Tuesday, 20 September 2016

On the Absurdity of Non-Potential Spatiotemporal Infinities



Because the physical universe exists, it is either true that it has done so for an infinite amount of time, or that the physical universe came into being a finite time ago. If one can demonstrate the absurdity of the physical universe existing for an infinite amount of time by showing the incoherence of an infinite temporal regress (that is, the model that the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time), then it becomes most reasonable to assume that the universe began to exist. It is important at this point to make a distinction between two varieties of infinites, actual infinites and theoretical infinites. Theoretical infinites are things which do not exist in reality and are merely conjectures of the mind, like possible worlds and other abstract objects. Mathematicians use these all the time in equations, as do theoretical physicists. Actual infinities, by contrast, are infinities that could exist in the physical world. Some examples of these include, actually infinite amounts of space in the universe, actually infinite amounts of elementary particles, or an actually infinite number of previous seconds. Many contemporary beginning-less models of the universe assume that actual infinites can exist. Some of these include the Caroll-Chen model, and the Hartle-Hawking model when followed to its necessarily implications. Therefore, by showing the absurdity of an actual infinite one can disprove these models while also showing the incoherence of an infinite temporal regress. If an infinite temporal regress is absurd, then the only other option is that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. If the universe came into being a finite time ago, then there is good reason to think that everything that comes into existence has a cause. This is because everything that one observes, namely, the physical universe and everything in it, appear to abide by this premise.

Though there have been entire books written about the existence of actual infinities, only the more straightforward examples will be examined. The first is a simple thought experiment. Imagine that some person is keeping track of every time both Neptune and Uranus complete a full rotation around the sun. Because Uranus completes (approximately) 2 full rotations around the sun for every 1 rotation that Neptune does, it seems reasonable to think that the rotations of Uranus will always equal approximately 2 times what those of Neptune are. We can generalize this expression mathematically to “x = 2y”, where the rotations of Uranus are “x” and the rotations of Neptune are “y”. If this person continues watching Uranus and Neptune rotate around the sun, they will quickly find that after 100 of Neptune’s rotations, Uranus will have 200. After 1,000 of Neptune’s rotations, Uranus will have 2,000. Even after 100,000,000,000 of Neptune’s rotations, Uranus will have 200,000,000,000. As Neptune and Uranus keep rotating, this gap will just keep getting bigger and bigger, because the orbits of Uranus will always be double what those of Neptune are. 

Now, notice what happens when one imagines that they have been orbiting in this fashion for an actually infinite amount of time. If we assume this, it appears to follow from “x = 2y” that the gap between “x” and “y” will become astronomically large. In reality, the equation becomes subject to logical absurdities and self-contradictory answers on both a mathematical and conceptual level. This is because the variables “x” and “y” in “x = 2y” each become “∞” because both Neptune and Uranus have orbited the sun an infinite amount of times. If one defines “x” and “y” as “∞” in “x = 2y”, then one ends up with the equation “∞ = 2∞” which simplifies to “∞ = ∞” because infinity times anything is infinity. This means that if Neptune and Uranus orbited around the sun for an actually infinite amount of time, their orbits would be the exact same! This is absurd, because the difference between “x” and “y” got bigger as the numbers plugged in got bigger, yet when plugging in infinity itself (a number much higher than any finite number) the difference became the same! Because of this absurdity, one cannot assume that Uranus and Neptune could have orbited an actually infinite number of times. If we agree that this is indeed impossible, then “x = 2y” is true in every circumstance, and actual infinities cannot exist.

Another demonstration of this is the “Hilbert’s Hotel” illustration by mathematician Dave Hilbert, where one imagines every object in some set “Sx” as a floor in a hotel. If “Sx” is comprised of a finite number of objects, the hotel will function normally. If we assume that “Sx” is comprised of an actually infinite number of objects, then logical absurdities follow necessarily. Imagine a hotel that had a finite number of floors, in which every floor had an occupant on it. If someone came into the hotel and asked to rent a floor for the night, the hotel owner would have to turn them away because all the rooms are full. Now imagine instead that this hotel had an infinite number of floors, each with an occupant on it. If someone asked to rent a floor in this case, the hotel owner could simply ask everyone to move up one floor. Person 1 would move to floor 2, person 2 would move to floor 3, and so on. This would be akin to moving every object in “Sx” up one position. After this, manager could give the customer floor 1. In the same way, every occupant could move up 100 floors and the manager could accommodate 100 new people, even though the hotel was full previously! There are other things the manager could do. If the manager needed to accommodate an infinity of new guests, he could ask the occupants to move up to a floor which was double their previous number. After this, the infinity of previously occupied floors would be empty, and the infinity of new guests could use all the rooms which the original infinity moved out of! Mathematically, this would be akin to transforming every defined “Sx” into “S2x”, which is simply nonsensical when applied to real world examples like floors and hotels. Hilbert’s hotel is therefore another reason that actual infinities cannot exist.

