Thursday, August 1, 2013

Would it matter if Homosexuality was a choice?

People make the argument arguing for gay rights that homosexuality isn't a choice. There are some clever ways to address this point including asking heterosexuals: when did you choose to be straight. There is solid logic in that argument that no heterosexual choose to be straight then it follows that homosexuals probably aren't choosing that either. But the question of whether or not homosexuality is a choice is as simple (it isn't) as it is useless.

The is a simple way to show it is the wrong question and it is by asking this question: is pedophilia or attraction to children sexually a choice. I don't care whether or not that is a choice because sexually molesting a child is morally abhorrent. So the question about homosexuality really should be: 'do we find homosexuality to be morally abhorrent'.

If you base all of your morality from religious texts written greater than 1500 years ago then you are inclined to think of homosexuality as immoral or as an 'abomination'. I've written previously that not everyone who believes this is a bigot (although many bigots pretend to be christian to avoid having to own up to bigotry).

What if you don't get all of your moral views from Church on Sunday? What if you try and come up with your own moral understanding of the world? Other than quoting scripture I've never found a logical explanation for why two people loving each other and having a life together is a beautiful and wonderful thing except if they happen to have the same genitalia (and then it's an abomination).

Conservatives are right to denounce the collapse of the family unit over the last 100 years. The percentage of children born out of wedlock is discouraging. But scape goating gays for the lack of a coherent family unit (which is often brought on by absentee fathers) borders on the delusional.

The real question comes down to liberty. Should two consenting adults be able to enter into a legally binding contract (marriage) with each other so long as it doesn't harm anyone else. The liberty loving answer says yes, people should have the freedom to do things, even stupid things (like smoke). Republicans that seek to minimize gay freedoms and rights do so by attacking liberty and freedom, things conservatism is suppose to stand for. We ought to be standing for freedom and we ought to be reflecting on these moral questions.

So let's ask ourselves again: is homosexuality a choice? No. Would it matter if it were? No

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Gays Should be Allowed to Marry: One Republican's View

I'm a Republican that whole heartily supports gay marriage. Given the dearth of elected Republicans that support gay marriage many people will be shocked to find out that I as a Republican support gay marriage. The fact is that a lot of republicans I know and associate with support gay marriage. We consider ourselves to be Rockefeller, Goldwater or Eisenhower  (or more modernly Jon Huntsman) Republicans that want smaller government that doesn't intrude on people's lives.

The biggest reason I want gays to be able to get married is this: I don't care what other people do if it doesn't affect me.  I have yet to hear a good argument for how gay marriage will ever affect another person's marriage. And now that we've been letting gay people marry it is obvious that all the arguments against it were invalid. The sky hasn't fallen in Massachusetts, California or Iowa. Gays got married and people just went about living their lives totally unaffected.

Normally I try and think deeply about issues and reflect on them. But this one is so painfully simple to me. As a conservative I apply my general principles of: A) people should be able to do what they want if it doesn't hurt other people and B) I don't like the government interfering with people's lives. A plus B equals gay marriage is okay with me.  Any questions?

The Supreme Court Decisions on DOMA, the VRA and a Call for Critical Thinking

This week the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Many people were excited about the decision on DOMA and terribly disappointed that the court struck down the VRA. In all of that emotion many people fail to comment on the legal reasoning applied in the cases they are just angry that the court 'gutted the voting rights act' and proud that the court 'stood up for gay rights'.

The reason people feel this way is based on how they view the court: that the Supreme Court is a moral arbiter weighing in on key issues. Ideally I would like to quickly point out how the function of the Supreme Court is to weigh in on specific cases and determine constitutionality of those cases that are brought before it. Historically that has been the purpose of the Supreme Court but people today (mostly liberals but some religious conservatives too) often just want the court to make 'the right' ruling instead of constraining itself with constitutionality.

