Chapter Three: (pg 69) Explaining Personality: Soul Theory versus Behavior Genetics
By: Jean Mercer
As I mentioned in a previous post, the guiding perspective we inherited from the history of Philosophy is the issue of Being, which has traditionally been interpreted in terms of essentia or questioning beings in terms of “what” they are, and existentia or questioning beings in terms of “how” they are.
Even in Plato’s time, there has been an ambiguity in what we mean by “essence.” On the one hand, if I ask after the essence of house, I’m asking for what is general or common. By contrast, if I ask after the essence of Socrates, I mean what is central and unique about him. Keeping these issues in mind, what is ownmost in Socrates, let’s consider the topic of personality.
The introduction for this chapter reads:
This paper explores the causes of the unique individual patterns of reaction we call personality and compares the view that these are determined by the individual’s soul with the view that biological factors are responsible for personality characteristics. The paper discusses current evidence for genetic influences on temperament, psychopathology, and intelligence and examines complexities such as the influence of environment and epigenetic factors. It concludes that in all likelihood our unique personality traits are determined by biological factors alone, without any need to appeal to a nonmaterial or ethereal element. 1. Confirming Nonexistence — 2. What is a Soul? — 3. Personality, Soul, and Behavior Genetics — 4. Measuring Personality – 4.1 Temperament – 4.2 Psychopathology – 4.3 Intelligence — 5. Examining the Genotype and Its Effects – 5.1 The Human Genome – 5.2 Polygenic Effects – 5.3 Epigenesis and Imprinting – 5.4 Gene-Environment Interactions – 5.5 Evolutionary Psychology — 6. Connections between Genotype and Behavioral Phenotype – 6.1 Temperament – 6.2 Psychopathology – 6.3 Intelligence — 7. Conclusion: The Principle of Parsimony Undermines Soul Theory
Before systematically applying the study of genetics to humans, we have seen this connection in animals:
Before technology for the study of genetic material was developed, some information about the effect of the genotype on the phenotype was already in place. This was derived from familial studies and from systematic breeding of plants and domestic animals. Work on behavior genetics began with insights gained from observation of domestic animals; for example, it was well-known that some breeds of pigs take excellent care of their offspring, while others must be monitored to prevent them from lying on or even eating their piglets.
We can see the importance of genetic influence in all types of environments:
First, there are active interactions when an individual’s genetic makeup pushes him or her to seek out specific types of environmental experiences. A person who is biologically inclined to risk-taking, for example, may involve himself in risky physical sports, become expert at them because of practice, and thus become more inclined to carry out risky actions. Second, in passive gene-environment interactions, a child is born into an environment that has already been shaped by the parents’ genetically determined behavioral traits. If the parents are predisposed to low activity levels, for instance, they may provide little encouragement for the child’s physical activity and may even punish it, or may choose to live in a home full of breakable possessions that are likely to produce trouble for even a moderately active child. Finally, in evocative gene-environment interactions, children’s genetically determined behavior causes specific types of responses from adults, and those responses help shape the child’s behavioral phenotype. In each of these situations examination of the genotype alone would be no more than partially successful in explaining behavioral traits.
The author points to the genetic dependence of the personality from such varied aspects from psychopathology to intelligence. For instance, she writes:
Strong heritability of general cognitive ability (GCA) has been reported by a variety of studies carried out on different populations (Johnson, 2010). Interestingly, the measured heritability of GCA increases with age—that is, older monozygotic twins are more likely to have about the same IQ than younger ones. During childhood, shared environmental influences account for about 35 percent of variation, and genetic factors for about 30 percent; in later adulthood, genetic factors account for 80 percent of the variability.
This makes good sense given what we know about aptitude and creativity. Aristotle interestingly asked why people who have achieved so much in the various intellectual pursuit domains were so consistently melancholic. Even Thales and Heraclitus remarked that thinkers are not close to life. There seems to be a genetic connection between this kind of creativity and being a step back from life, not being caught up in the everyday goings on of things. In German this is called Nicht-Da-Sein or Weg-Sein, a distance from life. It makes sense, because such a personality trait as melancholia would grant perspective, being able to see the forest despite the trees: It’s like a person who can’t see the toxic nature of their romantic relationship even though it is blatantly obvious to her friend because she is too caught up in it and close to it.
The genetic base for intelligence also makes good sense when we further analyze it into its component parts of the various aptitude domains of Multiple Intelligences. So, for instance, someone might be highly effective and creative when it comes to linguistics and music and art, but not so in the domains of math and bodily/kinesthetic pursuits.
As for things like anxiety, bipolar, and schizophrenia, that there is a biological base for these traits is amply evidenced by the effectiveness of medication on treating them. Certainly, there are environmental factors. Descartes redefined truth as certainty, free from doubt, following a tradition that stretched from Thomas to Luther that what had to be certain, in the sense of freedom from doubt, was certainty at the salvation of the soul. The problem for us moderns with this “certainty stance” toward life is that if we are in the mode of securing against doubt all the time, this is going to increase anxiety levels analogous to the diet-er obsessed with healthy food who is exacerbating a problem because they are thinking about food all the time. A Cartesian-like experience of obsessive systematic doubting could certainly result in a psychotic episode or balloon into OCD, but all of this simply represents what is going on at the physical level, which is why medication is so important along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for instance.
Similarly, our “person-ality” (constructed like animal-ity) is going to affect the way we experience the world. So, an average person like myself is not going to experience the world like Einstein or Mozart, any more than I will experience the conspiracy-laden world of certain bipolars/schizophrenics, or the profound lack of certainy of someone with severe OCD. The way the mind encounters the stuff of sense is not primarily “knowing,” but organizing/schematizing this chaos because of how it is enjoyable, revulsive, and useful to us. Hence, if the material did not serve this function, it may not be encountered. Hence, Heidegger says:
“The angle of vision, and the realm it opens to view, themselves draw the borderlines around what it is that the creature can or cannot encounter. For example, a lizard hears the slightest rustling in the grass but it does not hear a pistol shot fired quite close by. Accordingly, the creature develops a kind of interpretation of its surroundings and thereby of all occurrence, not incidentally, but as the fundamental process of life itself: ‘The perspectival is the basic condition of all life (VII, 4) … The living creature possesses the character of a perspectival preview which circumscribes a line of horizon about him, within whose scope something can come forward into appearance for him at all (Heidegger, 1991, 212).”
When we speak of beings as “substances with properties,” this is an effective way of organizing the world, though it is not “objective,” which we see the more empirical we get, such as at the quantum level where “substance with properties” is not as much of a useful descriptive category as it is at the macro level. Physicist Carlo Rovelli has argued Time is like this, not existing at the quantum level.
I just wanted to share this interview from today with Dr. James McGrath by Derek on Mythvision podcast. It’s interesting because it shows how historical reasoning works when we try to sift through the evidence to find historical nuggets. So, for instance, of John the Baptizer Jesus was recorded as saying things like:
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28)”
“The Law and the Prophets were until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force(Luke 16:16)”
You can see the problem for Jesus mythicism here, since it’s hard to imagine the early church inventing Jesus saying that John the Baptist was greater than him, or that the turning point in history was John, not Jesus.
In chapter 2, Matt McCormick presents a strong probabilistic case that human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness are dependent upon the brain to occur/ exist and thus cannot survive the death of the brain. McCormick makes his case by providing a broad overview of the general lines of evidence that even the highest mental functions are produced by brain activity, evidence that does not sit well with the notion of any sort of soul or ethereal double that can function completely independently of the brain. Yet this notion is presupposed by all versions of the survival hypothesis that do not depend exclusively upon miraculous bodily resurrection.
McCormick outlines his general argument as follows:
1. Human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness (in short, the features that we attribute to the personal soul) are dependent upon the brain to occur/exist. 2. The brain does not survive the death of the body 3. Therefore, the personal soul does not survive the death of the body.
To begin with, McCormick makes the general point regarding the dependency of the mind on the brain.
Decades of evidence from stroke victims, motorcycle accidents, car wrecks, construction site accidents, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, brain imaging, and other medical studies have given us a detailed picture of which portions of the brain are active in conjunction with specific cognitive abilities and mental states. What that research has shown is that minds depend upon brains. Damaging a part of the brain destroys a part of our thoughts, eliminates a cognitive ability, or alters some personal or emotional capacity. Restoring the electrochemical functions of the brain renews the mental function.
McCormick argues what science teaches is that brain damage can pinpoint the section of the brain responsible for which cognitive functions, and that the mind is best explained as being entirely dependent. Even something as basic as awareness can be wiped away and leave a person in a permanent vegetative state. Even at the simplest level the physical can alter the mental, such as with a pill or caffeine. Mental functions are directly proportional to their physical brain complexity in creatures, and even humans in their evolutionary history became more cognitively apt as their brains developed. So why did consciousness develop?
There are countless neural assemblies that register various aspects of our environments and internal states. With conscious awareness, natural selection found a mechanism for summarizing many of the most pertinent facts quickly, making these discriminations available to executive planning faculties. The biological usefulness of conscious awareness is to “produce the best current interpretation of the visual scene, in the light of past experience either of ourselves or our ancestors (embodied in our genes), and to make available, for a sufficient time, to the parts of the brain that contemplate, plan and execute voluntary motor outputs (of one sort or another)” (Crick & Koch, 1995, p. 121). Memory, emotions, awareness of self and others, attention, and other elements of our cognitive constitutions fit into this general evolutionary picture as adaptations, byproducts, or kludges (improvised assemblages).
This goes beyond McCormick a little, but it would seem too that categorizing serves a further evolutionary function, and provides an interesting explanation of the relationship between particulars and universals beyond mere abstraction: so, a particularly scrumptious meal may have presenced to primitive man as “dinner incarnate (like we say of a Van Gogh we say “Now that’s a painting, Art incarnate) to the man’s aroused physiology; an average meal comparatively less so; and week old food hardly at all.