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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Women’s Rights, Native American’s Rights, and LGBT Rights: You Can’t Pick and Choose




As of late, I've followed the controversy and subsequent civil division that surrounded the upcoming Pride March for Equality in Steinbach. I've done by best to both contemplate and genuinely understand the points of view of both those who are opposed to the event and those who are in favor of it. Below, I'll make a concise argument in favor of LGBT pride events like the Pride March for Equality that leverages a baseline similarity between the common fundamental aspects of three different human rights movements. First I'll argue that LGBT stigma and persecution do exist. After that I'll argue that the LGBT pride movement is fundamentally similar to other human rights movements like those of racial and gender equality in structure, ideology, and practice. At that point, I'll argue that due to shared essential attributes in the absence of an outlying distinction, it doesn't make sense to support the historical racial or gender equality movements while opposing the LGBT equality movement. I'll end with the proposition that LGBT equality be looked upon in the same way that racial or gender equality is looked upon within society. Essentially, one who supports the historical racial and gender equality movements should, by extension, support the LGBT equality movement. This is because the only major difference within all three movements are the oppressed demographic.

The entire reason that LGBT pride events happen is because there exists a large socio-cultural stigma against LGBT as a sexual demographic. This stigma is not only societal, but also legal in many parts of the world. There are many good reasons to believe in the societal stigma against LGBT, many which won't be listed in this article. There are at least 60 countries in the world where homosexuality is against the law and subject to punishment. To compare with a different statistic, that's about a dozen more countries than Christianity is illegal in. Hate crimes against LGBT abound, sometimes resulting in injury or murder. From nightclubs to gay churches, there is no common denominator within many hate crimes committed against LGBT aside from the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims. Being LGBT or expressive thereof is still viewed by a wide array of people as being socially unacceptable, delusory, or motivated by agenda. What LGBT events like the Pride March for Equality seek to do is take a stand against the plethora of opinions and pretenses such as these, advocating instead for a view of equality.

In principle, the LGBT pride movement is no different than other historical movements that have taken a stand against a lack of human rights and freedoms. Take the anti-racism movement and women's voting rights movement, for example. Both of these things are analogous to the LGBT pride movement in many ways. The supporters of all three movements during came from those within a persecuted, stigmatized demographic, along with those outside the demographic who witnessed the injustice and decided to take action. All three movements witnessed a large-scale problem of unfounded prejudice within society, and all three movements decided to take action. The campaigns of all three movements decided to raise awareness for their movement by publicly stating their disagreement with the status quo, thus making themselves both available and unashamed of their position. All three movements fought dual-front battles on both the legal side and the societal side, and all three movements were hugely successful in helping break the stigma against the people group they were advocating for.

Today, because of movements like the anti-racism movement, the women's voting rights movement, and the LGBT pride movement, people's viewpoints how gender race, and sexuality limit or corrupt person-hood have been and are being fundamentally challenged and reshaped. The anti-racism movement reshaped what race meant within society, and helped break the stigma that African American people were less capable, valuable, or moral than white people. The women's voting rights movement reshaped our view of what women can and can't understand or express, and shattered the misconception that women were the less intelligent and politically uninterested gender. Though 2 of these human rights movements have already come to fruition and fostered change within society, the LGBT pride movement still has a long ways to go. Without people raising awareness about societal misconceptions and prejudices, women still wouldn't be able to vote, same sex couples still would not be able to marry, and African American people would still be stigmatized in the manner they were a decade ago by both the society they lived in and the legal system they were subject to. Whether one personally likes or dislikes human rights advocacy movement, there is no doubt that they have worked historically and will largely continue to work in the favor of those that fight them. Our largely non-sexist views of women, and non-racist views of African Americans are living proof of how social justice manifested within our society.

Here's where a logical dichotomy makes it very tough to support racial and gender equality, yet not support the LGBT pride movement. If the anti-racism movement, the women's voting rights movement, and the LGBT pride movement all have essentially the same practices and methodology, and all attempt to raise awareness for the equality of stigmatized minority demographics, I can't see how it'd be logical for one to be in support of two of them (anti-racism and women's voting, for instance), yet against a third (LGBT pride). The only difference between the historical racial and gender equality movements and the LGBT pride movement is that the LGBT pride movement is happening within a different time period, and consequentially fights against a more diverse spectrum of misinformation and malopinion.

Other than that, they all hold all of the same fundamental characteristics the other has, and thus should be either accepted or rejected as whole. In situations like this, logical deduction dictates that unless there's a fundamental distinction between the LGBT pride movement and the gender and racial equality movements that's been missed, it would be most reasonable to support or oppose the movements as a whole. For instance, if the movements are all fundamentally the same, then it seems bizarre that one would be in favor of anti-racism and LGBT pride, yet be opposed to women's rights. If one is opposed to anti-racism, doesn't logic dictate that they must also be opposed to women's rights and LGBT pride? If one decides to protest LGBT pride, how can they justify supporting the movements of gender and racial equality?

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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

On The Theoretical Viability of Time Travel Given B-theory Spacetime Properties


Is time travel theoretically possible? It depends on what your position on the underlying properties of time are.

