Skip to content

Category: Culture

The best that has been thought and written and why these ideals are difficult to meet.

March 15, 2010 | 21 Comments

Six-year-old Boy Holds Class Hostage, Uses Finger For Gun

The scene was tense Wednesday, 3 March, when Mason Jammer, a student at Jefferson Elementary in Ionia, Michigan held his kindergarten class hostage by fashioning his finger into the shape of a gun. Ionia is far distant suburb east of the thriving metropolis of Grand Rapids.

During the siege, panicked teachers gathered outside the classroom expressed concerns that the finger might go off. “This just wasn’t funny,” said the Jefferson principal. “[This] made other students uncomfortable.”

Dangerous child with Finger gun

Jammer strutted around the room with his right forefinger held straight out. His right thumb was held erect, though it occasionally sagged when Jammer’s attention was diverted by Sally Kipper, 6, trying to climb into the fish tank.

The situation was diffused by the classroom teacher, who talked Jammer down from his frenzy. “I offered him chocolate milk,” said the 54 year-old homeroom teacher. “He dropped the gun, and immediately the door burst open. I think it was at that point that I fainted.”

Coming through the door was the principal and the janitor, who had armed himself with the broken handle of a shovel. He held it pointy side forward, but did not have to use it because little Mason offered no resistance as he was taken into custody.

This wasn’t the first time Jammer has seen trouble with the law. At one January recess, he was seen making the gun sign and was heard to make the “Pshew!” sound at some birds passing overhead. Witnesses report Jammer’s thumb cocking back and forth.

Luckily, no birds were harmed, but Jammer was still given a warming.

A file on Jammer was also opened with the Michigan Department of National Resources. Jammer did not have a valid hunting license on him when he attempted to shoot the birds.

The officials at Jefferson decided not to take any more chances. They are quoted as having said that they “had been too lenient” with Jammer in the past. Jammer was suspended for two days for the latest incident. He may also undergo counseling so that he understands just what are and what are not valid targets.

The Grand Rapids Press has more details of this harrowing tale.

The frequency of these attacks has risen dramatically over the past two years. Some educators are speculating that a wave of violence is about to overtake Elementary schools if something isn’t done immediately.

For example, last November, Zachery DeRidder, 6, in Ville Platte, Louisiana was heard to make the “Dut dut dut dut dut” sound commonly associated with automatic assault weapons. No witness could identify DeRidder simultaneously making the shape of a machine gun with his two arms, so the matter never found its way into the courts. A union representing teachers did use this incident to demand higher wages, however.

In that same month, Jessica Hanford, 5, in Bakersfield, California allegedly repeatedly threw a kickball against the wall of Lincoln Elementary. As the ball hit, Hanford made the “Brak-sssh!” sound while throwing her arms into the air.

Dr Wilmer Frankford, a Harvard-trained psychologist said this clearly indicated violent intent. Hanford has been under observation since the incident, and will remain so until her trials begins, most likely sometime in June.

Educators have been vigilant in the policing of their classrooms, but there are costs for this increased surveillance. In February of this year, Jason Marshfield, 6, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin was tackled by the school’s gym teacher after what officials called “Unusual explosive sounds” were heard emanating from the boys lavatory.

It was later discovered that Marshfield was teaching his “best friend” Kyle Mellen, 6, “how to make fart sounds with his underarm.”

The FBI also maintains a growing file of papers confiscated from schools all over the country. On these papers—all produced by the hands of children—are a variety of war-like images.

Everything from Sopwith Camels to F-15s to UFOs are drawn shooting down other planes, attacking tanks, or dropping bombs on the heads of the unsuspecting innocents. Many of the images have sound effects written in.

Agent Fred Bellaire, of New York, said, “I mean, whoever heard of an F-15 dropping bombs? It’s a fighter and can’t carry bombs. Something suspicious is going on with these kids. But I want to assure you that the FBI is right on it.”

The principal of Jefferson Elementary best summed up the situation when he said, “If we don’t teach these kids early that guns are wrong, then they might grow up believing otherwise.”

March 10, 2010 | 17 Comments

Use of Deadly Force Authorized Against Renegade Sea Lions

The deadliest force known to man—The Law of Unintended Consequences—has struck again. This time it has led to the deliberate slaughter of sea lions by armed agents of the U.S. Government.

What happened was this: A dam was built in Bonneville, east of Portland, Oregon. As dams will, it created a barrier for both water and anything else that would otherwise traverse the river. This “anything else” included fish, like salmon. And not just any salmon, chinook salmon.

Whiskers Malone

See, chinook salmon are one of the lucky few species protected by a law meant to preserve their breed: The Endangered Species Act. Somebody notices an animal, preferably photogenic, is low in number. If a bureaucracy in Washington D.C. agrees, through a mysterious process, that more of that animal is better than few, then the animal is placed on a list.

Once ensconced, all Heaven and Earth will be moved in an effort to keep that species a going concern. In this case, I mean that literally: the Earth was moved for the chinook. The Bonneville dam was shifted and modified to includ a “ladder”, a sort of stepped, inverse water slide, which the chinook (or other fish) could use to cross the dam.

