Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughts on Suicide

In my post yesterday I made a throw away comment about how I use suicidal thoughts to gauge my depression. I realized long after writing that that most people would have no idea what I meant. So let me explain, from the beginning.

Considering how little the general public seems to understand depression, despite its prevalence, I suspect that most people who don't suffer from it don't realize that depression is something that one can be suffering through without even realizing it. Even a person who has been diagnosed with clinical depression can be suffering through an episode and not realize it.

Depression usually sneaks up slowly, and can hide in the form of fatigue and disinterest. Frequently it is friends and family who are the first to notice the depression, but when they offer their diagnosis, it is met with disdain. After all, wouldn't the person who is depressed know it?

No, no they wouldn't. Depression is an imbalance of brain chemistry. It not only impacts your mood, your sleep, your concentration, your appetite, your temper, your social relationships and your addictions, but it also impacts your perceptions; you can't tell you are depressed because you are depressed.

I went through a severe depression while I was in high school. Despite being an honours student in grade 10 I failed most of my courses in grade 11 (the few I passed were largely because I switch from IB to regular stream mid-year, and that made things very easy on me). I withdrew from school, and eventually from my friends. I am probably alive today because of the school recognizing what was going on and my mother doing everything she could to get me help.

You might think that with so many clues I must have realized something was wrong, but if you did you would be wrong.

Not only did I not realize what was going on while it was happening, but I didn't realize it till I was in my 30s. When I looked back at my high schools years (during my 20s) I saw myself as a failure, and thought of my suicidal state of mind as no big deal. After all I reasoned, I didn't have any specific plans to kill myself, it was just daily musings about how the world would be better without me.

But then Robbie was born. My father committed suicide, I can't do that to him. Unfortunately, its not as simple as deciding not to do it. Depression will blind your reason. I needed a way to protect me for him.

In time I would come to understand that the musings I was having about suicide when I was 16 weren't really that different than the plans (and eventual attempt) I had at 23. Healthy people don't spend time thinking about suicide; when I realized this is when I realized that I need to seek help immediately if I have a suicidal thought.

Unfortunately, by the time I am having suicidal thoughts I am probably well into a depression. But at least so far I have been able to force myself to seek help every time they have come around. After all, while a depression may be well underway by the time that suicide creeps in, it is far from rock bottom.

And that is what I meant by using suicidal thoughts as a gauge. In a way, suicidal thoughts save me from suicide.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression is not a Choice

It wasn't that long ago that I wrote about how Matt Walsh is an ignorant fool who leads on his audience with words they want to hear, but very little truth. Well, after Robbin William's death Matt Walsh wrote a post wherein he declared that "depression will not appear on the autopsy report, because it can’t kill you". The post went viral, and not surprisingly Matt Walsh has received a lot of hate mail in return.

Unfortunately, Matt Walsh revels in this kind of attention. From an interview he gave about the reaction to his article he seems to believe that people are mad because he is right. My impression is that he envisions himself a crusader for truth, and that this hate just reinforces that idea that he is trying to save the world from the devil's lies.

In many ways Mr. Walsh is a perfect example of the Christian who has fallen in love with the "no true Scotsman" fallacy; most of what I have read of his writing has been about how various other people aren't as good a Christian as he is.

Anyways, with this post being so widely discussed, I am not going to go through it point by point. I am just going to refute an assumption that lies at the base of it.

I serious doubt that Mr. Walsh understands what depression is. He says he has suffered from it, but his description of it sound more typical of a person who has no experience with the condition. Depression is not the same as being really sad, though being really sad can be a product of depression. Major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.

I have a lot of personal experience with depression and suicide. When I was three years old my father committed suicide. When I was twenty three years old I tried to commit suicide. When I was thirty eight years old I found my wife's body, in a failed suicide attempt.

Mr. Walsh seems to believe that people say that suicide isn't a choice to comfort themselves and to relieve the victim of the blame. If he really had depression he would no how little control you have over your actions when you are in the grips of depression. Your conscious thoughts can tell you that a simple little action might make your day a little less crappy, but you still don't take that action for reasons you can't explain.

