jasonbwatson

June 11, 2014

Lower IQ and Brain Damage

It is no secret that several states in the U.S. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. It still violates federal law, and federal law trumps state law when there is a conflict…but that’s not what I really want to write about today so I won’t go down that path. What I want to write about is that the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana is an excellent example of what can happen when laws are changed to allow people to do what they want whether doing so is a good idea or not…especially when the long-term effects are either not known or indicate that allowing it is not a good idea.

There have long been those who argue that marijuana is not addictive even though you can find plenty of people who will you from first hand experience that it is. There have long been those who argue that there are no serious side effects or marijuana use even though there is plenty of anecdotal and scientific evidence to say otherwise. It has long been known that marijuana functions as a gateway drug, often paving the way for users to move on to harder drugs.

Additionally, there are a number of scientific studies suggesting that the regular use of marijuana does indeed have serious and lasting consequences. In the April issue of The Journal of Neuroscience contains a study conducted by researches from Northwestern University in Illinois, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital on the effects of marijuana use on the brain. The researchers used MRI to measure “the volume, shape and density of the amygdala and nucleus accumbens, two brain structures related to emotion, reward and motivation” according to an article by Daniel James Devine. What did the MRI scans reveal? That smoking marijuana at least weekly produces abnormalities in these parts of the brain.

In the words of Hans Breiter, one of the co-authors of the study, “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.”

This study is but one of several scientific studies showing the damage that marijuana can do to the brain. There is one study that indicates that people who begin smoking marijuana heavily as teenagers will lost an average of eight IQ points by age 38. Other studies indicate that there are fewer brain connections in the regions of the brain responsible for memory and learning among marijuana users.

Despite this evidence, Washington and Colorado are now allowing the legal use of marijuana for recreational purposes and the trend is likely to continue. It saddens me to say that I know a young man who moved from the east cost to Colorado specifically because he could use marijuana legally there. There are twenty-one states that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes but none of us are naive enough to believe that it is used only for medicinal purposes and only by those with legitimate medical need for it.

One of the problems with the legalization of marijuana is that teenagers in particular will see that as proof that using it is perfectly safe, even harmless. The same article by Daniel James Devine reports a December 2013 study by the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that only 40% of high school seniors believe regular marijuana use is harmful and 25% of seniors have smoked marijuana in the past month (with 7% reportedly smoking it daily).

I can recall sitting in a seminar a number of years ago in which one of the nation’s leading experts on working with youth who had stabbed or shot an adult described the reality that most of the medications being prescribed for behavioral disorders (including, but certainly not limited to, ADD/ADHD) were developed for and tested on adults and there was absolutely no indication of what the long-term effects of the use of these drugs by children would be. I think in many ways we are still waiting to find out. In this instance–the recreational use of marijuana–it seems that we do know what the long-term effects will be: lower IQ and brain damage.

Are we being responsible as a society when we allow the legalization of something known to cause these results? Should the will of the people be followed even when what they want is not in their own best interest? Interesting questions which could yield a healthy and vigorous debate, no doubt.

Of course, one might argue–somewhat tongue in cheek–that those who use, or want to use, marijuana regularly already have brain damage and/or low IQs. Perhaps that’s all the more reason to “just say no”–they don’t have any brain cells to spare.

September 17, 2013

Word Games

Several weeks ago I wrote about the stupidity of so many of the labels that we tend to get hung up on these days, specifically when it comes to referring to people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. Apparently the same stupidity exists among some people concerned about the very way in which the human race is addressed. Washington State has recently implemented legislation that uses gender-neutral vocabulary within the state’s laws. This would be silly but otherwise not worthy of notice if it simply meant adding “or her” and “she” to every “his” or “he.” Washington, though, was not content to simply make these little additions. Instead, the legislation brings to a conclusion a–get this–six year process of rewriting the state’s laws to ensure that they are all gender neutral to the point that contain virtually no reference to man or men at all, even when those words are gender neutral.

For example, the newly re-worded Washington legal codes will no longer make any reference to a signalman, journeyman plumbers, penmanship, fishermen or freshman. Instead, the laws now reference signal operators, journey-level plumbers, handwriting, fishers and first-year students.

Democratic state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle was the bill’s sponsor. Of her 475-page bill she told Reuters, “There’s no good reason for keeping our legal terms anachronistic and with words that do not respect our current contemporary times.” Give me a break… I think it would be far more accurate to say that there is no good reason to devote six years and multiple pieces of legislation to play such stupid word games. Washington’s legislators must have absolutely nothing important to do if they can devote so much time and money to this idiocy. Perhaps they could do themselves and their constituents a favor and disband the state legislature if that is all they have to do.

Kyle Thiessen, the state’s code reviser, was quoted in Huffington Post as saying that some words will not be replaced because there is simply no logical alternative. What else, for example, would you call a man hole? A person hole? A man or woman hole? A human hole? And apparently the state’s Washington Military Department objected to changing words such as seaman and airmen, so those will not be altered. (Watch out, WMD–the cries of anachronism and sexism surely cannot be far behind!).

