Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cheddar Cheese Cause Murder! Honest!

I hate junk science.

Junk science is the act of using so-called ‘science’, where you deliberately conduct an unfair experiment, ignore vital variables, or all out ‘mis-interpret’ the data in order to get the result you want.

Here’s the latest thing.

A ‘scientist’ has conducted a study, where he took two groups of young people. One group he allowed to play a single level of “The Simpson’s Hit and Run” video game, and another group, he had play a single level of “Grand Theft Auto III”. Both video games, in this case considered similar, because they both involve driving.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Long story short, GTA = Bad. Simpsons = Also bad, but not as bad as GTA.

Here’s the part that cracked me up though. After playing GTA, more of the study group considered the use of marijuana to be ‘ok’, compared to those that played the Simpsons game.

All this, despite the fact that the mission played on GTA 3 did not mention drugs, drug use or have anything at all to do with drugs.

Now this result, in any real scientific experiment would be called an anomaly, and a rational explanation would be looked for.

In this experiment, the answer was simple: Playing GTA will make your kids want to do drugs, or at the very least, think that drug use is ok.

I have another explanation. Maybe the GTA playing group had a more relaxed attitude to smoking weed anyway.

I like that the question specifically mentioned weed, though, considering it’s pretty much the softest drug you can imagine, and has the most divided opinions on its use. If they’d picked a much harder drug, like heroin or crack, chances are that most of the test subjects wouldn’t have had such a relaxed attitude.

For example, I don’t smoke weed, but I have in the past known a few people that do.

On the one hand you have people who point out that marijuana is only as harmful and addictive as regular cigarettes, while on the other hand you have the people who believe that weed is a ‘gateway drug’ that leads onto harder, more harmful drugs.

To be completely honest, I only don’t smoke weed for two simple reasons. One, it’s illegal. Two, I have a very addictive personality, so if I started, it would be all I’d ever want to do.

In short, even if weed was 100% legal, and you could go into any gas station and buy a pack of Marlboro Marijuana Specials, I still wouldn’t smoke it. This isn’t from any moral stand point…it’s simply because if I did, I’d like it, and I’d want to smoke it a lot.

This is just my opinion of weed, and I guarantee if you ask a group of 100 people, you’ll find the entire spectrum, from the people who love and smoke it, to the people who think it’s the most terrible thing ever discovered.

Bascally, if I got two groups of people, and told one group to crochet hats, told another to knit scarves…then asked both groups what they thought of marijuana, chances are one group would be more tolerant than the other.

Is that proof that knitting gives you a relaxed attitude to drugs? Or that crocheting gives you a higher resistance to peer pressure?

Nope. It just proves that in any given group, some people will be more tolerant of things, whereas others will be less tolerant.

Now, if you ask a group of people what they think of shooting heroin, most people will be dead set against it.

Hmm, I wonder why they chose weed specifically for this study?

I’ll tell you, it gave them the best possible chance of getting the answer they wanted.

They also proved that playing video games “Raises your blood pressure and makes you more aggressive.”

Of course it f**king does! You’re playing an exciting game, which gets you excited and more ‘animated’. Reading this stupid ‘scientific report’ got my blood pressure up, for Christ’s sake!

So, considering I’m agreeing with this part of the report, does that mean playing videogames is bad?

Yes, but only if watching movies or sporting events is bad as well. I’ve watched horror movies that have raised my blood pressure so much, and got so much adrenaline pumping, I’ve jumped out of my seat. Go to any sports bar when a football game is on. You’ll see crowds of people with extremely high blood pressure, with all their aggressive and competitive instincts on overdrive.

If we really want to get into it, playing a sport is much, much worse than any video game.

Let’s look at Football (The American variety).

This is a game about beating another group of people, taking territory by force and definitely raises your blood pressure and aggression level…and worst of all playing football has the very real possibility of you getting injured, or you injuring someone else.

It makes me laugh that the same people who think that playing a video game is a very bad for their kids, and won’t allow a game console in the house…also, at the same time, positively encourage their kids to put on a helmet, grab a ball, and run into people as fast as they can in the hope of knocking them down.

