William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Inevitable Red Skins Name Controversy Post

An early Cleveland tail-gating.

An early tail-gating.

Readers have been patiently waiting for the WMBriggs.com take on the Washington Redskins1 controversy, the gist of which is this: Lefties don’t like the name because they feel only they are allowed to worship skin color—generally to say it doesn’t matter at all and to insist it be tracked (and rewarded or punished) everywhere and always—while the Righties, who don’t give a damn about skin color but love tradition, wish the Lefties would take a long walk off a short dock.

Although it’s much been in the news, the Red Skins are only the tip of the political-correctness-berg. You probably weren’t aware, but there are many other teams targeted by the Outrage Police, even in baseball, the only sport of interest worth following in these once United States.

I did some research and was shocked at the breadth of the naming scandal. What follows is a brief summary of the mental agony which awaits us once these become more publicly known.

  1. Cleveland Indians: racist. The Mahatma Gandhi Appreciation Society (Ohio branch) insists the name does not accord with the non-violent philosophy of its idol after a fan was heard in the stadium shouting, “Kill ‘em!” The group plans a stadium sit-in, and say they will eat only raw rice and the dandelions harvested from the parking lot until the name is changed.
  2. Minnesota Twins: homophobic. GLAAD issued a press release intended to jerk tears from readers, in which they groan that single-sex couples can’t have babies, twins or otherwise, and thus feel the name is an insensitive and constant reminder of their constituents’ disability. They suggested the new name The Inclusives.
  3. Minnesota Vikings: racist. The North-American Danes and Nordics (NADA) Knitting Club are incensed over the stereotyping of their ancestry, and point out that many Vikings did not cut open their victims’ chests and splay out their lungs jokingly as wings, and that many Vikings were gentle farmers.
  4. Detroit Tigers: speciest. PETA is angry that animals’ images are being used without their consent and are suing on their behalf, asking for three million dollars and a year’s supply of goats (to feed the tigers). Detroit is seen as a test case, which the teams from the Orioles to the Cubs are watching closely.
  5. Kansas City Royals: anti-democratic. The Howard Zinn fan club of Boulder, Colorado voted to have a vote to vote on the motion to publicize their discontent and announce that since it is 2014 there is no place for royalist thought anywhere in the world.
  6. Los Angeles Angels: theocratic. The American Atheists and Freedom From Religion Foundation joined forces to sue, claiming that since the mayor of that city once threw out a first pitch, there was an unconscionable mixing of state and religion. The parallel suit against the St Louis Cardinals was subsequently dropped after a Bright attended one of the games and realized their mistake.
  7. Texas Rangers: racist. La Raza are organizing a march to the stadium. Participants will carry posters of Chuck Norris’s Lone Wolf McQuade with red Xs painted over them. Special badges to identify marchers will be handed out, though it is expected these will be refused.
  8. Milwaukee Brewers: corrupting influence Mothers Against Drunk Driving are planning a special bake sale on the state capitol steps featuring snacks all under 100 calories.
  9. Pittsburgh Pirates: sexist. The Collation of Women’s Studies Departments expressed “outrage” that the very symbol of misogyny and rape culture should be praised. They said it was “one more indication of the cruel patriarchal tyranny under which we live”. The group plans a rally at the south side Dunkin’ Donuts to “raise awareness” and to cash in on their coupons for limited-time Pumpkin Delite donuts.
  10. San Francisco Giants: sizeist. The San Francisco City Council realized they were falling behind in the latest progressive craze and seized on the opportunity to make themselves feel superior to ordinary citizens. Realizing they had no legal merit to close the Giants’ stadium, one council member introduced a proposal to ban baseballs within city limits, “for the safety of the children.”

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1A professional franchise organized to play “football”, a game in which about four to five dozen men sit in booths far away from a field, directing another set of men to do very little and in short bursts, accompanied by a massive number of commercials.

That Innovation Is Negatively Correlated With Religion Study

No jokes about the "Con" part of the picture, please.

No jokes about the “Con” part of the picture, please.

Quick Quiz O’ The Day: What do you get when you marry an abysmal knowledge of history, a sublime narcissism, an ignorance of the nature of evidence, a perverse hatred of religion and a mania for scientism proselytization?

Answer: Chris Mooney (Richard Dawkins would also have been accepted).