Liz Watson (no relative of mine), a senior adviser to the National Women’s Law Center, said, “Words matter. This is important in changing hearts and minds.” She continued, “Words help shape our perceptions about what opportunities are available to women and men.” With all due respect, ma’am I think that’s a bunch of baloney. I do not know anyone who ever thought that women could not be law enforcement officers because we call them policemen or could not go fishing because people say fisherman rather than fisher. “Words alone are not going to achieve all of the things that need to happen. But this is one easy part for us to do,” Watson concluded. Sadly, more often than not, when we do what is easy we tend to stop there. Perhaps Senator Kohl-Welles and her colleagues in the Washington legislature think they are making strides toward equality for women with this landmark accomplishment. I beg to differ. Changing words like this will serve only to irritate people; I see no fundamental change in the opportunities available to women coming about because of this word game.

The feedback on HuffingtonPost.com was so overwhelmingly opposed to this ridiculousness that Senator Kohl-Welles responded on the site. She claims that she works on serious and important legislative matters, and I assume she does. However, she also claimed that this legislation neither wasted time nor money, and I would have to disagree with her on that. Even if, as she suggests, the changes in the wording of the state laws was handled easily with computer programs, such changes were ultimately made by someone who works for the state who could surely have been doing something more meaningful and more productive with his or her time.

There were some humorous responses to this whole business on Huffington Post. A Dave Warnick commented, “What are they going to do if you don’t use their words. Sentence you to five years with a dictionary?” Dan Lloyd queried, “What am I supposed to say when I am done praying? ‘A-people’ rather than ‘Amen’?” Probably the best comment I saw was posted by Mike Buscarino. He wrote, “This idiot governor should be improduced! Sorry, but the other produce (apples, oranges, lemons) may have gotten jealous and offended if i had used the word ‘impeached’ The last thing we need is a bunch of young and unripened fruit jumping off trees across the nation in protest.”

January 15, 2013

Monuments

I’m back! It has been a hiatus of nearly a month since I posted last, which is hard for me to believe. I took some time off and did some traveling around Christmas, and though I thought perhaps I would blog some during that time I never did. And even though I have intended to do so several times since, it seems as though something else always came up. But, I am back, determined I was definitely going to post today, and hopefully I will get back into a routine of posting a few times a week.

While I was traveling my wife and I took our children into Washington, D.C. I grew up just a few miles outside the city, and as someone who loves politics and U.S. history I have always loved much of what Washington, D.C. has to over. My children enjoyed it too, for the most part, though they did grow tired of all the walking as we tried to cram as much as we could into the few hours we were there.

While we did spend some time in three of the museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution, we also saw several of the most recognizable monuments in the city: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Visiting these monuments provided me with an opportunity to tell my children about why the monuments had been erected, and about the people and events they were there to remember and honor. That, of course, is exactly why the monuments are there.

Of course, monuments are not unique to Washington, D.C. or even to America. In fact, monuments are described in the Bible. Numerous times the Scriptures record God instructing the nation of Israel to erect monuments–usually in the form of piles of stones–to commemorate a specific event, a specific way in which God had intervened and met the needs of the nation in a supernatural way. One of the best examples is contained in Joshua 4:1-3, which reads:

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”

However, God’s instructions included more than the erection of the monument. He went on, explaining that the purpose of the stones was this:

“[T]hat this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (vv 6-7)

Joshua elaborated on this instruction. When the Israelites had crossed over the Jordan River and the stones had been erected, Joshua said to the people:

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (vv 21-24)

So, just like I can take my children to look at the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial and use those to teach my children about the lives of those great men and the impact that they had on the shaping and survival of our country, or we can look at the World war II Memorial and I can talk to them about my grandfather’s service in the U.S. Army during that war, or the many men and women who served to defend our country and to defeat the Axis powers, so too the Israelites could show their children the pile of stones near the Jordan River and tell them about the miracle that God had done of stopping the waters to allow them to pass over on dry ground.

Looking at the monuments in Washington reminded me of the biblical instructions, and also reminded me of a song written several years ago by Bev Lowry (perhaps most well-known as the mother of Christian comedian Mark Lowry). Her song, entitled “Monuments,” includes this chorus:

Where are the monuments we should be leaving
so our children can find the way to get home?
We should be laying stones so they can follow
the pathway that leads to God’s throne.

That’s a powerful and thought-provoking question and reminder. While it is true that I have never seen God part the waters or seen manna provided from heaven, I have seen and experienced God do amazing things in my life and in the lives of the members of our family. Am I taking care to teach God’s provision to my children? Am I reminding them of all that God has done for me? For them? Probably not nearly as well as I should be. I think it may be time to build some monuments….

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