Time travel is only possible under what is called the B-theory of spacetime. To time travel it is essential that, in it's most reducible or conceptual state, the local universe is an array, much like that which a computer programmer or mathemetician uses. This array must have at least 4 dimensions. If indeed our spacetime reality does possess these properties (for example, under the M-variant of superstring theory) then one can simply manipulate the value of the fourth dimension (time) in the same way that one can manipulate the other three by walking around (that is, in the non-quantum representation of a point within space plotted on a three-dimensional graph, just as we perceive reality). Under B-theory then, it is theoretically possible to time travel. Whether it is acheiveable ontologically is a different question. I'm not sure how we could conceivably manipulate the value of time. If one day we could find a mechanism which allows us to freely manipulate the fourth dimension to a desired value, then we could backtrack or fast-forward through time.

The thing about the B-theory of time, however, is that it's inherently physically deterministic. Within our four-dimensional array, all of our actions and responses are predetermined on a physical level. Under B-theory, when time "passes" it simply increments within it's respective dimension on a pre-determined path, and we experience the contents contained within whatever specific increment of the fourth dimension that we perceive currently at the coordinates we currently occupy and are situated around. Everything that we and others experience on a physical level has been pre-determined, including the dates of our births, our deaths, and the emotions and attachments we have to anything and everything.

However, under the A-theory of spacetime, the universe is not a predetermined array of values but rather a dynamic temporal reeality. This mean that under A-theory, the past events that occurred do not exist anymore, and the ones which may happen in the future are not constrained by physical fatalism, because they do not exist yet. Instead of thinking of A-theory as a array which you can move up and down on a given dimension, think of it as a set of properties. Just like the past at one time had a set of properties when it was the present, so the present is also a conglomeration of properties that we experience here and now. These properties change relative to what we experience, and are not metaphysically restrained to follow a set path, as B-theory is.

This is the "common sense" view of time. If I had decided to go to the park yesterday and stay home tody, the statement "I am at the park" would be true yesterday, but it would not be true today. This is because the property of me being "at the park" was only true in the past, and the past has stopped existing as a reality. My park visit changed the set of properties within the present tense as I was experiencing it while I was there. It was true that I was indeed at the park. Once I left, this set of properties changed again. The property me being at the park ceased to exist because I am not presently at the park. This is A-theory in a nutshell.

Under B-theory, however, it would be true simultaneously that I was at the park and not at the park, because there would be no one set of properties to define my state by. My being or not being at the park would depend on what increment of time within the fourth dimension you'd be referring to. At a certain value of time (let's call it "a") my physical coordinates may indicate that I was indeed at the park, while in a different instance of "a" I would not.

If the world is a four-dimensional spacetime array, then time is just a value like any other. Under this, it is true that we can move around in time the same way we move around in space. As we manipulate our x,y, and z coordinates by walking around, we experience a change within the values of three out of the four dimensions within B-theory. Time is viewed with many of the same properties as space within B-theory. In the same way that we view distance, we can also view time, because it's just a value, and we can increase or decrease it how we like to get desired results, in theory.

For instance, if I wanted to go to the fridge and get a drink right now, I'd realize that I have to walk about 10 feet, because the fridge is 10 feet away from me. It's the same thing with time under B-theory, though it doesn't come as common sense to us. Just as the fridge is 10 feet away from my person on via physical dimension, the experiences I was having 5 seconds ago and the experiences I will have in 5 seconds are about as far away within the dimension of time.

By simply changing the values which represent the coordinates which I take up by walking up to the fridge, I can interact with it because our spacial dimensions with a given value of the dime dimension are close enough to interact within one another as physical objects. In the same way, one can theoretically "walk up" or "walk down" the value of time to experience what had happened in the past at given coordinates, or what would happen in the future at given coordinates.

In conclusion, then, on A-theory things really do become true and then become untrue at different temporal instances. Whole nations, global protests, worldwide rallies, and large-scale wars ae referred to as things of the past because they do not exist anymore. In a previous "present" moment, many of these things were true, but once that present moment becomes a past moment, the events that happened cannot just be reenacted because the set of properties from that "present" to this "present" are completely different. The past set has vanquished, and while the present set may have some similarities, it will never be exactly like the properties in a previous "present" moment within our local spacetime continuum.

Meanwhile, in B-theory everything that has happened or will happen has always existed and will always exist. There is no such thing as "time" in the common sense view under this theory. No event really becomes the past, nor future event happen "after" one within a lower increment of the time dimension. Our lives are laid out on complex metaphysical sheets of paper, and we're just along for the ride as we experience different values of the fourth dimension in collaboration with whatever three-dimensional coordinates we happen to occupy by physical happenstance. Just like we manipulate our experiencd within the spacial dimensions by walking to the fridge or going to the park, we can also theoretically manipulate our experience within the time dimension by "walking" up and down it. This would thus change the value of our current experiential temporal dimension to different one.

