Monday, July 29, 2013

Why do people love guns so much? (by anon)

I am asking about something that truly confuses me: why do some people love guns so much?  I’ll show you how I get to my tentative answers on this, and then I’m hoping that someone can shed some more light where I may be ignorant.

The purpose or function of a gun is to fire bullets.  No one can dispute that.  Where one chooses to fire those bullets can vary: at skeet, firing range targets, animals, or people.  Guns can protect people from threatening forces or unwanted pests, they can be used for inflicting harm on animals or people, and they can be used for game.  But all in all, guns are dangerous instruments.  They are lethal.  That is also something no one can dispute. 

Other things in our lives also have lethal capabilities, like cars and swimming pools.  Here are some stats I found from the CDC for comparison:

   Swimming pools (in 2004): 3,308 unintentional drownings
   Motor vehicles (in 2009): 36,284 deaths
   Firearms (in 2009): 11, 406 deaths by assault; 18,689 deaths by suicide from firearm

Yet, while swimming pools and motor vehicles can cause harm, that is not their intended function.  Pools function as swimming venues.  Cars function as transportation.  Accidents do happen.  Guns, however, are made for violence and people evidently did a good job of that.  With guns, there are accidents too.  In 2009, 588 people died from accidental firearm discharges, but that pales to the over 11,000 people who died from firearm assault.  Those 11,000+ deaths were not accidents; rather they were intentional acts by people using guns for the purpose they were made for – to fire bullets.  The guns worked well doing exactly what they were supposed to do, regardless whether one argues that people should not be on the receiving end of those bullets.  This is all to say that guns need to be put in a separate category from other things in our lives that can kill people.  Guns are made for violence, where other things are not (though there are trivial exceptions).

So guns are made for violence AND, lo and behold, we see ample violence from guns in our society.  It is non-negligible violence, and thus, I would think that people would abhor guns, except in the case of the military.  But, alas, no.  Tons of people adore them and argue fervently that guns are great.  This makes the question, “why do people love guns so much?” quite poignant.  Why DO people love such a thing that actually causes the very violence it is made for?  I have found these responses from gun lovers:

1.   GUN LOVER: It is my right to own a gun!  The Second Amendment of the US Constitution says, “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.”  ME: The Constitution only refers to the military, not civilians.  But just because something may be a right, it does not mean that one should act upon that right (though, again, it is not a right for civilians according to the Constitution).  And it is certainly not clear that possibly having a right to own a gun translates to loving that gun.  I have a right to own a fire extinguisher, and I do own one, but I do not love my fire extinguisher.
2.   GUN LOVER: The Revolutionary War is justification enough!  We need guns to protect ourselves from other countries.  ME:  The Revolutionary War ended in 1783.  It’s time to move on.  If another country is going to try and take over the US, your puny little gun is going to do nothing in this day and age.  Leave it to the big guns of our own military and stop acting like you are Chuck Norris (wink, wink).
3.   GUN LOVER: I want to protect my family.  ME:  That is fair, and I don’t find anything really wrong with the Castle doctrine to have a gun in one’s own home to defend one’s family from home intruders.  But those who give this kind of reason are not usually the ardent, outspoken gun lovers.  I probably shouldn’t even put this reason down as coming from a “gun lover.”  This reason is more akin to having a fire extinguisher in one’s home.  To value protection does not mean adoration.
4.   GUN LOVER: I love to hunt!!  ME: Ok, but at what cost?  Does your love of game really outweigh acknowledging that the US has a gun problem?  Hunting can be accomplished using a variety of hunting methods (e.g., bow hunting).  Maybe people should switch their means of hunting, or just find a different hobby.
5.   GUN LOVER: Guns don’t kill people!  People kill people!  ME:  I put down this “reason” because this is what people actually say when asked why they love guns so much.  But as you can plainly see, this response doesn’t answer the question for why someone loves guns so much.  It is just defensiveness.  But to humor the response, yes, guns by themselves do not kill people – people use those guns.  However, if there wasn’t an accessible gun, people couldn’t use it to kill.  The availability of guns raises the possibility of gun violence.  Out of all the first-world countries, the US has the most guns and accessibility to guns – the US also has the highest rate of gun violence and deaths.  For instance in 2011, there were 68 gun-related deaths in the UK, 165 in Canada, 65 in Australia, and 39 in Japan.  There were over 11,000 gun-related deaths in the US in 2011.  The numbers are stark.