Antonin Scalia makes a pretty convincing case that Justice Ginsberg is doing just this in her opinion on DOMA. He argues that the Court should not make a ruling because the plaintiff has no standing in the case because she won in a lower court and that without standing the Supreme Court should not rule. He chides Justice Ginsberg for stating that the Court may rule whenever they think it is 'prudent' or as he puts it 'a good idea' even though this means ignoring Article III of the Constitution.

Sadly this idea of ignoring the Constitution to do what we believe to be 'morally right' and expedient is an idea that is popular with the people; so long as those rulings themselves are popular with the people. As a result we have seen cases since the New Deal that redefined what the constitution meant and gave broad almost unlimited powers to congress that were not there before.

In Wickard vs. Filburn the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the government could regulate the amount of wheat grown on an individuals farm even if he was not selling it to anyone under the 'interstate commerce' clause of the constitution. By redefining interstate commerce to mean 'all commerce' the Supreme Court has handed Congress a near blank check to regulate all business any way that it sees fit. 60 years later when a man grew medicinal marijuana on his own property for his own consumption his plants were destroyed and the Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales vs. Raich that once again the commerce clause of the constitution gives Congress that authority.

What I sincerely hope people would do with this week in light of the major rulings by the Supreme Court is to read them (or at least their summaries) and engage in some real critical thinking about how our court should function, and what legal principles do we want our court to apply. Do we want our court to constrain themselves to the constitution and apply it the best they can or do we want them to be moral arbiters ruling in favor of 'what they feel best' and having to contort constitutionally to justify themselves.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Affirmative Action: Sexism and Appearances Versus Reality

I recently finished Medical School and was talking with a classmate (I'll call him Bart) about where people would end up and careers they would have. Our conversation touched on the topic of medical graduates who were unable to secure a training residency and what the future held for them. Finally we pivoted to our most distinguished colleagues: members of Alpha Omega Alpha honor society (or AOA).

Most medical schools in the US have a chapter of AOA at their school. It is a very prestigious honor to be a member of AOA as it denotes that you were in the top tier of grades as well as being reputable members of the community. Bart was explaining to me that new members were elected each year and that active members were a part of the selection process. This meant that classmates that were selected in the first two years of medical school to be a member of AOA were a part of the committee to determine who would be allowed to join in the third and fourth years.

Bart was invited to join AOA after his second year of medical school so he was one of the leaders of the selection committee. They made it through one cycle of candidates and it turned out that every single person they admitted to AOA was a women. During the next round of admitting people a woman in the crowd spoke up and asked "should we be thinking about getting more guys in?"
Bart answered "No, we're not doing that. I'm not playing that game. We're going to go with the best people." A couple of the women in the room (also on the selection committee) let out a couple of 'you go Bart'.

As it turned out a clear majority of women from my medical school class earned the AOA honors. This is even more pronounced when women make up only 40% of the student body (they make up roughly 40% of the applicant pool to medical school as well). In earning a greater proportional share of AOA honors the women in my medical school class collectively out performed the men in my class (at the top anyway). The women in my medical school class played by the same rules and kicked our butts.

Why the question to include more men?

This would be an entirely reasonable question if the selection committee was looking at recruiting people from the general public. When looking to fill a management position from the general public and all of the applicants are of a certain ethnicity or gender it is reasonable to ask if there isn't an inherent bias in your process of recruitment. This is why binders full of women is good policy as it ensures that qualified women are considered for employment positions.

But there was no recruitment of applicants to a job for AOA. There was a field from which the committee was obligated to choose from so there can be no possibility of recruitment bias by the AOA committee.

The reason the question was asked is that we have become a society so obsessed with appearances that we are willing to embrace sexism so that there isn't the appearance of sexism. That sounds crazy because it is, but that is the implication of the question 'should we try to include more men?'. The question reflects a fear that the group looked biased (by selecting mostly women) even though it wasn't biased in favor of women but had instead selected a group of high achievers in medical school based on objective information. 