McCormick argues the belief in the soul also has an evolutionary ground and relates to our tendency to assign minds to things even that don’t have minds
The animism of primitive religions is a result of imbuing the weather, the oceans, and other natural objects with spiritual forces. This overactive propensity to find minds where they are not feeds the belief that souls survive or are autonomous. If we are prone to find minds where they are not, then it is only natural to conceive of minds as unhinged from brains. Minds then become things that can exist in anything, whether they have brains or not. And it is a small step from here to the idea that perhaps minds don’t need to inhabit any physical object at all. Ironically, evolution produced brains that are conscious, as well as a powerful tendency to attribute consciousness to things that don’t have brains.
It is fascinating to think along with Bart Ehrman and the idea that Luke had a Moral Influence interpretation of the cross rather than a Paying Sin Debt interpretation. But what about Paul? Paul was the great hero of Luke’s work Acts. It seems that Luke had not read Paul’s letters nor seemed to be aware of them. Just the same, it is not unreasonable to suppose Luke would have known the core of what Paul was teaching about the cross, and then conveyed it in Luke-Acts. Perhaps reading Paul as a cross sin debt payment advocate is wrong? This takes us back to the core teaching of the cross, of whether Jesus died to pay our sin debt, or rather to make our hidden sinful nature conspicuous to inspire repentance? Clearly, there didn’t seem to be any theological significance attached to Jesus’ death before he died. If the disciples thought Jesus was supposed to die for theological reasons, they wouldn’t have gotten violent at the arrest. It’s much easier to see how the death of the Davidic heir Jesus would have blossomed into a Moral Influence sense of the cross after his death, as opposed to suddenly a blood magic sin debt atonement interpretation appeared.
In the aftermath of Roe being struck down so close to July 4th, it’s important to remember that rights and freedoms, and even democracy, are a work in progress, and are always tentative because as Reich pointed out, if history has taught us nothing else it’s that the people can and will demand their own repression. A few days ago, a 10 year old pregnant rape victim was forced to go out of state from Ohio to Indiana for her abortion: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jul/03/ohio-indiana-abortion-rape-victim
On this July fourth, I hope my American friends understand how important their country is, but also that there is a lot of work left to be done. Back in 2018, Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks posted this viral video of the anger many feel at religious people who want to impose their beliefs eliminating abortion rights:
A great difficulty in all this is that conservatives are arguing that liberals want to kill “human person babies,” while liberals want to argues conservatives are demanding women lose their right to autonomy over their own body for an unborn that is in no sense a “person.” Clearly, a lot can be resolved here if conservatives can clarify in what sense the unborn is a “person,” since they are the ones making the positive claim.
Welcome to the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival at The Secular Frontier, the official blog of The Secular Web. The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities,” such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or other spirits, “or at least none that actually exercises its power to affect the natural world.” And without miraculous interventions into nature from a spiritual realm, neither prayer nor magick are more effective than a placebo.
So what is a Biblical Studies Carnival? Prof. Phil Long explains:
In the early days of blogging, people would collect blog posts on a particular topic and call it a carnival. I have no idea why a carnival (as opposed to a yard sale, a circus, or a monthly index… it’s an internet thing). There were psychology carnivals, sociology carnivals, etc. In March 2005, Joel Ng posted the first Biblical Studies Carnival at his now defunct blog, Ebla Logs. But nothing is really dead on the internet. You can still read that first carnival on The Wayback Machine. The first link is to Jim Davila, at PaleoJudaica.com, a remarkable blog still going strong after all these years. I notice the one-time keeper of the Biblioblog Top Fifty list, Peter Kirby (although his blog Christian Origins is now gone). Jim West hosted in November 2006, although that version of his blog no longer exist (as far as I know). Some of the older blogs have (sadly) been taken over by spammers.
Prior to 2012, Jim Linville kept the list of Biblical Studies Carnivals. When Jim retired from this role in August 2012, I volunteered to be the “keeper of the carnival list.” This means I try to draft (harass) people into volunteering to host the Biblical Studies Carnival. I keep a master list of Carnivals with links here on Readng Acts (in the banner, or click here).
Blogging has come and gone, and maybe come back again. Some bloggers moved into podcasting or producing YouTube videos. Others remembered they had a real life beyond blogging. Sometimes students blogged for a few years then graduated and got jobs that took them away from regular posts. Nevertheless, some have persisted. Even though I would love to see the return of N. T. Wrong, there is a new generation of biblical studies bloggers.
Our Sections This Month are
(A) Hebrew Bible
(B) New Testament
(D) The Bible And Current Affairs: Dueling Reactions To SCOTUS Overturning Roe v Wade
The Bible makes the grand claim that the creator of our planet is perfect in all its aspects including morality, and loves the innocent preborn and children, a view believed by billions. But the testaments make no mention of the fate of the souls of humans who die before they have matured enough to decide whether or not to worship God in its flawless heaven. That’s because some 50 billion children have died, and a few hundred billion preborn, due to natural causes no creator has put a stop too. My ground breaking 2009 Philosophy and Theology study was the first to calculate the shocking death toll of the young, and show how it wrecks classic Free Will Theodicy, and the possibility that a prolife God exists.
(c) [For the Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism paper Pt 1]
The Philosophy and Theologystudy disproving the existence of a moral creator was ignored by the theologians who continue to push the false concept, while paying no attention to the mass death of kids and the preborn, as well as the news media that failed to cover it. And even atheists have not caught on to the implications of the Children’s Holocaust. So I did a follow up study in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, updating some of the analysis, and adding a section on the Brutalization of the Animals that a creator if it exists has been callously fine with.
(d) [For the Essays in the Philosophy and of Humanism paper Pt 2]
Part 2 of my Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism studies starts by continuing to discuss how it is not possible for the good God of the Bible to exist because it set up a planet so toxic to children that it has killed tens of billions of them, while imposing immense suffering on the other innocents, the animals. It goes on the describe how worship of such a cruel creator in search of boons is deeply immoral, and poses the Moral Challenge to theists to either at long last confront the Megadisaster of the Innocents, or admit they are wrong. It concludes by describing what atheists need to do to get the word out about the premature death of most humans and the vast suffering of animals, and how that doing so has the potential to accelerate the decline of theism here and abroad.
Keith Augustine selected articles from the Secular Web Kiosk and Library
Ever wonder how you can be saved? Christians can’t agree, and the confusion is embarrassing. A survey of sixteen major denominations proves the point.
It should be noted that my reasons for writing this article were as follows: (1) A response to well-meaning Christians who try to reconvert me; (2) a way to deal with my own church-indoctrinated fear of hell (and possibly help others deal with their own fear); and (3) to get both Christians and non-Christians to examine Christianity. The article also has the ancillary intent of casting doubt on the truth of Christianity as revealed by the Bible, but this was not my main intent. Nor should this article be seen as a formal proof or technical essay for the nonexistence of God.
Is the Bible the work of God? Is it a valid guidebook? How can we know? This introduction serves as a very basic preface to the makeup of the Bible and to how the Bible came about, as well as to some basic kinds of possible biblical problems–especially the kinds of problems inherent in a fundamentalist/literalist approach to the Bible that views the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and plenary “Word” of a perfect, omnipotent, and loving God.
Is something good because it is pleasing to God, or is something pleasing to God because it is good? Is something good because God commands it, or is what is good inherently good regardless of what God or anyone else happens to think about it? If “the wages of sin is death,” how does the death of an innocent satisfy such an obligation? How one answers these questions has profound implications.
Almost all evangelical Christians believe that the writing of the Bible was divinely inspired and represents God’s main revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. Furthermore, since a divinely inspired work must be true, those features are thereby also evidence of the Bible’s truth, and thus can be used in support of Christianity as the one true religion. When expressed that way, the reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible.
There’s a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus’ disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus’ post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn’t necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it’s inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke’s Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson’s direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press’ rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.
In this highly original and challenging essay, Raymond Bradley develops an argument that all religions are probably false inspired by David Hume’s famous discussion of the ‘contrary miracles’ of rival religions. According to Bradley’s argument from contrariety, any one of the vast numbers of religions ever conceived (or to be conceived) makes factual claims contradicted by the claims of all of the other religions. Moreover, the claims of any particular religion are generally as well-attested as the claims of all of the others. Consequently, given the “weight” of the “evidence” of all of the other religions, the probability that the claims of any one religion are true is exceedingly low. From this it follows that all religions are probably false.
“I want to give thanks to the Virgin Mary because today the unborn in our country are little more protected; this is the work of God,” @bpdflores at Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.
·The SC decision today vindicates every Christian who voted for Trump despite their understandable concerns about some of his personal behavior. Life and death policy always trumps personality. Millions of babies will now live because enough people voted policy over personality.
·Twice yesterday, I heard @CNN hosts ask “but what about all the unwanted children that will be born?” Can we please retire that talking point? 1. There are long adoption waiting lists; 2. Even if a child will be unwanted that isn’t a morally sufficient reason to kill it in utero.
~ Sean McDowell
ROE is overturned. Amazing. I honestly never thought I would live to see the day.
Pray for those, many, in fact, who undoubtedly are angered over the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. A heart that is convinced it is justifiable to murder an unborn child is a heart that is in desperate need of transformation, which only God can accomplish.
~ Lee Strobel
·On all levels, Roe v Wade was an abomination. Thank God it was overturned today by a courageous court. Pray for safety of pro-life centers that are already being attacked by domestic terrorists. Now this becomes a state-by-state struggle for the lives of the unborn.
·Big thanks to @JohnBlakeCNN for including me in this article that is currently on the @CNN homepage. I hope many people will read it and see why, not just Christians, but any reasonable person should support legal protection for the unborn:
‘A LIFE IS A LIFE’: @kayleighmcenany blasts the Left for framing abortion rights around bodily autonomy only.
·Praise God and thank you President Trump!
~ Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸
~ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
“Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”
·As a woman, as an American, and as a Christian, I am mourning today’s devastating SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs case. I look with dread at what the future might hold for the health and welfare of women, for our individual rights and liberties and for equality under the law.
~ Michael Moore
·Make no mistake: The Supreme Court — 2/3 men & 2/3 Catholic — today forced its religious zealotry and bigotry upon an entire nation. We are now all told we must adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Jerry Falwell. A fertilized egg is a full blown human being! SHAME!
~ Andrew Copson
An excellent point by the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief. In addition to all its other horrendous aspects, the end of a right to abortion is a massive violation of women’s freedom of conscience.