This is what I take from the above, if someone wants to protect their own home and family by having a gun, that seems fair considering that there are so many guns floating around in the US right now.  If someone loves hunting, I’m willing to grant some justification there, but only tentatively.  Given the gun violence numbers, for the benefit of society, hunters should resort to different means of hunting. 

Unfortunately, however, most of the ardent gun lovers I have talked to and have read about on the Internet, give no real reason why exactly they love guns so much.  They simply retort that they have the right and that people kill people, not guns.  But those aren’t reasons why they love guns so much.  So why do they? 

My speculation is that many Americans have irrational fears.  One kind of fear is fear of the world and people around them.  They distrust institutions and they believe that guns are the answer to curb that fear and distrust; they feel like they preserve some measure of control. 

Another kind of fear is the fear regarding oneself.  Let’s face it.  Most gun lovers are males, and having a gun can make a male feel more masculine and powerful.  Guns can help some males sway their fears that maybe they are not masculine enough.  This is the same reason why many males gravitate towards buying large motor vehicles.  It is a manifestation of hyper-masculinity.

And there you have it.  My answer to why so many people love guns so much is irrational fear.  Am I right?  Wrong?  Please let me know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Something CAN come from nothing! (by anon)

One of the best and worst questions one could ever ask is, “Why is there something rather than nothing at all?”

In one sense, it is the best question ever!  It is THEE question, right?  Where did all this stuff come from??  What caused it all?  Did it have to be here?  The question is the ultimate of ultimates, the most fundamental of fundamentals.  It cuts to the heart of existence…it is asking about why anything exists at all!

But now for the buzz-kill, this question is also the worst question ever because it is literally meaningless—we can never experience pure nothingness.  Damn.  I knew there was a limit to our thought.  If we equate “nothing” as that which is “not something,” then it is impossible for us to conceive what that nothing would be.  In fact, it is impossible for us to conceive of the conception of what that nothing would be, because we cannot say that that nothing is anything.  To say that nothing is anything is to say that it is something, which violates our parameters that it is ‘not something’.  Therefore, the question, “why is there something rather than nothing at all?” is not a valid question.  It is literally nonsense.

We think we know something about the question because we understand absence and lack, and knowing that one thing is not another.  In our experience – our phenomenal experience (the qualitative nature of our experience, images, representations) – we are aware of things present; we know presence.  The computer is present to me right now.  Since these things go away, we are also aware of absence, of lack.  If someone took my computer away right now (I’d be pissed!), but I would be left with a lack.  Our experience is a collage of presences and absences.  We can also compare these presences and absences with other presences and absences to know that not all are equal to each other; hence we know that some things are not other things.  But no matter how hard we try, this would never mean that we really know something about absolute nothingness.  That, if anything, seems to be something outside of our conceptual grasp.

But then I learned something today.  Mindblowing (at least to me).

0 = 1 + -1

What?  Does that not do it for you?  You learned that in fourth grade and it didn’t rock your world?  Follow along.

The equation can be rewritten as, “0 = 1 and -1.”  If I can use a conjunction adding two things together, they must be somethings or else the additive function would be meaningless.  So “1” and “-1” are definitely somethings, although they negate each other.  Zero is the symbol for nothing.  So in essence, we have nothing = something that negates itself.

Let me say that again, we have “nothing is something that negates itself.”  We just said that which didn’t seem to be meaningful to say above, but the mathematics of it makes perfect sense.  Nothing is something.  Something is nothing.  Something just came from nothing.

Still not convinced this means anything?  Ok, here goes…

If nothing is something that negates itself, why not consider our present universe in such a state?  We could think of matter + anti-matter or our universe counterposed to an equal and opposite universe – in short, think of our universe in some sort of yin/yang state that would satisfy “1 + -1.”  That would mean that the present state of things really is just nothing, though from our point of view, it kind of feels like something since we experience only one of the conjuncts.  Somebody proposed that maybe it is the element of time that seems to peel apart the “is” from the “is not,” but in the end, it is all but nothing taken all together.

So something can come from nothing, but it is still ultimately nothing.  We no longer have to look for causes or reasons for existence because it is a matter of definition.  Existence must be counterposed to nonexistence, which is just to say that this is all nothing.

Our mistake was to separate nothing from something in the first place and think we were speaking about something different.