This has become the new normal. We act sexist and racist to avoid the appearance of racism or sexism. We lower the standards in education for one group so that they are not underrepresented by having two separate and fundamentally unequal sets of admissions. Oddly enough men are more likely to to benefit from affirmative action in university admissions now because women have starting out performing men.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mass Shootings: Victims that matter, Mother Jones and Middle America

With the recent mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and Aurora Colorado the debate over gun control has been thrust into the fore front once again. Mother Jones compiled a list of mass shootings from the past 30 years. Their numbers seem to be showing that mass shootings have been on the rise in recent years thus logically prompting a call to action.

 However their database is rather selective as it excludes: gang related violence, shootings where the primary motive was armed robbery and shootings that involved more than one shooter (although they decided to make two exceptions for school shootings). If you don't make the exclusions Mother Jones did you end up with a graph from FBI data that shows mass shootings to be nearly constant since 1976 with wild peaks and troughs of number of victims. Why the discrepancy in the data?

Some people will conclude that Mother Jones' data collection reflects their support of gun control so they came up with a data set to support an issue because Mother Jones is a liberal magazine. But Mother Jones' data is an accurate representation of mass shootings against 'victims that matter'.

I will take a moment to explain what I mean by 'victims that matter'. It is a concept that we are all familiar with. If a black teenage male shoots another black teenage male in a poor neighborhood he may be mentioned on the local news for 15 to 30 seconds. If you are a white female like Natalee Holloway you may very well generate a media firestorm by disappearing while on a vacation.

So while Newtown Connecticut is a national tragedy that deserves to be mourned because 20 school age children were murdered it is worth noting that nearly every year more Chicago school age children are killed than were killed in Connecticut. And while there are some crucial differences like the mass shooting in Connecticut happening all at once, smaller shootings in the 90s such as those that took place in Oregon and Arkansas got tremendous media coverage as well.

The difference is best described by David Dennis in his recent article in the guardian where he said
"American tragedies occur where middle America frequents every day: airplanes, business offices, marathons. Where there persists a tangible fear that this could happen to any of us. And rightfully so. Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don't occur.

American tragedies don't occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don't occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old's birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own."

So Mother Jones includes 'real american tragedies' because they are filled with 'victims that matter' and exclude the poor urban blacks (who are about 50% of all homicide victims) because the readers of Mother Jones care about their own chances of being a victim of a crime but are not concerned about the murders in the inner cities. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Political Correctness: Redskins, Rob Parker and the politically correct tango

I had a good discussion with my friend after Daniel Snyder said that he'd "never going to change the name of the Redskins". I argued that there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether or not the name Redskins is appropriate. Does the nickname honor native americans by denoting how brave they are? Paying homage to a noble people by stating that we use their name to strike fear in our opponents because they are a fierce an mighty warrior. Or does the name denigrate a group of people by stating that they are thought of as mascots and therefore sub-human? I hoped that the media would focus that issue instead of asking whether or not 'Redskin' is politically correct.

My friend then asked me: what is the difference between 'politically correct' versus just plain correct or 'morally correct'. The easiest definition is to define something that is 'politically incorrect' and that is something that is true but offensive to someone or some group of people. When Bill Cosby ranted about how poor black families were not bringing up their end of the bargain and were not properly valuing education few attacked the substance of what he said. No one said that he was wrong or not properly conveying the truth but instead that it was 'harsh' and 'offensive'. Had Cosby's words been aired by anyone other than an African American he would have been labeled a racist.

The three step process of responding to someone saying something 'political incorrect' is to 1) be offended 2) call the person a bigot (a racist, a homophobe, a sexist) 3) call on the person to apologize and if necessary 4) pressure the person's livelihood until the apologize. It is the politically incorrect tango, a simple four step that is easy to learn. What is missing from those four steps is any real discussion of truth or values or any meaningful discussion at all.

When Rob Parker of ESPN mentioned that some people in the black community questioned the Washington Redskin quarterback's blackness (Robert Griffin III or RGIII) because he is rumored to be a republican and is dating a white girl Parker referred to RGIII as a 'cornball' brother he sparked a controversy because he had said something that was not politically correct. The four step politically correct tango then followed as his comments were labeled 'offensive' and 'small minded' he was called on to apologize (which he did) and pressure was put on ESPN who opted not to renew his contract.

