• Think Progress: A New Study On Mass Shootings Has Some Stunning Results

    This article comes from Think Progress and details some work carried out by Adam Lankford on mass shootings, released four days ago, just prior to the latest in a long line of US shooting incidents:

    Over the past fifty years, there have been 90 mass shootings in America. Though it has just five percent of the world’s population, almost one-third of the world’s mass shootings occurred in the United States during that time period.

    Those are some of the harrowing takeaways of a new study by Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama. The study, “Mass Shooters, Firearms, and Social Strains: A Global Analysis of an Exceptionally American Problem,” offers the first qualitative analysis of all public mass shootings worldwide between 1966 and 2012. Lankford used data from the New York City Police Department’s 2012 active shooter report, the FBI’s 2014 active shooter report, and international sources. It omitted gang-related or drive-by shootings, as well as hostage-taking incidents, robberies, and shootings in domestic settings. A public mass shooting can be defined as a shooting that killed at least four victims, according to the FBI’s definition of mass murder.

    “It’s a bigger problem today than it was a decade ago and it may be a bigger problem in the future,” Lankford told Newsweek. “There are a lot of questions that people have posed in the past that we didn’t have statistics on or quantitative answers for,” especially when it came to understanding the prevalence of mass shootings in America as compared with other countries.

    Lankford examined data from 171 countries and concluded that the United States had the most public mass shooters in the world: 90. That’s five times as many as the Philippines, the next country on the list, which had 18. Of the remaining top five countries, Russia had 15, Yemen 11, and France 10.

    The study found that public mass shootings in the U.S. were distinct from those abroad. Mass shooters in America, for example, were more likely to use multiple weapons than shooters abroad. They were also more likely to attack in schools, factories, warehouses, and office buildings than shooters in other countries.

    “Given the fact that the United States has over 200 million more firearms in circulation than any other country, it’s not surprising that our public mass shooters would be more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons than foreign offenders,” Lankford said. “I was surprised, however, that the average number of victims killed by each shooter was actually higher in other countries (8.81 victims) than it was in the United States (6.87 victims) because so many horrific attacks have occurred here.”

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lankford also found a strong connection between America’s civilian firearm ownership rate and its number of mass shootings. According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland, and Serbia, rank among the top five countries for firearms owned per capita. They are all also ranked in the top 15 countries for public mass shooters per capita.

    “My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation’s civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters,” he concluded. “Until now, everyone was simply speculating about the relationship between firearms and public mass shootings. My study provides empirical evidence of a positive association between the two.”

    Category: Gun ControlPolitics


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Ann

      I’m not sure that the measure of “mass homicide” should be confined to shooting only.

      I wonder if it isn’t really all the same thing if mass murder by “burning tire around the neck” or “chopping to bits with a machete” or “clubbing to death” are not really the same phenomenon, merely modified by the weapons available.

      Dividing up mass murder by type of weapon almost seems like a distinction without a difference, but which in any case has the effect of making any advanced nation seem like a place of more “mass murders” just because it has more “mass murder with modern assault weapons.”

      Does mass murder (with any kind of weapon) committed by a group count?
      How large can the team of murderers be?
      What if it is an entire group of young men slaughtering albino children? Does that count as a mass murder?

      If mass murders are not counted because
      • They are committed with low-tech weapons, not modern firearms
      • They are committed by large teams, not small teams
      • They have certain stated reasons (“Disabled children are witches.” “They belong to the other tribe.”) but not other stated reasons (“They were mean to me.”)
      • They occurred in a field or town square but not in a modern public building
      • They are committed for political reasons or due to struggles over drug trafficking
      …. if mass murders of these types are not counted somehow, then it is inevitable that the statistics will show that the US and Europe will come out ahead.

      But if all mass murders are counted, I wonder how the various nations would rank?

      Where do the countries with drug cartels rank? These are the places where mass graves are routinely discovered. Those nations don’t seem to be on the list at all.

      Another thing that concerned me is that sometimes the data is described as “per capita,” but sometimes it is not.

      Here is an example:
      “Lankford examined data from 171 countries and concluded that the United
      States had the most public mass shooters in the world: 90. That’s five
      times as many as the Philippines, the next country on the list, which
      had 18. Of the remaining top five countries, Russia had 15, Yemen 11,
      and France 10.”
      Population of the US: 320 million
      Population of Russia: 144 million
      Population of the Philippines: 98 million
      Population of France: 64 million

      I would be interested in comparisons that are not just “set-ups” designed with definitions and exclusions to eliminate really horrific societies, and allow the US and France to bob to the top.

      Lankford thinks he made a brilliant discovery to find a correlation between “number of gun owners” and “number of shooting deaths.”
      Yet I bet France leads the US in “number of murders committed with agricultural tools associated with vine culture.”

      A really rigorous study would confine the comparisons to:
      > Per capita
      > In equivalent socioeconomic societies
      > Of gun-owners only
      That is, what is the per capita rate of mass shootings between French gun owners – vs – US gun owners?

      Private gun ownership per 100 people:
      US: 88

      France: 32
      Mexico: 15
      Colombia: 6

      And then I would be interested in seeing how many mass murders are committed with other weapons (not firearms) in those societies.

      I think it can be confidently predicted that the US would still come out ahead by a factor of two or three (or even more?), but at least those would be numbers that make sense to compare.

      I’d still be unsure, however, if any useful results could come of it.
      Discovering that the US has more mass shootings per gun owner than Portugal might be interesting in a Trivial Pursuit kind of way, but I wonder how useful it is.

      What would anyone propose we do about such a discovery?
      Or is it sufficient that simply determining the numbers allows some researcher to get some ink by bashing the US?

      Well, that’s a kind of use, I guess.

      • Geoff_Roberts

        I’m in total agreement with the excellent points you raised, Ann. As you said, this study is a “set-up” which avoids including societies with much more horrific mass murders and, instead, only focuses on guns owned by private citizens.

        Last year was the 20th anniversary of over 1 million Tutsis murdered in Rwanda mainly with machetes. About a year ago, 29 Chinese innocent bystanders were killed by machetes at a train station. Recently, there was a horrible mass killing of five family members in Oklahoma where the weapons used were knives. We’re all familiar with the mass killings by ISIS where beheadings are often the killing method of choice. Guns aren’t necessary to commit mass murder.

        Where are the high profile studies which examine the motivation and methods of horrific mass murders such as these? Why does it seem that mass murders where guns are used get much more attention than mass murders where knives and machetes are used?

        There is a crime and violence problem in the US ( as in most countries) but it is not because guns are available. The reasons for violence and murder are the same reasons that have existed since man has inhabited this planet.

        • Ann

          Hi, Goeff ~

          You are 100% correct.

          On 9/11, 10 hijackers captured 147 people and two gigantic airplanes and turned them into bombs — using a RAZOR BLADE.

          If only 10% of the passengers and crew had been armed, the outcome would have been far different. Even if we assume that the planes could not have been saved, those buildings and all their occupants would be here today.

          If only 5% …

          Even if we could show an increase in the criminal use of guns if
          everyone were armed (which is far from certain), the suggestion of one
          of my friends comes to mind:
          Train and arm only women over 30.
          They almost never commit armed crimes.

          To be fair, up until then the best course of action in the event of a skyjacking was quiet cooperation, but still, it should not be left to a couple of unarmed guys to stop terrorists.
          I was proud of them.

          To amuse you, here is a small clip from a spoof news source (the very funny DuffelBlog):
          ” … Ayoub El Khazzani simultaneously set two Pan-Arabian records on
          Friday for “Most Bullets Fired in Erratic Hail with Zero Infidel
          Fatalities” and “Most Heavily-Armed Terrorist to Be Subdued by Infidel
          with Bare Hands.”

          • Geoff_Roberts

            Yes, if more women were armed there would be much less violence perpetrated against females!

            • Ann

              But not just against females.
              If only 10 women on the 9/11 planes had been armed, or 5 …

              Armed women could stop any crime they can see.

              Finding one’s victim armed is a powerful disincentive to even trying crime to begin with.

              If you recall the rash of robberies against foreign tourists in Florida, investigators determined that the criminals targeted these people because they had just been on a plane, so it was certain that they were not armed.

              I was interested in the mixed findings regarding carry laws and violent crime

              One study found “higher rates of murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, auto theft, burglary and larceny”.. … all crimes which women do not commit, but which they suffer as victims.

          • He is not 100% correct as noted above.

          • “On 9/11, 10 hijackers captured 147 people and two gigantic airplanes and turned them into bombs — using a RAZOR BLADE.

            If only 10% of the passengers and crew had been armed, the outcome would have been far different. Even if we assume that the planes could not have been saved, those buildings and all their occupants would be here today.”

            I can’t honestly believe you would say this shite in all seriousness.

            Woo hoo, let’s go back to the Wild West, because that was a morally progressive, non-violent time.

            Or, you could compare say, the UK and gun violence, to the US, etc and see that, you know, arming citizens is a pretty lame idea. I would, on this alone, far prefer to live here than the States.

            Think about your biases.

            • Ann

              You pays your money and you takes your choice.

              The chance that you will be set on by three violent youths intent on robbing you in a dark alley are low in Britain, but in the US, you stay out of dark alleys.

              And you are still more likely to be the victim of a violent crime anyway — even in your own home or car.

              Those statistics shift the balance of the decision — they re-weight the factors.

              You advise potential and actual victims to beat off their attackers bare-handedly.

              Yet somehow I can’t help but think that if someone is in the hospital with her brains bashed out by those youths, I would wish that she had had a means of self-defense.

              She certainly cannot rely on the criminal justice system.
              Not only do they fail to solve most crimes, but the judges. lawyers, and police ensure that the criminals are returned to society as soon as possible to repeat the “Employment for Judges. Lawyers, and Police” cycle.

              Getting a trivial sentence for a violent crime is what makes violent criminals happy, and a happy customer is a repeat customer,

            • “The chance that you will be set on by three violent youths intent on robbing you in a dark alley are low in Britain, but in the US, you stay out of dark alleys.”

              Seriously? That is a sort of genetic fallacy. We know that something is the case, so therefore it is acceptable that it is the case. No.

              What you need is a non-lethal weapon of self-defense.