So from this, I think time travel is possible in B-theory, but not A-theory. I would hate to see it happen in a B-theory world, however! Think about it. If a B-theory physical structure is actually real within a given spacetime, then anybody who discovers time travel (if indeed there is a practical way to go about harnessing it) and goes back in time will enter a quadradimensional causality loop and be stuck within it forever! Going forward shouldn't have any consequences, unless one goes forward to a time value where one will necessarily use time travel to travel back in time. Doing this would yield the same consequences as essentially going back in time, because the B-theory is deterministic and nothing about the structure of the pre-existant array is subject to change. For whatever we do, under B theory, we could not have done otherwise.

Starting to see the problem? Not yet? Let me explain. If anybody ever discovers time travel under the B-theory of time, then they could not have ontologically chosen otherwise because of B-theory's necessarily physically deterministic nature. Therefore, if one tries to travel into the past, there is no live option within a B-theory spacetime array to do anything other than what originally happened at that instance of time! Because B-theory is not a collective set of properties that change at every other "present" moment like A-theory, but rather a wholly encompassing set of experiential, emotional, and intellectual properties relative to the values of each dimension, this means that going back in time would not allow you to take your memories or discoeries with you!

To go back in time therefore would be to "forget" that time travel existed (along with everything else within a higher increment of the time dimension) and put you in the same deterministic four-dimensional array coordinates that would eventually lead to your experiential "discovery" of time travel again! This is because if you do a certain thing at a given time in a deterministic spacetime paradigm, you cannot and could not have chosen to do otherwise! The deduction of these realities necessitates that anybody who travels to the past after discovering time travel within B-theory is destined to an eternal and real experiential fate of "discovering" time travel because they could not have done otherwise, then travelling back in time because they could not have done otherwise, and subsequently having their memory and intellect rolled-back to the period which they traveled to, only to then discover time travel again, leading necessarily back to the original visit to the past! Because of this, any person who goes back in time will experience this temporal causality loop eternally, wholly unable to get out of it due to B-theory's necessary determinism.

Under A-theory then, time travel elicits a number of certain logical absurdities and paradoxes which make it a logical absurdity. Under B-theory, however, you really can "time travel" just like in the movies, other than the fact that travelling back in time will mess up your life for good and put you into a temporal causality loop. Fun.

Personally, I hold to A-theory because B-theory (time travel and all aside) elicits certain paradoxes which I don't believe there are adequate responses for, as well as being on the sharp end of Occam's Razor due to it's essential complexity as a physical system.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug? A Cross-Study Analysis



Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

On the week of September 23rd, 2013, the recently appointed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to the town of Steinbach, Manitoba. During this week, Trudeau was visiting the local restaurant Main Bread and Butter when he entered a dialogue with local food bank owner Candice Cancade regarding current and future Marijuana policy. A video posted by the YouTube account Steinbach Online on September 26th, 2013 depicts this dialogue (SteinbachOnline, 2013). This video almost immediately went viral, becoming Steinbach Online’s most viewed video many times over and being featured in the Huffington Post article within 24 hours. During the dialogue, there is back and forth from Trudeau and Cancade about marijuana addiction and the effectiveness of the current marijuana prohibition, but at around 1:50 a critical question is asked. At this point, Cancade states that there are many people she deals with regularly which are afflicted by the reality of addiction, and Trudeau asks if it was specifically marijuana use which contributed to this. In response, Cancade denies this but says that marijuana is the “gateway drug”, a statement which Cancade’s whole argument rests on. If marijuana really is a gateway drug, then advocates and pro-legalization platforms will have a powerful new foe to contend with. If on the other hand marijuana is not a gateway drug, then advocates and pro-legalization platforms have one less obstacle to overcome. This essay will argue that the marijuana gateway effect is better represented by a different, model, called the common factor model.

In analyzing and critiquing gateway theory, it is important to define a concrete and reasonable, yet fair definition of the terminology at hand. Regarding gateways in general, it is important to distinguish between gateways and necessary preconditions, as there is a common misconception which equivocates the two. To say that something is a gateway in studies of this context is not to say that a certain condition leads to a given circumstance if and only if the condition is true, as this is called a necessary precondition. Rather, to define something as a gateway is to say that it elicits an increased number of given circumstances if the gateway condition exists than if it weren’t. To depict a necessary precondition, imagine that a person named Fred met with his boss Monday morning about getting a promotion. Note how this necessitates that Fred had a job, because Fred’s meeting with his boss could happen if and only if Fred had a job. This is an example of a necessary precondition, because there is no conceivable reality in which Fred meets his boss while not having a job that gives him a boss.