Well many people who were a part of the outrage machine patted themselves on the back for a 'job well done' Rob Parker had been fired and all was right with the world. They neglect to notice that real issue in this case was never discussed in any meaningful way. The incredibly important issue is the subject of 'acting white' or that some how blackness is something that you have to be and act out instead of something that you are. This horrible belief leads black children to be labeled as sellouts and 'acting white' when they apply themselves in school and try and get an education.

Next time someone says something that is 'offensive' or isn't 'politically correct' maybe instead of doing the politically correct tango we can try and have an honest discussion about the issue. And maybe the next time something is labeled 'offensive' we can ask... is it true?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Opposing Gay Marriage: Religion or Bigotry?

There has been a lot of progress on the movement of gay rights but even with more states approving same sex marriage there are still millions of Americans who oppose it. Often liberals who support gay marriage will paint with a broad brush and call anyone who does not support marriage equality as 'intolerant' or as 'bigots'. These sort of insults on people serves no purpose other than to make people hide their beliefs but it certainly does not move them towards changing them. There is a big difference between people who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons and those who oppose gay marriage due to bigotry but claim that it is for religious reasons.

1. Those who oppose for religious reasons.

There is a large segment of the population who opposes gay marriage due to strongly held religious beliefs. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin and these people of faith do not want to endorse something (by making gay marriage legal) that they find to be immoral.

The people that have these views tend to be soft spoken and extremely polite. Often times people are surprised when someone that 'seems so nice' opposes gay marriage. The reason that this comes as a shock to people is that religious people who oppose gay marriage don't hate gay people. They don't harbor ill will towards gay people. You won't hear them use slurs like 'faggot' 'fag' 'homo' or 'queer' nor would you witness them mistreating gay people (being rude, etc). That is because the bible commands them to be good people and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

There really is no use arguing with them about whether or not homosexuality is a sin in the bible. It is pretty clear in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. What is not clear is what the implications of that are in a society. The Bible never states how Christians are suppose to behave when they are ruling a society. This is based on when the Bible was written.

There are some reasonable discussions/arguments to be made with these people like how the new testament pretty clearly states that men are superior to women or that there are a bunch of rules in that no one follows (like having a women's head covered and men growing beards).

But these people shouldn't be labeled as bigots nor should they be screamed at that they should practice tolerance. There are two things fundamentally wrong with the tolerance movement. The first is that people aren't looking for tolerance they are looking for acceptance. I tolerate a screaming baby on an airplane but what gay people are looking for is acceptance as equal members of society with an equal ability to marry whomever they want.
The second problem with the tolerance movement is that it has no answer for people that they perceive to be intolerant. People will argue that religious people need to 'be tolerant' of gay people, while at the same time ridiculing their beliefs.

2.  Pseudo-religious/bigots

This is a group that does not like gay people, they don't feel comfortable around gay people and they don't want anything to do with gay people. This group often isn't particularly religious but will often harbor their feelings of resentment towards homosexuals as being religious in nature. That is because they don't want to own up to the fact that they don't like gay people and want to use something to deflect that.

It is in fact relatively easy to distinguish people in this group from the people who are actually religious for a couple of reasons. The first is that you will hear slurs about homosexuals in this group. The seconds is that they aren't particularly religious so they will have a hard time quoting multiple Bible passages and are easily stumped about where their belief in homosexuality being immoral comes from (unlike the actual religious group who will be quoting enough Bible passages that you'll have to go look them up). These individuals may be rude to homosexuals or make snide remarks either around a gay person they interact with or behind their back.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Binders Full of Women

During one of the Presidential Debate Mitt Romney made his famous comment about having "Binders full of Women". This was to emphasize that he took seriously the issue of women being overlooked in executive positions and his attempt to tackle the issue.

