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People will do it anyway, so let’s make it legal

A few minutes ago, I read a comment that said, “a woman who wants to abort a child will find a way even if it’s in back alleys.” She didn’t outright say it, but she seemed to be arguing that it’s not worth going to the effort of making abortion illegal, because people will do it anyway, and we should instead “educate, prophesize and love those who are in a situation of having to choose abortion or not.”

This logic strikes me as, well, not logical. A man who wants to murder his neighbor will find a way, even if it’s in back alleys, but surely we shouldn’t make that legal! Granted, she is not arguing for making something legal, simply for *not* making something *illegal*, but I think that’s a distinction without a difference.

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Time for a rename

Well, I finally got tired of the weird looks people have been giving me for the last few years when I tell them my email address or website URL.  For now I’m going with danielgmyers.com, and we’ll see in a few weeks whether I like this or if I want to try dangmyers.com or danielgarymyers.com.  Of course, I still own orderingdisorder.com, and all the old URLs still work, so it’s not a one-way street if I get crazy and decide to go back…

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Sex and violence

I mentioned on Twitter a few hours ago that I can’t rely on movie ratings anymore, because I don’t really mind violence in movies, but I want to avoid sexual content. The response was, “that doesn’t seem backwards to you?”

Hmm.

There were two parts to the question; I answered the first half by linking to the post I wrote in January about how I think movie ratings aren’t granular enough. However, I didn’t answer the second half of his question: doesn’t it seem backward that I mind sex but not violence? After all, as he pointed out elsewhere in that twitter conversation:

Most of my sexual memories are fond ones. None of my violent memories are. That should be the ideal.

I almost replied with “well it’s because of my religion”, but the more I thought about it the less I liked that answer. I don’t know if it’s because I felt like it dismissed the question, or because I felt like it wasn’t a real reason (or not enough of a reason). I ended up writing the following post as a way to explore my own thoughts on the subject, and figure how to articulate why I feel the way I do.

I want to mention up front that I don’t think anyone else is wrong for feeling different than me; I’m just exploring my own mind here.

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Women and the Priesthood

A lot of people — mostly non-Mormons — seem to think that the recent General Conference prayer given by a woman proves it’s only a matter of time before the Church starts ordaining women to the Priesthood. The most frequent comparison is to when the Church began giving the Priesthood to men who were not white; the claim is that just as that was inevitable, so is it inevitable that women will receive the Priesthood.

People that claim this are ignoring a rather fundamental doctrine of the Church. I’m going to quote from The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

(Emphasis mine.)

Thus far in all available scriptural records of which I am aware, God has not given the priesthood to a single woman.

Since we know gender is an essential characteristic of an individual’s eternal identity and purpose, while a person’s skin color is not, we must conclude that if God has only ever given the Priesthood to men, then the Priesthood has something to do with the male gender’s eternal identity and purpose.  I do not believe God does anything arbitrarily or without purpose.

If you think my reasoning is wrong, please explain why, and please provide scriptural support for your position :)

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Smart guns? No thanks.

I recently read an opinion article on CNN.com by Jeremy Shane, and I had a few thoughts to share.  Shane basically says that it would be great if guns were smart enough to refuse to fire when they shouldn’t be fired (like at a group of children).

One of the things I’ve been training my brain to do, as part of my job as a software developer, is to figure out all the ways the code I write is broken or could be misused.  Is it possible for certain input to crash the system or cause other problems?  Can a malicious user use this to get information or access they should not have?

One of the other things I’ve been training my brain to do is to figure out if the code I’m writing is going to prevent users from doing something they should be able to do.  If I add this constraint, will I prevent users from using the service the way they’re used to using it?  Will I break something that used to work?  (This concept is called “backward compatibility”.)

This is what Jeremy Shane gets wrong.  He forgot to ask himself two questions: “What could possibly go wrong?” and, “Is this backward-compatible?”

For example, he wrote:

The root of the problem is that guns are “dumb.” Pull the trigger and they discharge bullets mindlessly, regardless of who is doing the aiming or where they are aimed. Guns should “know” not to fire in schools, churches, hospitals or malls. They should sense when they are being aimed at a child, or at a person when no other guns are nearby.

At face value, I agree that guns being “dumb” could be viewed as a problem.  There are plenty of situations in which it would be good to have a “smarter” gun.

But the purpose of a gun is to shoot things.  The last thing you want is a gun that can arbitrarily decide not to fire when you need it most.

The problem is that what Shane proposes is not backward-compatible.   If I carry a “smart” gun for self-defense, and I am in a mall when a guy comes in to shoot up the place carrying a “dumb” gun, my “smart” gun will refuse to fire, resulting in everyone present being killed to death with bullets.

Put another way, Shane’s idea only works if everyone turns in all their guns (including the criminals!) in exchange for “smart” guns.  I’ll let you guess what would happen if you tried to force people to do that.

Now, Shane tries to partially address the “what could possibly go wrong” question:

Building software into guns need not affect gun owners’ desire to protect their homes. Trigger control software could be relaxed when the gun is at home or in a car, while other safety features stay on to prevent accidental discharges. Guns used by the police would be exempt from such controls.

The problem is that this isn’t really a solution.  What happens if my “smart” gun can’t figure out whether it’s in my house or out on the street in front of my house?

What happens if I pull my gun on a mugger, but it has run out of batteries and so refuses to fire?

What happens when criminals simply start stealing the guns meant for law enforcement, just like they used to steal higher-capacity magazines meant for law enforcement when those were banned?

What happens when (not “if”) someone writes a hack that either disables the safety control software, or disables other people’s guns entirely?

If you read Shane’s article, you’re about to point out that he proposes a solution:

Couldn’t gun software be hacked? Perhaps, but the risk can be reduced by open-sourcing code, requiring software patch downloads, and notifying gun makers or law enforcement if software is disabled.

People don’t even keep their desktop computers up to date.  What makes Shane think that gun owners will keep their guns’ built-in computers up to date?

Shane does propose phasing in “smart” guns slowly… starting with what he calls “the most lethal assault rifles”.  The trouble is, that wouldn’t be the right place to start.

You see, yes, carbines (which I’m sure Shane would describe as “assault rifles”) are one of the most commonly sold guns in the country, but the vast majority of gun homicides are committed with handguns — and when I say “vast majority” I mean somewhere around 90%.

What I’m getting at is that I can’t take someone seriously when they claim they’re trying to stop gun homicide but they want to start with rifles.  If guns are the problem — and I don’t think they are — then the problem is handguns, not rifles.

I do like that Shane is trying to think of solutions to gun violence that do not involve unenforceable and counterproductive legislation.  But as with all solutions, we need to make sure we don’t rush into something without figuring out whether it will work.

Sorry, Shane, but your idea would only work in a world where there are no criminals in the first place.

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