~ Ahmed Shaheed
·A huge setback for freedom of religion or belief of women and girls. There should be a renewed effort to reclaim equal rights for women & girls!
~ Barack Obama
·Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.
Catholics on the right spent decades reducing church teaching to a single issue and linked arms with a conservative movement that is hostile to the church’s teachings about a consistent ethic of life and the common good. This ruling is the culmination of that misguided campaign.
~ Andrew L. Seidel
·Please listen to the brilliant @LeahLitman @kateashaw1 and @ProfMMurray break down this absolute trash opinion. No law, no rule of law, just vibes. Stay until the end, especially to hear Prof. Murray’s last lines.: see Episode 56: Roe is Dead. Now What? https://crooked.com/podcast-series/strict-scrutiny/
~ Michael Shermer
·I’m disinclined to catastrophize but I know religious conservatives well so believe me when I say that overturning Roe is just the beginning. They absolutely want it banned in every state. Some (a minority) would also like to ban contraception & same-sex/interracial marriage.
·For those senators who feel hoodwinked by the justices who lied to you in order to get your vote, please remember that YOU ARE THE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT THAT LITERALLY MAKES THE LAWS. You CAN do something beyond just clutching your pearls for the cameras.
~ “But these historical facts don’t matter to Alito and the antiabortion movement because they undermine the version of American history they subscribe to what sociologist @GorskiPhilip calls ‘white Christian nationalism.'” (via Nick Fish)
~ Perspective by Samira K. Mehta and Lauren MacIvor Thompson
The Supreme Court’s abortion decision is based on a myth. Here’s why:
-The messaging needs to be clear, consistent and true. “Congress can override what the Supreme Court did and pass a law to legalize abortion. To do that, we need to elect 2 more Democratic Senators and to hold the House. Pres Biden will sign a law codifying Roe if that happens.”
~ Pastor Zach W. Lambert
I really wish the Christians who are celebrating the overturning of Roe could see the anxious and fearful messages I’ve been getting from women in our congregation all day. Maybe take a break from your online victory laps and listen to people who are really hurting right now.
~ Rev. Dr. Charles Allen on why the Supreme Court decision effectively establishes religion:
And while the Justices are at it, may be they can relocate the Supreme Court to Kabul, Tehran, Riyadh, Moscow or the Vatican. As a father of three girls, I take any assault on women’s rights & gender equality both a personal & professional challenge.
~ United Nations
“Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human rights law” @mbachelet says Friday’s US Supreme Court ruling is “a huge blow to women’s rights and gender equality.”
~ Kyle Griffin
Clarence Thomas writes, in a concurring opinion, that the Supreme Court should reconsider Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell — the rulings that now protect contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.
~ –JL Martyn “History and Theology in the fourth gospel.
One thing, at least, is shared by all New Testament authors…none of them merely repeats the tradition. …everyone shapes it, bends it, makes selections among its riches, and even adds to it.
&, if personhood starts at conception, then what about identical twins? Do they split one & the same “personhood”? If not (as seems obvious), what do we call that thing that existed prior to it splitting? Terminating it cannot be terminating a human *person.*
“In the 18th century, abortion was completely legal before what was called the ‘quickening’ of a fetus – when a woman could first feel fetal movement, or roughly four and a half months through a pregnancy.”
– Law Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone
There was a push in the last century by postmodern philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas that Ethics, not Metaphysics, needed to be first philosophy. Some have extended this to the idea that Ethics needs to be first religion as well. Clearly, it is possible to come up examples, analogies, etc to illustrate contradictory positions like pro-life vs pro-choice, so obviously we need to do better in our ethical reasoning than just endlessly throwing examples at one another. In many ways, the debate seems odd. Being alive doesn’t carry with it a right to stay alive, and so we kill carrots, mushrooms, insects, chickens, etc. If the debate is to be framed in terms of the right to life of the human baby trumping a woman’s autonomy over her own body, I suppose a beginning point would be for conservatives to show, say, at 6 weeks that an unborn is not merely alive, but a person, however you’d like to define person. Conservatives are the ones making the positive claim, so the responsibility is on them to clarify in what sense the unborn is a person.
Why would someone equate being an embryo with being a person? …
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Certainly, a human embryo becomes a lot more sacred if it is viewed as endowed with a life plan by God, rather than a human just being a evolutionary member of a DNA group that includes rodents (rats and mice) and rabbits. Still, it’s hard for me to watch 2 year old children dying of starvation and cancer, and still entertaining the possibility that despite this there is nonetheless a benevolent creator with a divine plan hidden in such horror. Human life seems to be so obviously not lived according to a plan of a loving creator, that claims we can’t terminate pregnancies because God intended the embryo to be the next Einstein seems absurd. So, let’s talk …
Thanks For Stopping By THE JUNE 2022 BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL!
“I’d have to say look, there’s always a plan. I believe God has a plan. Life is short
no matter what it is.”
Comment on the Uvalde mass school shooting by pro-gun Republican
Texas State attorney general Ken Paxton
God, guns, and the Bible. It’s the old motto going back to frontier days when gun toting Christian colonists and early Americans were ethnically sweeping the continent nearly clean of the aboriginal peoples as part of divine Manifest Destiny. And Bible endorsed enslavement applied to Blacks kidnapped from Africa and kept in line at the end of the gun. Followed by the firearms enforced lynchings and destruction of Black neighborhoods. These days the gun industry, backed by the religious right, has succeeded to the benefit of its bottom line into making the USA the only developed nation which is armed to the teeth with rapid fire weapons.
Which brings us to a grim fact too few realize. The gun industry and its gun rights allies proclaim that the best way to drive down the extraordinary rate of murder in this nation is with a citizenry even more heavily armed with their products than it already is. What they have kept under wraps – with the inept aid of the rest of the population — is how the ongoing financial success of the gun industry literally can continue only as long as the USA perpetually suffers the high rates of murder that could not exist if not for all the guns in a horrendous feedback system of death and profits.
It is a matter of sales and violence in a pernicious feedback scheme. Mixed with belief in the pugnacious side of the Jesus of the Gospels.
More Guns, More Murder — It’s the Statistics Driven by Firepower
There are about 400 million privately owned guns in America where 330 million dwell, 1.2 per person, with under half of households possessing guns. In all other peer democracies the gun/people ratio is far lower at 0.03 to 0.35. The US suffers an epidemic of over 20,000 homicides per year, about 6 per 100,000, all but a small fraction by firearms. Less than a percent of those deaths are mass shootings that occur on near daily basis. In the rest of the first world homicide rates vary from just 0.3 to 1.8, with the great majority not by guns, and mass shootings far less frequent. To look at it another way, homicides not by firearms is broadly similar in advanced nations, being about the same in the US and Canada.
It’s the guns that make the horrifying difference.
It is a very straightforward situation. Averaging some six times as many firearms per capita America has around six times as many murders as do peer nations. That there is a fairly good correlation between levels of gun possession and murder in a given country reinforces the more guns results in more murders relationship.
Rates of homicide total (Capital letters) and not by gun (indicated at ends of lines projecting down from former, except by lower case U for USA) as a function of private gun possession in the developed democracies; the Pearson correlation of 0.905 is very high. Data from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/murder-rate-by-country and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate, values are averaged over last few years for US.
That makes a sick sense. Gun advocates like to say that guns do not kill people, people do. The glib cliché is beautifully designed to disguise how rapid fire guns – revolvers and especially semi-automatics — are deadly potent, user friendly force multipliers that boost the ability of people to kill by a factor of about six. It is semi-auto pistols that are the primary American killers, rifles account for less than a tenth of homicides. But the AR-15, its design (devised in the 1950s) maximized for killing humans enmass, is more prominent in mass shootings. Americans are packing so much heat that police have to be similarly heavily armed – to the benefit of a pleased gun business – and are prone to shoot first and deal with the legal consequences latter especially when the suspect is a minority. In other countries police do not need to regularly carry firearms.
The USA is a war zone. Most gunfire aimed to kill others does not do so because about two thirds of those hit survive, and even more so because the great majority of bullets fired miss. Hundreds of thousands of rounds are fired illegally each year in America, it is like a low grade battlefield.
Say there is a guy intent on murdering others on a street corner. He has a knife. His chances of achieving his aim are limited, any near him can flee, or fight back, he will not be able to stab that many, and the victim’s chances of survival are relatively good.
Same guy has a Glock. With a laser pointer. With a few pulls of the trigger the killer can gravely wound and probably kill a good number of nearby people who cannot outrun bullets or fight back. Perhaps a bullet misses, sails down the street and smashes through a window and takes out a little girl trembling in fear from the sound of gunfire under the table as her mother holds her.
Can’t do all that with a knife.
The bogus claim made by gun advocates is that guns make for a polite society. Why a culture driven to politeness by fear rather than ethics or kindness would be a good thing is not apparent. So how is that right wing fantasy working out? Are folks peacefully polite to one another these days? Hardly. The real world fact is that hundreds of millions of personal weapons make for a fearful, angry, murderous country – a terror state of dread — in which people are blowing one another away over road rage incidents at a rate of about 500 per year – a 19 year old distant relation of mine suffered that fate — domestic disputes, work place discontents, mass shootings at schools and places of retail, entertainment, medicine, worship et al., targeting minorities, and most commonly petty street gang tiffs leading to revenge cycles that kill thousands each year.
Canadians are known to be a generally polite population. They don’t have nearly as many guns per person. Same for Norwegians. Japanese. Just why is it we Yanks need to be gunned up to be nice to one another?
Believe that yet more guns are the way to tamp down on gun deaths? Please name the nation where that strange idea actually works.
So. Really want to get murder mass and individual down to first world norms? Bring gun possession rates down to first world norms. That is the only proven way to do it.
Yet gun production is three times higher than in 2000, and now exceeds cars. Blacks and women are arming themselves at levels never seen before. The national reward? Firearms have become the leading cause of child death. And that is a very good and very necessary thing for the gun makers.