              But the real problem with a “guns save lives” argument is the language used. People talk about “defensive gun uses” and their right to defend themselves and their property. But there’s actually nothing defensive about a gun. They are all ATTACK. They are made and used for offense. “Defense,” on the other hand, is resistance against an attack. Defense is protection, something that STOPS an attack. Wearing a condom is defense, whereas punching yourself in the balls is offense. Protection is a bullet-proof vest, or mace, or a security system. A gun is not defense. The widespread use of an actual defensive weapon would potentially save more lives than a gun because, again, guns are for killing, not protecting. The sooner we are all provided a weapon LIKE a gun that merely incapacitates a person, the sooner we can safely defend ourselves, instead of defending ourselves by killing each other…

              I don’t want to say that “Guns Save Lives” is absolutely meaningless. But it is muddy. It’s just not all there, which makes it not have true meaning in the context of the larger conversation. The truth is, “Guns Have Saved Lives. Guns Have Ended Lives. Guns Are Meant to Kill.” The issue isn’t whether or not we have the right to protect ourselves and others, it’s whether or not guns are the best instrument to do the protecting.”


            • Ann

              Hi, Jon ~

              This is a good response, and you make several good points.

              I am now boxing outside my weight, and I will defer to the experts.

              I’m not particularly interested in this topic, and I don’t presume to any expertise.

            • Fair enough!

              I just think that America, in its present state, would benefit from gun control, in some way. And I think the data strongly supports this. I think the notion of more guns to fight gun crime is pretty insane.

              This sort of thing was of no surprise!


            • Ann

              The problem with gun control is that it has a dubious relationship to “ending gun crime,” but it certainly destroys all the legitimate uses of guns.

              It even impedes gun self-defense.
              Here’s a sign that you are wandering unaware in Propaganda Land.

              1) I read a comparison between emergency admissions to the hospital for smoking marijuana (very low) – vs – smoking deaths in the US (very high).

              They didn’t even CONSIDER all those cigarette-smoking emergencies!
              Oh! No! Wait! There aren’t any!

              2) Watch out for statistics about the crime stopping power of gun ownership for limiting its data to “gun deaths” — the number of criminals actually killed dead by gun-wielding homeowners.

              I guess they just forgot to mention that most people who use guns for self defense don’t end up KILLING the bad guy.

              An uncountable number of crimes are deterred before they even begin.
              Another bunch are simply scared off without a shot.
              And more are shot at.
              More are hit but not killed.

              How come those events are not considered?
              Makes it sound like “emergency room smoking admissions”

            • Stricter gun control means that if you pass PROPER checks and balances, then you could own a gun to use for warranted purposes. It depends what level of gun control you are talking about. Thus your comment is a straw man.

              1) no idea what you are talking about

              2) Guns in the home increase risk: Rather than being used for self-defense, guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts. For every one time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

              More Guns = More Accidental Shootings: People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.
              o On average, states with the highest gun ownership levels had 9 times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun ownership levels.iv
              o A federal government study of unintentional shootings found that 8% of such shooting deaths resulted from shots fired by children under the age of six.v


            • Ann

              These figures (or similar ones) are impressive only to certain people.
              Your belief that they should be definitive, and unfailingly guide people to the correct conclusion (“your” conclusion) is an error in judgment.

              For one thing, those who oppose gun control laws are already aware of these figures — but they don’t care.

              Americans have found many things to be costly but worth it.
              That is, we desire the benefits more than we dread the costs.
              For example, the War of Independence cost us
              • 6,824 killed in battle

              • 25,000–70,000 dead from all causes

              • Overall casualties up to 50,000

              While these losses made us sad, they did not make us just give up.
              And now we have all the benefits of bearing those losses.

              What the figures you printed really do is provide support for a decision already arrived at previously, on emotional grounds,

              The emotional decision then seeks objective reasons.

            • Ann

              If my brother had a pistol on the 9/11 airplane, the terrorists would have been able to cut off only ONE HEAD of only ONE flight attendant.

              Maybe the plane would have been lost anyway.

              But my brother would not have allowed them to fly it into a building.

              Would you?

              If you had a gun on that plane, would you have let them multiply their murders? How many heads would you need to see cut off before you said, “Enough. I have a gun and you have a razor blade, so I can enforce ‘Enough is enough!’ ”

              Even unarmed men finally came to that decision just a little later.

              Unluckily, not every criminal can be stopped that way.
              For one reason, we don’t usually have a crowd that can rush an unarmed man. In fact, we are not usually murdered by an unarmed man.

            • Where do you stop? Everyone has a gun? An automatic rifle? A machine gun? A bazooka? A nuke?

              Your logic is a race to insanity.

              No. For things like planes, you put stuff in place. But humans with guns is a bad idea. A very bad idea. I feel safe in this country, by and large; and this is largely due to the lack of guns.

            • Ann

              By “this country,” I take it you mean the UK?
              I didn’t know until just now that you were not an American.

              How would you feel in Switzerland?
              It has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, and a total of 57 gun murders.

              But all those guns!

              You would be afraid to come out of the hidey-hole in the cellar.

              I wonder if you don’t have some of the (complex and interlocking) factors about murder and gun ownership backwards — a “chicken or egg” situation.

              For example, the reason that British police are often unarmed is because the criminals are often unarmed.
              It is not the other way around.

              One of the (numerous, complex, interlocking) reasons that Americans want defensive firearms is that the criminals are so often armed.

              You are trying to imply that criminals are forced to attack their victims with guns because the victims started it, getting all armed up.
              I think that is probably backwards.

            • You might want to read this on Swiss comaprisons:


              You would also need to look at poverty and education levels, standard of living etc. Essentially, I would prefer guns in the hands of an average bunch of Swiss than an average bunch of Americans.

              When your country is as violent as it is, you should keep guns to the minimum.


              he bottom line is one of attitude. Populations with training in civic virtue, though armed, generally do not experience sensational massacres or high crime rates. Switzerland fits this mold. But the United States does not. As H. Rap Brown declared in the 1960s, “Violence is as American as apple pie.”


            • Ann

              I want to give England all due credit.
              It is the foreign country I love and honor and admire the most.
              Its achievements in government, global conquests, naval procedures, literature, law …
              These will never be matched by any other society in the future history of the world.
              And not too shabby in math and science either.

              But your day has passed; the sun has set on you.

              And now you must accept that the United States gave you a spanking and sent you home to bed, and then followed up by saving your asses from devastation by foreign enemies not once but twice in two World Wars we did not want to be in.

              And yet Brits are the only people who regularly beg the United States to disarm and to step down from its leadership position in (not just) global affairs, but in finance, science, technology, the performing arts … and many other fields that come to a nation with all the money and all the power.

              We can’t hope to hold this position forever, any more than England could.

              But we still think our society beats yours because of its limitless potential. For all we know, creativity and innovation depend on things like a forbearing government.

              It seems to me that when the hand of the government lies heavily on the people, the population is more orderly and law-abiding — more obedient.
              But at such a cost!
              Obedience is such a dim virtue — really small potatoes.

              When the hand of the government has been successfully fought off by the citizens, then you do get a more disobedient population, including more crime.
              Yet it is apparently a price worth paying.

              Our kids are brash, our teenagers are disrespectful and disobedient, but our adults — oh boy!

              And before you beg the US to change too much, please consider that you are much better off to have this United States as a friendly big brother than to have China as your Overlord.

            • WTF? I’m not even sure that warrants a response at all.

            • Ann

              I think Brits want the US to stop being powerful, transgressive, self-willed, autonomous, self-reliant.

              It’s like your suggestion that perhaps you know better than we do what is best for us.

              I know that it would be best for us if we submitted to your reign. I realize that it is a big job, and you’d need really fancy digs to do it in, and to house all the subservient staff that you’d need to see to our best interests.

              And the helicopters and Air Force One, and all that other stuff we need for you to look after us properly.

              Meanwhile, we can all be humble, meek, obedient, wordless — not self-seeking, not troublesome, not whining and complaining — How could that be in our own best interests?

              And if a fractious subset of the population started to speak out against you, well, that would hardly be in our best interests, no matter what we thought. In fact, such harmful mutterings had better be suppressed.

              And the covert idea that you should be taken out with extreme prejudice — well, that just has to be extirpated no matter the cost.

              In fact, cutting to the end game, our best interests lie in becoming your obedient slaves.

              Thank you for taking that on yourself

            • Hmm. So you live in a country who voted in Obama.

              Do you agree with everything your country does on behalf of him?

              I think you might see a whole huge flaw in your logic there.

              You are appealing to the moral right of the majority in all and every occasion since the beginning of time. Including Hitler.

            • Ann

              Well, the difference is, of course, that we VOTED FOR OBAMA, while you APPOINTED YOURSELF.

              Really, you are morally dense today, my old friend.


              Oh, and by the way. let me add
              Godwin’s Law!
              You lose!

              But seriously, Jon ~

              In the absolute and utter absence of the ability to know what is best or what we (or others) should do — excepting your honored self, of course — the experience of thousands of years of human civilization has demonstrated that the default position is then “Let people do what they want.”

              That rule has been suspended, I realize, now that we have your self-appointed leadership to decide for us what we ought to have.

              (Embarrassed red-faced laughter) And to think people used to try to tell us that we would have to wait for the Return to get a leader like you!

            • Holy crap.


              If you ever or have ever proclaimed an ought statement in contravention of your own elected government, then you are falling foul of your own logic. I am a fan of Obama and his general attempts to turn the tanker that is the US, but, if hypothetically, you were against universal healthcare, and you have sat at home and said,

              “Well, I think our country should abolish Obamacare” or something similar, then you are committing the same “morally dense” attitude you have accused me of having.

              There are so many issues with your logic I don’t know where to start. A country is merely an abstract collection of people lucky or unlucky enough to be born within its borders. A collection of individuals. So, in some sense, casting a moral opinion of any country is fairly equivalent to casting a moral opinion at an individual. In other words, you are inhibiting ANYONE form casting ANY moral opinion. No one can cast any moral value statement on account of not knowing all knowledge.

              This is ridiculous because you haven’t even clarified on what moral basis. For example, deontologists would simple laugh off your contextually derived moral evaluations. And that’s a third of philosophers (though not me).

              “the experience of thousands of years of human civilization has demonstrated that the default position is then “Let people do what they want.””

              Holy shit, so we look at the moral history of humanity and just agree that what happened was morally good, no matter, just because it is what some nebulously defined (or not defined) group of people wanted. So the conquistadores were ok because they, as a moral group, majority wanted to wipe out the Aztecs. What about the Aztecs?

              You honestly have the most naive, with all due respect, moral philosophy I have ever seen, unless you would just admit to being a harcore moral nihilist. But you are still saying we “should” adhere to “Lte people do what they want”.

              You see, that is a moral statement. It is an ought, an obligation. But I am not sure how you are grounding it, since you can no more claim that ought because YOU DO NOT KNOW the future outcomes. In other words, your position is self-refuting.

              This is a terminal problem for such as position.

            • Ann

              Of course I have (often) said that the government ought to do something other than what they are doing.

              But apparently I have some talents you don’t have.