But just like the water slide at your amusement park, the Bonneville Ladder created long lines of salmon waiting to take their turn.

Which wouldn’t be that bad—salmon do not have busy schedules—except the lingering fish attracted the attention of some sea lions, who, as do humans, find salmon a tasty treat. The feast began.

Now, salmon are stubborn, inflexible creatures. Any other species would see that gathering together in a shallow pool where the only line of escape is a single-file passage is not a brilliant move. They would move on. But the salmon stay; they come back year after year, and a lot of them find themselves in the bellies of sea lions.

Sea lions, however, are smart: they remember where and when the salmon will show. So they show, too. This is to the sea lions’ benefit, obviously. If they don’t have to worry about dinner, then they can concentrate on more important matters, like breeding. Their numbers are increasing.

But the sea lions, our government has decided, are breaking the law! Killing and eating chinook salmon, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act, is equivalent to murder, which is everywhere a crime (except under communism).

Many sea lions have been arrested! According to a San Jose Mercury News report, once the perpetrators are nabbed, they are held for 48 hours.

After they are processed, some of these sea lions are carted off to jail—in the form of aquariums, zoos or “similar” facilities. These sea lions are never heard from again. Some are let go with a warning.

But the killing spree has gotten so bloody—officers estimate 4,489 salmon were killed and eaten last year—that a most wanted list of the worst of the offenders has been created. These hardened, “repeat offenders” are “identified by scars” or by tattoos that they had carved into them when they were last in prison (“numbers that were branded on them by researchers”—a.k.a. marine criminologists).

SWAT teams have been dispatched to where renegade gangs of sea lions gather. These cops use standard riot control methods to disperse the population, such as “dropping bombs that explode under water, and firing rubber bullets and beanbags”.

This is sometimes not enough. Sometimes these confrontations devolve into pitched gun battles between the police and the recalcitrant sea lions. The fights never last long, mostly because the sea lions have not yet learned how to fire back.

These melees have taken their toll. Last year, 11 sea lions were shot and killed when they refused to stop eating salmon. So far this year, there has only been one deadly confrontation, when the sea lion “Whiskers Malone” was shot multiple times after showing his hind flipper to police.

Since spring has just sprung, more salmon will soon be gathering. And that means more arrests and probably more shootings. Police are advising that civilians give the dam a wide birth. This warning does not apply to certain tribal agencies, who will still be allowed to set up gill nets (to catch and eat salmon).

Now for the The Law of Unintended Consequences. Just like salmon, sea lions come in different models. Two of which are California sea lions and Stellar sea lions. California sea lions are a dime a dozen, but the Stellar sea lions, just like the chinook salmon, are blessed with the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and they are just as hungry as their cousins.

What to do? One Endangered Species is eating another Endangered Species. You can’t shoot the sea lions, and you also can’t not let them eat the salmon, but then you can’t let the salmon be eaten.

What a predicament!

March 8, 2010 | 39 Comments

England Invents New Kind of Inequality

A female named Harriet Harman at England’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission has discovered a new method of producing inequality under the law.

She has codified this method—England’s version of a legal patent—in a Parliamentary procedure called an “Equality Bill.” England, like many European countries, has proudly led the way in producing unequal treatment under the law for its citizens in the name of “Equality.”

The law mandates that organizations consider the “impact” of their policies on “minority” groups. This method of inequality was, of course, already well known. Harman’s genius was to insist that any group which holds distinct beliefs can form their own minority. To quote: “A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.”

Harman gave “vegans” as an example of a new minority. A “vegan”, she said, is a person who “eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare.”

Lest you feel this is arbitrary, the Daily Mail reports that “[a] spokesman from the commission explained: ‘This is about someone for whom being vegan or vegetarian is central to who they are. This is not something ‘thought up by the commission’.”

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that no human can be a complete vegan in practice. It is impossible for a human to eat without both directly and indirectly killing animals. Many small animals—insects, worms, mice, and so forth—are killed both in the planting and harvesting of the vegetables vegans eat. The fields also provide a food source for many animals, and they in turn provide a food source for various predators. Thus, the very act of planting a crop causes the death of many animals.

In any case, the classification of minorities covers “any religious belief or philosophical belief” or and even “a lack of belief.”

Among the many anticipated successes of this new law will be the banning of dress codes (which might discriminate against transsexuals) and the outlawing of “ladies’ nights” at pubs.

That’s the news, now the analysis.

A minority group is defined as a set of humans who share a belief that is “central to who they are.”

Now, a set—in mathematics, anyway—can include just one, or even no, members. In the name of “equality”, then, England must admit that any belief, even if it is held by just one person, as long as that belief is “central to who they are.”

Technically, this must also be true for a belief that is (currently) held by nobody. I won’t insist on this definition, but examples of easily frightened bureaucrats anticipating protected beliefs are too easily brought to mind.

The law will require that organizations consider how their policies might adversely “harm” minorities. The law doesn’t say “harm”, but that, of course, is what it will amount to in practice. No minority sues for redress against advantages.