To depict a gateway, imagine instead that Fred decided to try and obtain employee of the month by not being late for a single shift. Then, at the end of the month, Fred succeeded and was presented with his award due to his punctuality. This is an example of a gateway because Fred’s punctuality is the gateway condition that increases the chances of him receiving employee of the month. If Fred wasn’t punctual, then his chance of receiving employee of the month go down exponentially. Note how this isn’t a necessary precondition because Fred’s flawless attendance does not necessitate his receiving the award, but only increases the chance of it happening by a large amount. In the same way, the marijuana gateway theory holds the position that marijuana use in individuals contributes to an increased probability of using of “hard” drugs at a further point in time. These “hard” drugs vary from study to study but are generally popular, damaging, and addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin. Note that in scholarly studies the term “gateway theory” is not always referenced directly, but terms like “gateway model” or “marijuana gateway effect” are synonymous to one another in standard contexts.

For the gateway theory to be reasonably demonstrated, there are three major obstacles which the model must account for. Firstly, marijuana use must be able to account for a gateway effect in and of itself. The gateway theory must demonstrate that the specific practice of using marijuana and nothing associated with or auxiliary to it are what invoke the gateway effect. Secondly, the gateway theory must possess more explanatory power than all of its rival hypothesis. This means that even if a gateway model can be invoked to explain some set of data, an alternate model which better accounts for that same data will render the gateway explanation obsolete in that instance. Thirdly, the gateway theory must demonstrate an unmediated, causal relationship between the marijuana gateway and the increased likelihood of hard drug use within individuals.

This last condition is of the utmost importance, because assuming causation is the most common statistical fallacy employed. For instance, searching Google for citations of Yale’s 2013 opioid study (which the authors explicitly state as a purely correlatory enquiry) will yield a showcase of misinformed scholars, journalists, and bloggers. Almost everybody that cites this study misrepresents the author’s findings and uses them as evidence for a gateway hypothesis (Fiellin et al, 2013). Gateway hypothesis’ are by definition causal, however, and the authors never make causal claims, rendering this study outside the domain of affirming or refuting the gateway hypothesis. It is also important to note that this causal relationship, if observed at all, must occur in at least 10% of all instances. Any findings that support numbers less than this (C = 0.10) are statistically insignificant. Mark Kleiman, in his book Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results affirms this by saying that finding at least a one in ten gateway relationship between marijuana and a hard drug warrants increased marijuana control efforts (Kleiman, 1992).

Now, there are two major models that attempt to explain marijuana hard-drug correlation and have statistical data to back themselves up. The first model is the gateway model, and the second is the common factor model. As the gateway model has already been adequately defined, we will move on to the common factor model. The common factor model is distinct from the two in that it attempts to explain the perceived marijuana-hard drug correlation by proposing that there are certain characteristics which increase both. If the common factor model is most statistically explanatory, then marijuana itself is not the problem, but other factors which increase both marijuana and hard drug use. These factors can be anything from the living situation to the personality or geographical location of an individual. The common factor model aims only to show that various common, combined factors better explain the marijuana hard-drug correlation than the gateway hypothesis.

Though these two models contend relentlessly with each other in popular circles, in scholarly circles there is ample reason to think that the common-factor model has more explanatory power than the gateway model. There are two major scholarly studies which address these models: one by Morral and colleagues in 2002 supporting the common factor model and one by DeSimone in 1998 supporting a gateway model (Morral, 2002, DeSimone, 1998). These two studies are the most prevalent representatives of their viewpoints because they have been collectively cited over 300 times in other scholarly literature. Both use complicated statistical methodology which make only their aims and conclusions plain to those not qualified in the field. Morral states that he and his colleagues have successfully explained all phenomena cited to support claims of a gateway model by using the common factor model. DeSimone, however, states that his study found a 29% gateway effect from marijuana to cocaine (C = 0.29). For the common factor model of Morral and his colleagues to triumph over DeSimone’s gateway hypothesis, one of two things can happen. Firstly, their study could have more explanatory power than DeSimone’s study obsolete. Secondly, DeSimone’s study could be shown to be flawed. On closer inspection of these two studies, not one but both of these conditions are true. DeSimone’s study can be demonstrated as statistically flawed, but even if it wasn’t, Morral’s study would still be a better explanation of the data, because Morral has explained all the same phenomena DeSimone did without using a gateway model. So what is wrong with DeSimone’s study?

While looking into critiques of DeSimone and his gateway model, something interesting was found. Though DeSimone does not cite it in his limitations section, Morral himself critiques DeSimone’s study in the paper mentioned above, stating that "Two of these studies (DeSimone 1998; Pacula 1998) suggest that common actors alone cannot explain observed gateway phenomena . . . However, none of these studies take into account the observation that opportunities to use marijuana precede those for hard drugs, and may themselves be associated with propensity to use drugs through, for instance, drug-seeking behavior.”

The one thing that DeSimone forgets to control for in his study is the fact that marijuana is more often than not offered before cocaine! It seems as though Morral didn’t follow through on pointing out DeSimone’s flaw, instead saying that predence of marijuana use may be associated with propensity to use drugs. So he never actually falsifies DeSimone’s model, but merely says that there is opportunity to.

