Thursday, February 06, 2014

Harvard Gun Study Claims Banning Weapons Doesn't Decrease Violence

In the 46-page study, which can be read in its entirety here, Kates and Mauser looked at and compared data from the U.S. and parts of Europe to show that stricter laws don’t mean there is less crime. As an example, when looking at “intentional deaths,” or murder, on an international scope, the U.S. falls behind Russia, Estonia, and four other countries, ranking it seventh.  More specifically, data shows that in Russia, where guns are banned, the murder rate is significantly higher than in the U.S in comparison. “There is a compound assertion that guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, [the latter] is, in fact, false and [the former] is substantially so,” the authors point out, based on their research.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Fifteen Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage

The 15 effects:1. “First, as many commentators have observed, because procreation is an inherently gendered affair, redefining marriage in genderless terms would break the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation. . . . Given the manifest ills of fatherless parenting, the State has a compelling interest in sending a powerful message to women that, whenever possible, marriage to the fathers of their children is very important to the welfare of those children and to society itself.”
2. “Second, for similar reasons, the loss of the State’s clear message in favor of biological mother-father parenting within marriage would likely result in a higher percentage of couples conceiving children without the stability that marriage would otherwise bring.”
3. “Third, replacing the child-centric or ‘conjugal’ view of marriage with a more adult-centric view would undermine the existing social norm that often leads parents in acceptable but not ideal marriages to make self-sacrifices and remain married to the parents of their children.”
4. “Fourth, by shifting the understanding of marriage to a more adult-centric view, the redefinition ordered by the district court would also undermine the current social norm (weakened though it may be) that those who wish to have children—or to engage in conduct that could lead to children—should get married.”
5. “Fifth, and most obviously, a genderless definition of marriage would likely increase the number of children being raised by same-sex parents. That could happen because the couple decides to raise together an existing child of one of the partners. Or it could result from the conception of a new child through surrogacy or sperm-donation. Either way, such children will not benefit from the State’s preferred mother-father parenting model; often they will have no way of knowing even the identity of both biological parents. And recent evidence on same-sex parenting, while not conclusive, indicates that same-sex parenting arrangements are less effective than married biological mothers and fathers in producing positive outcomes in the lives of their children.
6. “Sixth, if the traditional male-female aspect of marriage were thrown out as irrational, it would likely become more difficult to resist other innovations that would lead to additional children being raised without a father or mother.”
7. “Seventh, a court-ordered redefinition of marriage could well lead to its wholesale ‘privatization’—for example, by enactment of a civil- union regime for all couples, with religious and other organizations being free to offer the title of ‘marriage’ as they see fit.”
8. “[The] correlation between genderless marriage and lower birthrates. . . . It is also striking that fertility and birthrates tend to be markedly lower in nations and states that have embraced same-sex marriage.”
9. “Because procreation is an inherently gendered matter, redefining marriage in genderless terms breaks the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation—and in that way alone would dilute the implicit encouragement the institution of marriage currently provides for procreation by married couples.”
10. “By implicitly endorsing the adult-centric model of marriage, a genderless redefinition would send a powerful message that it is entirely appropriate—even expected—for adults to forego or severely limit the number of their children based on concerns for their own convenience. That a new child might ‘cramp the style’ of an adult would come to be seen as sufficient reason not to have the child at all. That too would tend to reduce fertility rates.”
11. “To the extent a genderless marriage definition encourages the further abandonment—or privatization—of marriage, it would  almost certainly reduce birthrates. Studies have shown that cohabiting couples tend to produce fewer children on average than married couples do—perhaps because the resulting instability makes the participants less willing to bring children into the mix. Thus, if overall marriage rates decline further, birthrates would likely decline as well.”
12. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other non-profit religious organizations that refuse on religious grounds to recognize same-sex marriages or to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same terms as husband-wife couples.”
13. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate, prosecute and punish people in wedding-related businesses for refusing on religious conscience grounds to assist with same-sex weddings.”
14. “Government licensing agencies would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate and punish counselors for refusing on religious conscience grounds to counsel same-sex married couples on the same terms as heterosexual couples.”
15. “Religion-based conflicts between public schools and parents would likely increase as children are taught about sexuality and marriage in ways that contravene parents’ and students’ deeply held religious beliefs.”

Ten (and counting) Commandments before agreeing to debate a creationist

(Actually, I only had time at the moment for Seven Commandments. I will take suggestions and improvements. If you write a sufficiently good one, I will include it and list you as an author; if the Commandments come together well, perhaps we can submit it to NCSE Reports or some such.)
(also, all I know about this debate is based on news reports, and the assumption that if something has not been mentioned, it was not thought about by Bill Nye; please correct me if I get something wrong)
Note, as commenters did, none of this deals with what should happen at any debate.

I. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE MOOLAH. Is there going to be an admission fee charged to this event? Where will this money go? In today’s debate, something like 800 attendees are paying $30/each to attend (I forget the exact details). That’s $24,000 on the table right there.
II. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS. All too often, professors get goaded into debates or “discussions” (or sometimes “interviews”), show up like they would to a normal low-publicity academic event, and then discover that the creationists have a full film crew ready to professionally tape the whole thing. Some nice person sticks a consent form in front of them, they sign it, and then the professor is surprised to find themselves featured in creationist videos and documentaries for the next several decades.
III. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE TICKET SALES. If the tickets will be on sale, who is going to have access? According to reports, the tickets for the Nye/Ham debate sold out in 2 minutes once ticket sales opened up. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the creationists had many of the tickets, or perhaps virtually all of the tickets, reserved ahead of time, for donors, supporters, and the like.
So: get some tickets alotted to yourself, that you may distribute as you wish.
IV. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT DONATION APPEALS. You can bet that AiG will be hitting up the audience for donations in some fashion. At the actual event, it could just be donation cards handed out at the entrance, or it could be explicit appeals and passing the hat before and after the event. You can be sure that the video versions distributed to the fundamentalist churches and schools contain donation appeals in some form too. Did you sign up to this debate to help the creationists fundraise? No? Then why didn’t you stipulate that you would refuse to participate unless such donation appeals were excluded?
Alternatively, you could demand that at the event, and in any subsequent videos, NCSE (for example) gets a plug for donations.
V. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT PRE- AND POST-DEBATE EVENTS. This never occurs to scientists until after the fact, but on the occasions when evolutionists (or mainstream Bible scholars, or whatever) do get invited to speak before fundamentalist audiences, it is entirely standard for the fundamentalists to have organized ahead of time for the audience to be subjected to post-debate rebuttals from other speakers. This ensures the creationists get the last word and gives them a chance to paper-over any cracks you might have opened up in the mind of creationists in the audience.
VI. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS. I strongly suspect that for their $30, the audience at the debate will get a bonus armful of AiG propaganda, ads for AiG materials, etc. Why aren’t there any pro-science materials being handed out as well?
VII. THOU SHALT GET ALL OF THE ABOVE AGREED UPON IN WRITING, AND PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED, BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER. None of the above has any point unless it is in writing, legally binding, and agreed to by all parties. Announcing it publicly helps create a tradition of less-than-total-naiveté amongst science defenders, and also lets audience members, etc., know what they are signing up for and what they are supporting with their time and perhaps money.