What followed was an internet meme, comedians lampooning the quote and the media being very critical of the claim. What was missed from the story was this: "Binders Full of Women" is in fact excellent policy.

One of the most common complaints with hiring women and minorities is that the people doing the hiring simply don't see enough qualified applicants. "We'd hire more ____ (blacks, Latinos, women) if only we had more qualified applicants". Binders full of women eliminates this problem by having binders full of qualified applicants.

This of course doesn't eliminate covert discrimination where someone doesn't want to hire a minority or a woman. It doesn't eliminate subtle bias either where a person is unaware of their own bias in preferring someone of a specific gender or race. But "Binders Full of Women" does tackle one giant issue.

I'm not the only one that noticed that it is a good policy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Income Inequality: the wrong argument

Much has been made in the past few years about income and wealth inequality in the United States. Most liberals (politicians, writers, bloggers) have all jumped on the band wagon and throw out numbers about how a CEO makes 1,100 times what an hourly worker makes or that how the top 1% has as much wealth as the bottom whatever percent. The exact numbers are irrelevant because the entire argument misses the point. Inequality measures aren't a useful measure of anything.

There are a couple of ways to illustrate this point. The easiest is with a story.

 The first is to look at a scenario with little inequality and create inequality.
Let us imagine that we have discovered a small island in the south pacific that is pristine and untouched. A small tribe that has about 100 inhabitants, they are fishers and hunters and gatherers. There is almost no separation in wealth on the island. The chief of the village has a slightly larger hut but that is the only wealth inequality.

Now an Englishmen thinks that this would make a great resort. So he puts up the capital to open a resort. He hires 50 people from the village to work there. Five of them are made managers of various operations and one is his VP to oversee the entire operation. All 50 people who work there only work 40 hours a week and make a decent living, they are able to buy imported steel and bricks for nicer housing on the island. The managers are paid three times the hourly workers and have a few nicer things in their new houses. The VP is paid 20 times his hourly workers and he is able to take a vacation away from the Island once a year.

The other fifty people who do not work for the company decided to keep on with their same lives, to hunt, trap and fish for their livelihood. For them life did not change one bit since the opening of the new resort with the exception that they occasionally see foreigners wandering around taking photographs.

At this point in the story it is useful to stop and think about the wealth inequality. Before the Englishman arrived there was very little wealth inequality on the island. But since he has opened his resort there is now a huge chasm between the top 5%, the top 1% and the rest of the Island. In fact the top 1% is so rich that he is able to leave the Island on a regular basis, something that had never been done before.

Let us look at the bottom 50%. They are now much poorer relatively since the resort opened on their Island but they are living in the identical conditions they did prior to the resort opening. Herein lies the problem of wealth inequalities argument is that poverty isn't a relative thing but rather an absolute. The 50 islanders who kept on living their same way of life were completely and utterly unaffected by the other half of the Island who decide to get jobs and live a different way.

Chapter two of our story picks up when a visitor to the Island happens to be a liberal economics teacher who teaches the people living on the Island about the horrifying conditions of wealth inequality and all of the horrible implications both morally and economically.

A Small band of Islanders decide that they will rid their Island of wealth inequality. They burned the resort and all of the new houses to the ground. They passed a law stating that no foreigners were allowed on their sovereign soil and they made everyone return to their lives as hunters/fishers/trappers. Everyone was returned to the previous state like that resort had never been built and the Island was returned to its previous pristine state. Wealth inequality was solved.

That is not the only way to solve wealth inequality but it is by far the quickest and most effective. When a small amount of people have a large amount of wealth trying to redistribute it can be tricky (particularly if it is land or a company) but destruction is the quickest and most effective means at leveling the wealth playing field.

There are a number of incredibly important our country needs to address about poverty. How much should we provide to people who cannot or will not work for themselves? How do we do a better job of making sure children in our country aren't hungry? How do we provide services for the poor and needy without providing incentives for not working and/or having more children? There are shortcomings in our social safety nets and it is a shame on our nation that we have hungry children. We need to work together to address these issues. One issue that does not need to be addressed is income inequality.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Cars: what the future will hold

A lot of people wonder what the future of cars will be in the US. will we all be driving ethanol based cars? hydrogen cars? or what?