Killing yourself isn't something a healthy person ever considers, no matter matter how bad life gets; humans have a drive to survive that normally makes us fight through anything that threatens us. That is why there is no correlation between quality of life and suicide; most war refugees don't commit suicide, but some millionaire actors do. This, by no coincidence, is why I have started using suicidal thoughts as the ultimate gauge of how depressed I am.

Suicide is not a choice because ultimately, when you are that depressed you have little to no control over your conscious thoughts and actions.

And finally, Mr. Walsh wants us to believe that depression is largely a result of not being properly in touch with God. I think before that idea can be taken seriously he needs to account for why depression rates are lower in atheists.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Awesome and True Shark Science

I don't think I need to explain to anyone what Shark Week is; Discovery Channel's celebration of sharks is well known all around the world. But what some people, especially those who continue to tune in to it annually and enjoy it, might not realize is that in recent years Shark Week, much like the Discover Channel itself, has been getting a really bad rap amoung scientists and science educators for (what's a nice way to put this?) including content that ranges from somewhat misleading to pure fiction.

So, in an attempt to promote actual learning some of the leading science channels on Youtube are hosting their own Shark Week this year; you know, with facts and stuff. If you like sharks, I would highly recommend you watch these videos. Or just go to the whole playlist.

Friday, August 8, 2014

An Atheist's Answers

Some of the atheist themed Youtube channels that I like have had videos where the host has answered questions that a theist has posed to atheists. I have quite enjoyed these videos and so thought it might be fun to do something similar. I must admit that I had more trouble finding a usable list of questions than I thought, but in the end I settled on the list from this blog.

1.What caused the universe to exist? 

 I don't know. I don't know if we'll ever know. It is amazing that we have been able to trace the universe's history back to the Big Bang, but its hard to imagine what methods might be used to get a clear picture of the time before it. 

Personally, I suspect that the universe didn't have a cause because causality requires time and time began with the universe; asking what happened before the beginning of the universe would be like asking what is north of the north pole. (if you want a more in depth understanding of this philosophy here is a lecture by its most famous champion, Stephen Hawking) 

A brief history of time.

 2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe? 

The belief that "fine tuning" is a paradox without the intervention of a creator depends on the assumption that the universe as we know it and humanity in particular was an intended result of the universe's existence; the universe was not fine tuned to accommodated our existence, but rather, we are a product of the universe and therefore are made to live in it as it is.

3.Why is the universe rational? 

I am not entirely sure what is meant by this question, and I am not going to try to guess. But I will say that we are part of the universe, and our notion of what is rational comes from what we see in the universe. So for many interpretations of this question the universe appears rational to us because our notion of what is rational is born from the universe itself.

4.How did DNA and amino acids arise? 
5.Where did the genetic code come from? 

I am not a biologist, but I feel pretty safe in saying that at this time we don't know. That is the thing about science, every time we answer a question we discover three more need to be asked. A century ago a theist would have thought that asking an atheist how traits are passed from one generation to the next was a gotcha question, but since then the body of knowledge that comes from science has expanded.

I will say that 20 years ago I read a book called Genetic Takeover, and ever since the question of "how could life have arisen?" hasn't kept me up at night.

6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve? 

The notion of irreducible complexity is one championed by people who have no desire to understand biology; most of the best cases for it were explained long ago.

The eye was once a favourite subject of those
who champion irreducible complexity.

7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families? 

Human ingenuity, isolated populations and tens of thousands of years. Honestly, I have no idea why this is one of the questions.

8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000 BC? 

I find it a bizarre statement to make that something in human history happened "suddenly" over a time period of two thousand years (never mind that Mesopotamia arose about 3500 BC while some some isolated tribes still don't live in cities to this day).  But if you insist that a small number of cities being built millennium apart is a phenomena that must be accounted for, then the way to account for it is to look a few millennium earlier - agriculture spread around the world between 10,000 BC and 6,000 BC and cities are the natural result of agriculture.

9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity? 