Why Murder and Lots of It is All Important for the Gun Business
The gun industry is in a delicate financial state perpetually teetering on disaster. The need to find a way to gin up sales is always very intense. Venerable Remington went bankrupt during the “Trump Slump” when gun sales fell as is usual when a firearms friendly Republican occupies the White House and fear of gun control retreats. With hundreds of millions of weapons already sold, the firearms industry is desperate to sustain sales in a gun saturated society – and that when the business has a product problem. Unlike other merchandise that needs to be rapidly replaced as they obsolesce, wear out, or are consumed — cars, digital devices, alcohol, tobacco, food, etc. — a well maintained gun lasts for decades. A target shooter can send thousands of rounds down range over the years without trouble if they give the gun a little loving care. And it is not like a given semiauto is a huge money earner, most sell for hundreds of bucks. Nor are guns the deep brain addictions like tobacco, alcohol and legal opioids that generate big volume sales. That when Americans into hunting – a cohort getting smaller all the time — sports shooting and collecting are under one in ten. Women tend to be more gun averse than men, minorities more than Whites. Fact is that most folks are not gun enthusiasts and have no desire to possess one of the deadly devices – people get killed cleaning the damn things. All the more so because the research indicates that possessing a gun or more is more likely to harm the owner, family or friend than protect them.
So how to evade industry collapse by further boosting the percentage of households that are gunned up and thereby sell the hundreds of millions more guns needed to keep the business humming in coming decades?
Fear. Fearing the financial failure that looms before them, gun producers have to use the powerful motivating factor that is fear to save themselves. The main reason four in ten households are already gunned up is because the residents think they need the weaponry to protect themselves from other Americans with heat. What is needed is yet more alarm in more citizens to get them to gun up.
The gun trade that enjoys tens of billions in annual revenue would collapse if not for all the mayhem. That dread that drives most sales brings us to why murder — the more of it and the more spectacular the better – will always be a key necessity for the firearms industry. It’s a perversely lucrative financial feedback cycle running on the combined factors of perceived fear driven by actual deaths.
Imagine if the homicide rate in the US dropped to what it is in say Denmark. Or Australia. Or France, or Canada. Gun sales would nosedive, gutting the firearms industry. Browning, Colt, Springfield, Savage, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Kimber America, Ruger, and the Daniel Defense that sold the gun used in the Texas school massacre would all be in severely diminished if they survived at all. And they know it even as they will deny it. The dependence is as obvious as it is being swept under the rug.
The private weapons industry has more riding on murder in the five figures than anything other business. More than the outright criminals individual and organized who could not be committing murder wholesale if not for all the semiautos around and about in this strange gun crazy – crazy for guns, or crazy about what they are doing to our society – country. Those pushing illegal drugs would do just fine without murder, all they want is more addicts to sell product to.
This relationship cannot be exaggerated, yet it remains amazingly hidden. On 6/1/22 on MSNBC Joy Reid and her pundit panel just did not get it in the wake of the Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa shootings. They kept wondering if the progun people, makers included, did not realize the destruction that the weapons were creating!? The doctors who have to deal with the massive wounds created by bullets ask the same questions. Would not revealing that terrible truth to gun producers and sellers get them to back off?
No it won’t. They can’t if they want to keep their industry thriving rather than becoming financial road kill. It is not just of matter of piling up the profits, it is one of company survival. Both in the short term – sales typically rise just after the big shootings – and more importantly the long term. Even as they proclaim the guns they churn out are the way to protect individuals and society from murder enmass, the reduction of murder to first world norms would correspondingly reduce the American gun business to what it is in Canada, Europe and Australia. Which is not a whole lot.
In their narcissistic process of surviving and thriving through more murder, the GI has not only done more than has any other factor to kill over a million Americans over the last 50 years – in the area of those lost in all US wars combined. A business whose yearly cash flow of tens of billions makes up just a fraction of a percent of a national economy of trillions, has made an enormously outsized contribution via pursuit of its financial self-interests to inciting and polarizing the nation to the degree we have become the most dysfunctionally operating democracy among the prosperous nations. It is a quite an achievement.
The Christian Factor
Many Christians believe guns to be Godly because the Biblical Jesus comes across as pro personal weaponry. That is correct in that the Jesus of the Gospels is clearly a man comfortable with weapons and willing to use them to commit violence.
Returning to MSNBC’s Joy Reid, being an openly devout mainstream Christian often chastises progun Christians for being hypocritical. That is probably because Reid like most center-left Christians has not carefully read the Gospels she claims to adhere to, and bases what she thinks about the character on the sanitized version of the Son of God promoted endless from mainline pulpits by ministers who know their flocks are not particularly Bible literate. By focusing on the talk of brotherhood and turning the other cheek. But the brotherhood item rests on the conformity of adherence to the dictates of the one God. The turning the other cheek thesis is not consistently applied even by God’s divine son.
The Prince of Peace line is not actually about Jesus, that is Old Testament prophecy of the Jewish warrior king who will bring peace to Israel by expelling its enemies. In the Gospels Jesus says he came to earth not to bring peace, but to bring the sword, fire and division, and turn relatives against one another. As he and his entourage enter Jerusalem he is asked if they have enough swords – the AR-15s of those days – and says yes. While those two items are rather obscure and known only to those who take the time to read scripture, it is well known that Jesus fashions a whip, a device of terrorizing pain and fear, and uses it to assault the people and animals at the temple. The Jesus of the Bible is no Gandhi or King who disavows the carrying or use of weapons in favor of strictly pacific tactics. Those who try to portray the Christ character as some sort of radical person of peace are folks with an theoliberal agenda doing so by cheery picking the Bible lines they like and ignoring or explaining away the rest.
So telling a gun totting conservative Christian that they are not in accord with the ways of Jesus whose disciples bore swords and used a whip to commit a hate crime at a religious site will backfire because it just causes theocons to roll their eyes at the liberal who does not actually read the inerrant Word of God. And Jesus is God in any case, and the Old Testament God orders the Israelite warriors mass execute errant Jews such as after the golden calf business, and to wage a genocidal war of conquest on nonJews including dispatching all the enemy women and children infants and preborn included. Trying to use the Jesus character as a great promoter of societal peace sans lethal devices is not going to fly, so time to drop it, and admit that the Judeo-Christian scriptures are a big part of the problem, not the solution.
America is God blessed, more so than any other nation according to right wing Christians. America was built on the gun, from the divine liquidation of the native opposition, to the breakaway from the British Crown, to the many wars of freedom and justice – including seizing vast tracts of Mexico – we have had to engage in. The Constitution is inspired by that righteous God whose Son who is God was fine with personal arms, ergo the gun is Godly and any effort to use government power to regulate the devices in against the Lord Creator and patently un-American and downright unConstitutional.
It is no accident that theocons label gun rights sacred and therefore divine in origin. The Christoright did not used to be so big on firearms, they are now gun mad. Semi-automatics have become a thrilling fashion statement and lifestyle choice for the American religious right to the financial delight of those who make and sell the dangerous devices. This is made brazenly apparent in all the campaign ads in which Christoconservative candidates proudly display and use assortments of high power weaponry to blow away targets of various types, normalizing the idea that the God ordained way to deal with problems is violence and firepower and the more of that the better. So they voted for gun rights promoting hardly ever attends church Trump who is careful that the crowds at his rallies are not bearing weapons in his presence. He’s not dumb enough to allow that.
But not all gun promotion is a theocon thing. Libertarians are big on the liberty to own and carry firearms, and a lot of them are atheists in the tradition of key founders such as Ayn Rand. Most Christians, those of the center-left, and good with some degree of controls, as is the Catholic clergy.
In no nation is murder kept in check primarily by popular religion, it is always via major, practical secular limitations on gun possession and use that does that trick.
About the 2nd Amendment. It is quite peculiar. Few know that the original 12 Bill of Rights were not all about personal rights. The first two clauses concerning mundane issues of operating Congress were bumped during the effort to get the states to ratify them, reducing the amendments to 10 by pushing 3 up to 1 and 4 up to 2. None of rights that are specifically assigned to individual persons in the BoR is predicated by a government need as is the 2nd because they actually are about individual rights. The 2nd Amendment begins with the necessity for states to be able to maintain a well-regulated militia for the security of a free state because that is what it really concerns. Some of the original 13 states initial constitutions (https://gun-control.procon.org/state-constitutional-right-to-bear-arms-2) include a clause maintaining the right of the state to have a militia, and some (MA, NC, PA, SC, VA, VT) go on to warn against the formation of a central government military because of the risk it could be used to establish a nationwide tyranny. Because the new federal government would be able to raise taxes to sustain an army, the firearms amendment was designed to get nervous states to go along with the new Constitution by assuring said states they could continue to arms themselves against the federal government (DE, GA, MD, NJ, NY had no gun rights clause). There is not a record of serious discussion of individual gun rights at the convention, which is why the clause discusses the rights of the “people to keep and bear arms,” people being a collective word, and bearing arms a military term. Had the writers actually meant individual rights and wanted to be clear about that there was nothing stopping them from dropping the business about state militias, and/or saying something along the lines of the “right of persons to possess arms” shall not be infringed, or the “right of individuals to possess arms for their defense” as did some of the first states (AL, CT, NH, PA, VT; among states that have a firearms clause MA, ME, NC, RI, SC, VA did not mention an individual right). As it is the configuration of the amendment indicates it was either not intended to be a personal right, or was a deliberately ambiguous compromise on the matter – the latter would not be surprising in view of the differences in views in the states). In any case the writers of the document had no clue that guns would evolve from being able to fire once every 20 seconds via an easily disrupted intricate reloading process on a good day, with minimal accuracy, to a few rounds per second with precision accuracy. By citing American traditionalism as a justification for loose firearms regulations SCOTUS, aside from brushing aside the well-regulated line in the 2nd Amendment, while down playing a long history of regulations, greatly hinders the country from adjusting to the radical modernization of modern weaponry.
Thus courts including Supreme were ruling that gun rights were collective not individual, until a SCOTUS with new hardline conservatives on it nominated by presidents who had ascended to the White House on minority popular votes, and a Senate skewed conservative by demographics, appointed enough radical right justices who ignored the actual language of the amendment and the views of those who devised it to invent an individual right to own an assault style weapon with a high capacity magazine at age 18. That’s worked out amazingly well for the domestic tranquility of the nation the Constitution mentions, don’t you think?