              1) I know the difference between facts and opinions
              2) I know which category my moral sentiments fall into
              3) I can distinguish between my opinions and the law

              I never said “Let people do what they want” in the meaning you are affecting to believe.
              I do say “Let people believe what they want.”
              (I wouldn’t know how to stop them anyway)
              – and –
              “Let people vote for whatever they want.”
              (Anything else is tyranny)

              However, I will say this as well:
              As far as I can tell, people actually do whatever they want.
              And then they rightfully face the consequences of those choices, whether they are illegal choices or not — at least as far as the government is competent to address illegal behavior.

              You have shocked me more than once by your failure to realize that your personal moral opinions are not more valuable or more correct than the personal moral opinions of others.

            • 1) that’s “just an opinion”

              2) well done

              3) well done again

              Look, I have written extensively about making moral proclamations and post hoc rationalising them, so don’t presume to lecture me when you appear to have a very prima facie approach yourself.

              I am well aware of our rational shortcomings which is why I advocate and follow a bottom up approach as set out here:


              It’s about working out the fundamental principles which govern reality; in the case of thought and philosophy (and thus morality) it is the nature of abstracta – abstract ideas and concepts. This is an area which not even many philosophers go into since it can get dry and complex (see tropes, natural kinds,existence properties etc).

              I then build up from there, and get to morality. In fact, I am publicly debating the topic in a few months (and have published work on morality, eg in “Christianity Is Not Great”), so I would rather you didn’t thrown around baseless accusations and hypocritical attacks. ESPECIALLY since you have not seem to have recognised the self-refuting aspects of your own moral framework.

              You assert that no one can be right or wrong and thus we must defer to opinion. Of course, since philosophy is inextricably linked to logic, and given the Law of Non-Contradiction, people can in fact be wrong, just like in Maths. People can be invalid or unsound, as I believe you are being in the foundations of your own system.

            • Ann

              But that is the very reason for not only your gullibility, but the verging-on-evil nature of some of your thoughts about your moral position compared to all those bad, stupid other people who disagree with you.

              And another thing you are wrong about is to claim that morality and law are coextensive, or that law is based on morality.

              These ideas are not true except in the trivial sense that many ideas people have about anything are informed by the totality of their surrounding ideas, including their moral position.

              But to say, “Well, XYZ is moral, so therefore we shall make it a law” is just wrong. Laws always have to be couched in language that refers to objective benefit, to solving a public problem.

              I do think that you are not aware that your own moral positions are no more than your personal opinions, no more accurate or worthy than anyone else’s personal opinions.

              If I am wrong, will you please tell me that you do acknowledge that your moral sentiments are merely your personal opinions, no different in nature from your tastes in ice cream or your evaluation of the value of being friends with Mr So-and-so.

              If I am right, and you do have a sneaky tendency to think that your moral sentiments are objectively correct, can you tell me what kind of thought they are if they are not opinions?
              How do you come by them?

              How do you verify that they are correct?

              Morals are not related to logic in the same way that math is.

              Math is an infallible system, where “wrong” is not possible (except for the trivial case of “making a mistake in procedure.”)
              Math begins with axioms that are taken as true, and works out the implications.

              Morals does not have a set of starting axioms which everyone agrees to accept as true.
              And that is just the beginning of the difficulty.

              Here is a living demonstration of the worthlessness of Philosophy and the worthlessness of bloviations on the subject of morals:

              It has now been 3000 years or so since philosophy has examined the subject of “moral.”

              If you would be so good as to write for me the conclusion to the question “WHat is moral? How will I know it when I see it? How do I use the conclusions of philosophy to determine what is the moral choice when I am faced with a new dilemma?”
              I will leave some white space for the answer.

              Oh — and I will also leave 3000 more years for you to come up with it. Not that that would be enough.

            • Your hypocrisy is hilarious!

              “But that is the very reason for not only your gullibility, but the verging-on-evil nature of some of your thoughts about your moral position compared to all those bad, stupid other people who disagree with you.”

              So i make a moral proclamation based on some thoughtful moral analysis, and you claim it is “verging-on-evil”. You claim this factually, not setting it out as mere opinion. So you don’t seem to follow your own moral imperatives (which is itself self-refuting).

              “But to say, “Well, XYZ is moral, so therefore we shall make it a law” just does not happen. Laws always have to be couched in language that refers to objective benefit, to solving a public problem.

              No jurist is fool enough to think we know what is moral, or even how to define it. It is a useless concept (like “justice” or “fairness” or “beauty”) for making decisions like that.”

              Quite. Which is why it was legal to rape within marriage in the UK in the 1990s, but it then became illegal as we morally progressed in line with greater philosophical awareness in politics. policy making and law making, shedding off patriarchal models of reality in favour of more egalitarian virtues.

              Morality may be a useless concept for you, but the hilarity yet again of you proclaiming this is that you are VERY accustomed to making proclamations about other people, at the same time as always claiming their thoughts are merely opinions. Well, your claim of my morality is just an opinion. so you can shove it.

              But more than that, your accusations are just insulting clapttrap, and you are digging yourself another huge hole of stupidity here. I don’t really have the time in my day to deal with your inanity, but here goes.

              I do think that you are not aware that your own moral positions are no more than your personal opinions, no more accurate or worthy than anyone else’s personal opinions.

              What annoys me here is that you have no idea what my moral philosophy is. You keep saying things are merely based on opinion. Well, if thought is synonymous with opinion, then yes. But if opinion is based on logical deduction and/or induction, then it is more than just opinion.

              Furthermore, you capitulate to the will of the majority. Well, what is the will of the majority but a collection of individual “opinions”, each with their own lack of moral facticity? So therefore you have no factual basis for the deference to the will of the majority!

              Worse still, you seem to claim some objective greatness of the will of the majority, but this is itself a moral proclamation outside of the masses: your own individual moral proclamation; or an opinion in your own words.

              So yet again, despite all of your bluster and rhetoric, you have a position which is untenable in terms of logic and robust reasoning. It is self-refuting or internally incoherent for a number of reasons (notwithstanding the usual criticisms of such relativism).

              You see, your position is one that cannot arbitrate for moral disagreements. This is pretty terminal, because if some person, group or society wanted to come up and kill you for whatever reason, you could not protest other than from a position of mere subjective opinion. They could want to kill you for being a woman, and you could say nothing but “Yeah, well, that is the will of your masses” – especially if it is your own country’s society.

              Or, you could defer to moral reasoning, and enter the world of moral philosophy which is functional for arbitrating moral disagreements.

              Math is an infallible system, where “wrong” is not possible (except for the trivial case of “making a mistake in procedure.”)

              Math begins with axioms that are taken as true, and works out the implications.

              Morals does not have a set of starting axioms which everyone agrees to accept as true.
              And that is just the beginning of the difference.

              You might want to research the philosophy of maths, such that there are different logics and axiomatic systems which mathematicians grossly disagree on, such as formalism and Platonism. These will get some massive disagreements on what is wrong or permitted.

              In other words, you are simply wrong.

              I would obviously suggest reading a book on this that I have edited by James A. Lindsay called “Dot, Dot, Dot: Infinity Plus God Equals Folly” – http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/01/21/rdfrs-review-of-dot-dot-dot-infinity-plus-god-equals-folly/

              It would also do you well to understand Munchausen’s Trilemma to get your head around grounding and axioms, since everything, including what you say in totality (other than cogito ergo sum, which could still be expressed as an axiom since it is self-evidently true) is grounded in axiom:


              The problem in dismissing philosophy is you end up in a quagmire like this. You cannot establish your own position or dismiss mine without doing philosophy.

              You have both failed to establish yours whilst failing to critique mine in any substantive way.

            • Ann

              You say:
              “So i make a moral proclamation based on some thoughtful moral analysis, and you claim it is “verging-on-evil”.
              > I will show you what I am referring to by quoting you.
              I saved the links to some remarks of yours that I thought were in really bad moral health.
              I have tried a couple of times already to call you out on those remarks, but I lose heart.
              I keep on thinking, “What kind of person IS this?!”
              You say:
              “You claim this factually, not setting it out as mere opinion. So you don’t seem to follow your own moral imperatives (which is itself self-refuting).”
              I don’t believe your pretense that you are so insensitive to the ordinary usages of language as to be unable to recognize an opinion no matter how it is phrased.
              Would you be willing to pretend that you think a statement such as “Vanilla is better than chocolate” is a statement of fact — or that it is even trying to be?
              I have told you many many times that my moral positions are my personal opinions (as are yours.)

              You are just morally wrong to pretend that I somehow have forgotten that. (<– my personal opinion but obviously not yours)

              Grow up and play the game right.

              You say:
              “What annoys me here is that you have no idea what my moral philosophy is.”
              This is factually wrong. I have saved the links to some of your moral philosophy — the ones I found shocking and verging on evil
              You say
              “You keep saying things are merely based on opinion.”
              No, Jon.
              I keep saying that MORAL SENTIMENTS are PERSONAL OPINIONS.
              You say:
              “Well, if thought is synonymous with opinion, then yes”
              This is not logical.
              “Thought” is not synonymous with “opinion,” yet “opinions” occur anyway. Some thoughts are opinions, and some thoughts are not opinions.
              Moral sentiments are opinions.
              You say:
              “But if opinion is based on logical deduction and/or induction, then it is more than just opinion.”
              Here is a riddle:
              Q: “When is an OPINION more than an OPINION?
              A: Never, my friend. Never.

              Of course opinions are (post hoc) justified by scrounging around for logical deductions and/or inductions to justify them.

              I believe you would benefit from contemplating how opinions that are contrary to yours are justified.

              You say:
              “Furthermore, you capitulate to the will of the majority….

              – continuing on to –

              … your own words”.

              Are you referring here to the laws?

              That is where the will of the majority prevails – (should prevail <– my personal opinion).

              Naturally the previous (and new) beliefs, opinions, data bases, childhood training, etc of the people are what cause them to want or to reject a law.

              It is somewhat disturbing that you don't already know all this.

              1. Where do you think our laws should come from? You?

              2. How do you think people make decisions such as "Parking on this side of the street during a snowstorm shall be punished by a fine."?


              You say:

              You see, your position is one that cannot arbitrate for moral

              I don’t know how it has happened that you have never noticed this, but YOUR position cannot arbitrate for moral disagreements either.

              As a matter of fact, NO method is available to arbitrate for moral disagreements.

              If there were such a method, we would not have moral disagreements.

              Instead, all we have is a symphony of personal opinions.

              I understand that it is your opinion that your moral decisions are definitive and infallible. But just the mere existence of contradictory opinions IS the proof that they are ALL opinions.