It may not be; it is entirely possible that independent thought is an illusion. Notice how people are so quick to see others as gullible sheep, but themselves as free thinkers. Its entirely possible we are all fooling ourselves.

10.How do we account for self-awareness? 

We are have evolved large brains because they have helped us solve problems that needed to be solved for our survival. These same brains have been useful tools in understanding the universe and ourselves.

11.How is free will possible in a material universe? 

It may not be.

12.How do we account for conscience? 

I am going to assume this is referring to the aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Conscience was a beneficial trait for survival because we are a social animal. You can witness many other social animals displaying similar behaviors.

13.On what basis can we make moral judgments? 

If an action harms another human being it is immoral. You will notice that virtually every moral code in human history can be boiled down to two laws. 1. Show respect or reverence to the authority that made the code.  2. Don't do bad things to other people.

You will also notice that the fewer exceptions a society has to the rule "don't do bad things to other people" the more civilized we consider it.

14.Why does suffering matter? 

Because we have the ability to understand and empathize with the plight of other human beings, I feel we have a responsibility to them.

15.Why do human beings matter? 

To the universe we don't.

I know this is a humbling and paradoxical thought to someone who believes that the entire universe was made for humanity and that its creator takes a personal interest in all your affairs, but it is the atheist position.

16.Why care about justice? 

This is a difficult question because justice can mean so many things. I believe we should always seek to take whatever course results in the least amount of human suffering for the reasons I mentioned in 14.

17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural? 

Because humans did not evolve to be logical; we are at our core, storytellers. Logic is something we discovered fairly recently and we struggle to apply it with brains that exist for other purposes. Truth is not a popularity contest.

(I love how he tries to use the widespread belief in the super natural as a point in his favour, even though most of those people believe in super natural events that he would reject)

18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist? 

We don't; you cannot prove something doesn't exist. But before I will accept anything supernatural as being true I will need evidence. At this time there is not a single instance of the supernatural standing up to scientific scrutiny. 

"Some people speak as if we were not justified in rejecting a theological doctrine unless we can prove it false. But the burden of proof does not lie upon the rejecter. ... If you were told that in a certain planet revolving around Sirius there is a race of donkeys who speak the English language and spend their time in discussing eugenics, you could not disprove the statement, but would it, on that account, have any claim to be believed? Some minds would be prepared to accept it, if it were reiterated often enough, through the potent force of suggestion."
- J. B. Bury

19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death? 

We can't. But again, there is no evidence.

20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

There is no documentation of the empty tomb, or the resurrection outside of Christian writings. In fact there is no historical evidence that Jesus even existed. 

I am not sure why I should be expected to document the spread of Christianity. There are many religions the author does not believe in that provide ample evidence that a religion can become far spread without being true.

This was a lot of fun to do; it was interesting to see what questions the author thought would be difficult for an atheist and many of the questions were an interesting reminder of how different the perspective of a theist can be from an atheist.

Some of the questions I completely expected like 1, 2, 13, and 20. Some of the questions really took me by surprise like 7 and 8. A few of the questions left me really confused like 3. My favorites were the ones where the author was essentially asking "I have belief x about the universe, but if there is no god belief x doesn't make sense; how can x be true if there is no god?" (answer: x isn't true) Questions 9, 11, and 15 were all like this.

One thing I can say from this is that I could never be a person who makes a hobby out of debating religion; I find it draining, and knowing that no matter how well you make your point you will almost certainly convince no one of anything gives it an air of futility. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Viewing Pornography is NOT Adultery

There are some things I should know better than to click on, The Matt Walsh Blog is one of them. Even when the guy is expressing a view point I agree with, he finds a way of stating it that really rubs me the wrong way. So a few weeks ago when I saw a link to a post of his where he declared in the title that viewing pornography is adultery, I should have just stayed away, but, of course, I did not.

There were so many non sequiturs and falsehoods in his post, that I think the only way I can possibly address them all is to break his post down one argument at a time. Admittedly, I am approaching this from an atheist's perspective while Mr. Walsh is a very religious man; I'm not going to totally ignore the arguments he makes that are dependent upon religion (I do intend to show why he may be misinterpreting the bible), but it goes without saying that we come at marriage from a very different perspective with my seeing it as being between two people and him seeing it as being between two people and God. Hopefully, that difference in perspective is not fatal to my analysis.