I have two points here:

The first is that, while I’ll freely admit that video games can and will affect the people who play them, they will only have the same effect as playing a competitive sport.

Let’s take boxing, for instance. In this sport, you train to be able to hit people as hard as possible, while being as hard as possible to hit yourself. You’re training to actually fight somebody.

Why isn’t boxing the center of the latest moral panic?

Now, if I wanted to really come down on boxing, there’s plenty of ‘evidence’ I could use. Look at Mike Tyson. He raped a woman, and bit an opponent’s ear off in the ring. If I was to take the same stance as the anti-video game people, I would focus on this, call it ‘scientific evidence’, and demand the sport be banned.

Of course, to do this, I’d have to avoid the vast majority of boxers, like Mohammed Ali, George Foreman etc...not to mention that I’d have to avoid the hundreds of actual facts that contradict me.

By following this line of reasoning, for my ‘scientific evidence’ to be true, I would also have to openly state that boxing also causes Parkinson’s Disease, and also causes you to start your own electric grill company.

My second point ties into this: You can (ab)use science to prove just about anything. You’ve got to ask yourself two questions. One is, what does this scientist hope to achieve with this experiment, and who is paying for the research?

The answer to the first is simple. The scientists are hoping to get paid and, most importantly of all, make a name for themselves. No scientist is going to make a big splash right now by stating “Video Games are completely safe and non-harmful”, because that doesn’t merit a news story. It’s also what most of the do-gooders out there don’t want to hear.

The second is also simple. Someone wants the public to believe a particular thing, so pays someone to prove it.

When it comes to ‘science’, it’s easy to prove just about anything. For example, did you know that 100% of the people who died of cancer, not just this year, but since the disease was discovered, drank large amounts of water and breathed nitrogen-rich air?

100%? That’s strong statistic, so I can state scientifically, that breathing and drinking water is a major component in causing cancer!

Most murderers walked for the majority of their lives…so people who walk are pre-disposed towards murder.

Of course, with a little common sense, we can see that 100% of the people who didn’t die of cancer or commit murder also drank water, breathed air and walked around.

The point is, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is a scientist in a white lab-coat, who has all kinds of letters after his name, writes a report which states there is a link between one thing and another. They publish it, the papers pick it up, and there’s ‘new evidence’ that the very thing that most people want to believe is completely true.

At the end of the day, look at it this way:

I’ve played video games since I was three years old.
I’ve played every single Grand Theft Auto game ever made.
I’ve played probably every major video game released over the past ten years.
I play video games for at least 2-3 hours every single day.
I enjoy playing ‘violent’ videogames, whether that involves shooting simulated people, attacking with simulated armies, shooting down simulated planes, or beating a simulated person to death with simulated fists.

Basically, I’m a hardcore gamer. It’s my number one hobby.

By rights, I should have dropped out of school, be working a crappy job, have no friends, or at the very least, weird ‘shoot up a schoolyard’ friends…and above all, be a dangerous, mal-adjusted individual. However, here’s another list, also true:

Qualifications-wise, I have 13 GCSE’s, 3 A-Levels, and a Bachelors Degree in English Language, Literature and Writing Studies.
I have a tested 140 IQ.
The last time I was in a fight, I was in Primary School.
I have never been in trouble with the law.
I got my first job when I was 14, and have never been out of work since I was 16 (Except for now, but that’s due to a work permit situation.)
The only drugs I use, or have ever used, are legal (Namely cigarettes and caffeine).
I’m happily married.

Anyone notice a slight deviation from the ‘scientific’ evidence there?

Also, considering more people now play video games than those that don’t…am I the anomaly, or the norm?

I’ll let you decide. You’re clever people.


OzzyC said...

Crap, I should kill my children now, before they become murders.

Kato said...

That study sure made the rounds, I thought about posting about it myself but I figured others would weigh in so wouldn't have to. Thanks for saving me the time. :)

Although I haven't read the actual report, from what I've heard through various sources, it sounds like it was incredibly poorly run. Way too small of a test audience, little or no controls, etc. Bad science, bad surveying techniques. Sounds like it was either set up by someone who just wanted to make games look bad, or it was someone's "Quick, I need a final Master's Degree study project!"