I went out of my way to find some statistics regarding the prevalence of marijuana versus that of cocaine to try and figure out if this would merely damage DeSimone’s gateway model or make it wholly insignificant statistically. A 1999 study by Van Etten and Anthony assessed drug availability pertaining to first opportunities, finding that 51 percent of the sample were offered marijuana at some point, while only 23 percent were offered cocaine (Van Etten et al, 1999). This means that marijuana is, on average, offered 2.21 times as much as cocaine is. Therefore, on average, for each individual that had been offered marijuana and cocaine, 68% were offered marijuana first and over half were offered marijuana twice before they were ever even offered cocaine once. So DeSimone’s proposed gateway hypothesis is explained away by the mere fact that he forgot to control for these variables. His proposed causation rate of C = 0.29 need not actually be taken as causal, but only incidental. It could be that a large amount of people within the 29% took marijuana merely because it was offered first, and therefore it is faulty to assume that the marijuana use caused the cocaine use.

Having realized this, there is no reason to think that those who fall within the 29% wouldn’t have taken the cocaine if they had not been offered the marijuana first. Mathematically, the actual gateway causation rate can be estimated by multiplying DeSimone’s gateway variable C (0.29) by the percentage of people who were not offered marijuana first (0.32), which essentially controls for the marijuana prevalence that DeSimone forgot to. Thus, one ends up with 0.29 * 0.32, which turns DeSimone’s C = 0.29 into a statistically insignificant C = 0.09, falling just short of Kleiman’s proposed and absolute minimum rate of statistical significance. Morral’s model contains something with more explanatory power statistically, hasn’t been shown to be flawed, and also explains all gateway phenomena without actually invoking a gateway. There, the common factor model is a more reasonable explanation of the data.

In conclusion, then, the evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug is lacking. This was argued by first explaining the difference between a necessary precondition and a gateway. After this, the criterion of a gateway model was given, which DeSimone’s study did not meet due to its flaws. Then the common factor model was introduced, and shown to be a better explanation of the data than the gateway model, reproducing every effect the marijuana gateway model was supposed to explain without actually using a marijuana-based gateway of any sort. In this same section, one of the most popular and highly cited pro-gateway studies was shown to be flawed and therefore statistically insignificant, while its rival hypothesis is methodologically sound and explains the same phenomena as the gateway. For these reasons, the gateway effect is not to be taken seriously when there are hypothesis that better explain the same data. The gateway effect, if it does exist, happens to such a statistically insignificant amount of people that it’s far from observable, and far from being reasonably treated with the gravity that it does currently.

References:

DeSimone, J.. (1998). Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?. Eastern Economic Journal, 24(2), 149–164. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40325834

Etten, M., & Anthony, J. (n.d.). Comparative epidemiology of initial drug opportunities and transitions to first use: Marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 117-125.

Fiellin, L et al. (2013). Prior use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana and subsequent abuse of prescription opioids in young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health.

Huffington Post. Justin Trudeau Confronted On Pot Stance, But Does Woman Have Ties To Vic Toews? (2013, September 26). Retrieved December 9, 2015.

Kleiman, M. (1992). Against excess: Drug policy for results. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Morral, A et al. (2002). Reassessing the marijuana gateway effect. Addiction, 97(12), 1493-1504. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2002.00280.x

Steinbach Online. (2013, September 26). Justin Trudeau Discusses Pot With A Concerned Steinbach Mother [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtHmO_wK7UI

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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Radical Indoctrination of Children is Undesirable to Person and Society Whether It's Religious or Secular




I watched a film a little while ago and it brought the question of childhood indoctrination to mind. The film "Rúbaí", an 11-minute short about a young child claiming to be an atheist seems to create more problems than it hopes to solve. In the beginning of the film, 8 year-old Rúbaí is sitting in a presumably religious classroom while her teacher explains the ideas behind the Catholic mass to the students. As he describes how himself and others can be expected to be filled with the spirit upon receiving the sacrament, little Rubai asks if the teacher can prove that God exists. At this point in time, stereotypes and misinformation start to creep inside the film, both towards the larger atheistic community and the larger Catholic community. The teacher replies by saying that "God is everywhere" or some such nonsense, and the child remains unconvinced by this answer, only deepening her original predispositions.

Though Rúbaí is portrayed to live in a situation sheltered from secularism and ideological diversity, it soon becomes very clear that this was the way the world around her intended to stay. At this point in time, the movie portrays Rúbaí saying that she is an atheist and doesn't believe in God. To the disapproval of her teacher and parents, she asserts her belief. As Rúbaí grows in curiosity, she picks up a book on evolution and implicatorily gives up her belief in the traditionally held six-day creation. In the classroom a couple days later, Rúbaí says that it wasn't God who created, but evolution, and the Catholic teacher once again has nothing to say to these remarks. Throughout the movie, Rúbaí threatens to not take mass, and is pressured both by her teacher and her mother to do so. Though she does take mass, she only does so because they indirectly threaten her mother. Her mother blatantly excuses Rúbaí's belief in atheism as absurdity, and the priest seems to be shocked still upon her confession. Classmates vex her and her mother tells her of the money to be made within religion, but Rúbaí continues to challenge the religious ways of her society. The main plot line ends as she runs away from her home to her fathers grave site, feeling sorrowful and telling God that though she said her prayers, her father died.