I know a guy who cheats on his wife. He cheats on her every day. He cheats on her multiple times a day. He’s a husband and a father and a serial adulterer.

Before dissecting the finer points of equating viewing pornography to adultery, I would like to take a moment to look at why it wouldn't even matter if every argument he is about to present were true. The entire premise of this argument depends on seeing everything as black and white; there are no degree of wrongness in Matt Walsh's world, and any act that could be perceived as less than true to your spouse is adultery.

I wouldn't defend a married man who shared a passionate kiss with a woman that was not his wife, but there is a huge difference between his actions and the actions of a man that has had sex with dozens of women since getting married.

Seeing the world as binary can lead you to false conclusions as you rush to judge everyone and everything that fails to meet your personal standards.  It also can make unaware of certain facts . . .

We were talking about the divorce rate; both of us gave our theories as to why the statistics are so high.

This isn't really part of his argument, but I have to question it because much of what comes after this rests on the foundation of this statement. High compared to what?

There is a myth that the divorce rate in the U.S. keeps going up and up and up, and just won't stop. While the numbers tell a different story; the divorce rate in the U.S. started rising in the 1800s, and rose very sharply between 1960 and 1980; since the early 80s the divorce rate has been steadily declining.

Now, whatever other factors you might think are in play, its undeniable that during the years divorce was on the increase there was a significant reduction in the barriers that once kept people from divorcing - legal barriers, economic barriers, and social stigmas all kept many people in marriages in which they were not happy and probably should never have entered in the first place.

That Mr. Walsh is using this for a jumping off point demonstrates just how little he knows about this subject.

 I mentioned in my diagnosis a few studies that show pornography to be a root cause in over 50 percent of divorces annually.

No, there weren't any studies that said that. What Mr. Walsh is actually misremembering (or purposefully misrepresenting) is a press release from 2002 by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers that says a survey of the lawyers that are part of their group found that 60% believe that Internet porn is linked to a higher rate of divorce.

One casual survey asking the opinions of people who only see a very particular side of an issue is very different than multiple studies (I should think he was trying to imply that the studies were done scientifically, and were studies of married or divorcing couples, not of lawyers)

Moreover, in addition to this data being casually collected from non-experts, these non-experts have a stake in releasing biased data. It is entirely possible that no survey was ever done (the press release was the only results from it ever issued) and that this group of lawyers were just trying to stir the pot and drum up some business by planting the idea in the minds of a few disgruntled wives that porn is reason enough to get a divorce over.

(as a counter point, here is a study of mental health professionals that does not mention pornography at all on its list of reasons couples get divorced)

He laughed. “People don’t get divorced over porn.” He went on to explain that porn isn't a “big deal” to most people. It’s not “like it’s cheating or something.” He told me that he looks at it multiple times daily. His wife, he insisted, might be a little peeved if she knew the extent of it, but only because women overreact about “that kind of thing.”

Mr. Walsh is shooting for a emotional reaction here, and I'm sure he got it from much of his audience. However, there is a point which is implicit in this paragraph which he completely ignores; the wife of his friend is completely aware that her husband is viewing pornography and it is strongly implied that she is OK with that.

Here is the thing that Mr. Walsh seems to miss - a marriage is between two people. Those two people and no one else define what is or is not OK in their marriage. In my house if for a very special occasion I cooked Margaret a romantic dinner of shrimp and lobster, it would not be unexpected for her to respond by calling a divorce lawyer. But that is our marriage. I don't expect anyone else to live by the rules of our marriage and neither should anyone else be expecting other married couple to follow the rules of their marriage.

What kind of thing? Their husbands spending all day obsessively plunging through the darkest regions of the Internet for graphic sexual images of rape, abuse, perversion, exploitation and other forms of filthy depravity previously unknown to mankind?

If nothing else, this paragraph convinces me that Mr. Walsh is not a hypocrite (at least with regards to this one point); he really doesn't view online porn and really doesn't know a damn thing about it.