              You say:

              “This is pretty terminal, because if some person, group or society wanted to come up and kill you for whatever reason, you could not protest other than from a position of mere subjective opinion.”

              This is certainly the actual case, Jon.

              Either it is against the law, or I just don’t want to experience it even if it’s legal.

              There’s nothing else.

              What do you think is a good riposte to a society that wants to kill you? You know, something that is not “terminal” to your moral philosophy.


              You say:

              They could want to kill you for being a woman, and you could say nothing but “Yeah, well, that is the will of your masses” – especially if it is your own country’s society.
              Surely the law IS the “will of the masses” (An exception is dictatorships,of course).

              Where do you think laws DO or SHOULD come from, if not from the “will of the masses”?

              (And just for curiosity’s sake, what would YOU say if the law let them execute you for whatever reason?)
              You say:
              “You might want to research the philosophy of maths, etc.
              Obviously different systems of math begin with different axioms. I didn’t think I had to belabor that self-evident fact. But it does not detract from my point that math (any kind of math) is a closed, self-referencing logic system, incapable of being “wrong” as long as the axioms are obeyed, as long as the procedures are faultless.
              I bet that’s an idea that’s new and exciting to Philosophy majors!

              Oh and BTW, let me inform you that actual mathematicians do not consult the “philosophy of math,” nor do working scientists apply to the “philosophy of science.”
              And I am in a position to know this as a fact.

              Instead they richly ignore the bloviations of philosophy, that poor old, shabby old game of MAKING STUFF UP, superseded by real ways to determine the actual facts about the universe, and desperately trying to tie itself to science like to a dog’s tail.

              You say:

              This is a common but sleazy trick.

              For example, one of my friends (religious) tries to justify her religions opinions by claiming that every kind of human feeling is really just a variety of religion. She tries to insist that “patriotism” or “familial love” or “awe at nature” or “enjoying beauty” are “religious” in some way.

              But intellectual honesty requires that we use words to sharpen distinctions and to clarify meanings, not to blur meanings and obfuscate the details.

              On that ground, I deny to you the specious claim that all varieties of human thinking are just kinds of “philosophy.”

              Let us be rigorous.
              Please define “philosophy,” and we can hold any statement up to that definition.
              Or you can weasel into an attempt at a “save” by refusing to define your terms, as my friend refuses to define “religion.”

            • Pray, tell me what my moral value system is. In detail.

            • Ann

              You flatter yourself to hope that I have followed your moral value system “in detail.”

              I have the links to a couple of statements of your moral values that I thought were horrific.

            • On what moral value system are your evaluating “horrific”. If it’s just your opinion, I couldn’t care less.

              If it involves logical reasoning and rationality, then we can have a rational discussion or which there must be some deference to something approaching correctness, such as logic, or the use of logic. Int hat sense, there is something which allows us, in some “objective” sense (I use the term with caveats) to evaluate our claims against each other.

              Now, whether your “opinion” is really a naive way of expressing that every claim is based at its most fundamental level on an axiom (or circular reasoning, or infinite regress) then there is an interesting discussion to be had, which may veer into a priori, cogito ergo sum, etc.

              In moral terms, this then might bring up the need to find a non-derivative currency for a value system (which is why pleasure or lack of pain are often provided as good currencies because they are self-evidently good and seen as non-derivative) if you were in any way concerned with the consequences of an action.

              Again, though, you would have to do some meta-ethical philosophy in defining what good, right, ought even mean. Sometimes I am not even sure if you have a grasp on the difference between descriptive, normative and meta- ethics.

            • Ann

              Of course my opinion that your remarks were “horrific” is my personal opinion.
              If there is an objective standard for “horrific,” then I wish you’d link me to it.

              I naturally also realize that in your opinion, your remarks were not horrific.

              I consider claims to be “baseless” if there is no basis for them, if they are not grounded on some objective evidence.

              They are then no more than fanciful — or in other words, personal preference, opinions.

              All moral assertions are necessarily in this category since they do not rest on any objective evidence, but instead only on one person’s (or many people’s) feeling that such-and-such is good or bad.

              You cannot arrive at a valid moral position by logic and reasoning. They are preferences, tastes, opinions. All you can do is try to bolster them with logic and reasons afterwards.

              “I prefer vanilla and I can prove it is better! Chocolate is too heavy and sticky, and it is not as refreshing! So there! Proved! Furthermore, it is the most popular flavor. Proved again!
              Wow! Look at me go!I just KNEW somehow that I was right.”

            • Ann

              You say:
              “In moral terms, this then might bring up the need to find a
              non-derivative currency for a value system (which is why pleasure or
              lack of pain are often provided as good currencies because they are
              self-evidently good and seen as non-derivative) if you were in any way
              concerned with the consequences of an action.”

              I of course have seen this dead-end approach many times.
              One of the problems (but far from the only one) is that no one can do the math.

              What is the math that lets me know if a specific baby should be aborted?
              How do we quantify its pain? Or its pleasure in being allowed to live? And what of the mother’s pain and pleasure? And her rights? And the rights of the unborn?

              I have a stance on abortion that came to me without recourse to math. I am aware that other women, just as respectable and virtuous as I am, just as intelligent and well-informed, just as responsible and as deeply invested in the legal decision — I am aware that there are other young women in every respect just like me who have different opinions.

              But I’d like to know how the math works out, if you have a chance.
              You know — that meta-ethical, non-derivative, philosophy math.

            • I’m just off to bed and this is another comment of yours. All I have to say to this as I don’t want every comment to go off into a thousand comments is:

              1) interesting you use maths as some objective thing, when it is as equally based on axioms (qua opinions?) at base; there are many mathematical axiomatic systems. Unless you are a Platonist, but given all your other claims, you appear to be a moral skeptic on account of there being no facts (or is it not being able to access them?)

              2) Abortion for me, certainly at blastocyst and early embryo level, is not really much of a moral decision since that group of cells is not what most pro-lifers think it is or has.

              This gets into a debate again involving the Sorites Paradox, which is best explained by Andy Schueler here at ATP: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/11/14/life-starts-at-conception-but-what-about-personhood/

              However, the paradox can be applied both ways such that the lines are fuzzy. For things involving time, lines have to be arbitrary.

              That os the same for voting age as consensual sex and any other age related thing.

              Which is interesting, since you hold voting quite dear and important, rightly so, but it is itself built on arbitrary demarcations.

              (an explanation of this wrt age standardisation in education can be seen here: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/05/12/the-problem-with-when-you-are-born-age-standardisation/ )

              Again, the issue with your position is pragmatic in that it cannot arbitrate moral disagreements. So whether my views on abortion are different to yours are irrelevant.

              The point is what you opinions are BASED ON. Since, I imagine, whatever you think is right or wrong, you would in some way think others should agree with you, or there is no point even holding your opinions. They are not worth the effort of containing them in your head.

            • Also, I would be interested in knowing what your account of “evil” is. AS for language use, that is your problem if you are equivocating and being loose with language in a philosophical discussion about terminology with a philosopher.

              Don’t try that crap with me.

            • Ann

              Let me gather the heart to call you out on some of your statements.
              I have tried to do this a few times, but I got discouraged when I found myself thinking, “What kind of person IS this?”

              Whether your position is “verging on evil” is necessarily my personal opinion but not yours.
              I certainly had the idea that they would shock and repel many others besides me.

              I am reluctant to leave the computer for fear of falling hopelessly behind in this interesting conversation.
              (And let me add that I think you have behaved well.)
              But I have to go out, so now I don’t know how to escape the “hopelessly behind” dilemma.

            • If you continue to insult me in the crudest most annoying of ways, I will ban you.

              It’s that simple.

              Furthermore, it is odd that you are trying to show me how your opinions are more right than mine. Based on argument. Which looks like rational discourse and moral philosophy. Unless your right is in no way more right than mine. In which case, why bother, and in all due respect, sod off.

              You see, there must be some vaguely objective standard upon which you are evaluating your position against mine. This is a moral disagreement, and no relativism can arbitrate for that:


            • Ann

              Yes, you are correct.
              There must be some objective standard to use when evaluating something.

              But that is just another demonstration of my point.
              There IS no such standard.
              Everyone’s position is merely personal opinion.
              Moral disagreements are personal opinions, and no one can ever decide which one is better.
              All we can say is which one we prefer.
              We can name our reasons for preferring one, in so far as we know them, but those do not amount to the “objective standard” you referred to.

              2) Going by what Plato said is a profoundly unscientific way to decide what to do, and that plan is the reason that philosophy is dead. Only a philosopher could imagine that Plato’s personal opinions were definitive somehow.

              3) In any case, I’m not so much “evaluating” one position against the other as seeking to expose them.

            • If your philosophical framework is consequentialism (given some X or Y goal) then the morality of such is measurable, in some way. Now, your opinion might be taken as what the axioms of that system would be.

              Incidentally, you have said you are a moral relativist before; you are not. You are a moral skeptic and probably nihilist, more accurately (and in many senses so am I, it just depends how you define it).


              Moral relativism (in the normative and meta-ethical sense) suggests that there ARE moral truths, but they are contextual and culturally derived. I will quote at length from that link because it pertains to exactly what you are explaining but making it much clearer than you originally were:

              Moral skeptics differ in many ways, but they share a common core that makes them all moral skeptics. What makes moral skepticism moral is that it concerns morality rather than other topics. Moral skeptics might go on to be skeptics about the external world or about other minds or about induction or about all beliefs, but these other skepticisms are not entailed by moral skepticism alone.

              What makes moral skeptics skeptics is that they raise doubts about common beliefs. Moral skeptics then differ in the kinds of doubts that they raise. Since general skepticism is an epistemological view about the limits of knowledge or justified belief, the most central version of moral skepticism is the one that raises doubts about moral knowledge or justified moral belief.

              There are two main traditions in epistemological skepticism. One tradition makes the claim that nobody ever knows or can know anything. This claim is sometimes named Cartesian skepticism (although Descartes argued against it) or Academic skepticism (despite other interpretations of skeptics in the ancient Academy). For lack of a better description, we can call it dogmaticskepticism, because such skeptics dogmatically assert a universal claim. In contrast, no such claim is made by Pyrrhonian skeptics. They also don’t deny any claim like this. They have so much doubt that they refrain from taking any position one way or the other on whether anyone does or does not or can or cannot know anything.

              Moral skepticism comes in two corresponding kinds. Pyrrhonian moral skeptics refuse to admit that some people sometimes know that some substantive moral belief is true. They doubt that moral knowledge is possible. Still, they do not go on to make the opposite claim that moral knowledge is impossible. They doubt that, too. Their doubts are so extreme that they do not make any claim one way or the other about the actuality or possibility of moral knowledge. Similar views can be adopted regarding justified moral belief.