Mooney is a far-left numerologist who is ever highlighting occult patterns in numbers (which only “researchers” can see) which “prove” that those to the right of Mooney are blighted, benighted, and bamboozled. It’s a sad show, but sadder is that he finds a steady audience—mainly those raised to have high self-esteem.

His latest effort to show his self worth is in Mother Jones, in an article entitled “Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All.

Hey, Mooney! Where would science be without Christianity?

Oh, never mind. There’s no use asking a man impervious to evidence. Indeed, what follows below nearly useless; nevertheless, I provide it as a public service to the few curious left in our culture.

Mooney, relying on peer-reviewed research, claims, “higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation” but only “when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education.”

Uh oh. “Controlling for” is tell-tale that statistics are happening, that data has been massaged, perhaps even tortured.

First, the researchers looked at the raw data on patents per capita (taken from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s data) and religiosity (based on the following question from the World Values Survey: “Independently of whether you go to church or not, would you say you are: a religious person, not a religious person, a convinced atheist, don’t know”). And they found a “strong negative relationship” between the two. In other words, for countries around the world, more religion was tied to fewer patents per individual residing in the country.

Hey, Mooney! Are the number of patents per capita a measure of innovation or legal strangulation? After all, in these once United States we now allow patents on software—software! And how many companies exist just to buy patents in order to sue “infringers”? And aren’t the number of patents more a function of the corporate-bureaucrat arms race than the religious beliefs of their filers? And thus the “strong negative relationship” can just as easily be stated: As Religion Decreases, Legalism Increases?

Ah, skip it. Facts like this are like BBs on a rhino’s hide. Anyway, the “researchers” knew their data in raw form would never fly, so they started controlling “for no less than five other standard variables related to innovation”. They then took the residuals—the residuals!—from this regression and made this plot (taken from Mooney’s piece):

mooney1

Everything about this plot depresses me. First, it is built on the leavings of a highly questionable statistical model (applied by reflex). Second, these wee dots give the appearance of precision which does not exist. The “religiosity” for an entire country, garnered by small samples, is really representative of the entire population?

Hey, Mooney! Are all religions equivalent?

Hmm, well we know how he’d answer that. So back to the dots, which again are partly “residuals” from an ill-conceived model, partly “religiosity”. The things “controlled” for—“population, levels of economic development, levels of foreign investment, educational levels, and intellectual property protections”—are scarcely identical in each country, and neither can they be measured to equal precision. Yet the plot pretends they are.

Ideally, the plot should never be made, for it is a farce. But if one were in a situation where the criticisms above held (for real, actually quantifiable variables) then the thing to do is to size the dots to indicate uncertainty. Since these are part-residuals, part-survey, the dots would be quite sizable, maybe something like this:

The blob.

The blob.

Pretty hard to posture and pontificate over a plot like this. But Mooney (and the researchers) conclude, “Religiosity stifles innovation, but at the same time, innovation and science weaken religiosity.”

Rot. The plot equally “proves” that lack of religion emboldens lawyers, or increasing government encourages legalism. That the authors never see this is also proof of their anti-religion bias.

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Thanks to the reader whose name I lost for sending this in.

The Science-Is-Self-Correcting Fallacy

A group of self-correcting scientists discuss the various theories of melting butter.

A group of self-correcting scientists discuss the various theories of melting butter.

“You know my theory is true,” said the grant-wielding scientist, “Because science is self-correcting.”

That statement is a fallacy because, of course, even supposing that science is self-correcting, there is no guarantee that this fellow’s theory has been self-corrected. It may still be gloriously, yet fundably, wrong.

Yes, fundably. For an associated fallacy is the My-Grant-Was-Funded-Therefore-My-Theory-Is-True fallacy, which is a cousin of the My-Paper-Was-Peer-Reviewed-Therefore-My-Theory-Is-True fallacy, which itself is a spawn of the ageless I’m-An-Expert-Therefore-My-Theory-Is-True fallacy.

There is thus a whiff of the appeal to authority in the Self-Correcting fallacy. But it (the SCF) is much more than that, as we’ll now see.

How did the SCF arise? It has been observed, in several historical cases, that Theory A, itself usually a consensus, has been supplanted eventually by Theory B, and that Theory B both explains previous observations and predicts new ones better than Theory A. Theory A is discarded and B embraced. Think about the progress of the models of an atom from Democritus to the (consensus!) Standard Model of today. A clear improvement: self-correction in action.