First of all "spending all day obsessively" doesn't sound so much like a typical man viewing porn as a porn addiction. For comparison about 5 percent of the population has the mental condition that makes it possible for them to develop a porn addiction, while (depending on which research you go with) somewhere between 25 and 97 percent of men in the US view online porn (I am inclined to believe the higher numbers because studies which produce the lower number frequently pose the questions in a way that some men, especially some religious men, might be ashamed to be truthful)

Second of all, I don't think Mr. Walsh has a clue what the "darkest regions of the Internet" are nor how far removed from that most porn sites are. The pornography industry in the US alone is worth an estimated $10 billion. The majority of that huge sum is controlled by a small number of companies. When you own a $100 million dollar entertainment company, you don't risk that huge sum on the kind of illegal activities Mr. Walsh is hinting at.

Finally, I don't think Mr. Walsh has any notion of how depraved people could be in the past. I can't help but assume that he lives in some fictional world where for most of human history sex was something done only by married couples for the purpose of procreation.

This is from 510 B.C. but porn's a new thing, right?

Yeah. That kind of thing. No reason why any wife should be too upset about that, apparently.

She should be upset if it violates the trust that existed between the two of them. But it is not a given that trust has been violated, nor is it Mr. Walsh's place to judge if it has been.

Listen guys, I know this is an uncomfortable conversation. But it’s time we man up and get real about pornography. 

I don't think this is uncomfortable at all for Mr. Walsh; I think he is quite pleased to lecture other men on why they are sinners.

And I really don't like that second sentence; he has spent the entire article up to this point and will spend all of it afterwards distancing himself from pornography use and bashing those who do use it, but he still says "its time we man up".  He really means "its time you man up", but in trying to soften the blow he comes off sounding like a charlatan.

First things first: if you’re married and you look at porn, you are cheating. Period.

You are cheating when you violate the trust of your partner. If your partner is aware of something you are doing and is OK with it, it is not cheating.

From a Christian perspective, this can’t be debated. Christ laid it out very clearly: if you lust after another woman, you have committed adultery.

It can be debated, and its not as clear as you think. Like so many religious zealots Mr. Walsh forgets that the Bible has suffered translation and the English language itself has changed over the centuries.

In many translations of the New Testament, the word "lust" translates from the Greek word 'ἐπιθυμέω', particularly in Matthew 5:27-28 (the verses he is referencing in saying that "Christ laid it out very clearly")

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust (ἐπιθυμέω) after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

In English-speaking countries, the term "lust" is often associated with sexual desire, probably because of this verse. But just as the English word was originally a general term for desire, the Greek word ἐπιθυμέω was also a general term for desire. The LSJ lexicon suggests "set one's heart upon a thing, long for, covet, desire" as glosses for ἐπιθυμέω, which is used in verses that clearly have nothing to do with sexual desire. In the Septuagint, ἐπιθυμέω is the word used in the commandment to not covet:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; you shall not covet your neighbor’s house or his field or his male slave or his female slave or his ox or his draft animal or any animal of his or whatever belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17, New English Translation of the Septuagint)

While coveting your neighbor's wife may involve sexual desire, it's unlikely that coveting a neighbor's house or field is sexual in nature. And in most New Testament uses, the same Greek word, ἐπιθυμέω, does not have a clear sexual connotation. It is found in Matthew 13:17, Luke 22:15-16, Acts 20:33 and Luke 15:14-16.

So it is not only possible, but probable that the original intent of the verse was not to say that having a desire for another women is adultery, but rather it was meant to say that wanting to steal her away is adultery. With a proper understanding of the verse's intent, I don't know how you can interpret the bible as saying anything at all about pornography.

We are lessening ourselves, betraying our wives and participating in the violent exploitation of women (and girls). 

Again, while there certainly are women and girls who are being violently exploited to create pornography, what most men view online is wholly different from this. That both are equally offensive to Mr. Walsh does not make them the same. What he is doing would be like saying all marriages are violent exploitation of women and girls because you are offended that FLDS marriages are violent exploitation of women and girls.