Inequality before the law arises because it is the minorities that get to define the “harm” they are caused. It is they who get to decide what actions are considered negative and discriminatory. This follows logically. It cannot be, for instance, the bureaucrat who codifies what counts as harm (for minorities consisting of at least one member), because it is the minorities who define themselves.

Thus, to be consistent, England must allow any individual to claim minority status. She must also allow each individual to define what he considers harmful behavior directed toward himself. And England must write regulations to disallow that harm, whatever it might be. Thus, it must guarantee unequal treatment under the law.

This is obviously insane.

There must have been some lone soul at the Equality Commission who realized this, because he put out that “scientific or political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism would not be covered.”

“Whew!” thought opponents, “At least we won’t have renegade bands of Hitlarians or other militant socialists running around. They’ll be disallowed to claim minority status.”

Maybe so. But if that’s true, the Commission is saying that it knows certain beliefs are verboten, which is equivalent to saying it knows which beliefs should be encouraged. That is, the Commission is saying it has a complete moral code, and that its moral code trumps any other, including those codes that are completely independent of government, such as religious codes.

This is a point of elementary logic. If the Commission can create a minority, it is they who are making the moral judgment of what is good and what bad. Either they must let every behavior claim equal status. Or they must discriminate.

Thus, the Orwell-named Equality Commission guarantees inequality. Since equality is nowhere to be desired, this is fine. But the evidence is that the Commission will discriminate against anything that is traditional in favor of whatever is not. And that is silly.

March 7, 2010 | 50 Comments

Do only the less intelligent write papers about theists being less intelligent?

There are some new statistical papers floating around that conclude that the more intelligent among us tend to be atheists.

An equivalent, but more enjoyable, way of stating this is that dumber people tend to be theists. It must be fun for degree-holding atheist journalists to report these matters, since it flatters their degree-bred sense of superiority.

Which doesn’t follow. That “superiority”, I mean. It would if it were true that atheism is morally superior to theism. But morality is logically independent of intelligence (empirically, the evidence goes both ways; and since 1789, intellectuals have little to boast of, morally).

Point is, any study, or any reporting on such a study, that seeks to correlate intelligence and theism should remain mute on the subject of morality. But that’s not the case in the reporting and comments on our two articles (here and here)

The first study was authored by Satoshi Kanazawa, an “evolutionary psychologist.” Evolutionary psychologist spend a lot of telling us what we already knew (women hate philandering mates) or by telling us things that are false or misleading. Such as this statement by James Bailey, who said, “The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas [like atheism] makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward.”

Bailey also says that it’s the more intelligent that usher in novel ideas. This is unhelpful because, while it is true that every advance by definition requires a “novel idea”, every setback does, too. And since setbacks are more common than advances (is atheism a setback?), are intellectuals, on average, an evolutionary disadvantage? Maybe: see below.

Anyway, Kanazawa thinks atheism is a novel idea, and says that higher IQ people tend to support it. But Kanazawa’s study employs poor statistical methods. Here’s the problem.

Many do not come to atheism by reasoned thought about the existence or not of God. Most people do not engage theologians about, say, the strengths and weaknesses of the ontological argument.

As acknowledged in our second study by professor David Voas, they come to it through culture,. Fresh college students meet not-so-fresh students and stale professors who share a common belief that theism is stupid, and that belief comes from the blind following of tradition. Most new students, as is human nature, adopt this belief of their associates and superiors. To say it another way, they begin to blindly follow a different tradition.

But, since it is higher IQ kids who attend college and who are exposed to the culture of atheism, it makes it more likely that students, rather than non-students, who will become atheists. Atheism and IQ will show a positive correlation, but what is missing is the causation. There will also be a correlation between “degree of liberalism” and IQ, which Kanazawa also tracked, and for the same reason.

If you object to that, it is probably because you have forgotten that for most of history people with high IQs were theists, and that it was those with the highest IQs who contributed the most to theology. Arguments for or against the existence of God have not changed much through time, but culture has. It is thus more plausible that culture and not intellect is what drives belief.

Kanazawa is not silent on causation. He says that theism causes “paranoia.” He strung these English words together, “It helps life to be paranoid, and because humans are paranoid, they become more religious, and they see the hands of God everywhere.” Each of those words is English, but their ordering is gibberish.

Is he implying that theists are mentally ill and atheists not? Kanazawa would not be the first to argue that theists are insane, but he may be the first who attached a p-value to that belief. Or is he merely saying that humans are cautious because the future is uncertain? No, because he can’t resist the disparaging, and false, remark that theists “see the hands of God everywhere.”

Bailey takes a subtler view. He claims that, regardless whether a novel idea is good or bad, holders of novel beliefs, who tend to be smarter, attract more mates. His argument is thus a version of the theory that some women like bad boys. There is no proof of his theory, of course, and it is difficult to test because it is difficult to quantitatively define “novelty.” For one, ideas do not have to be liberal to be novel, even if the predominant culture is conservative.

Even Kanazawa himself is aware that his own argument is on thin ice. For example, he acknowledges that nowadays “[m]ore intelligent people don’t have more children.” This is true.

So I wonder: does he realize that this empirical truth negates everything else in his study?