You Asked For it…. Porn!


First, the news:

  • My latest MicroSoft column is up. Access it here.

 

  • Andoo alerts us to this character. Cut and paste it onto any application on your computer, then start typing…

 

 

  • Here is a very brave and insightful article about the racial dimensions of the so-called War On Terror.

 

 

  • Need further proof that the American constitution has been rendered a joke by the current Commander in Chimp? Read this story.

 

 

  • Brother Bhash alerts us to this scholarly listing of a traditional Guyanese delicacy, a fish called “Gillbacker“.

 

 

  • Back when I lived in DC in 2001 or so, Darth Vadum and I were walking to a movie theatre when an older man stumbled from the sidewalk and was about to plant his face in the cement. I lurched forward and caught him; he patted my shoulder, thanked me and walked on. That man was Michael Deaver, former Deputy Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan.

 

 

  • Now comes news that Deaver has died. No, I didn’t kill him, so relax.

 

 

  • Vadum has also forwarded me this tidbit called, “Islam is not for me.” The site is run by a dude named Ali Sina, who is an Iranian with a seeming deep hatred for Islam. Here’s my take on it: the site purports to be a gateway for those mired in Islamic dogma, but who nonetheless seek a secular path. In that respect, good on them; we should all have options and we should all be exposed to differing modes of thought from which we can choose –informedly– our own path. However, this “Faith Freedom” site is more than an information portal; it’s a hate-filled hole sometimes filled with rhetoric and, I think, misinformation. Go make up your own mind.

 

Okay, as promised today’s topic is…. PORN! Nothing tittilating, I fear. Instead, I increasingly find myself bemoaning the increasing disrespect offered to science in our society, and the science surrounding the association between pornogrpahy and sexual deviancy is a good example of this trend, since it tends to get people’s attention.

Your average lug on the street knows who Britney Spears, Michael Vick and Tom Cruise are. But do they know of Eratosthenes, who computed the circumference of the round Earth 2000 years before Columbus and Magellan? Why is Madonna a role model to young women, yet most have never heard of Hypatia, last librarian of Alexandria, who gave her life in defence of knowledge? And why was I not surprised when someone said to me recently, “Copernicus? He was a Roman dude, right?”

The not insignificant number of people who deny the moon landings occurred, or who don’t believe in Evolution, or who –unbelievably– still believe the Earth is flat is indicative of the great failure of our society in not inculcating our youth with an appreciation for the sacrifices of our scientist ancestors, many of whom gave their lives so that we might know of the spherical Earth, evolution, quantum physics and the like.

Scientific illiteracy is buttressed by willfull ignorance that proudly embraces emotion and prejudice at the expense of reason and evidence. Nowhere in modern Western society is this more evident than in public policy debates concerning pornography, hence my use of this inflammatory subject in this post. Now, I have discussed this topic in newspaper articles here and here, essentially arguing that there is as yet no signifcant causal evidence linking the production and consumption of pornography at the societal level with any sexually deviant behaviours or criminal assaults. In fact, it sometimes seems that it’s the prosecution/persecution of pornography that results in the deviancy.

In 2005, Australian researcher Alan McKee did the first comprehensive analysis of violence-against-women in mainstream porn. He included “violent” speech as violence, and looked at the top video sellers and renters in the country. His biggest methodological failing, in my opinion, was in not looking at online porn sources, an oversight easily corrected in any follow-up study. His finding? Essentially that the trope of women being abused in pornography is vastly overstated.

I’m not here to debate the merits of McKee’s study or findings, but rather how he was received. He had toe good grace to enter a discussion on the supposedly “progressive” political site, Rabble.ca (for which I have written several articles). The thread of his involvement is here. My issue is that when it became clear that McKee’s statistics were defensible within the fine limitations set forth in the study, his detractors quickly turned from attacking his findings to attacking his motivations and eventually the man himself. The take away message: it doesn’t matter how much science or evidence you present us with, we believe what we believe and public policy should reflect that belief! Reading that thread, I had visions of Galileo brought before the Vatican.

Now we have new evidence that the existence of internet pornography might actually reduce instances of sexual assault. Had this been a product not associated with the repressed desires of most North Americans, this bit of evidence would have been sufficient for an official public health endorsement of pronography! But people’s biases are so ingrained that it would take mountains of more evidence, perhaps even more than that required to convince the corporate world of the link between smoking and lung cancer, or of that between carbon emissions and Global Warming, before the masses of detractors would begin to budge from their moralistic, and not fact-based, positions.

This is one of those rare biases that crosses all political spectra. The anti-porn element is oft believed to be embraced most fervently by those on the political Right. Yet the debate I linked to above was on a Left-leaning website. (Mind you, as I’ve written here before, extremists in any political movement have more in common with each other than with anyone within the moderate wing of their parties). As an example, look at this Saskatchewan NDP ad, which clearly seeks to subliminally associate Conservative politics with pornography.

If we are indeed to be a rational, fact based society, then we must be prepared to let the facts guide our beliefs and public policies. I use pornography here because it’s the obvious example that touches most people’s emotional cores, one way or another. Greek science is Western civilization’s greatest invention, that which has formed the foundation for much of human greatness; let’s not turn our backs on its lessons and methods just yet.