If you think this picture is less offensive than pornography,
it says a lot about your morality.

Or minds and our bodies belong to the Lord and to our wives; pornography, therefore, intrudes on their domain. If we look at porn, we are adulterers. We are adulterers in all the worst ways. We don’t even need to refer to Scripture to figure out the simple equation that porn equals adultery.
Why wouldn't it?

Because there is no physical, sexual or emotional contact between the subject of the pornography and the viewer.

Because you aren't physically in contact with another woman?
So what? That’s merely a matter of semantics and circumstance. 

No. You cannot be adulterous without the participation of another human being.

If a married man secretly owned an inflatable sex doll he might be deserving of many negative labels, but adulterer would not be one of them. You can be an adulterer in the absence of sex, but you cannot be one without some participation from another person.

The absence of physical touch doesn't automatically free you of the scarlet letter — if it did, ‘sexting’ with other women would be fair game, I suppose. How would you feel if you looked through your wife’s phone and found racy, sexually graphic text messages she’d sent to a man at her office? Would you be alright with it as long as she could prove she never had any physical contact with him? Or is that totally different because she knows the guy, whereas porn is anonymous and impersonal? 

That involves another person participating. An actress in pornography does a photo shoot or a video and then months or years later a man (or woman) views it. There is literally no connection between them. A man has a sexual relationship with a porn star in the same way he is best bros with an action star.

See, we find ourselves constructing many arbitrary lines of distinction when we are determined to rationalize behavior we instinctively know to be immoral and wrong.

Cognitive bias is a scourge on humanity. The worst part of it is that it is so hard to recognize in ourselves.

But, OK, what if she didn't know the guy? What if she was engaging in “fantasies” with men she never met? Imagine that, in your cyber travels, you stumbled upon a porn site featuring pictures and videos of a particularly alluring young female: your wife. How would that sit with you? Your wife selling digital sex all over the Internet — how would you like that? It might cause a bit of a marital dispute, wouldn't you say?
If you wouldn't want your wife being a porn provider, you ought to understand why she wouldn't want you to be a porn consumer. If you wouldn't want her to invite and encourage other men to violate her in their minds, you ought to understand why she wouldn't want you to accept the invitation to violate other women in yours.

I can see how that could be construed as hypocritical, though I am not as certain as Mr. Walsh that the two really are equivalent.

Regardless, what he seems to be missing again is that marriage is an agreement between two people. If the agreement those two people have is that he can watch porn but that she can't make it, that is their business. Though I suspect Mr. Walsh would be shocked and horrified at how many men would be just fine with their wife making porn.

I don’t mean to concentrate only on married men. Porn is poison for everyone, married or not. 

If your whole case is porn equals lust equals adultery, then what do non married people have to do with it?

Obviously what they have to do with it is that this was never really about adultery, it was always about Mr. Walsh thinking porn is bad and adultery was just his starting point.

And I’m not here to castigate you if you've stumbled. We live in a society that preys upon a man’s weaknesses, shoving sex into his face at hyper speed every day, all day, all of the time. This isn't an excuse; just an attempt to put things into context.

I have learned to be very leery of anyone who frames men as the victims of sexy women being sexy; it usually goes hand in hand with thinking that women should have fewer rights.

 I won’t yell at a guy who fights a porn addiction anymore than I’d yell at a guy who fights a crack addiction. But at least the crack addict likely won’t encounter very many people (besides his dealer) who will tell him that it’s actually healthy to smoke crack. If he ventures outside of the abandoned shack where he scores his dope, he probably won’t find any respectable people who will say, “hey, crack isn't a big deal — it’s totally natural to smoke crack, man!” In that way, the crack smoker has a leg up on the porn addict. The porn addict, by contrast, has to fight both the compulsion itself and the myriad of creeps who will try to convince him that it’s all just a bit of innocent fun.

Again, about 5% of the population is disposed to suffer from pornography addiction, but Mr. Walsh is trying to frame every man who views porn as an addict. Also notice that here he is arguing that many people view porn and are not ashamed of it, while later in the article he is going to claim the opposite.

