The Dangerous Internet
William Paley and the Watchmaker Analogy

Super Columbine Massacre Game and the Last Refuge for Scoundrels

Don’t think it was easy to pry Tom Fishandchips’ fingers off the joystick of his Super Columbine Massacre video game. Doing so was almost as rough as pulling the game’s antagonists’ (protagonists?) fingers off their assault weapons. After all, Fishandchips had scientific research, which he displayed powerpoint style* (see below) all around his work area, that declared violent entertainment did not produce violent people. Science said he was in the clear to blow away sim students all day long, which was well, because that’s what he wanted to do in the first place.

*Violent media not to blame for violent people
Scientific evidence does not show that watching violence desensitizes people to it .              [University of Toronto study: Dec 2000, displayed prominently by Fishandchips]

Nor was he quick to change his tune when other Institute members, guys like Sheepandgoats, Wheatandweeds and Weedsandwheat, pointed out to him that the studies he had cited were most likely dogs, and that 99% of all studies on media and violence had concluded there was a relationship. No, said Fishandchips, might does not make right, the majority is usually wrong, what about tiny David going up against mighty Goliath, etc, etc, etc.

What finally broke Fishandchips' pigheadedness was the revelation of who had paid for his study….a study so obviously favorable to the makers of violent entertainment. It was the Motion Pictures Association! Now, I guess that doesn’t mean for sure that their resulting study is so much horse manure, but it sure does raise suspicions that the MPA simply fished around till they found someone who would tell them what they wanted to hear. Their violence-is-golden conclusion would have been easier to accept had it been reached by the Presbyterian Church, or the Girl Scouts, or the Ghostbuster’s Association, or the Evolutionists of America Club.

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, declared Samuel Adams in 1775. But here we can modify that statement to science is the last refuge. Note how the MPA’s contract researchers wrap themselves in the scientific method every bit as much as a rabid nationalist wraps himself in the flag. On the other hand, the 99% other studies which conclude that violent entertainment isn’t great for public moral health, are not said specifically to employ the scientific method, but “many investigative methods.” That’s not to suggest those methods were mere new-age fluff. Doubtless they were rooted in logic and made use of scientific reasoning. But they may not have restricted themselves to the narrow scientific method, which insists on finding causality and is never satisfied were mere correlation.

VIP commenter Mr. Crowe (VIP because he does comment, which I appreciate and endeavor to return the favor wherever I can) smelled a rat with regard to my last post on this subject. Was I not taking a shot across the bows of science? Why am I anti-science? Isn’t religion also the last refuge of scoundrels, even more so than science or patriotism?

Actually, religion may be the first refuge of scoundrels. But everybody knows that. The opium of the people, and so forth. We all know how cynical power brokers use religion to stir up the masses. But science enjoys a purer, more rarefied reputation, as if it is above and immune to manipulation by scoundrels. That reputation is not entirely deserved.

Nevertheless, running down science was not the point of my previous post, though alas, it was not worded skillfully enough to avoid that interpretation. Science is good. Science is useful. We find out a lot of things though the scientific method. What science is not, however, is the be-all and end-all, the uncontradictable one true means of discovering things so that, if science comes up with no answer, then there is no answer.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


Victor Allen Winters

Having read Mr. Crowe’s comments, I have to agree with him (of course, you did as well). But I want to point out that correlation doesn’t prove causation (pet peeve of mine). None of those studies have shown anything more than violent people tend to watch violent movies. (It doesn't prove that either caused the other).

Okay, that aside (man I am argumentative today) I also have to comment on your last paragraph. You weren't wrong, but many people would read that and think you were saying that since God did it, there is no reason to look any further. I don't think that was what you meant, but someone will see it that way.

BTW, thanks for the visit and the compliment on my post and Blog.

tom sheepandgoats

My point is that with people correlation is sometimes as good as you can get. People and the influences that have molded them are much more complex than the objects/forces/chemicals you can experiment with in the lab using the scientific method. The items in the post Romulus commented on:

“There is a correlation between condom non-use and sexually transmitted HIV.
There is a correlation between lead exposure and lower I.Q.
Between passive tobacco smoke and lung cancer.
Between calcium intake and bone mass.”

are correlations. Apparently causality has not been established scientifically (from the APA testimony: )

Still, these correlations are accepted as fact ….it seems unlikely they would be if just the scientific method were relied upon, per Wikipedia’s definition …..and public policy is formulated based on the correlations alone.

For argument’s sake, grant the premise that violent people simply prefer violent entertainment, and that one can’t prove violent entertainment produces violent people. Still, you would think the policy conclusion would be the same. Given that violent people are such a plague on the planet, does it really make sense to feed a violent person’s appetite with ever more violent entertainment?

Yes, I understand that common sense sometimes turns out to be wrong, but the other extreme of refusing to believe anything until science gives it the green light produces just as many ridiculous (and harmful) results.

As to your last paragraph: you’re right, I didn’t mean it that way and….you’re right again, many might read it that way. So I appreciate the observation. Fundamentalists dismiss any finding of science which conflicts with their cherished beliefs. JWs don’t. Wherever possible we seek to reconcile the two. There’s plenty of instances of scientific findings being revised, updated, even reversed, so that we just don’t roll over and die every time scientists disagree with us. But neither do we ignore what science appears to reveal, for example

Romulus Crowe

Well, at last there's a little more than correlation to go on:

Frequent use of video games does cause measurable changes in the brain, and they're not good changes.

As Victor Allen Winters said, it might be that violent people are more likely to play these games in the first place, but it's certain that the games make them worse. So someone with repressed violent tendencies, who takes them out on frequent video games, might become more likely to be violent in real life.

Rather than turning non-violent into violent (non-violent people are likely to be sickened by some of those games, and are not likely to buy them), the games might be making borderline-violent into really-violent.

Many people think very vicious thoughts but would never act on them. If their self-control is reduced and their emotional response heightened, they can 'tip over' into real violence.

That, it seems, is exactly what these games do to the brain.

With new, improved graphics and virtual reality headsets, the player's immersion in the game reaches the point where it's hard to be sure it's not real.

That's only going to make things much, much worse. People who would otherwise have gone their whole lives only thinking about violence are likely to start doing it.

There are a lot of those people, so it's a serious problem.

Victor Allen Winters

Yes, that is true, but I did mention that it was a pet peeve of mine.

As for all of our last paragraphs, Fundamentalists cast any group they associate with in a negative light, just as they cast the word itself (fundamentalist) as a negative when it really shouldn't be (unfortunately, there is no difference in people's minds between fundamentalist, militant fundamentalist, and close-minded fundamentalist.


Just a quick thought. In the past, the military has used such "simulations" to desensitize soldiers to killing other people. They wouldn't do it if it wasn't effective...

"how much more should we be troubled by the fact that every time a child plays an interactive point-and-shoot video game, he is learning the exact same conditioned reflex and motor skills." (

This concept was proven effective. In WWI, a very low percentage of soldiers were effective at shooting enemy soldiers. Military research found that it was because of a person's aversion of killing. When the military implemented ways to overcome this using simulations with more realistic conditions, the soldier's reflexive response was to shoot to kill, thus increasing each soldier's effectiveness.

I found several articles to support these articles, however the website I quoted does a very nice job explaining this concept.

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