July 23, 2012
After the recent shooting in Aurora, the same political talking heads are running over the same talking points we’ve all heard before. The Republicans are telling us that if only someone in that crowd had a gun, they could’ve taken down the shooter and saved all those lives. The Democrats are assuring us that if we ban guns, the shooter never could have acquired the weapon to begin with. And pretty much everyone is assuming that this man is schizophrenic, so what can anyone do in that situation?
You need to realize that there’s absolutely no statistical correlation between schizophrenia (or other psychotic illnesses) and violence. In a recent study conducted by Oxford, you have a 1 in 14.3 million chance of being murdered by a man with a psychotic illness. If it says anything, you’re three times more likely to be struck my lightning. In a study of 20,000 mentally ill patients, research indicated that there’s no way to correlate murder and mental illness. You may think that someone with paranoid delusions and wild hallucinations would be a huge threat, but in reality they’re not. However, you can easily correlate substance abuse with homicide. In other words, your odds of being killed by a drug addict or an alcoholic are way higher. You should be much more worried of the guy sitting next to you in the bar. People with mental illness do not deserve this unwarranted stigma as their lives are hard enough as it is.
Saying that the man was “crazy” doesn’t tell us anything about why it happened. We’re much too quick to use mental illness as an explanation for violence. We need to think more clearly and explore personal motives, grievances, or distorted political anger.
You want to know the worst rhetoric? Religious people are blaming science education for this. ”You tell people they’re animals, they’ll act like them.” Despite what they may think, the Enlightenment brought about the largest decrease in human violence the world has ever seen. It’s the complete opposite. The scientific way of thinking is one of demanding evidence, critical thinking, and coherent, well thought out explanations. That’s what gave rise to our free and generally peaceful society. What about religious superstition? Remember the torture chambers of the middle ages? How many people were beaten senseless with whips, impaled up the anus with sharp blades, and nailed to crosses in order that the sinner recant their evil beliefs? How many people were burned alive at the stake only for holding a contrary opinion? How many women were slowly cut to pieces for supposed “witchcraft”? How many libraries were burned to the ground, setting human progress back literally thousands of years? Then they have the gall to blame biologists for these sorts of things. They’re curing diseases, educating physicians, and helping us keep our planet’s ecosystem healthy and thriving. What are religious people up to? To this day women are having their noses cut off and battery acid thrown in their face simply for having sex before marriage.
This shooting was a real tragedy and I feel for the families who lost loved ones. Who could imagine being gunned down while waiting in line to watch a movie? It’s really beyond words, but let’s not blame the wrong people.