I could cite for you the mounds of psychiatric research proving the detrimental effects of pornography on the brain. But you can do that research yourself.

The research is not nearly as one sided as Mr. Walsh wishes it was. While he did not provide a single example of research proving his point, here is an example of a counter point.

I could tell you about sex slavery, human trafficking, drug abuse, and child molestation, and I could explain how the porn industry wouldn't exist without these necessary ingredients. But these are conclusions you can draw on your own, if ever you take even a moment to think about it. I could remind you that these women you find on your porn sites might not be women at all — they could be children — and there’s no way for you to know for sure.  I could then point out that any avid porn customer has most likely at some point been a child porn customer, whether he knew it or not. But this is, indeed, an obvious and inescapable reality.

Again, because Mr. Walsh hates all porn, he is unable to distinguish between the huge volumes of it made by large companies for mass consumption and the porn made in secret by very seedy individuals. If you take a moment to think about it you'd realize that no porn company is going to delve into child porn or use slaves for the same reason pharmaceutical companies don't delve into cocaine; it is much harder to sell, appeals to a very small market, and selling even the tiniest amount of it puts the entire company at risk.

I could tell you that many children view graphic porn for the first time before the age of 12. I could tell you that we haven’t even begun to reap the atrocious fruits that will come from an entire generation raised on the heinous perversions of Internet pornography. But it’s probably too late for these warnings.

Protecting children from viewing material that is inappropriate for their age is a completely separate issue.

So what is left? Perhaps nothing, really. Pornography is evil, empty, deadening, dirty — this is something we all know. 

I know none of these things. That Mr. Walsh wishes them to be true does not make them so.

That’s why, unless you are either psychotic or utterly despicable, you wouldn't want your daughter to get into the porn business. 

If my child finds a career that makes him happy, I will be happy for him. If he is not hurting anyone else, then I will not judge him. The same holds true if I have a daughter in the future.

That’s why most people hide their porn habits. 

Most people who hide their porn habits do so because they don't wish to be judged by the Matt Walshes of the world. I know that just in writing this post there will be some people I know who will judge me harshly, even though I haven't said a word about my own habits. There are people in society who carry the same misconceptions as Mr. Walsh, and you never know who they are until they are upon you. So its much easier to just be quiet.

That’s why it still isn't considered acceptable to browse “adult” websites at your desk at work or at a table in   (although people still do, in both scenarios). 

Really Mr Walsh? You have so little understanding of workplace etiquette that you think shame is the only thing stopping workers from watching porn? And after ranting about children being exposed to porn you think shame is the only reason Starbucks isn't littered with porn? (and doesn't admitting that some people do surf porn where others can see undermine his point?)

That’s why you only find porn shops and strip clubs in the slummy, rundown parts of town. No matter how hedonistic and “open minded” we become, we still recognize porn as something that ought to be stowed away in the dank, dark corners of our lives. 

No, its because anytime an adult shop tries to open up anywhere else people like Mr Walsh call the media, and their elected officials and they protest until the business is forced to move elsewhere. You can't scream that you don't want adult stores in your neighborhood because they are awful, and then use their absence from your neighborhood as proof they are awful.

That, is textbook circular reasoning.

Married men: I think we should be spending our free time with our families, or reading interesting books so that we can sharpen our minds, or building things, or exercising, or doing anything else that will make us better men.

This is a non sequitur. There is no relationship between doing or not doing these things and viewing or not viewing porn.

Porn will not make you a better man. 

Not everything you do in life needs to make you a better person. It is OK to do something you enjoy for no reason other than you enjoy it.

It will make you smaller. It will make you a liar. It will kill that instinct inside you that calls you to protect and honor women. It will turn you into something you never wanted to be. It will turn you into a sneaky, shameful pervert.
It will turn you into an adulterer.

I think this was the perfect place for Mr. Walsh to end. By declaring that viewing pornography makes a person a "sneaky shameful pervert" he perfectly sums up why he was so woefully unqualified to table the thesis of this article. He believes that Jesus told him not to view pornography, and so he sees anyone who does as a horrible sinner.