Here is a question for those who cherish the 2nd Amendment. What if there was no such clause? Would you then be fine and OK with guns being tightly regulated like Australia which imposed a drastic national reduction in personal weapons of mass production awhile back and enjoyed a drop in homicides as a result? Or like how Canada is moving to ban new acquisition of handguns in part as a response to an influx of such from the gun saturated USA?
I thought so.
The Tyranny Con
The gun adoring right goes on about how they need to be armed to the teeth as per the 2nd Amendment to be able to prevent the imposition of a tyranny. What they specifically mean is a tyranny by the left. What they do not say so much is that that many of them are bent on using their AR-15s et al. to help impose a tyranny of the right. If not for the strict gun laws of the District of Columbia, the January 6 seditionists would have assaulted the capital with semiautos (although it is possible that had the crowd been so heavily armed, Capital security may have been much heavier, as it will be in the future when any big crowd with possible violent intent meets in DC).
The Personal Responsibility Con
Conservatives and libertarians like to go on about personal responsibility. Which does little good for the kid who has just taken a bullet in their gut and is bleeding out.
This con is similar to that operated by the plastics industry as it became apparent that their product was causing a bunch of environmental problems. Instead of taking responsibility for the difficulties they were creating the PI mounted a long term ad campaign that urged consumers to save the situation by recycling plastics. It was a scam because the industry knew and knows recycling is not a practical solution for used plastics for a host of reasons, but it diverted attention away from the corporations while making it seem that it was up to consumers to take care of the issue. No nation with low homicide levels pretends that gun violence can be handled at the level of individuals because only a very small percentage of those who have firearms need to go bad to create an enormous death toll. The only practical way to keep murders rare is by collective restriction of guns.
We Don’t Need More Science as Much as We Need Fewer Semiautos
There is an argument being offered up these days by some on the center-left that we need to do more scientific research to better address the mass slaughter of Americans by fellow Americans. Being a publishing scientist I concur that more science is a good thing. But when it comes to the gun/murder connection the core science has already been done. It is the epidemiological science of comparing rates of gun possession and total homicides in democracies of broadly similar prosperity and seeing what shows up. If there was little or no correlation between the two factors, then there would not be a solid reason to argue for gun control and libertarians would be right. If more firearms were associated with less homicide then the theocon case for guns and more of them would be verified.
As it is the massive data set accumulated over decades leaves no doubt that a population packing many tens of millions of semi-automatics is a population that is going to kill off often via agonizing pain and terror a lot of one another, and when death does not result often leads to long term disabling and painful injuries, while traumatizing survivors and relations, as well as the nation as a whole, all that while degrading its image on the world stage. With so many super lethal devices around and about they are so easily obtained by means legal and illegal that it is inevitable they will be misused often enough to dispatch many thousands. Lots of rapid fire guns around and about simply make murder too easy. No nation with such high gun density has a low murder rate. None of the nations with prudent, pragmatic gun policies that keep rates of gun possession on the low side has a high murder rate. There you go. Alternative theories are reckless and wild speculation and propagandistic misdirection.
It is similar to how population demographics were used to firmly establish that higher rates of consumption of tobacco products resulted in higher rates of premature death. The tobacco industry enjoyed a good amount of success countering that for three decades with bogus counter claims. A difference, however, between the weed and heaters is that the first dispatches adults who can avoid the adverse effects by not smoking or chewing, the latter kills off victims by the hands of others, with firearms now being the leading cause of death of children, which are starting to wipe themselves with the blood of other kids to try to avoid being targeted by school killers. Which inspires many to promote the or participate in the acquisition of more firearms to better protect the children while further enriching the firearms industry while more kids die.
About doing more science, the idea is that by carefully studying the problem we can devise better means to cleverly suppress murder by bullet to at least some degree. Such as doing a better job of preventing those who appear to be at high risk of going gun lethal from acquiring firearms, or by seizing those they already have. Or further hardening locations packed with large numbers of vulnerable targets – such as would locking all but one door at so that it cannot be opened without a key in either direction (to prevent a door from being unknowingly left unlocked as at Uvalde) result in fewer school children being lost when doing so violates basic fire codes and students would be incinerated in fires enmass. And what if the shooter wipes out the main door guards and students cannot flee? How about banning assault style rifles? Doing seems to have suppressed mass shootings, which rebounded after the ban was lifted with 20 million AR-15s sold since – that is approaching 20 billion in sales FYI. Would that work again? How about open carry states compared to those who ban the practice. Gun licensing? Would requiring gun owners to have firearms insurance work? Of course there is the question of high capacity magazines. Universal background checks seem like a good idea. Same for waiting periods. Tamping down on straw sales and trafficking. And raising the minimum age for owning certain classes of guns.
Doing some of the above may have some impact. Especially on the endless mass shootings that are freaking the country out. But it is likely to be a peripheral effect. And such efforts risk diverting attention from what we know will work – the weak Senate compromise is a practical political example of taking what one can get under the circumstances, but it is unlikely to do much to improve the situation, and may be misused by gun advocates as showing the futility of gun restrictions. That the likely to be not very effectual legislation is being hailed as of landmark level, merely because it is the first to be passed in decades, shows just how poorly the nation is running in part because of the GI’s efforts to politically weaponized the weapons that they sell. If the American majority actually truly wants to drive the intentional homicide rate down to 2 per 100,000 or less, then that will almost certainly require that the gun possession level be dropped to below 0.4 per person, an extreme national dearming of the country that would greatly exceed that in Australia in the 1990s.
That would do it. The gun adorers like to say that the bad guy will always be able to get a gun or an alternative weapon even if firearms are heavily regulated and largely banned. They contend that would leave law abiding citizens unable to protect themselves if legal gun possession is strictly regulated. If that is so then why is homicide so rare in all other nations with low levels of gun ownership? That when their overall rates of crimes are not necessarily much lower than in the US (it is inherently difficult to compare crime rates between countries aside from homicide because of differing definitions of, and public and police attention to, nonlethal crimes). When the general pool of legal guns in on the small side, then criminals do not have a sufficient supply base and pipeline courtesy the gun manufacturers to work from via theft, or buys with illegal intent – to put it another way, the American gun trade benefits from the illegal sales that so often result in the murders than keep gun purchases high in the nonvirtuous cycle. If legal firearms become a lot less common, then illicit guns become much scarcer too, and with market forces operative much more expensive. Many career criminals cannot then afford them. Same for otherwise law abiding citizens who want to go rogue, but are unable to readily do so if bullet firing devices are too hard to obtain by means legal or illegal. A virtuous cycle ensues in which fewer guns results in less murder which drops demand for firearms so there are fewer homicides which decreases gun sales……
With guns so abundant that they are easy to acquire, a dysfunctional gun culture has built up in an unvirtuous cycle in which a quite small yet much too large minority of folks get the idea that the way to deal with their personal problems is to inject bullets into others, from one on one in a living room, to spraying machine gun rounds into an outdoor concert crowd. With guns not abundant in more sensible countries the Cult of the Gun does not exist, with much better results.
The Gun Industry Propaganda Myths
While doing serious science to try to alleviate the American homicide crisis has its limits, it is far superior to the tobacco industry style disinformation deceptions devised by the firearms concerns and gun cult adherents to shift the primary blame away from the guns they make money off of.
One alternative they offer up proposes that as Americans have lost their belief in a moral God – church attendance has nosedived from over 70% when Reagan and Bush 1 were president to less than half and heading down fast, while the nonreligious are growing by a tenth of the total population every ten years (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf) — we have become more lethal. But the homicide rate was a super high 8 per 100,000 in the 1980. The Bible Belt states have long been prone to having high killing rates. And all the other democracies with much less murder are less religious than is the USA (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305; http://www.gspauldino.com/Healthofnations.pdf).
How about all the divorce and single parents leaving their kids prone to go rogue? Countries with similar family issues endure far less homicide. And a number of mass shootings are by kids from two parent homes, or by adults. Digital tech driven social isolation? Folks have the same hi-tech devices everywhere.
Our hyper violent media? That too applies across the prosperous democracies. Some relations of mine went on about how family TV shows in Father Knows Best days used to be little morality tales that taught kids how to be respectful citizens. Those shows helped raise the too often murderous baby boomers that moralists complain about.
One of the most cynical efforts to evade responsibility by gun makers and sellers is to fob off solving the problem on already put upon mental health care system (that conservatives keep trying to cut funding for). No other nation dumps the task of keeping murder individual and mass primarily onto psychiatrists because it cannot be all that effective, reliably sorting out the tiny percentage of those with mental issues who that are at serious risk of killing others out of the many millions of those with mental illness who are not not being practical. Relying on the mental care community to take the lead in dealing with this calamity is insane.
Especially rich – as in money grubbing — is how the gun industry and supporters are saying how we need to harden soft targets such as schools by turning them into mini-forts with security and already over worked and stressed teachers armed with semi-automatics — I remember how I could enter my schools through any door I choose, and the notion of the faculty bearing heat was beyond thinking. Those benign days are long past as the gun business makes the big bucks militarizing our fearful society as it pushes to address the school shooting problem they did the most to create by having school staff purchase yet more revenue generating product from that same industry. Money that could otherwise be used to say better educate kids. Quite the clever trick that one.
The list of myths perpetrated by the gun producers and sellers in their search for profits over bankruptcy is a long one.
The Mythos of the Law Abiding Citizen
The good guy with the gun versus the bad guy with gun is dangerously simplistic thinking that ignores basic psychology. Humans are complicated.
The vast majority of legal gun owners of course never do anything seriously inappropriate which is a reason a lot of them get ticked off at the idea of gun restrictions. And there are indeed people who are serious criminals willing to kill for their aims.
Problem is that it is not always viable to tell who is who, and the GGWTG can swiftly devolve in the BGWTG.
You can have a person who has abided by the law their entire life. Never caused trouble. Never threatened anyone much less attacked others.