Incidentally, did you notice it? Self correcting. Science is not the collective work of individuals, but a living entity, a thing apart from people, a being capable of repairing itself—and capable of anger and susceptible of being appeased. But let this pass.

From the truth that some theories have been corrected, it does not follow that all theories have been, or eventually will be, corrected. If it were true that all theories have been self corrected, then there would be no error in science, there could not now exist theories which are wrong. We see theories that are wrong (like catastrophic global warming, which makes failed prediction after failed prediction, yet the theory is still welcomed), therefore not all theories have reached self correction.

Then to say that all theories will eventually be self corrected is a matter of faith and is not a deduction. Why? It can be possible that every theory to date has been improved, and will continue to be improved, but it does not follow that all new theories will also fit this paradigm.

Also, it has not been demonstrated that all theories now “in play” have been self-correcting. It could very well be, and there is some evidence to suggest, that some theories are racing down blind alleys, self-destructing, as it were. This usually happens when theories are based on a false philosophies—and all physics must first needs a philosophy. For example, that the “laws” of physics work everywhere and everywhen identically is a philosophical and not physical idea. Multiverses and many-worlds seem to be examples of blind-alley theories.

Scientism is also incapable of ultimate self-correction. Scientism is the false belief that all theories are ultimately scientific; i.e. it is a futile attempt at supplanting philosophy, but which is a religion which only succeeds in masquerading its philosophy.

But let these examples pass, because they are beside the point. What is true is that to say that all theories are capable of self-correction is a matter of faith and is not a deduction. Given mankind’s pertinacious grip of error, nothing would seem more obvious than some theories can be perpetually wrong.

The Self-Correcting Fallacy is rarely stated blankly as the scientist who insists he is right because Science is self-correcting. But it’s not too far off, either. How often have we heard the phrase “The Science is settled”? If the science is settled, it is not in need of self-correction, and is therefore purged of error. Or perhaps some small amount of error is allowed—which, it is assumed, will itself be self-corrected—but because science is self-correcting, theories that reach public awareness must be “good enough” already. This is obviously false.

What remains true is that each theory must be judged on its own merits, and not on the merits of its expounders or that it was capable of self-correction.

Lastly, there is also a whiff of arrogance in the SCF. Scientists boast of science making improvements, and imply that other intellectual endeavors do not share this superior attribute. This is ridiculously false, a belief which can only be the result of an ignorance of human thought. For instance, history routinely improves its understanding, and even theology improves in time. Even a cursory reading in, say, the theology of Christology confirms this.

Of course, history, theology, and other humanities are awful prone to blind alley theories, too. But we have already seen science is not immune to these. We leave with the wisdom of Max Planck:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Which is at least proof that not all scientists are capable of self-correction.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not A Body. Part II

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

God is not a physical body, that God is not a creature continued…but not finished today. We have instead a series of nested arguments, so it will take some careful reading to keep up. Each argument contains a premise, which is proved in the next point, which itself (once or twice) has a premise proved by the next point after. This goes on at some length; indeed, we will not finish the proof this week. Plus we ranging into analysis-like subjects, which aren’t always easy to keep in mind.

Chapter 20: That God is not a body

9 Again. No infinite power is a power residing in a magnitude. But the power of the first mover is an infinite power. Therefore it does not reside in a magnitude. And thus God, Who is the first mover, is neither a body nor a power residing in a body.i

10 The first proposition is proved as follows. If a power residing in a magnitude be infinite, this magnitude is either finite or infinite. But there is no infinite magnitude, as proved in 3 Phys.[8] and 1 Coeli et Mundi.[9] And it is not possible for a finite magnitude to have an infinite power. Therefore in no magnitude can there be an infinite power.ii

11 That there cannot be an infinite power in a finite magnitude is proved thus. A great power produces in less time an equal effect, which a lesser power produces in more time: of whatever kind this effect may be, whether it be one of alteration, of local movement, or of any other kind of movement. Now an infinite power surpasses every finite power. It follows therefore that it produces its effect more rapidly, by causing a more rapid movement than any finite power. Nor can this greater rapidity be one of time. Therefore it follows that the effect is produced in an indivisible point of time. And thus moving, being moved, and movement will be instantaneous: the contrary of which has been proved in 6 Phys.[10]iii

12 That an infinite power of a finite magnitude cannot cause movement in time, is proved thus. Let A be an infinite power; and AB a part thereof. This part therefore will cause movement in more time. And yet there must be proportion between this time and the time in which the whole power causes movement, since both times are finite. Suppose then these two times to be in proportion as 1 to 10, for it does not affect this argument whether we take this or any other ratio.

