Friday, December 21, 2012


"Indeed, what is startling about the notion of a victimless crime is that even when the behavior in question is genuinely victimless, its criminality is still affirmed by those who are eager to punish it. It is in such cases that the true genius lurking behind many of our laws stands revealed. The idea of a victimless crime is nothing more than a judicial reprise of the Christian notion of sin."
--Sam Harris, author "The End of Faith"

What happens when someone uses science incorrectly? First, it has the potential to mislead people. Second, it opens the floodgates of scrutiny.

Now, I don't read the newspaper often, but I am aware that some newspapers are politically, and in some cases religiously biased. For instance, I have heard a number of my more conservative friends and family bash the New York Times for being too liberal or progressive. This may be true of the opinions shared in the paper, but I don't think anyone has shown the NY Times completely and utterly misusing science. This is, however, something which the Deseret News (a pro-Mormon newspaper in Utah) has been caught doing recently.

The headline from an article published yesterday reads: "Link found between porn use and supporting same-sex marriage". The article itself shamelessly and inaccurately tries to show how support for gay marriage "may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts." In other words, if you watch porn, you will start to favor gay marriage, two things which the Mormon Church has spent countless time and money fighting against, perhaps more so than any other social issues.

This article is intended to strike fear and alarm in the minds of faithful, chaste and not the least bit perverse Mormons. What better way to scapegoat one condemned activity than by "linking" it to another? Why not apply this to other things, while we are at it? Masturbation is linked to bank robbing, and swearing is linked to stabbing puppies in the eyes with rusty soldering irons on Christmas Eve. See? It's easy.

Well, the claim is so outrageous and fallacious and completely unfounded by any actual science that some rather clever people have been issuing responses to the article, such as "Link Found Between Pedophilia and Reading the Deseret News". This blog response has some good points and useful links which show how the Deseret News is as bad at social science as they are at moral crusades.

One point the blog makes, which occurred to me as I read the news article, is that Utah has the highest porn use per household in the US (interestingly, porn use goes down temporarily on Sundays). This means that if the hypothesis is true that viewing pornography changes your views to be in favor of gay marriage, then Utah should also be at the forefront of the gay marriage movement. But, as anyone who is the least bit familiar with California's Proposition 8 can tell you, Utahns (at least Mormons) vehemently and monetarily oppose gay marriage. So, which is it, Deseret News?

There is one thing in common between porn and gay marriage which I can think of, and that is that both are opposed exclusively for religious reasons. All arguments against homosexuality and pornography seem to come from religions and their own moral codes. Ultimately, I don't have a problem with them denying science in order to condemn whatever they want. But I do have a big problem when they try to legislate against such things for people not of their religion. It is wrong and immoral to do so.

On a lighter note, today I came across a site which outlines the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. Note: everything they say is scientifically verifiable, if a little exaggerated.


And here is Penn and Teller on the War on Porn (warning: very explicit):

Part 1

Part 2

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