              In contrast, dogmatic moral skeptics make definite claims about the epistemic status of moral beliefs:

              Dogmatic skepticism about moral knowledge is the claim that nobody ever knows that any substantive moral belief is true. (Cf. Butchvarov 1989, 2.)

              Some moral skeptics add this related claim:

              Dogmatic skepticism about justified moral belief is the claim that nobody is ever justified in holding any substantive moral belief.

              (The relevant way of being justified is specified in Sinnott-Armstrong 2006, chap. 4.) These two claims and Pyrrhonian moral skepticism all fall under the general heading of epistemological moral skepticism.

              The relation between these two claims depends on the nature of knowledge. If knowledge implies justified belief, as is traditionally supposed, then skepticism about justified moral belief implies skepticism about moral knowledge. However, even if knowledge does require justified belief, it does not require only justified belief, so skepticism about moral knowledge does not imply skepticism about justified moral belief.

              One reason is that knowledge implies truth, but justified belief does not. Thus, if moral beliefs cannot be true, they can never be known to be true, but they still might be justified in some way that is independent of truth. As a result, skepticism about moral knowledge is implied, but skepticism about justified moral belief is not implied, by yet another form of moral skepticism:

              Skepticism about moral truth is the claim that no substantive moral belief is true.

              This claim is usually based on one of three more specific claims:

              Skepticism about moral truth-aptness is the claim that no substantive moral belief is the kind of thing that could be either true or false.

              Skepticism about moral truth-value is the claim that no substantive moral belief is either true or false (although some moral beliefs are the kind of thing that could be true or false).

              Skepticism with moral falsehood is the claim that every substantive moral belief is false.

              These last three kinds of moral skepticism are not epistemological, for they are not directly about knowledge or justification. Instead, they are about truth, so they are usually based on views of moral language or metaphysics.

              Some philosophers of language argue that sentences like “Cheating is morally wrong” are neither true nor false, because they resemble pure expressions of emotion (such as “Boo Knicks”) or prescriptions for action (such as “Go Celtics”). Such expressions and prescriptions are kinds of thing that cannot be either true or false. Thus, if these analogies hold in all relevant respects, then substantive moral beliefs are also not the right kind of thing to be either true or false. They are not apt for evaluation in terms of truth. For this reason, such linguistic theories are often taken to imply skepticism about moral truth-aptness. Views of this general sort are defended by Ayer (1952), Stevenson (1944), Hare (1981), Gibbard (1990; cf. 2003), and Blackburn (1993), although recent versions often allow some minimal kind of moral truth while denying that moral beliefs can be true or false in the same robust way as factual beliefs.

              Such views are often described as non-cognitivism. That label is misleading, because etymology suggests that cognitivism is about cognition, which is knowledge. Since knowledge implies truth, skepticism about moral truth-aptness has implications for moral knowledge, but it is directly about truth-aptness and not about moral knowledge.

              Whatever you call it, skepticism about moral truth-aptness runs into several problems. If moral assertions have no truth-value, then it is hard to see how they can fit into truth-functional contexts, such as negation, disjunction, and conditionals. Such contexts are also unassertive, so they do not express the same emotions or prescriptions as when moral claims are asserted. Indeed, no particular emotion or prescription seems to be expressed when someone says, “Eating meat is not morally wrong” (cf. Schroeder 2010). Expressivists and prescriptivists respond to such objections, but their responses remain controversial. (Cf. Sinnott-Armstrong 2006, chap. 2.)

              Many moral theorists conclude that moral assertions express not only emotions or prescriptions but also beliefs. In particular, they express beliefs that certain acts, institutions, or people have certain moral properties (such as moral rightness or wrongness) or beliefs in moral facts (such as the fact that a certain act is morally right or wrong). This non-skeptical linguistic analysis still does not show that such moral claims can be true, since assertions can express beliefs that are false or neither true nor false. Indeed, all substantive moral assertions and beliefs are false (or neither true nor false) if they claim (or semantically presuppose) moral facts or properties, and if this metaphysical thesis holds:

              Skepticism about moral reality is the claim that no moral facts or properties exist.

              Skepticism about moral reality is, thus, a reason for skepticism with moral falsehood, as developed by Mackie (1977), or skepticism about moral truth-value, as developed by Joyce (2001). Opponents of such error theories often object that some moral beliefs must be true because some moral beliefs deny the truth of other moral beliefs. However, error theorists can allow a negative moral belief (such as that eating meat is not morally wrong) to be true, but only if it merely denies the truth of the corresponding positive moral belief (that eating meat is morally wrong). If such denials of moral beliefs are not substantive moral beliefs (as denials of astrological beliefs are not astrology), then error theorists can maintain that all substantive moral beliefs are false or neither true nor false.

              Error theorists and skeptics about moral truth-aptness disagree about the content of moral assertions, but they still agree that no substantive moral claim or belief is true, so they are both skeptics about moral truth. None of these skeptical theses is implied by either skepticism about moral knowledge or skepticism about justified moral belief. Some moral claims might be true, even if we cannot know or have justified beliefs about which ones are true. However, a converse implication seems to hold: If knowledge implies truth, and if moral claims are never true, then there is no knowledge of what is moral or immoral (assuming that skeptics deny the same kind of truth that knowledge requires). Nonetheless, since the implication holds in only one direction, skepticism about moral truth is still distinct from all kinds of epistemological moral skepticism.

              Yet another non-epistemological form of moral skepticism answers the question “Why be moral?” This question is used to raise many different issues. Almost everyone admits that there is sometimessome kind of reason to be moral. However, many philosophers deny various universal claims, including the claims that there is always some reason to be moral, that there is always a distinctivelymoral (as opposed to self-interested) reason to be moral, and/or that there is always enough reason to make it irrational not to be moral or at least not irrational to be moral. These distinct denials can be seen as separate forms of practical moral skepticism, which are discussed in more detail in the following supplementary document:

              Supplement on Practical Moral Skepticism

              Practical moral skepticism resembles epistemological moral skepticism in that both kinds of skepticism deny a role to reasons in morality. However, epistemological moral skepticism is about reasons for belief, whereas practical moral skepticism is about reasons for action. Moreover, practical moral skeptics usually deny that there is always enough reason for moral action, whereas epistemological moral skeptics usually deny that there is ever an adequate reason for moral belief. Consequently, practical moral skepticism does not imply epistemological moral skepticism. Some moral theorists do assume that a reason to believe that an act is immoral cannot be adequate unless it also provides a reason not to do that act. However, even if the two kinds of reasons are related in this way, they are still distinct, so practical moral skepticism must not be confused with epistemological moral skepticism.

              Overall, then, we need to distinguish the following kinds of epistemological moral skepticism:

              Dogmatic skepticism about moral knowledge = nobody ever knows that any substantive moral belief is true.

              Dogmatic skepticism about justified moral belief = nobody is ever justified in holding any substantive moral belief.

              Pyrrhonian skepticism about moral knowledge withholds assent from both dogmatic skepticism about moral knowledge and its denial.

              Pyrrhonian skepticism about justified moral belief withholds assent from both dogmatic skepticism about justified moral belief and its denial.

              We also need to distinguish these epistemological moral skepticisms from several non-epistemological kinds of moral skepticism:

              Skepticism about moral truth = no substantive moral belief is true.

              Skepticism about moral truth-aptness = no substantive moral belief is the kind of thing that could be either true or false.

              Skepticism about moral truth-value = no substantive moral belief is either true or false (although some moral beliefs are the kind of thing that could be true or false).

              Skepticism with moral falsehood = every substantive moral belief is false.

              Skepticism about moral reality = no moral properties or facts exist.

              Practical moral skepticism = there is not always any or enough or distinctively moral reason to be moral.

            • Just to confirm what your position is: if you had a partner or child and I shot them in the head and killed them for no reason, then that would only be wrong in your opinion? There would be no wrongness, despite what emotions you would feel, despite what consequences would pertain, despite anything, it is in no way wrong?

              Why clarity is needed here is that it just depends how you define things.

              I am a nominalist, so in one very big sense I utterly agree with you. I don’t believe there is a Platonic realm; I don’t believe there is anything but mental concepts from individual thinkers, brought together by commonalities in the possibility of them being universal.

              Morality is itself an abstract idea, and so, as I have said in many places, it has no ontic reality. It exists in our conceptual minds. I don’t believe in objective morality because there is no such thing as objective: see mu repost of Dan Fincke’s piece. http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2015/04/24/dan-fincke-on-moral-objectivity/

              And this is why I was asking you to give an account of my morality, which you have not. Because my moral framework is very complex.

              I talked about axioms, and how there is only one thing we KNOW in an indubitable way and that is cogito ergo sum, again which I previously commented on briefly.

              So what this demands is a more nuanced conversation about what knowledge is (which you have bandied about a lot) , what opinion means exactly, what good means in light of all these previous ideas, and so on.

              So when I say it would be good to have gun control, I am hiding an awful lot of hidden protases – discussed in this old video of mine: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/11/28/oughts-and-morality/.

              But to simply say all morality is just opinion is to do the whole rational discourse a disservice and is to not, in my opinion, actually fully accurately express your own position, which is why this has gone round the fricking houses.

              It is one thing to say, as I do, that moral concepts have no ontic reality (they do not exist); but it does not mean that morality in some sense does not exist. The job is to find universal ideas which do this job.

              Shit right in the middle of this; lots more to say – have to go. Back later or probably tomorrow. Try not to do any more commenting. There are too many comments to keep up with. Just keep to one and then back and zero in on particular ideas until they are fleshed, though I have a lot more fleshing to do of this post.

            • “If you continue to insult me in the crudest most annoying of ways, I will ban you.

              Further to which I find it odd that you insult in the one breath and then give bizarre and back handed (if not condescending) complements on the other…

            • Ann

              Yes, I see.

              That is a tactic I had not suspected you of using.

              What do you mean by “crude”?
              Calling you “dumbass?”
              Oh, no, wait … that doesn’t get anyone banned.

              Please don’t be surprised that I often find people to be a mix of good and bad ideas.

              Don’t you?

              Maybe the difference between us is that I think it’s fine to acknowledge the good properties of someone I am disagreeing with.

            • This is where being aware of psychology might help you. A bit of Jonathan Haidt on how to change people’s minds. All you have done is make us both entrench in our own positions more due to the backfire effect.

              I think calling someone morally horrific, verging on evil etc etc, and all the other things, is no way to enter into decent conversation. They are pretty insulting terms.

            • Ann

              I scorn to use tactics of how to change someone’s mind on you — not that I believe they would work.