To take a young child like Rúbaí and indoctrinate them with atheistic ideals is no better than taking that same child and indoctrinating them with religious ideals. It's one thing as a parent to tell your child why you think God exists, or even why you think God doesn't exist; but it's a completely different thing to force your viewpoint, whatever it may be, so relentlessly into a child's life that they can't think for themselves and are mindlessly fed information. This applies to both theism and atheism alike. There is a difference between taking your child to church and making them take mass. It seems like it's a small difference, but in principle it's enormous. By taking your child to church, you're simply exposing them to a religious ideology and lifestyle, but by making them take mass, dedicating them against their will, or making them pray before meals you are imposing certain religious traditions on them which they are to young to understand and comprehend. However, it works both ways. There is likewise a difference between taking your child to a protest against a Christian organization and making them hold a sign. There's a difference between telling your child why God doesn't exist and telling them that all religious people are dogmatic and uneducated. There's a difference between teaching your child about atheism and molding your child into an atheist against their will, and that's what I think the makers of this movie are missing.

Why can't we fight misinformation instead of fighting organized religion and promoting atheism? Why does anything associated with indoctrination only appear in a religious climate and setting? In "Rúbaí" the producers have become the very thing they wish to combat, fostering implicitory ideals of free-thought and skepticism while peddling every line and camera angle with a biased secular undertone. Where is the group that opposes indoctrination of any kind, whether religious or secular? That's right, it doesn't exist, because indoctrination is not the issue within most groups that claim to oppose it, religion is.

Here's the "Rúbaí" movie, let us know what you think!



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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Did the Paris Attacks Justify a War on Islam?




This is what happened after 9/11, let's not let it happen again.

Something to keep in mind when enquiring into the motives, damage reports, and claimed responsibility of those involved in the Paris attacks is that terrorists are not respresentative of Muslims. To generalize all Muslims as terrorists is to classify one of the most diverse and non-violent groups of people according to the radical and morally abhorrent actions of a certain minority sub-demographic. There are over 1,570,000,000 Muslims in the world, and Wikipedia, which in this particular case is a good source because it must be representative numerically, lists only 403 worldwide acts of terrorism. It is therefore completely unreasonable to then take these 403 acts and generalize them to the larger Muslim population.

If we do it with Muslims, why not do it with Christians or Hindus or atheists? Surely all Christians are abortion clinic bombers, right? Surely all Hindus torture and kill those who don't agree with their ideology, correct? Surely atheists have no moral compass because they don't believe in God, and because of this they're out to kill everybody, just like the couple delusional ones we see on the news, right? After submitting ourselves to these parallels, it becomes unequivocally clear that generalizing Muslims is fallacious, because if we hold this position, we would also have to logically commit ourselves to other generalizations that we know are absurd.

There's no doubt in my mind or anybody else's that there is a war of terrorism going on, but something that everybody misses is that there's another hidden war going on right under our noses. That's the war of generalization and stereotypes. Much like those who are LGBT, the question to be asked to Muslims is not "have you ever been discriminated against?" but "how many times have people discriminated against you?" because in our terror crazed, Islamophobic society, we seem to be just as unreasonable as the terrorists themselves.

Moreover, I don't entertain the term "Muslim extremist" as reasonable because it implies a certain socioplasticity to the Muslim which doesn't exist. If I talk about "extreme" piety towards handing in schoolwork on time, or "extreme" devotion to working out every morning, I'm not implying that I've fundamentally changed the logistics of doing schoolwork or working out, I'm simply just saying that those who have "extreme" piety or devotion are a "cut above the rest". To take this same definition and apply to to Muslims would be to say that Muslims extremists are a "cut above the rest" when this is clearly absurd. When we say extremist in the context of Muslims, we are not talking about Muslims who are "a cut above the rest", we're talking about deranged terrorists who have redefined orthodox Islam and made it something that it's not! This is clearly absurd, which is why "extremist" doesn't fit well as a definition for terrorists who claim to be Muslims. What I'm trying to say is that a Muslim "extremist" is not somebody who just simply takes their faith more seriously than other, a Muslim "extremist" is somebody who redefines the fundamental tenets of Islam faith and wholly misrepresents it.

This is why the argument that moderate Muslims are "extremists in waiting", "possible extremists" or "tomorrow's extremists" doesn't work. To convert to "extremist" Islam from orthodox Islam is to deny fundamental tenets of the Qur'an's teaching on violence, war, spoils of war, the oppression of women, and the character of Mohammed, essentially rejecting Islam as a whole and turning their terroristic ideology into a new religion while claiming to be following Islam. So there's not this sort of "spectrum" within Islam that make certain Muslims "moderate" in their subscription to the practices of Islam, and others "extreme" in their practices of Islam, they are two fundamentally different things.

