Friday, June 17, 2016

A Tobacco-Based Second Amendment

It is extremely rare to hear someone refer to the entire text of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Instead, so entire sentence doesn't have to be quoted, people more typically say "Second Amendment" when claiming a right exists to unrestricted gun ownership.

The Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Quoting the entire sentence is a problem for pro-gun advocates because it includes the context of a "well regulated militia" as the reason for the "keep and bear arms" part at the end. This context should be the basis for talking about this amendment because it contains the logic for the amendment itself: we need X, so let's allow Y. If the reasoning for the end of the sentence wasn't necessary, it wouldn't be included for us. So, we should look at the reasoning, which can be seen more clearly by doing a thought exercise with the amendment's framework to see what holds up.

For centuries leading up to the American Revolution, tobacco was used as currency in some of the colonies. Tobacco was, for a time, essential to the operation of the economy in these areas. Imagine for a moment that the Revolutionary War started a few decades earlier than it did, a time when tobacco was still being used as a currency. If that had happened, it's entirely possible that a version of what we now know as the Second Amendment would have been written to protect tobacco:

Currency being necessary to the economy of a free State, the right of the People to grow, cultivate, and sell tobacco shall not be infringed.

After tobacco was replaced with a different form of currency, would it be proper to still let people grow tobacco without restriction if it was decided otherwise by lawmakers? Of course not. What about after it was scientifically shown that tobacco use kills millions of people every year? Would we still insist that we can't regulate tobacco based on an ancient law from a time when tobacco was used as money? Some would, of course, as pro-gun forces do today with the Second Amendment. But it would be an untenable argument—just as untenable as a pro-tobacco argument would be based on a similar contortion of logic.

The Second Amendment includes within it the reason it exists, meaning it should self-destruct if that reason disappears, something that has certainly happened. We don't need citizens for a bring-your-own-gun militia system because the military, the FBI, and many other agencies are in place to do that now. To insist an ancient document written when a gun was lucky to be shot once per minute on a good day should apply to guns that can now be used to kill dozens of people per minute, and by people who have nothing to do with a defunct militia system or any other "well regulated" agency.

We can be better than this if we want to. We just have to want to. And logic supports wanting to.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Discoverer Of Facts Can't Make Them Disappear

A recent article in the New Yorker—"The Fantasy of the Deathbed Conversion"—refuting the bogus claim that Christopher Hitchens was giving up atheism for Christianity just before he died reminded me of something I want to share.

One of the many things I find faulty about human thought and behavior has to do with giving power to dead people, as I have written on this blog before. Related to this problem is the proclivity by some to give the power to invalidate a scientific discovery to the person(s) given credit for its initial discovery while they are still alive. Perhaps one of the most famous of these assertions is the Christian claim mentioned in the New Yorker article that Charles Darwin refuted evolution before he died. Leaving aside the fact this didn't actually happen, even if he had done so it would carry no weight because evolution is a scientific fact that has no connection to any person's assertion about it one way or the other, including any originator of any discovery.

To accept this type of flawed thinking, every discovery would have to be abandoned at any point during the life of the discoverer(s) if the directive was given by that person(s) to do so. Evidence wouldn't matter, a state that would be about as far away from the scientific model as possible.

No person has the power to simply speak and invalidate facts, no matter who that person happens to be. Discoveries are independent from their discoverers—and from everyone else, for that matter.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rich And Poor Include Paths To Unethical Behavior

When it comes to people acting unethically, I think the poor and the rich have something in common. People with no money often have to act unethically because their livelihoods are constantly under threat, so they are susceptible to being forced to act as they wouldn't otherwise. Those with a lot if money have a much lower change of facing consequences if they act badly, so they have little motivation to act responsibly.

So I think being dirt poor or filthy rich include traits that steer us toward bad behavior. Unless we reduce the numbers of both, we will always be faced with a constant stream of unethical behavior.