But then things go south. Maybe a brain tumor that seems to have driven the U of Texas tower shooter that was the first campus mass shooting back in 1966. Maybe they lost their job and saw their career ruined for reasons they feel are not justified. They think their mate is cheating on them. The doc is not giving them enough pain meds. Perhaps they turned 18 after years of being bullied and could legally purchase an AR-15. Or there is an incident between drivers and they confront one another.
In Australia, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Norway not so much a problem because no one is likely to be armed. Here in the USA the armed has been a good guy until now can — and too often does – go very bad. And pull the trigger. Once, twice, thrice……
The Mythos of the Skilled Good Guy with the Gun
We all, or at least a lot of us, end up imaging that we are the one, the GGWTG happening to be carrying a semiauto pistol, that we are reasonably well skilled at using, that John Wayne style when the bad guy with the gun shows up at the school, or workplace, or retail outlet, or church, is the one who before the police can arrive uses our heater to bravely and skillfully take out the shooter before he can deal out yet more damage and death.
Some contend that it is the duty of all capable adults to be constantly armed by the GI and ready to defend themselves and others in public against the criminal shooter. Never mind that is what the industrial gun complex that has created the constant danger by packing the nation with their product.
Sometimes the armed citizen defender thing works. Other times it does not. Had the crowd in Las Vegas all been sporting semi-autos it would not have done them any good against the automatic gun wielding sniper from his high rise nest. How does a kid, or adult, walking how from school or work, or sitting in their living room, get protected from a stray bullet by a GGWAG? There is the problem of confusion. Some with guns who were expected to intervene in a mass shooting have told how they could not locate where the shooter was — gun shots can echo, and if the shooter is in a large building, or there are a number of buildings, the good person with the firearm can end of going to the wrong place. The GGWTG may mistake another GGWAG for the shooter and take out the wrong person. People fleeing the shooter may get in between the GGWTB and the BGWAG preventing bringing down the cop from firing at the killer – at the Texas school students directly behind the shooter seems to have prevented the latter — or one of those fleeing can end up being hit. When police arrive they may have trouble sorting out the GGWGs from the BGWGs, hindering their efforts.
A citizen GGWAG is not a trained professional. They may be inept. Even if they have spent considerable time at the firing range, under the sudden pressure of an actual event they may find themselves overwhelmed with nerves, unable to operate their weapon properly, or not able to draw a bead on the BGWAG. Then there is the fear factor. Imagining and training going up against a rogue person with a rapid fire gun is one thing. Hearing the real bullets supersonically cracking past one’s head, or seeing the bodies of those already hit and in agony or dead, can cause the best intentioned to balk at the presence of sudden death or painful maiming. Or, the GGWTG is not especially afraid, but cannot bring themselves to kill another human being. Saying that people should be courageous and resolute is fine, but not reliably realistic as a defense strategy against BGWGs. It is well known that in combat newbie soldiers trained for months on how to kill often prove unable to cope with the real deal and fail to engage the enemy – there’s a scene in the European front version of Band of Brothers on that – and mass shootings are always newbie situations for civilian GGWTGs. It is easy to demand that armed first responders be brave and capable, but many GGWGs will panic and shy away, and that does those being shot at no good. They can’t be counted upon.
As shown at Uvalde, even the professional GGWTGs can screw up.
But say — as does occur — that the civilian GGWTG coolly and calmly, tamping down their fears and following their training, has a clear shot at the shooter, pulls the trigger, and lands a shot right on the chest of the murderer. But gosh darn the latter had armored up, and unhurt and hearing the shot sprays semiauto return fire at the GGWTG and blowing out her brain continues on his rampage, leaving her children motherless.
Oh well, that is the hellish nation the GI has left us with. But not to fret too much. Eventually a GGWTG will save the day. They always do – at some point. With up to 60 dead and hundreds wounded in a single incident.
What if a person is blind, or otherwise too disabled to wield a weapon to defend themselves and others? Would it not be better to keep the possibility of gun violence to a minimum from the get-go?
The core idea pushed by the GI that has ladled the country with high power weaponry is that when the bullets they produce start flying it is time for the GGWTGs to step in. That is of course madness in the sense that it is far far far far better to prevent the death dealing projectiles from flying in the first place. Which all other advanced nations do a much better job of by simply by limiting gun ownership.
Many modern Ameroconservatives are radical zealots who have forgotten the wise and prudent old adage of a pound of cure is not worth an ounce of prevention.
The Mythos of the Skilled Gun Owner
One way to better see how the gun interests have fooled almost all of us into buying into their line without even gun control advocates fully realizing how gullible we are, is their mantra that if one does have a gun or more, that such persons should of course be well instructed and trained in their safe and effective use.
That seems to make sense, right? But does it? Who does not know without instruction that guns are lethal. And if someone someday is pointing a Glock or AR-15 at you and is good and ready to take you out, would you not prefer they be an idiot when it comes to properly maintaining, loading and aiming their gun? I know I would. A heavily armed citizenry well practiced with their arms in not at all a safe citizenry, as the stats are showing all too well.
The Problem with Keeping Guns Safely Secure
A basic part of best gun education and practice is the advice and need to store weapons in a secure location that kids cannot access, all the better with the ammo not with the gun. That might work in a household in which guns are for sports rather than protection, but most purchase firearms partly or entirely for protection, including against home invaders.
Assume that a resident is awakened at 2-3 AM, and realizes there is a criminal or more inside their residence, and they are in serious danger and have to act FAST. Still foggy from just being asleep adrenaline driven fear and anxiety flood the brain. Going to the gun storage and unlocking the weapon takes time, perhaps all the more so as the shaking resident tries to find and work the key, or worse the combination, if they manage to get the gun out now they have to obtain the ammo, it too perhaps locked up, and having done that properly load the device which can be tricky in the dark and with trembling nerves, by then it may be too late.
So what was the point of having the gun?
Many realize this. Which is why many keep their gun loaded and ready to go, in the bed side drawer. Good for being ready to blow away the intruder if necessary – but FYI pointing a gun at a bad guy with a gun pointed at you increases the chances that the intruder with the unmoral criminal mind will take you out in their own defense. And a family member in a fit of rage gets it out and blows a relation away. Or a kid thinks it is a toy with dire consequences. Or decides to use it to finally deal with the bullies at school. You get the drift. I hope.
The Middle Class Gun Death Problem
Until of late it has been to the great advantage of the gun makers and sellers that most murder by personal weapons of mass destruction has been an item of the impoverished, often minorities, much of it in the inner cities. So the White middle class, especially rural, has not been so upset that they advocate for gun control. But the risk of pushing a lethal product too far is that its impact can spiral out of control, until it begins to damage the interest of its promoters. That is happening as firearms misuse increasingly edges up into the White middle and upper middle classes with mass shootings at well-off establishments including schools – you may remember when slaughters were called “going postal”, but that minority/working class moniker has become obsolete – and road rage incidents. Those living in say the boonies of the Dakotas did not need to worry all that much about firearms deaths. That was then, this is now with their school kids having to go through mass shooting drills. That has the advantage of boosting the fear factor that boosts firearms sales, but it also risks a shift towards gun regulations as it becomes apparent that the GI cure-all of citizens buying more and more of the guns they churn out is producing increasingly bad results.
A Question for the Conservatives
You call the USA the best nation on Earth. And it certainly is exceptional in being the most Christian, socially conservative, gun friendly and heavily armed, school hardened, highest prison population, least socialistic, smallest government, most free-enterprise of the developed democracies. Has been that way since its founding, and still is.
And America has always been suffering exceptionally high rates of murder (as detailed in L Beeghley 2003 Homicide: A Sociological Explanation).
You theocons keep saying that something is wrong with our culture. That is true. But exactly what is it that we are doing so wrong, while the other advanced nations are doing so well? Enough is enough. At long last please tell us, in a comprehensive explanation that actually makes sense for once thank you very much, why this greatest of nations has perpetually suffered the worst homicide rates, and do so without resorting to the tropes of us being too Godless, under gunned, lacking in family values, lenient on criminals, liberal, socialistic, and the rest when those nations that are such are doing so much better at not having the civilians rub one another out. Cite the problem/s that causes hundreds of thousands of bullets to be shot towards intended victims in this most God Blessed of Countries?
To put it another way, if going to church enmass, traditional family and media values, more meritocracy driven free markets and rugged cowboy individuality, mental care and police interventions, private gun possession and carriage, and hardening targets are the ways to minimize murder, then how and how is it that no nation that enjoys low rates of murder are utilizing those proposed theocon and libertarian solutions?
(Be careful deploying the notion that ethnoracial division is at the core of the American problem, other peer nations being as diverse as the USA or more so these days.)
Not holding my breath on that one.
The South of the Border Mass Death and More of it Equals More Guns Sales Connection
Gang violence in Mexico and Central America is screamingly high to the point of they are failed states to varying degrees, fueled by guns, which are largely illegally imported from the USA in exchange for the drugs many citizens of this greatest nation are addicted to. The extreme level of societal violence is a major reason so many are fleeing Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to here.
This works very well for the GI. With so many guns heading south it increases sales in the US to supply the illicit trade. All the ensuing immigrants, most escaping the dysfunctional societies the gun trade contributes to, some arriving with ill intent having been gang trained with the guns we send them, increase many American’s fear of the other, resulting in more gun sales. The large scale immigration also fuels the right wing politics that promote gun possession. It’s yet another sweet financial feedback deal for a delighted GI.
Yet More Guns and More Death
The SCOTUS packed with theoconservatives is broadly expanding the facility of people to carry firearms in public cross the nation, in turn severely limiting the ability of the government to well regulate gun deployment in order to minimize the resulting carnage. So far the left and minorities have not gunned up as much as the White right in the hope that gun restrictions like those in the rest of the modern world would take care of the lots of guns kill lots of people problem. Meanwhile White conservatives, many of them racists, have been proudly toting their beloved semis to demonstrations, sometimes occupying state capitals while the largely white police stand by. Heavily armed Whites have been confronting minority and leftist protestors, leaving the latter feeling intimidated. But how long will that disparity last? Now that White conservatives know they can shoot and kill protesters they disagree with on the street and get a free pass if they claim self-defense – both when police tend to not immediately arrest white shooters and they are later judged not guilty at trial — there is growing talk in an increasingly outraged and fed up left that they will have to resort to using armed guards and protestors to protect their side while maintaining their rights to protest under the 1st Amendment. And rising crime is encouraging minorities to get their guns.