              You are not some naive, dumb little kid to be manipulated and cozened into thinking what I want.
              (“Oh, let’s let the little ladybug go, dear. She is crying for her mother.”)

              And I think our positions were already entrenched.
              I know mine is.

            • Ann

              I let your previous logical errors referring to my “self-refuting errors” pass without comment, but I’m sorry now that I did.

              You seem to imagine that if I know that my moral sentiments are merely my personal opinions, then that means that I don’t have any moral sentiments, or that I should not have any, or that I cannot express the ones I have.

              Of course I have and should have my personal opinions regarding moral questions. (<– one of my personal opinions.)
              Of course I am able to express them in spite of their nature.
              Why ever not?

              Your idea that knowing that my moral sentiments are just my feelings (my personal opinions,) disqualifies my having or expressing them … this idea of yours is just your personal opinion.

            • Er, then how can you argue yours against another’s in order to arbitrate a moral dispute without deferring to logic and reasoning, thus doing, you know, moral philosophy?

            • Ann

              Your eyes are SOOO cute when you try to pretend that all varieties of human thought are really moral philosophy!

              It’s a morally bad position (<– my personal opinion, but not yours)

              Anyway, I never said that philosophy does not exist. All I ever said was that morals are personal opinions (<– my personal opinion but not yours), and that philosophy is based on just MAKING STUFF UP. ( What is the best thing to do?
              > How shall we live? What is the best way for us to live?
              > How can we be happy / just / fair / decent / moral?

              The problem is a sad one because there is no such thing as answers to those questions.
              No amount of logic and reasoning can ever reach a solution that is not just one more “personal opinion afterwards justified by logic and reasoning.”

              That is why, even after thousands of years, there are no answers.
              There cannot be “answers” — only various personal opinions.

            • Holy shit. Again:

              Is your Theory of Mind so backwards that you don’t realize that 1) First comes your moral position
              2) Then second comes the logic and reasoning to defend your preference, your taste

              Look, having written extensively on the topic of moral intuition and post hoc rationalisation, your claims are annoying. They are annoying because my intuitions may have once stood as defining my morality, but over the years, on account of moral discussions, moral philosophical learning, and rational analysis, my moral philosophy has entirely and completely changed. Which empirically falsifies your claims, unless my emotional moral intuitions just change on a whim by chance, coincidentally after doing relevant moral philosophical research.


            • Ann

              You are not claiming that in the past your moral judgments were “unfounded in objective reality,” but now that you’ve studied up, your moral opinions are correct.
              You’re not, right?.
              Are you?

              Jon, naturally your moral “intuitions” (which I would call “opinions”) change as you experience more things.
              How could it be otherwise?
              How could there evolve people who could not learn — or at least change — from experience?

              But there is no reason at all to think your revised set of opinions are correct just because you changed them.
              On what grounds would you even try to assert that?
              Because you have more inputs of more personal opinions?

              Is there a chance that some time in the future you might have even MORE inputs of even MORE personal opinions of even MORE people, and so change your mind again? Would that new opinion then be factually correct, and this current one wrong wrong wrong?

              Don’t you see that the very fact that you used to feel “I am correct because I used introspection and I find that I approve of myself and agree with myself” undoes the validity of saying “NO! Wait! THIS time I really am correct because I used introspection and I now find that I approve of myself and agree with myself now.

              Gosh. It seems like you always think you’re right.

              Not too insightful, Jon.

            • Ann

              No one can “argue” one’s opinions against another’s.
              Moral disputes cannot be arbitrated.
              That’s why there is always a spectrum of opinion about moral issues (Should we allow abortion? Same-sex marriage? What about GItmo? or whatever.)

              If these questions could be resolved by logic and reasoning, they would have been.

              In the event that a decision must be made anyway, in a democracy we go by “majority rules”
              In the US, the rights of the minority are also safeguarded, and that is where the Supreme Court comes in.

              There has never been discovered a better way than the “consent of the governed.” (<– My personal opinion. Yours is that YOU know best what the public should get — what is best for them no matter what they think about their own best interests, the dumb donkeys.)

            • Fish

              Ann…you are a dumbass…where have you been American science education has been going down the toilet thanks to the religious right, which you are certainly one of. America, has the least separation of church state in the western world. Creationists are destroying science in America. Ever listen to the climate change deniers, they know nothing about science. The United States was once the leader in science and technology i.e. Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969. I remember the world watching that event. Not anymore. Have you checked the names of the scientists at NASA or in the science departments at major universities. Not a lot are Americans. Check the class lists in physics, chemistry, astrophysics etc and see how many offshore students there are. Google dumbing down of America to enlighten yourself. Ann speaking of China, Who made China great? Greedy American entrepreneurs taking all their manufacturing off shore to make more money. How much does Walmart contribute to the Chinese GNP? China’s exports to Walmart accounted for 11% of the
              growth of the total US trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Does anyone
              in America know how to make a shirt or a pair of shoes? If the United States
              keeps going the way it is, dumbing down, increasing the gap between rich
              and poor, (i.e. the Walton Family make more money than the bottom 30% of the
              population), keep increasing the debt (What’s it at now 18.628 trillion?), if the
              redumlicans get in 2016, they will cut the taxes for the rich, both private and
              corporate and thus decrease income and increase debt and increase unemployment. Big
              oil and corporations are buying the government. There isn’t one politician
              running for President who doesn’t have their pockets full of corporations’
              dollars, oops other than Donald Trump! The Koch bros (big oil) are spending a
              billion dollars to get who they want elected in 2016. America is wiping
              out the middle class and they are the ones paying all the taxes. Ok that’s the
              end of my diatribe but if America keeps going the way it is you who will be
              asking the Brits to help you out! When your economy crashes you unfortunately will take the rest of the world with you. O yes you better straighten out you race issues as well. Want to see how well America is you arrogant b*****d, http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/yourturf2/HiroshimaandDetroit.htm There are many other cities in the same condition!

            • Ann

              Hi, Fish ~

              Thanks for your observations.

            • Wow!

            • Ann


          • http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/aug/27/nicholas-kristof/more-americans-killed-guns-1968-all-wars-says-colu/

            More Americans killed by guns since 1968 than in all U.S. wars, columnist Nicholas Kristof writes

            In a column published shortly after the on-air slayings of two TV journalists in southwestern Virginia, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof offered some “data points” about the pervasiveness of gun violence in the United States.

            One of them was: “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.”

            That sounded familiar. Really familiar. As it turns out, the web version of Kristof’s column sourced a PolitiFact article from Jan. 18, 2013, that fact-checked commentator Mark Shields’ claim that since 1968, “more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history.” (Shields used the year 1968 because it was the year presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by gunman Sirhan Sirhan.)

            We rated the claim True.

            Two and a half years later, we wondered whether the statistic still held up, so we took a new look at the data.

            Deaths from warfare

            We found a comprehensive study of war-related deaths published by the Congressional Research Service on Feb. 26, 2010, and we supplemented that with data for up-to-date deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan using the website icasualties.org. Where possible, we’ve used the broadest definition of “death” — that is, all war-related deaths, not just those that occurred in combat.

            The one change we’ve made since our initial fact-check is to revise upward the number of Civil War deaths. As several readers pointed out after we published our earlier fact-check, the CRS report cited 525,000 Union and Confederate dead, but a subsequent study revised that estimate upward to 750,000. The study’s author acknowledged a great deal of uncertainty about the proper figure, and some expertslater questioned whether it’s wise to include so many deaths from disease — perhaps two-thirds of the 750,000 figure — since disease in an era of relatively primitive medicine was so widespread that it’s unclear what share of fatal disease during that period was really a result of the war.

            Still, we’ll err on the side of the higher estimate and use the 750,000 figure this time.

            Gunfire deaths

            As we did in our previous fact-check, we used a conservative estimate of data from a1994 paper published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to count gun-related deaths from 1968 to 1980. For 1981 through 2013, we used annual data sets from CDC. Finally, for 2014 and the first eight months of 2015, we estimated that the number of gun-related deaths were equal to the rate during the previous three full years for which we have data — 2011 to 2013.

            So the statistic still holds up: There have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths since 1968, compared to 1,396,733 cumulative war deaths since the American Revolution. That’s 120,130 more gun deaths than war deaths — about 9 percent more, or nearly four typical years worth of gun deaths. And that’s using the most generous scholarly estimate of Civil War deaths, the biggest component of American war deaths.

            We’ll offer some added thoughts for context.

            These figures refer to all gunfire-related deaths, not just homicides. In fact, homicides represent a minority of gun deaths, with suicides comprising the biggest share. In 2013, according to CDC data, 63 percent of gun-related deaths were from suicides, 33 percent were from homicides, and roughly 1 percent each were from accidents, legal interventions and undetermined causes.

            There’s a risk in using a statistic like this to decry mass homicides carried out with guns. Using total firearm-related deaths makes the case against guns more dramatic than just using homicides alone.

            However, in our view, Kristof framed this comparison with care. He mentioned suicides not once but three times in his column, and he referred broadly to the “unrelenting toll of gun violence,” not specifically to the toll of gun homicides. Indeed, at one point, Kristof specifically referenced the impact that stricter gun laws can have on gun suicides, writing that in 1996, after a mass shooting in Australia, lawmakers tightened gun laws. “The firearm suicide rate dropped by half in Australia over the next seven years, and the firearm homicide rate was almost halved,” according to data published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, Kristof wrote.

            Finally, we’ll note that Kristof’s wording differed ever so slightly from the claim by Shields that we checked previously. While Shields said that “more Americans have died from gunfire,” Kristof wrote that “more Americans have died from guns.” Some may argue that guns don’t kill people, people do. However, that’s a philosophical judgment and beyond our ability to fact-check. Here, we’ll stick to the numbers, and we find they’re on Kristof’s side.

            Our ruling

            Kristof wrote, “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.”

            Even using a significantly higher estimate for Civil War deaths than we did the last time we fact-checked this claim, the comparison still holds up. The number of gun deaths since 1968 — including, as Kristof was careful to note, both homicides and suicides — was higher than war fatalities by roughly 120,000 deaths, or almost four years’ worth of gun deaths in the United States. We rate the claim True.

            See the article for the graphs etc.

          • As for guns being used to save lives:

            6. “If everybody were armed, we would all be safer”

            This argument promotes the micro-equivalent of mutually assured destruction (two armed and rational actors not engaging in conflict because it would destroy both) to justify higher levels of gun ownership, but it fails to work out when applied to reality.

            Statistics show that guns do not make people safer, thus this pro-gun argument is demonstrably untrue on its face. Higher levels of gun ownership do not produce a safer society and often lead to a higher numbers of deaths due to gun violence.