Now if we increase the aforesaid finite power, we must decrease the time in proportion to the increase of the power, since a greater power causes movement in less time. If therefore we increase it tenfold, that power will cause movement in a time which will be one-tenth of the time occupied by the first part that we took of the infinite power, namely AB. And yet this power which is ten times the aforesaid power is a finite power, since it has a fixed proportion to a finite power. It follows therefore that a finite power and an infinite power cause movement in an equal time: which is impossible. Therefore an infinite power of a finite magnitude cannot cause movement in any time.iv

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iThis highlights something I think sadly neglected by physicists. That to create something out of nothing, or to be the First Mover (in the Chapter 13 sense; also see this), requires infinite “power.” Just what power and how does that relate to other things we know or conjecture about the universe is very little is known. Infinity is a strange place, as we emphasize repeatedly and to say our intuitions aren’t in it is the minimum. Mathematics barely touches on it. Spheres that can fold themselves inside out without breaking? Can be split in two and be the same in size? Weird!

iiWe’re into the Land of Subtly here, where it is easy to get lost. Don’t forget our destination. That the Infinite cannot be a body. Now if God were an infinite body, that is all there would be. There would be no room for us. God would take up all the space. So God has to be something other than a body, while still being infinite. But what? That’s what the rest of this book of Summa Contra Gentiles is about: describing that what.

It seems to me that we are not at a sticking point, that the reader is willing to grant that God is not an infinite physical body. So I don’t want to take up space with minutiae; nevertheless, if you’re interested in the details, read Chapter 5 of Aristotle here.

iiiNon-locality anyone? How can entangled particles the distance of the universe apart instantaneously “decide” which states to take? Do we have an answer here, in the First Mover, or are things buried more deeply?

ivWe have a proof by contradiction. Perhaps it’s easy to miss, but St Thomas is assuming first that the infinite power causes an effect in finite time. The idea is that, by simple manipulation, if the infinite power causes an effect in any time whatsoever, we can construct a finite power that causes the effect in the same amount of time. This cannot be, thus the infinite power must operate instantaneously.

The proofs of the remaining premises aren’t in this article. We attack these next week because, I think, we’ve already reached the limit today (get it? get it? theological cum mathematical humor; plus, Yours Truly is rather in a hurry today).

[8] Ch. v.
[9] Ch. v. seqq.
[10] Ch. iii.

Scenes From A Mid-Sized University

A feminist riot is an ugly sink, unt, I think that it is just about time dat ve had vone!

A couple of small but notable items, lifted from one issue of a mid-sized university school newspaper.

  • “Student success is a major component of the strategic plan…” Component? Strategic plan? This from an article showing how STEM fields will receive more, and even primary, attention. The strategic plan includes “new Active Learning Classrooms”. As opposed to inactive?
  • “Student Government Associate vice president, [Name] believes if you’re not outraged by what’s going on in the world then you’re not paying attention…’There are so many really intense and scary things going on in America and overseas,’ [Name] said. ‘If we actually empathized those issues, weren’t so separated and actually paid attention to those, we wouldn’t be scared.'”

    So which is it? Outraged or scared? If you’re “outraged”, it’s a good bet you’ve have never read history or a novel which wasn’t chosen by the demographic characteristics of its author.

  • 3,000 is a big number. In an article about September 11, “‘When you hear the number 3,000 it’s a lot, it’s a big number,’ [Name] said. ‘But when you see 3,000 then you realize it’s a big number.'”
  • Headline: “Pizza and networking event aims to end sexual assault.” The hidden power of pepperoni?
  • The above event was sponsored by—can you guess?—the “Women and Gender Studies Program”, the director of which said, “It’s an opportunity to make a collective calendar and learn to be riotous and active and amazing feminists on campus.”
  • A student said about the event, “It’s all about getting people talking and having conscious raising discussions that raise awareness.” I’m confused about what’s being raised, consciouses or awarenesses?
  • In the papers’ op-ed, a student explains her “lifestyle choice”: “For me, eating meat differs from accidentally eating a food I dislike.” It’s the same for me.
  • The rest of the paper, considerably more than half, was given over to the school’s sports teams.
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