With both sides armed to the teeth it is tempting to say it will be the wild west all over again. But frontier towns tended to have strict gun regulations — events near the OK Corral were sparked when lawmen tried to disarm outlaws. The town of Deadwood was so violent because it was illegally in Indian territory and there was no law.
Gunned up Deadwood, not firearms regulated Tombstone, is the modern national model for the GI.
Death, Death and More Death by the Gun, It’s What the Gun Industry Runs On, So How Do They Get Away with It?
Far from offering a workable solution to the American homicide nightmare, no other business is as dependent on premature death of adults, teens, and little kids. Tobacco, alcohol and prescription opioid interests produce products that kill a lot of people (including children in car drunken accidents). But that is a nasty side effect that does them no financial good – liquidating chunks of your consumer base is a bad business model if it is not vital to keeping up sales in the first place. For the addictive products it only makes it worse that the premature deaths scare off a lot of potential customers from even trying their offerings, or being sure to be moderate in their use (while the alcohol industry pretends to be very concerned that consumers drink responsibly, half their sales go down the throats of over drinkers [https://www.newsweek.com/americas-heaviest-drinkers-consume-almost-60-all-alcohol-sold-1520284] – so if all drinkers actually did so moderately then the alcohol business would contract by half, the booze producers and sellers have a situation that parallels that of gun manufacturers). But gun sales are unique in that they can only be sustained at high levels by the fear factor generated by the high rates of chronic death caused by those devices.
The last thing the firearms people want is for the populace to realize how deeply dependent their business is on high rates of murder. If that ugly immoral truth finally comes out and becomes widespread knowledge, it has the potential to finally outrage enough voters to institute the heavy duty gun regulations that keep murder in check in the rest of the west. Just as bad is if the populace decides to allow large scale suites against the industry for being reckless and actually dependent upon a massive death toll to avoid financial collapse.
That the homicide produces profits connection is rarely explicitly made is a national scandal. And national obtuseness the correlation being so screamingly obvious as it is dreadfully immoral and unethical as well as reckless. But how have they pulled it off? The firearms business is by far and away more responsible than anything else for making the USA the murder capital of the developed world while making major profits off it. Yet hardly any even their opponents go directly after the gun companies. That is because the private weapons industry has been amazingly successful in diverting attention away from they, the actual producers and sellers.
The Brilliant Diversion – the National Rifle Association We All Know and Love
Perhaps you have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the NRA. I have referred to the gun industry, or gun business, and the like. That is because not only is the NRA not the actual problem, but the lobbying group has served as the industries deceptive dazzling diversion from the actual source and creator of the actual crisis our nation finds itself in, the people who actually make and sell rapid fire guns.
It is a strategy that has been marvelously successful. All that folks chat about, even the gun safety advocates who should know better, is the damn NRA this and the damn NRA that. With particular focus on its leader Wayne LaPierre, back in the day Charlton Heston, and currently the financial scandals afflicting the organization that has served its purpose spectacularly well to the point of packing SCOTUS with their people.
What you hardly hear about is what should be the main focus, the Browning, Colt, Springfield, Savage, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Kimber America, Ruger et al. that actually produce the deadly devices, and those who sell them. Can you name the head of any of those companies, most of which are not public investor entities? Of course not, because they use the NRA as their diversion away from themselves. It is similar to how folks rant against the prime time personalities on FoxNews, and used to about Roger Ailes, when it is Rubert Murdoch that owns and runs the entire show that among other items promotes gun rights. Rupert is laughing all the way to the bank. So are the folks running the gun industrial complex.
The let-em-point-to-the-NRA-not-us-gun-makers-and-marketeers-who-are-actually-providing-the-critical-tools-needed-to-generate-the-horrendous-murder-toll-that-is-necessary-for-us-to-make-sales-targets has been fabulously successful. So much so that the very gun concerns that have over armed our population that is slaughtering one another kids included, is not being regularly laughed at and condemned for saying – with a tone of being Ted Cruzian shocked, shocked that any would think otherwise – things along the lines that of course the way to solve the school shooting problem is by having school security and teachers purchase yet more revenue generating product from the industry that already made money as it created the damn problem. Over the decades the firearms business has cobbled together a very shrewd cash generating scheme that has all too well, and all too easily. To the extent that the industry that garners tens of billions in cash flow cannot be sued for the deadly results of their recklessly selling hundreds of millions of personal weapons of mass destruction to a nation that is a chronic hell of constant mourning and kids who are afraid to attend school and churchgoers are at risk.
Back in the day the tobacco producers and sellers enjoyed a good deal of success in diverting attention via the Tobacco Institute that promoted the notion that the industry products were not as bad as claimed. But even so, the tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, R. J Reynolds, Ligget and Brown and Williamson were household names that were regularly condemned for growing and selling a toxic product. Culminating in a notorious testimony in front of Congress in 1994 when company heads obviously lied through their teeth that they did not think their product was addictive while under oath. A reason the companies were well known was because they advertised their brands bigtime in mainstream venues including television and major magazines, so they were not able to better hide themselves behind a diversionary lobbying screen. That the gun companies have not been advertising in mainstream venues for a number of practical reasons has helped them go under the radar of societal awareness to their tremendous benefit. (The attempt by Daniel Defense to raise the public profile of the industry by placing a hardball gun ad during the 2014 Super Bowl was correspondingly not the best idea).
There is the claim that the gun industry did not control the NRA, that it was the public relations craving NRA that effectively controlled the and radicalized the industry. What the exact synergy between the two was is not critical. It is the homicide rate that has done far more than the NRA could to get Americans to gun up, and it is the firearms trade that has benefited the most from the disaster of death, with the GI and the NRA doing all they can to keep that under wraps.
It’s the Gun INDUSTRY Stupid
Stop going on and on about the NRA which is to a fair extent passé anyway, with new information showing that Wayne LaPierre is rather a wimp who can barely shoot a gun straight (https://reason.com/2022/03/27/less-a-powerhouse-than-a-parasite) while he has lived high on the hog of membership dues and contributions by the gun interests that have made a superbly effective investment in the diversionary bobble that is the NRA.
That the mainstream media, center-left politicians, and even gun safety advocates have for decades obsessed over the spectacle that is the NRA while pretty much ignoring the gun companies as it with little attention manufactured and distributed vast numbers of guns is a major failing. One due to a startling degree of unprofessional gullibility mixed with the wild and wacky stuff going on at the entertaining NRA being a way better story than taking an in-depth look at what a set of dour firearms CEOs are up to. This mishandling of where the real story needs to stop.
Focus like a laser on those who profit from making firearms, and/or sell them. It is time to put the persons who run and profit from Murder American Style on the spot for selling a product so toxic that the industry cannot thrive without epidemic homicide. The news media needs to start to approach the head of the gun companies and press them on the issue. If they refuse to reply tell the nation that they are dodging legitimate questions as their products make it easy to kill tens of thousands each year. If they agree to interviews ask them up front if it is not true that if murder, the great majority of via the gun, becomes uncommon their companies will be going to way of Remington, and that therefore far from a gunned up populace being the cure for homicide, the survival of the industry depends upon mass premature death. Make them squirm
But don’t necessarily stick to the gun industry elites. Ask the owners of the mom and pop gun stores what would happen to them if murder were rare like it is in the rest of the west. They’re a big part of the problem too.
To better get why holding the gun trade to account over the public relations bobble that is the NRA is important, consider what would happen if Wayne LaPierre were asked if gun sales are dependent on the rate of murder. He would be able to dodge the point by stating that the NRA represents gun owners, not gun producers and distributers, so he does not have the information to answer the question. Those running the companies cannot utilize that mode of evasion.
As for the political, the number of people killed by firearms per annum is probably similar to those who are dying from inappropriate use of prescription opioids, which has long been a matter of public outrage and Congressional action involving hearings in which the commercial entities who are alleged to have knowingly profited from the calamity are dragged in to appear at hearings. So bring those who own and run the firearms trade to Congress and ask them is it not true that if murder implodes so will their companies?
Turning to advocacy groups get your strategy in gear and make how the gun people profit on murder a lead talking point of the debate. I know you are not doing so on a regular basis because I keep up on your material. Enough with the NRA, go after the industry,
Will it Work?
No doubt many of you have been thinking well Mr. Paul even if what you say is correct about how the only way to drive down murder rates to the level seen in Canada or lower requires trashing three quarters or more of the guns out there, that such is just not going to happen for a whole lot of reasons. So what do I have to say to that?
It may well be true that a big chunk of Americana is so hooked on guns that the nation will not be able dramatically reduce the number of semiautos by the needed amount. If that is true then the country is condemned to continue to suffer from atypically elevated rates of homicide for decades to come.
Isn’t America a great nation, or what?
That said there is some hope. If the rise in the middle and upper middle class shootings where White parents are increasingly afraid to send their children to fortress schools where the students are chronically scared, can be combined with the center-left getting its act media-political-act together and exposing the more murder produces more profits correlation then it may just be possible to tip the balance against the American right and its love for the gun. Maybe.
It is even possible that some of those involved in making guns and selling them may not realize how dependent their financial success rests upon murder being common. And upon realizing that some could decide to get out of the business and promote tighter gun regulations. There have been some in the tobacco and opioid industries who got disgusted with what was happening, got out and went public and some case activist about it. Ryan Busse has gone from being an industry insider to a gun limitations activist.
Most of the gun companies are privately owned and not subject to shareholder objections to what they are up to. Sturm Ruger is an exception and shareholders have voted to force the company to study the lethality of its product and issue a human rights report on the issue (https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/investors-call-human-rights-report-gunmaker-sturm-ruger-2022-06-01). Smith and Wesson and Winchester may be subject to such shareholder efforts.
A major goal of those who wish to make murder American Style as uncommon as it is in most countries needs to be to make the GI as vulnerable to large scale lawsuits has have been the tobacco and opioid industries. That could bankrupt the manufacturers and sellers and permanently preclude large scale gun sales. At the same time require that those who own guns have to be insured the same way as those who own cars. Also good would be very large federal taxes on semiauto pistols and rifles to help make them too expensive for most to purchase legally or illegally. Even better would be bans on at least sale of such. As functioning guns become scarcer homicides should fall, further decreasing demand for the killing machines until we are a normal, more pacific democracy.