The most likely solution is what is already happening, what many families have already done. Its the most obvious solution that most Americans will take, the one your family has already taken, and many other families as well. People will drive smaller cars.

People are starting to, and will continue to drive smaller cars. We aren't going to turn into Europeans, driving tiny cars, but at the same time our gasoline isn't as expensive as theirs. the more expensive the gas, the smaller the cars will get. Since our gasoline in the US (post economic recovery) will likely be between 3 and 4 dollars for the foreseeable future, our cars will be smaller than they were when gas was in the 1.50 range. It is econ 101 really. Price goes up, people readjust to it.

aAs far as hydrogen goes. you'll be pushing daisies before that ever becomes useful, and as far as odds go, I feel the odds are about even that I drive a flying car, as I drive a hydrogen powered car.
There are various reasons that hydrogen is a fantasy, and people disagree as to what the biggest barriers are.I'd say the biggest reason is that hydrogen cars today, cost roughly 1,000,000 to produce. you read that correctly, by the way. 1 million. In addition, Hydrogen costs about 5.00 a gallon (with obvious conversions in a ratio of energy units, because you wouldn't be using gallons). also, there isn't free hydrogen floating around. its not an energy source, for all intents and purposes its a battery, creating hydrogen in a source that can be used for energy, requires energy. there is some possibility that hydrogen could be used as a battery, transporting energy from one location to another, for example the US could produce tons of wind energy in the great plains, but has little use of it there.. so generate electricity, use electricity to create hydrogen, then transport and use the hydrogen... even this is years off because hydrogen is a bitch to transport. transport it as a gas, and you aren't transporting much, transport it as a liquid, and well hydrogen is really unsafe to have it as a liquid.

Ethanol is just a way for congress to drop Billions of pork on farm lobby,  ethanol from corn is a giant waste of time. in terms of burning potential you end up with less energy when you convert gasoline into ethanol (you don't really convert it, but you need to put energy in to get ethanol, and converting corn into ethanol is a negative energy product).. some say its positive but they are factoring in you get some food byproducts, which is true.. but from a fuel perspective, you don't gain any energy.. you can get energy from converting sugar into ethanol, which brazil does quite effectively.
Ethanol as corn masquerades as being for US energy independence, and god knows a lot of other things.. in reality its just a sweet farm subsidy.

As far as coming up with a real solution to our growing gas problems (and in a broader sense: energy usage). the best one is often the simplest. And a good one is pretty simple. Its electric cars and batteries. Now the answer isn't 100% electric cars, because that technology is years off, and implementing an infrastructure for that to be effective would take time. But making cars electric for the first 20 to 40 miles would do a great service to the air we breath, our pocket book, the price of gasoline, and our dependence on oil.
Most people only drive small short trips on a regular basis. they just go to work and back, etc. the majority of driving in this country is short trips like that. Put a small electric motor in the car, like the ones that are currently in the prius and modify it so that it can be plugged in and you reduce the amount of gasoline (drastically) that people are using.

Reduce the amount of gasoline people use and the price of gas goes down electricity is cheaper than gasoline, and electric motors are about 4 times more efficient than internal combustion engines using electricity instead of gas, would improve air quality.. even if the electricity is produced from coal

Saturday, April 27, 2013

'Victim Blaming'

There have been a series of highly publicized high school rapes in the past several months (most notably Steubenville Ohio) where the girls were unconscious and raped by their male peers. There are so many different topics worthy of discussion from cases like this but I want to focus on only one: victim blaming.

Inevitably in these situations someone suggests that women should be taught the dangers of excessive alcohol intake and whomever makes that suggestion is accused of being a part of 'rape culture' and that they are 'blaming the victim'. Since no one wants to seem pro-rape people are able to successfully shout down what is an entirely reasonable and rational approach to tackling not only this issue but to several societal problems and that is the dangers of binge drinking.