He did no research for any of the points he tables (even the one where he claims the research exists) because despite being written to sound like an appeal to the sinning porn viewers of the world, this article was really written to preach to the choir. His target audience already agreed with him, and were happy to nod along as he pretended to lecture the porn viewers of the world.

Its a shame because if Mr. Walsh really were interested in doing research and if he really were interested in writing an article that was trying to sell his view point to those who don't share it, it could be an interesting discussion that would reach a very wide audience (he has a quarter of a million followers). But by being intentionally ignorant, deceptive and aggressive he made sure that no real discussion would take place.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Revisiting 12 Things I Want For D&D Next

Back in January I made a list of a dozen things I was hoping to see in the new edition of D&D. With the Starter Set and Basic Rules already out I am doing a quick revisit to see which ones appear to be coming true.

1. That it won't be called D&D Next.
There still are some official sources referring to it as D&D Next, but in most places it is simply being called "Dungeons and Dragons". If there is no official name for this edition I guarantee that the de facto name amoung fans will be "5th edition"

2. That it won't be released until it is ready.
There has been nothing that has come out so far that looks remotely rushed, although the lack of fan fare on the Wizards website makes me think that they have been pulling staff from all over to get everything done on time. (both their online magazines stopped production for just this reason)

3. That there will be a return of the two version strategy.
This isn't happening in the way that I had hoped, but they are addressing the problem I was pointing to (the high cost for a group of total newbies). Between the Starter Set going for $19.99 and the Basic Rules being free, a group can play for an extended period of time with only having spent $19.99.

4. That there will be a return of the Monstrous Compendium. 
The monsters will be in a Monster Manual again, though I am still hoping for the high level of detail that made the Monstrous Compendium so great.

5. That there will be a return to mathematical elegance. 
There does seem to be slightly more elegance than 4th Edition, though it still falls short of 3rd. I will wait to see the core rulebooks before passing judgment on this.

6. That there will be a full suite of apps ready for launch day.
With the launch being spread out over five months,  it would be hard for me to judge this a failure if the apps come in before November; still, there haven't been any announcements about what apps are coming or when they will go live.

7.  Sort out the huge mess of legal rights surrounding Living Greyhawk.
There is no reason to think any progress has been made on this.

8. Make sure D&D Next can play well as low fantasy.
Everything that has come out so far screams low fantasy.

9. Put the dragons back in Dungeons and Dragons.
We probably won't know if this is true till the Monster Manual come out.

10. Make the game more dangerous.
Just looking at the rules it is easy to see the danger level has reverted to something more akin to 3E.

11. Make the PHB more than just a rule book.
In reality it is too soon to give this a pass, but based on what is contained in the Basic Rules and the Starter Set I am supremely hopeful. Especially the novel quotes sprinkled throughout the Basic Rules gives me a lot of hope that Wizards understands exactly what I was getting at.

12. Have a good index.
I am going to have to see the core rulebooks and actually use them for a while before I can call this one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unboxing D&D

So today was the official launch day of the D&D Starter Set and since I'm not well equipped to make an unboxing video, I thought I would make an unboxing picture gallery.

This is the front of the box.
The artwork looks great, and the logos look familiar despite
being new. Nice to see no sign of "D&D Next". Unfortunately
mine had a slight dent in the box, but it was the last one, and
I didn't want to go driving all around town.

This is the back of the box.
The text is clearly written for someone who has no idea
what D&D is, as it should be. The price of $23.99 is decent
for everything it contains, made possible in part by making
the Basic Rulebook a free download.

The lid is off.
The dice resting on top are of decent quality.

This is the rulebook.
It is 32 glossy pages.

This is the inside of the rulebook.
The artwork in it is beautiful, though there are many pages with none.

Under the rulebook is an adventure, it is 64 pages long.

Under the adventure are 5 pregenerated characters.
The clean layout seems to be representative of the edition as a whole.

An ad for Encouters on one side, a blank character sheet
on the other.

A spacer takes up the bottom half of the box.

The contents outside the box.