No point in not trying.
A big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far pushing the Big Gun Lie with shockingly deadly success is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty of all citizens it is. Young adults who are prone to be progressive are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans bent on keeping the GI financially fat and happy and to hell with the sky high murder rate while establishing a Christian Dominion Republic. One thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
If you think we really should and need to do something about the country being awash with heaters, then realize that protests as exciting as they may be and lobbying only do so much. Most critical is for the solid majority who more firearms restrictions to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who adore and live by the gun.
Do that and maybe we can crash the gun business into mass bankruptcy. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Compare Gun Possession Rates to Total Homicide Rates
It’s common for opponents of the bloated firearms industry to casually compare levels of gun possession to gun murders. Mistake. That allows the gun rights crowd to claim that if people cannot get guns to fulfill their murderous ways they will use other means, and being killed by knife of poison or strangling is no better than by gun. The way to abort that argument is to compare all murders regardless of mode. That shows that the vast majority of homicides in the USA are by the bullet, and that the latter are entirely responsible for the extraordinary level of deliberate killings compared to other peer nations.
Are You Kidding?
About comparing American murder to peer countries, those who favor whether they know it or not keeping the GI in the big money are prone to instead compare our level of homicide to “civilized players like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Jamaica” (https://www.newsweek.com/were-not-outlier-targeted-solutions-will-make-america-safer-gun-control-opinion-1711251). Really? Seriously? You progun folks think that we should aspire the match the death rates of 2nd world societies that citizens are fleeing from? Gosh, silly me, I thought it would be a vastly better idea to try to achieve the marvelously low levels of murder seen in the rest of the advanced democracies. But what do I know?
That gun believers are pushing that line is a sterling example of how they are striving to define that nation downwards by normalizing the slaughter. I would be ashamed to sink to such a level.
Suicide by Gun
I do not discuss suicide via firearms — which kills somewhat more persons than are murdered by the same – in the main text because lots of self-killings by bullet does not significantly boost sales of the weapons. Some may instead be deterred from acquiring guns because the risk of suicide is one of the reasons forearms are more likely – along with accidents, guns being used by angry relations, guns grabbed and used against the owner, etc. – to harm an owner than protect them (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0373-z).
Not long ago the USA was typical among developed nations in suicides, now it is the worst off exceeding even Japan that used to be the most suicidal. Both because self-death rates are rising in America, and because they are lessening in some other nations. Because half of US suicides are by firearms, which are much more efficient in resulting in death than other commonly used means, it can be concluded that guns are the primary cause of the increase. Bringing suicides in the USA down to first world norms will almost certainly require sharply reducing the number of households that contain firearms.
Mass Murder Via Bump Stock
The Las Vegas shooter used bump stocks attached to about a dozen AR-15s to main and slaughter a large portion of an outdoor crowd. This led to questions of why bump stocks, which convert a semi-automatic rifle into an even faster firing automatic, were legal up to then. One reason has to do with recoil. Firing a gun full auto is not easy, the constant recoil makes it hard to stay on target. Adding a BS to the back end of the original stock of the gun degrades the proper balance designed into the weapon, so it is harder to aim an automatically firing AR-15 with a BS compared to the military version, the M-16 (which was designed to minimize the recoil problem, each round only being a little over 0.22” in diameter).
The other reason is heat. Civilian semi-autos AR-15s are cheap and mass saleable because the firing chamber is designed to cope with the blast and heat of a round detonating only as fast as the trigger can be humanly pulled. If the rate of fire is boosted by a factor of four or more to full automatic with a BS then the speed at which bullets are going off is so high that the chamber gets hotter than it is designed to handle and the gun will fail when auto fire continues beyond a magazine load or two. M-16s have higher quality firing chambers crafted to better resist the heat of full auto, and are more expensive to produce.
The Las Vegas shooter knew the above. So he did not use just one or two AR-15s with a BS and load it with a series of magazines because he understood the gun would quickly be ruined and jam. Therefore, he had a number of AR-15s each fitted with a BS ready to go, used one until the magazine was empty, dropped that rifle, and went to the next.
I just wanted to conclude this small series of posts that began with movedness/presencing and provide a little ancient philosophical context.
“Being” for the Greeks basically means “presence,” and so Plato says with the beautiful thing beauty is “present.” Similarly, with the piece of chalk materiality is co-present. Before I said presence means presencing, and so Aristotle makes the point that with the beautiful mansion beauty is presencing through it, it is Beauty incarnate, the universal presences through the particular. Heidegger, commenting on Aristotle’s Physics 193 a 31-b3, says
Aristotle begins the demonstration in a wholly extrinsic way with a reference to a way of speaking, one that in fact we still use. For example, we may say of a painting by Van Gogh, “This is art,” or, when we see a bird of prey circling above the forest, “That is nature.” In such “language use” we take a being that, properly considered, is something by virtue of and on the basis of art, and we call this very thing itself “art.” For after all, the painting is not art but a work of art, and the bird of prey is not nature but a natural being. Yet this manner of speaking manifests something essential. When do we say so emphatically, “This is art”? Not just when some piece of canvas hangs there smeared with dabs of color, not even when we have just any old “painting” there in front of us, but only when a being that we encounter steps forth preeminently into the appearance of a work of art, only when a being is insofar as it places itself into such an appearance. And the same holds when we say, “That is nature.” (Heidegger, 277).
So with the mansion being is experienced in terms of movement, presencing beautifully for one person, gawdy for the next, and mere presencing for the average house (houseness is merely present in the average house)..
Being allows beings to step forth as what they are, and so already having seen “quality” allows the being to step forward in its yellowness. Similarly, the prior to production idea of “table” in the craftsman’s mind is what allows the final produced table to stand forth
Similarly, in order to be able to intelligibly encounter this being as the being it is, it must already be “recognized” generally and in advance as a being, i.e., with respect to the constitution of its Being. Plato gives the example in the Sophist that the dog is not just a “this here,” but is already being made intelligible by an understanding of Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself. I encounter the dog as a “not me,” for example. To be particular is clearly a universal characteristic of things Also, we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc.
Aristotle said the being-true of beings, the true beings (in the sense of “true-friend”), were of course the most proper beings (the on alethes are the kuriotata on). We don’t usually intuit “houseness,” but rather understand it. Similarly, when I go to the grocery store, I have grapeness invisibly before my mind’s eye, which is the basis of successfully completing the shopping trip. What we have perceived is the range of possible appearing as such, or, more precisely, we have perceived that which cultivates this range, that which regulates [rules and regulations] and marks out how something in general must appear in order to be able, as a house, to offer the appropriate look.
The universal is what allows the particular to stand forth as what it is, so we never simply sense the individual “something” (a sound), but “something as some” (the sound as violin music). Similarly, experience is a “taking-as,” in the sense we hear a living thing at our feet in the forest, only to look down and see dead leaves rustling in the wind. This mis-taking shows regular experience is “taking-as,” “something as something,” of that which is presenting itself:
We are able to address a present thing as a house or a tree only insofar as we have already beforehand, and without words, addressed what we encounter i.e., have brought it into our open field of “vision” as something standing-on-its-own, a thing. Likewise, we can address a garment as “red” only if from the outset and without words it has already been addressed in terms of something like quality. Standing-on-its-own (“substance”) and quality (“of-what-sort-ness”) and the like constitute the being (beingness) of beings. (Heidegger, 252)
ON THE ESSENCE AND CONCEPT OF Physis IN ARISTOTLE’S PHYSICS B, 1English translation by Thomas Sheehan Published in Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998pp. 183-230.
“Homer talks about the gods not appearing to everyone in their fullness (enargeis), with the example of Odysseus experiencing the full radiance of the goddess presencing through a woman, while the next person wasn’t experiencing her that way. Or, of a beautiful mansion we say “Now that’s a house!” though the next person may experience it to be presencing in a gawdy manner: The universal appears or manifests through the individual/particular.”
This has interesting philosophical implications for the foundations of religious life, specifically the experience of the holy (sometimes called the numinous). If, for instance, you feel the presence of God while listening to some gospel music, there is no reason to think this really is contact with God, but rather just the mind acting on itself, because if the same gospel song is played 30 times in a row, it goes from presencing as holy to presencing as irritating. So, it is something our mind is doing to itself, analogous to us experiencing boringness as a trait of the book, though we know the next person need not experience this stretching out of time in relation to the book at all. Nietzsche called this the death of God, the destroying of the bridge between God and humans. We may be experiencing God, but there is no reason to think so. Analogously, you can suppose LSD give you access to another reality, but the more likely explanation is the mind is playing tricks.
As Nietzsche pointed out, beings lose their luster simply as a functions of our spending time with them, like a worn out recording of a favorite song. We experience time as eternal return of the same, experiencing beings as though we’ve experienced them countless times before. Some examples are from (1) Ecclesiastes, (2) Seneca, and (3)Schopenhauer:
(1) “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes)
(2) “26. Some people suffer from a surfeit of doing and seeing the same things. Theirs is not contempt for life but boredom with it, a feeling we sink into when influenced by the sort of philosophy which makes us say, ‘How long the same old things? I shall wake up and go to sleep, I shall eat and be hungry, I shall be cold and hot. There’s no end to anything, but all things are in a fixed cycle, fleeing and pursuing each other. Night follows day and day night; summer passes into autumn, hard on autumn follows winter, and that in turn is checked by spring. All things pass on only to return. Nothing I do or see is new: sometimes one gets sick even of this.’ There are many who think that life is not harsh but superfluous. (Seneca ep. mor. 24. 26).”
(3) “He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once; and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive,their effect is gone.” (Schopenhauer, “Essays on Pessimism”)
For more posts on this see my 2 blog posts from my previous blog here:
ALSO, see the other posts in this series on this blog here:
Edward Babinski has also spoke to the phenomena of beings losing their luster through spending time with them, although I don’t know if he formulates the problem in terms of a Nietzschean repetitious experience of time as eternal return.