one, until evidence is presented that makes a theist explanation more likely. Seriously, what is so difficult about that?

Dan Dennett also brings up a good point:

Have you noticed how self-proclaimed (and self-satisfied) agnostics often sneer at us arrogant, over-confident atheists without expressing any parallel contempt for the Pope, Rick Warren, the imams, and so on for their similar if opposite avowals of certainty? In the future I plan to insist on agnostics being equal-opportunity sneerers.

It really doesn’t seem like the “New Agnostics,” as Rosenbaum calls them, are really interested in intellectual integrity. If they were, one would think they’d at least have the wherewithal to understand the meaning of the concept you’re attempting to criticize, and make sure that you’re not beating away at strawmen.

But, hey… I can’t be certain.

James Dobson is an Idiot

Unreasonable Faith posted a great piece a few days ago, detailing the general homophobic message and lies of James Dobson.

It’s a great post.  And it illustrates one of the most dangerous things about this guy: his penchant for telling untruths as facts. Thing is, Dobson isn’t an eccentric televangelist Pat Robertson type. He’s actually rather calm and quiet in his demeanor. He merely states a lie in an authoritative manner, and most of his listeners accept it as true because of his tone and his credentials as a psychologist.

His evidence is often based on the work of Paul Cameron, disbarred from the APA for making up research. Other sources have made it clear that Dobson has twisted their work or not even read it.

Dobson quoted in Time, Drs Carol Gilligan, of Harvard: Kyle Pruett, of Yale, and Angela Phillips, of Goldsmiths College. All 3 were irate that he lied about data, among a barrage of letters from experts he’d used in various works. Some asked him to post their letters on his Focus website with a public apology. He didn’t.

Dr. Robert Spitzer was among the outraged. He helped remove the disorder status from homosexuality in 1973. And so his 2001 research showing that “gays could change” was praised by Dobson for the “courage” to overturn the “myth.”

But Dr. Spitzer said Focus “once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights.”

Calling Dobson on his lies doesn’t faze him. “Communities do not let prostitutes, pedophiles, voyeurs, adulterers, and those who sexually prefer animals to publicly celebrate their lifestyles, so why should homosexuals get such privileges?”

It’s difficult to encapsulate, though, just how influential his organization (Focus on the Family) is in American Christianity. Slate calls him “America’s most influential evangelical leader.” George W. Bush practically owes the 2004 election on Dobson’s ability to rally up the troops in support for him.

Among his erroneous beliefs are the idea that women with children should be housewives until their kids are 18, that pornography leads to serial murder, that Spongebob Squarepants is a tool for spreading a message of gayness, and that federal money should fund abstinence-only sex education despite study after study showing that it doesn’t work.

But what really seems to put him over the edge is gay marriage. For some as-yet-unexplained reason, James Dobson believes that if a same-sex couple is allowed to call their union “marriage,” that the marriages of heterosexuals everywhere will suffer. And he is willing to draw as many irrelevant parallels, false dichotomies, and invalid comparisons as he can to get everyone else to believe this as well.

Think about that for a second. This man, with a PhD in psychology, believes that there is literally an invisible, all-powerful man in space keeping people from getting divorced using special spaceman powers, but that he’ll stop doing so if two guys want to pledge eternal love to each other.

Unfortunately, most of his target market is stupid, and doesn’t understand concepts like statistics, science, research, or fact-checking. Some of these people are even fully aware of Dobson’s inaccurate portrayal of the facts and continue to lend him credibility.

Christians, don’t be stupid. Don’t accept a silly assertion just because this fool is telling you to.

And for Pete’s sake, focus on your own damn family.

Let Doctors be Doctors

Associated Press reports that a Kansas pain doctor was convicted and may face 20 years to life in prison for “conspiracy.” The prosecution alleged that the doctor stood to profit from prescribing medications to dozens of patients who later died.

Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, were charged in a 34-count indictment with unlawful dispensing of drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Jurors convicted them of a moneymaking conspiracy that prosecutors linked to 68 overdose deaths. They were directly charged in 21 of the deaths.

During their eight-week trial, prosecutors told jurors the Schneiders defrauded insurers and patients by carelessly writing prescriptions for potent, addictive painkillers to people with severe pain but also to drug abusers who feigned symptoms.

“Feigned symptoms”? Call me crazy, but this kinda seems akin to arresting a gun salesman for “conspiracy” because he sold guns to adults who later shot themselves. Not even! The doctor wasn’t even selling the stuff!

Maybe I’m overstepping my boundary of knowledge here, but the dude is a pain doctor. There’s really no way of him knowing that a patient complaining of pain is lying.

What if he were to say “sorry, I don’t believe you,” and send them off in pain? A doctor trusting his patients is not a criminal.

Jacob Sullum puts it nicely:

I have not examined the evidence in the case, so I cannot say to what extent Schneider was duped by patients or whether he was negligent. But judging from the press coverage, the case looks much like others in which conscientious doctors have been treated like criminals because they put the interests of their patients ahead of their role as conscripted soldiers in the war on drugs.

Black Jeezus’ News Quickies

Remember that post I wrote about the “no true Scotsman” fallacy? Here’s Michael Moynihan of Reason commenting on its use in the feminist camp. The main question is whether or not a woman can be pro-life and still considered a “true” feminist.

I say, so long as your philosophies don’t contradict each other, then fine. But what do you think?

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God, the action figure. Complete with “Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.”

epic fail- Product Fail Spree

(via failblog)

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Thanks to science, we are now one step closer to the inevitable Human vs Shapeshifting Robot wars.

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Another day, another atheist billboard vandalized by people who are bound by their holy book to “love one another.”

Or maybe they just found the phrase “One Nation Indivisible” too offensive? Which I totally get. I mean, there’s nothing more despicable and divisive than unity. Right?

(via Southern Atheist Gentleman)

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And from the Poe’s Law file, here’s video of a man trying to convince you that homosexuality is an abomination while wearing an ascot and leisure suit.

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This isn’t religion-or-libertarianism-related at all, but now that Counter-Strike is available for Mac, I’ve been on that shit like a villain. So if you feel like playing with me, my steam username is munkyman223.

Prepare for pwnage.

Find a Date on Pirate Bay

From The Freakonomics Blog:

The Pirate Bay, formerly a site for pirated movies, music and software, is trying to recover from its recent legal woes by launching a dating site. It will rely on a system of “social trust,” allowing members to vouch for each other: “The information added by members is immediately visible to those who know them best – their friends – which makes it much more difficult to lie.” Members can even play matchmaker for friends. It will be interesting to see if the “social trust” concept actually solves the truth-bending that often plagues dating sites.

I’m very much against copyright legislation, and so I disagree with the punishment dished out on Pirate Bay’s founders (especially since they were merely providing a medium for obtaining copyrighted material rather than hosting it, which is kinda pushing the boundaries of what we can be arrested and tried for). But this is a pretty interesting way of bouncing back.

I’m interested to see what kind of success the new site will have. I’m very much satisfied with my current relationship status, but if any of my lonely single friends out there decide to try it out, I’d gladly put in a good word for you.