            According to the Violence Policy Center’s analysis, states with higher per capita gun ownerships have far higher levels of gun homicide—there are 3 to 5 gun deaths per 100,000 in the bottom five gun ownership states, while there are 17 to 20 gun deaths per 100,000 in the top five gun ownership states. These statistics provide a great deal of evidence that gun ownership levels in a state correlate with gun deaths, and prove that the gun lobby’s argument of universal gun ownership is simply a fantasy.

            To further drive the statistics that guns don’t make us safer home, we can simply look at the research surrounding household safety and gun ownership. In houses with firearms present, the average homicide rate is 3 times higher than in houses without guns and the suicide rate is between 3 and 5 times higher. Gun accidents due to improper storage or use of firearms claim the lives of hundreds of children a year. In households with firearms, domestic violence is both more prevalent than in houses without weapons, and has a much higher likelihood of resulting in violent deaths. In all possible rubrics—self-defense, accidents and suicide—gun ownership is detrimental to the safety of those who live in a gun-owner’s household; this is not to say that there are not cases of people defending their homes with their guns, but it is undeniable that gun ownership opens people up to numerous other risks.

            In addition to the statistical evidence supporting the fact that more guns don’t make us safer, we can simply look at the mechanics of a shooting. Shootings are chaotic and, if everybody has a gun, there is a very real potential for a crossfire—nobody would know who the original shooter was, thus everybody would shoot at everybody else. In this crossfire, bullets would likely hit civilians (imagine a room filled with a crowd and three people shooting at each other) and the casualty count would increase. Once the police arrive, it would be difficult to determine who the original shooter was, and it is also likely that the police may end up shooting the people who didn’t start the gunfight.

            In response to the “everybody should be armed” argument, people should simply ask the gun activist whether or not they support Iran getting a nuclear weapon. By the logic that the gun activist applies, everybody is safer when everybody is armed, and this would translate to support for Iranian weapons; in reality, these people almost always say that Iran isn’t a rational actor and that giving them a nuke endangers everybody around them. When they say this, you should simply tell them that not every gun owner is rational and that unrestricted gun ownership is the micro-equivalent to letting every country have nukes.







            • Ann

              In a previous post, I already linked Goeff to links about the statistics here.
              I noted that the findings were mixed.

              I had the intellectual and moral honesty not to cherry-pick the studies that showed that gun ownership does cut crime.

              How did you do in meeting the same moral challenge?

            • I know there are a couple of interesting things about the Small Arms Survey (state gun ownership etc), but to see the US as SUCH an outlier is visually quite remarkable:

            • I know there are a couple of interesting things about the Small Arms Survey (state gun ownership etc), but to see the US as SUCH an outlier in gun ownership is pretty remarkable. I would admit that data is very difficult because different countries measure crime data in very different ways, and definitions differ across countries. But to look broadly across all the data and analyses I have seen, I think it is pretty remarkable that the US struggles to regulate gun control (even semiautomatics) when there are such high rates of gun death for a supposedly progressive country.

            • Ann

              Americans have many long-standing and deep-seated reasons to want to be able to bear arms.
              Most of those reasons do not have anything to do with fighting off an attacker or preventing crime in some way.

              That reason is usually added on to the list of real reasons.

              We “struggle to regulate” gun control (by which I assume you mean “We fail to enable gun control by the government”) because the citizens don’t want gun control.

              And it’s not Russia here yet.
              In fact, it isn’t even Russia in Russia any more.

            • What the citizens want is not necessarily what is good for them.

            • Ann

              This is one of the most distressing remarks I have ever seen outside a totalitarian environment.

              Shall we appoint you, then, Jonathan, to tell us what is for our own good — and then coerce us into doing it?

            • Er, that is how crime and punishment works, Ann. So you may find it distressing, but it holds your society together.

              Crime is what is deemed morally wrong, or concerning “oughts” – ie moral philosophy.

              Whether you allow the general population access to guns in the way the US does is a moral question. I think they OUGHT ti have gun control. You think they OUGHT not.

              Since my country has gun control, I suggest you probably think we OUGHT not. Which means, despite what we may want, you might think we OUGHT have something we don’t necessarily want.

              I could think of any other number of examples, such as with sharia law in the Middle East and gender inequality.

              What the most people think they want is not necessarily what is good for them.

              This is trivially true with regards to some things being allowed in some countries in accord with popular demand and other things not in other countries in accordance with popular demand.

              This is emphatically not a bad thing to say and nothing to do with totalitarianism.

              You are operating on the free market principles of homo economicus of Milton Friedman, and man whose entire theories were built on humans being rational entities who will consume rationally, based upon their complete knowledge.

              Humans neither have good enough knowledge nor are rational enough to make properly consistently competent decisions.

            • Ann

              This is one of the most morally dense attitudes I have ever encountered.

              I can hardly believe you would try to defend such a statement.

              And of course your arguments are wrong, mostly because you are basing them on premises that you are JUST MAKING UP.

              You ascribe to me the notion that if Britain has XYZ law, that is the one they “ought” to have, and that if the US has ABC law, that is the one that the US ought to have.

              Let me correct you as to the contents of my mind, unless you have superior information?

              1. I think no one knows what someone else “ought” to do.
              2. I think people don’t know the best thing to do themselves.
              3. So instead, we have decided to do what we want to do.

              For whatever reason, for better or worse, in spite of your desire to be our Emperor, in a democracy we do what we want to do.

              We vote for the policies that — for whatever reason — please us.

              We are driven to this desperate substitute for a good reason because you have consistently failed to tell us what we ought to do. You are the sole exception to the truth universally acknowledged that no one knows what OUGHT to be done.

              We therefore have had to default to doing what we choose to do.

              But now that we have found you, we will not be doing what we want.
              Instead, we will be asking you what we ought to do.

              Thank you!

            • Ann, you are not doing yourself any favours here.

              It all depends on your moral philosophy. Now, you have previously professed moral relativism, so that would go SOME WAY to explaining your odd position. Of course, moral relativism is pretty much not adhered to in mainstream philosophy (other than first year students, perhaps). The philpapers study doesn’t even feature it as an answer in normative ethics, and only 2.9% of philosophers adhere to it as a knowledge basis.

              Perhaps you do not know the difference between descriptive ethics, normative ethics and meta-ethics? Because, normatively, relativism just makes no sense at all.

              Anyhow, your logic would advocate that you cannot make moral pronouncements of right or wrong on any other human, let alone society.

              AS with every grounding on earth, it depends on your axioms, which are self-evident or lacking in any further rational basis. But pretty assuredly, wellbeing of some sort will feature in some kind of consequentialist approach.

              Now, all I would need to do is find one example of where a group of people are desiring to do something patently morally abhorrent by most other people and that would entirely defend my position.

              All you are doing is advocating an argumentum ad populum.

              What is interesting is that on your logic you simply can’t complain at all about what your country should or should not be doing when in government because that is the collective moral will of the majority, right?


              I think you could do with reading up on some moral philosophy.

            • Ann

              My dear old friend, no one in the history of the world was ever benefited by studying one of the Fake Professions.
              Indeed, there is a real danger that they might stop laughing and start buying into NONSENSE that these huslters are JUST MAKING UP

              I don’t say that there is no moral judgment that I can make on personal or national behavior.
              Indeed, I make those judgments all the time
              (glaring at YOU!)

              What I insist on is remembering at all times that my moral opinions, and your moral opinions, and everyone’s moral opinions are JUST THEIR OPINIONS.

              It’s all just giving voice to your own personal opinion.

              Some of yours are rather ghastly.
              I used to give you the benefit of the doubt and think that the more shocking of your opinions were just ill-considered, but now I think you vigorously try to defend them.

              Oh really, Jon. You can do better.

            • Geoff_Roberts

              I would like to jump into the discussion here. It seems what you’re saying Jonathan is centralized, government bureaucracy is better at determining what is best for its citizens rather than citizens getting to decide for themselves what is best for them. I think that encapsulates the conflict between liberalism and conservatism.
              To think faceless bureaucrats can make better decisions for me and my family than myself and force those decisions is not freedom but a form of soft tyranny. This concept gets played out in the gun control debate.

            • In some sense that is a simplistic but effective analysis, although I am somewhere in the middle of the two. I am slightly left of centre, though it depends whether you are talking social, moral or economic.

              However, I live in a country where it is difficult for me to get hold of a gun. And I bloody love that. Moreover, I think that is of gross benefit to our country.

              It all comes down to the Sorites Paradox (again). Because what happens is there is an arbitrary drawing of acceptability lines. what is acceptable for a citizen to have the freedom to want and thus have? A knife? A sword? A pistol? A semi-auto? A machine gun? A gattling gun? an RPG? A bazooka? An AA gun…. A nuke?

              Gun advocates think guns are great, up to a point.

              That point is just further back for controlists. It is not about the logic per se, but about the lines drawn.

            • Geoff_Roberts

              Please pardon me if I’m wrong but I thought I saw somewhere you said you would support Bernie Sanders if given the opportunity. If that’s the case, I would say that is quite left of center (at leas

            • Geoff_Roberts

              I agree the argument lies much with where to draw the lines for gun control.

            • Geoff_Roberts

              We have a unique and diverse culture here in the US. Unfortunately, we also have a crime and violence problem. I don’t believe that is because of guns but because of severe cultural and societal problems.

            • Also, you are presently empirically wrong:


            • Ann

              Please give me a little more guidance about the topic of this remark?
              There is no way I can identify which post of mine you are referring to.

              Or was that intentional?

            • Sorry, it was in reference to this:

              We “struggle to regulate” gun control (by which I assume you mean “We fail to enable gun control by the government”) because the citizens don’t want gun control.

              Which is wrong on account of the latest polls saying that most americans do want stricter gun control.

            • Ann


              Well, in the US, we make laws according to something more dependable than the results of polls.

              I will be awaiting the legislation that ensues as a result of your poll.

              I find your faith in the accuracy of polls touching, but in the US we found that they are not always right.

            • This report and study is interesting because it uses good figures and controls well:


              eg The data covers all 50 states for the years 2001, 2002, and 2004, the only years for which the CDC firearm-ownership statistics are available. The study then sorted the states into quintiles according to their level of firearm ownership. After controlling for a variety of demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic factors, the authors analyzed each group of states and their rates of the following crimes: robbery committed with a firearm, nonfatal assault with a firearm, firearm homicide, and overall homicide.

              According to the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis, states with higher levels of gun ownership would expect to see lower crime rates in those categories. By contrast, the study found that states with the lowest rates of firearm ownership (Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, California, Florida, Illinois, and Maryland) had significantly lower rates of firearm-related assault and robbery, firearm homicide, and overall homicide.