A moderate Muslim is not moderate in the sense that they only subscribe to their belief "moderately" or "a little bit", and radical or extremist Muslims are not extremists in the sense that they subscribe to their belief "radically" or "in an extreme sense". They are simply two different ideologies, with moderate Islam based on best interpreting Mohammed's revelations as a whole, and terroristic sects that just pick and choose the parts of the Qur'an that they favor, so that they can justify raping women captured in conquest, enforcing incorrect interpretations of Shariah, and doing things which Mohammed himself would never have done. In short, can moderate Muslims be "extremized"? No. That being said, have certain terrorist sects taken groups of Muslims that already ascribed to near-terroristic Islamic ideologies and flawed Qur'anic interpretations and turned their views into full-fleged terroristic ones? Absolutely.

There's a movie called "Mooz-Lum" written by Qasim Basir that attempted to portray the lives of average Muslims during the 9/11 attacks. In the whole story line of the movie, Qasim makes the subtle but effective point that people tend to generalize and be unreasonable either when they're scared, or they identify with a group. When planes hijacked and driven by Middle Eastern men with long beards and turbans crash into towers on our soil, it becomes an "us versus them" mentality. Automatically, we so ignorantly assume that everybody therefore with a long beard and a turban is going to do the exact same thing, leaving behind every ounce of common sense and objective reasoning in the process. Our actions after 9/11 were so obtusely racist and dehumanizing that I'm embarrassed people with minds that God gave them continue to choose to make such poor decisions.

The war lies against terrorism, but the second war lies against the generalization of terrorists. Remember that.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Were the Paris Attacks a Rare Occurrence of Terrorism?


I've been seeing a lot of various posts about the terrorist attacks on Paris and been thinking somewhat. Something that we as a people need to understand is that the media and the reporting that they do on these subjects is based largely on fear. When we fear something, such as our economy, our values, and above all else our safety, the media will take our fears and run with them. Because of this, we hear a lot about the devastating realities of terror in first-order countries, but never about the same things in other countries.

Nigeria's ‪#‎147notjustanumber‬ campaign and the WikiLeaks release of the U.S. Government's classified war logs are perfect examples of this. While the Virginia tech shooting has a death toll of 32 and the Paris attacks have a death toll of 129, there is much that we hear about when it has nothing to do with our health, wealth, and prosperity. Unfortunately, massacres like this happen all the time. They're nothing new, and they will continue to happen. The only time we hear the news report something of this nature is when it affects our safety or the safety of another first-order country. Don't get it wrong, terrorism isn't something that goes on in our backyard every other year or so, there are harsher realities for other countries, and when something doesn't affect a first-world country the media often turns a blind eye to them because there doesn't exist as much shock value and inherent potential to fear-monger, which means less clicks and less ad revenue for them.

In Nigeria, four armed gunmen walked into a school and separated the Muslims from Christians, proceeding to murder all the Christians in cold-blood. Why don't things like this get any news coverage? It's because it doesn't matter as much to us. It seems that the dominating societal response to incidences like this are that it matters exponentially less if stuff goes on "over there" as long as it's not in our country. Because if it's not in our country or a rich country like ours (Paris) then it doesn't instill fear into us the same way, rendering it less effective at getting views. Here are some of the biggest incidents I could find from the leaked logs which don't involve first-world countries:

On February 3rd, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq a dump truck stacked with explosives was detonated in the middle of a busy intersection killing 105 civillians and wounding 251. The area was sectioned off from further civillian presence as first responders came in to assess the damage.

An August 30th, 2007 post-battle damage assessment report states that in a skirmish with enemy forces, over 48 civillians were killed and 380 wounded (though the wounded in this case were generally less wounded than those who suffered vehicle or suicide bomb attacks). In all this, only 9 soldiers were killed.

On March 2nd, 2004 in the city of Karbala, Iraq, 6 suicide bombers near the vicinity of the Twin Shrines killed 110 civillians and injured 233 civillians. After first responders came to the scene, 20 of the wounded were evacuated to a makeshift medical center to receive treatment for their wounds.

On August 14th, 2007 in the city of Qahtaniyah, Iraq, 4 vehicles with bombs inside them were detontated, killing 299 civillians and wounding 402. First responders onto the scene took 60 of the wounded and 30 of the (later pronounced) dead to the Tal Afar and Siniar hospitals to receive treatment for their wounds.

In short, we live in a day and age where terrorism is sensationalized, and it is good to keep a clear head about how much terrorism there is in the world, and in which places. The news outlets are not reliable sources of information, we need to be skeptical about the geographical exclusivity with which majors news sources tend to report, and must be able to fact-check for ourselves.

Terrorism isn't just a Paris problem, it's even worse. Because humans have intrinsic value, it stands to reason that in ideal conditions every terror act that results in the unjustified loss of life should be  reported by the media and responded to by the public with the same amount degree of emotion or attention. Obviously that's an unrealistic ideal, but it never hurts to think about the way that the world should be. This also isn't to downplay the Paris attacks in any way, it merely serves to build a case from the ground up about awareness of people in worse conditions and areas which are more frequently terror-ridden than most of us.

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