Drinking to the point where you are borderline comatose is stupid. I feel like that point is incredibly obvious but it warrants repeating: drinking until you are unconscious is stupid. In and of itself has the potential for killing you just due to the effects of alcohol. In addition to that you are at an increased risk of being taken advantage of by other people.

For women this means that getting really drunk increases the chance that you'll be raped. It does not mean that she 'deserved it' or 'had it coming', but does anyone think that it is a good policy to get that drunk at a party? Would you teach your child that it is safe to get black out drunk at a party? Of course not. That isn't to let the criminals off the hook. The rapists in Stuebenville got what rapists deserve: prison.

But it isn't just women that pay a price for getting black out drunk. Nearly every year in Wisconsin a young college age male student goes out drinking with his buddies and then 'disappears' unfortunately he almost always washes up on shore 5-10 miles down river a few days later. Drunk men are also more likely to be the victim of assaults. A friend of mine in college was the last to leave the bar and didn't leave with the whole group, he had too much to drink and was targeted by two other men he was beaten and had his wallet and cell phone stolen. He didn't deserve to by assaulted but the police did give him the advice of "don't walk home alone drunk at 2am". I didn't bother to round up a women's studies proffesor to yell at the police office for 'victim blaming'.

Should we all tear down the signs in parking lots that state you should "Store your valuables out of sight"? After all isn't that blaming the victim who has his car broken into? Doesn't that only perpetuate 'petty theft culture'?

People do not deserve to be the victims of crime, but there are some simple things they can do to make that crime less likely.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Evolution: not all opinions are created eqaul

There are many reasonable points of view on any given subject. However not all points of view are created equal and this simple maxim is true when it comes to the subject of evolution.
There are several points of view:

1) Accepting that evolution is good science. Obviously as a scientist I have my inherent biases and tend to think that the most reasonable view is to accept that evolution is excellent science and most likely true. I say most likely because science is a way to describe the world around us and the natural phenomenon and there is always some uncertainty.

2) Being Religious and recognizing that science states that evolution happened over billions of years but because of deeply held religious views you choose to believe God created the world in 6 days and that humans did not evolve from anything else. It is perfectly acceptable to have deeply had religious beliefs, having religious beliefs does not make you small minded or stupid or unintellectual.

Everyone has a set of beliefs about how the world functions around them some people happen to have God in there and some do not. It is intolerant to view those that are religious as being of a lower intellectual standing because of their beliefs. However....

3) Being religious and then trying to use religious arguments to say that the science of evolution isn't any good is one of two things
a) stupid/ignorant
b) dishonest
It is ok to believe that God created the universe in 6 days. But it isn't OK to use your beliefs to lie and distort the beliefs of others. And Evolution needs no defending here, the science is so sound that there is no need to go through point by point about why people make misleading, deceptive or illogical arguments against it.

The reason that people try to make an argument against evolution is that they see it as attack on their beliefs and way of life. But there are plenty of things that are fundamental to Christianity that science says is impossible. The single most important dogma in the Christian religion is impossible according to science. That central belief in Christianity is what exactly? The Resurrection.

According to all medical science a person who has been dead for greater than 48 hours has a zero percent chance of returning to life. The resurrection is impossible according to science and medicine. Have you ever heard a preacher talk about how there is a lot of disagreement in the medical community about the possibility of resurrection or that the whole "remain dead forever" theory is just a theory after all and that 'both sides of the argument' should be taught in school? Of course not, because that would be ridiculous.

As for evolution? The arguments are ridiculous but people still have them anyway. For people who accept the science of evolution as their way of understanding the world we should collectively stop trying to shame people who believe in a religious understanding of the creation of the world. We should always seek to educate and inform but never in a condescending manner.
For the religious who believe that God created the universe and think that evolution is not compatible with those religious beliefs just remember that Christ rising from the dead is incompatible with science too.