              States with the highest gun-ownership levels (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia, North Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi, and Alabama), meanwhile, had 6.8 times the rate of firearm assaults, 2.8 times the rate of firearm homicides, and twice the rate of overall homicides than states with the lowest gun-ownership levels.

              In the category of robbery with a firearm, the relationship between gun ownership rates was less clear: The study did find that robbery rates rose with gun-ownership rates, but in some states the increases were not statistically significant.

              For every other type of crime examined by the authors, however, the conclusion was the same: more guns, more crime.

              Some gun proponents may argue that “correlation doesn’t equal causation,” that perhaps gun ownership isn’t causing an increase in crime, but instead crime is causing an increase in gun ownership. In other words, people living in high-crime areas may be purchasing guns for protection. This possibility, known as “reverse causation,” was preempted by the authors of the new study, who showed that a state’s firearm-ownership rates in 2001 strongly predict violent crime rates in 2002 and 2004. The most coherent explanation is that higher rates of gun ownership lead to increases in crime, rather than the other way around.

              Undergirding the idea that expanding gun ownership deters and prevents crimes is the belief that the “bad guy with a gun” will usually be a random assailant, someone the would-be victim has never encountered before or does not know personally. But here again the hard numbers are at odds with perceptions. Nearly 70 percent of homicides involve guns, and the majority of all homicide victims know their killers; among female homicide victims, 93 percent are killed by a familiar person.

              Earlier research has shown that it’s nonstranger homicide that sees the most increase as gun ownership expands. When a team led by Michael Siegel at Boston University broke down homicides by the victim’s relationship to the killer for a 2014 study, they found that an increase in gun-ownership rates did not produce a statistically significant increase in murders by strangers. But when they looked at victims killed by someone they knew, they found that every 1 percent increase in gun ownership corresponded with a .9 percent increase in murders.

              “Our findings refute the argument that gun ownership deters strangers from committing homicide,” Dr. Siegel explained. “Instead, these findings suggest that gun ownership actually increases the risk of violent death.”

            • Ann

              Aaaaand you can find studies that come to different conclusions.
              Their fans would characterize them as good studies too.

              And you still think that this sociology shit is good science or something?

              They haven'[t even DEFINED THEIR TERMS.
              They don’t even have a DATA BASE.
              The FBI itself does not know how many murders occur in the US.

              All the conclusions drawn from that pile of crap are meaningless.
              It is stuff they are JUST MAKING UP.

              So what we do is stand on our heritage as a democracy, and choose what we shall do by voting — not by the fantasies published in Newsweek,

              And we have voted to keep our guns.

        • “Last year was the 20th anniversary of over 1 million Tutsis murdered in Rwanda mainly with machetes.”

          This was sectarian effectively civil war. This was not what the study looked at. Without reference to the working paper, it does at least purportedly say:

          “By definition, these shootings do not include incidents that occurred solely in domestic settings or were primarily gang-related, drive-by shootings, hostage taking incidents, or robberies.”

          Which, one would assume, would also include things like ISIS killings and civil wars.

          So “My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation’s civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters,” seems pretty obviously about mass shootings in public through owned firearms.

          You are seeking to compare apples with pears, and in so doing are being disingenuous.

          • Ann

            The disingenuous act is to first eliminate all the gun murders that don’t occur in civilized places,

            What difference does the motive for the gun violence make?
            No one knows what people’s motives are anyway — not even the shooters.

            Naturally the US has more school shootings that some country without many schools, and naturally the US has less tribal slaughter than some country divided by tribe.

            We have more nosocomial and iatrogenic deaths too, because we have more hospitals.

            But we still have better public safety and better health care.

            So what have you proved with figures like that?
            Anything “Stunning!”?

            I think a fair comparisons are the ones I already suggested:
            > What are your odds of being murdered (by country)?
            > What are your odds of being murdered in a mass murder event (by country)
            > What are your odds of being murdered in a mass shooting event (by country)

            Statistics I’d like to see:

            > What are your odds of being murdered by (type of weapon)
            Setting sari on fire

            Machete hacking
            Assault rifle
            Group punching and kicking

            > What are your odds of being murdered at all (by gender, age, tribe, religion, political views)

            > What are your odds of being murdered by a relative (by relationship)
            > By husband
            > By wife
            > By mother-in-law
            > By male relatives
            > By son-in-law

            In connection with this, there are always sociological forces and stresses that influence who murders whom.
            In some cultures, there is a big frequency outlier in “a man murdering his mother-in-law ” There are apparently economic forces that precipitate this otherwise rare crime.

            • I think you are making a startlingly obvious error. You give all those machete wielders an automatic weapon, and the death numbers would rise.

              THIS is THE point. More gun ownerships = higher deaths, ceteris paribus (as much as that can be taken into account).

            • Ann

              What if the machete guys never could tell if their intended victims did nor did not have automatic weapons?

              Of course if you give MURDERERS better weapons, they will be able to murder better.
              But if you give the VICTIMS weapons to fight back with … well, who knows?

              I know that many armies have their great successes when they fight unarmed civilians.
              That’s probably why US SEALS don’t buy your “unarmed is better” philosophy — for offense OR defense.

              Perimeter patrols are not unarmed, for example, and they are entirely defensive.

              But I appreciate that there are different philosophies, and that you would not arm the United States Armed Forces, in order to reduce the violence committed against US soldiers.

              There are people who would vote for you too — mostly anti-Americans, of course …

      • Since the paper has just been presented and will go through peer review before publication, I would suggest that the author has probably thought of these and methodologically designed the work to take this into account, or the press release has just been badly written.


        • Ann

          Well, that’s a good point.

          But I wonder about its actual scholarly creds anyway.

          (1) So far it has been published in Newsweek and EurokAlert!
          I’ve never seen valid research do that before.
          Cold fusion, yes; valid research, not so much.

          (2) It characterizes its humdrum non-findings as “STUNNING.”
          “Stunning?!?” Really?
          I didn’t think they were ever “new”– never mind “stunning.”
          Is anyone really STUNNED to hear that the US is big on mass shootings?

          (3) These soft so-called “sciences” are full of crap anyway.

          (4) Just what is the “American Sociological Association”?
          It looks like it’s just another self-promoting society focused on the well-being of sociologists, who need to stop promulgating their nonsense immediately.

          (5) I strongly suspect his “peer-reviewing peers” will give this package of junk a big thumbs up, like the reviews on the back covers of bad books — Nobody liked the book but the author’s friends.
          Certainly not the New York Times Review of Books
          But “The author of (some other stupid book) just LOVES it.

          • Hi Ann

            1) EurekAlert! is a primary source for science publication press releases and is your first port of call for released science news. You will find most other sources (eg Newsweek) will take from there, usually wholesale since they are press releases:

            EurekAlert! is an online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society. EurekAlert! provides a central place through which universities, medical centers, journals, government agencies, corporations and other organizations engaged in research can bring their news to the media. EurekAlert! also offers its news and resources to the public. EurekAlert! features news and resources focused on all areas of science, medicine and technology.

            2) press release bigging the work up: make of that what you will

            3) Whoah. Psychology full of crap? Whilst the recent news of a lot of scientific studies being fudged damages the reputation of many disciplines, this is a little sounding like Creationism or something. The behaviour of humans is scientific: observed phenomena with associated causality.

            4) You could research them and see for yourself rather than going for a presupposed bias straight away.

            5) You are just really showing your bias with those kinds of remarks. Please be a bit more robust than that.

            • Ann

              Hi, Jonathan ~

              Of course I think psychology is full of crap.

              I consider it one of the three Fake Professions:
              > Psychology
              > Theology
              > Philosophy

              And the reason for the so-called professions making this list is the same in every case:

              Everything they say, they are just MAKING IT UP.

              In Buddhism, the more you challenge it, the more the Buddhist apologist retreats. So in the end, the more believable it is, the less it is like Buddhism (or any religion).
              • If a statement is believable, it is not Buddhism (It’s just a dull and obvious self-evident statement about the shared consensus reality,)
              • If a statement actually is a Buddhist thought, it is absurdly unbelievable.

              The same is true for psychology.
              > If a statement is true, it is not psychology (It is science)
              > If a statement is actually psychology, it is not true.
              The reason for this is that they are just MAKING STUFF UP.

              There is already enough nonsense abroad in the land.
              Let us seek to quell the propagation of even more.

            • Well, as a philosopher of religion who is very well versed and interested in psychology, and who uses it to teach, parent and conduct social relationships, I take umbrage at what you say.

              I would also claim it ostensibly as BS.

              To make your claims in any rational way, you are doing philosophy. I could grant you the theology claim; but psychology, when done well, is supremely fascinating and understanding.

              One of my colleagues here at SIN is a superb psychologist involved, amongst other things, in the psychology of pseudoscience, OCD, mood disorders and anxiety disorders, racism and sexism within psychology (as a meta-analysis). I have edited 4 of his books and to claim that psychology, including clinical psychology, in nonsense is empirically wrong.

              You are just wrong.

              I come across psychology in debating on a daily basis, whether through cognitive biases, cognitive dissonance, heuristics, the backfire effect, priming, automatic evaluation etc…

              My first book, on free will, is almost entirely based, after the philosophy, on psychology.

              I DO get very annoyed when people make these massive claims without seeming to look at the psychological methodologies, the robustness of claims, the source work done etc. I think that is a lazy claim.

            • Ann

              “Psychological methodologies!”

              I will be generous enough to presume that “psychological” is a typo for “science.”

              > The more reliable a “psychology” assertion is, the less it is psychology and the more it is chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.
              > The more “pure psychology” it is, the less it is reliable.

              In fact, it is JUST MADE UP.

    • Otto Greif

      The Impact of Gun Ownership Rates on Crime Rates: A Methodological Review of the Evidence.

      • KLeck doesn’t have a good track record here, to be fair:



        I would trust Kleck as far as I could throw him.

        • Otto Greif

          I don’t trust anti-gun groups or Cracked or Nicholas Kristoff.

          • Ann

            I don’t trust Cracked, which I read for amusement value.

            I don’t trust advocacy groups in either direction.

            I don’t especially trust or not trust authors I don’t know anything about.

            But this is fruitless, like all Battles of the QUotes.

            Not only are the true facts unknown, but they are not even the reason people are taking their stands.

        • Ann

          Hey, Otto ~


      • Ann

        Hi, Otto ~

        Good research on your part.
        This looks like a strong study indeed.

        But I think it misses addressing the real problem.

        Jon’s opinions are not research-driven (any more than most gun-control opponents’ opinions are.)

        His opinions are SEEKING research to confirm his emotional bias.
        Don’t think for a moment that he will be swayed by this research or any other.