William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Intellects Are Changeable

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.

Changing your mind is not only a woman’s prerogative.

Chapter 53 That in created intellectual substances there is act and potentiality (alternate translation)

1 FROM the foregoing it is evident that in created intellectual substances there is composition of act and potentiality.

2 For in whatever thing we find two, of which one is the complement of the other, the ratio of one of them to the other is as the ratio of potentiality to act: since nothing is completed save by its proper act. Now in the created intellectual substance we find two things, namely its substance and its being, which is not its very substance, as we have proved. Now this very being is the complement of the existing substance, since a thing is actual by the fact that it has being. It follows therefore that in each of the aforesaid substances there is composition of act and potentiality.

Notes True enough, but that’s making the point the hard way, which proves yet again our good saint was always rigoroulsy thorough. As does the next argument. Remember: learning something new or apprehending a truth properly that was misunderstood is to move from potentiality to act, and it always requires something actual to actualize a potential. Experience alone is enough to show that our intellects are not static, i.e. devoid of potentiality, which means they are not purely actual. Which means that we are not God. Only God is pure act. Now how far our intellects can actualize potentials; or rather, the extent of our potentialities, is unknown. We can bound our potentialities only trivially from below (which is non-existence) and above (which is the infinity of infinities, i.e. God, spoken of last week).

3 Moreover. That which is received by a thing from an agent, must be an act: since it belongs to an agent to make a thing actual. Now it was proved above that all other substances have being from the first agent: and it is through having being from another that the substances thus caused exist. Consequently being is in the substances caused as an act of theirs. But that in which there is act, is a potentiality: since act as such refers to potentiality. Therefore in every created substance there is potentiality and act.

4 Again. Whatsoever participates a thing is compared to the thing participated as potentiality to act: since by that which is participated the participator is made to be actually such. Now it was shown above that God alone is essentially being, and all other things participate being. Therefore every created substance is compared to its being as potentiality to act.

5 Further. The likeness of a thing to its efficient cause results from act: because the agent produces its like in so far as it is in act. Now the likeness of every created substance to God is by being itself, as shown above. Therefore being is compared to all created substances as their act. Whence it follows that in every created substance there is composition of act and potentiality.

Notes This being so, in every created substance is the possibility of change.

Women ‘Genetically Programmed To Have Affairs’?


Thing about evolutionary psychologists is that after giving sciency sounding names to commonplace events, they believe they have discovered something new. Happens with wild abandon in the peer-reviewed paper “The mate switching hypothesis” by David Buss and others in Personality and Individual Differences. (The title of today’s post was lifted from one of the many popular media summaries.)

First thing Buss does, after quoting Kinsey on infidelity rates as if these numbers were reliable, was to give a name New & Improved! name to infidelity: “mate-switching.”

Although breakups are often moralized as “failures,” we propose that selection has sculpted a complex psychology designed to jettison current mates and acquire new ones in circumstances wherein mate switching would have been historically evolutionarily advantageous.

And so Buss moralizes infidelities as “advantageous”. Now this theory as Buss states it, as all experience proves, is immediately false. We all know plenty of couples, even infertile ones, who stuck together even when this “strategy” was not “evolutionarily advantageous”. This “mate-switching” therefore cannot be universal.

Of course, we also know some couples who haven’t stuck. Who has more kids, incidentally, women who stick or those who wander? (The paper focuses on women.) Are the rates you’re thinking of current? Were they the same, say, 150 years ago? In England? In Sumatra? Kenya? Philippines? Across all time?

Here’s the “mate-switching hypothesis”:

Humans have adaptations to (1) monitor their current mating relationships for benefits received and anticipated and costs incurred and anticipated, (2) evaluate alternative potential mates while already mated, (3) circumvent a partner’s mate guarding tactics, (4) engage in extra-pair infidelity (from flirting to serious affairs) as a tactic for assessing and courting alternative desirable and interested partners, (5) deploy exit strategies for breaking up a current partner in ways that minimize costs, (6) and switch to a new partner when cost/benefit calculations render circumstances propitious for switching.

Now this makes women sound like baby-optimizing machines, does it not? If that’s so, answer me this: which women are more likely to use contraception and kill their unwanted, those women who stick or those who wander? And if mankind has adaptions to boost gene rates as Buss suggests, why is there so much contraception, abortion, and adoption?

Buss makes it appear that all people constantly engage in these “adaptive” algorithms, they having little choice in the matter because the “adaptive” behaviors are programmed (in some sense) in their genes. “Evolution drove me to cheat: I didn’t want to, but my genes talked me into it.” How then do we explain the great number of faithful people who end up having lots of kids and the women mate-switchers who don’t?

Nothing in life comes with a guarantee. From an ancestral woman’s perspective, hazards from the environment, other species, and importantly, other humans, could render her mate debilitated or dead. A bite from a poisonous snake, an incapacitating disease, or an attack from a warring group could decrease her partner’s mate value.

You don’t say?

The final decision about whether or not to implement a mate switching strategy, as illustrated by the discussion above, is neither easy nor straightforward. Foremost, it requires a suite of assessment adaptations—monitoring the current partner’s mate value; tracking one’s own mate value; monitoring the desirability and interest of alternative potential mates; assessing the current partner’s investment in, and commitment to, the relationship; and tracking self, partner, and potential partner changes in mate value and anticipated future mate value trajectories. Information from these assessment adaptations feed into the decision to implement a mate switch, which if positive, requires tactics for breaking up and emotionally detaching—aspects that Boutwell and colleagues (2015) call primary and secondary mate ejection.

Zero recognition from Buss that humans are unlike all other animals. No recognition that love, justice, religion, knowledge of the good, logic, evil, and so on are used by people in deciding whether to stick or skate. Desiring to maximize a genetic future, in the sense that people are thinking, “If I dump Bob, statistics promise I’ll have 1.4 more kids with Kevin” doesn’t happen. It’s more like, “John promised to spend a lot of money on me. Goodbye, Bob.”

Do women (or men) ever leave because they think they’ll have more kids? Sure. Do most leave for that reason? Hardly. And reason they do. Buss must be committed to the idea that when a woman bolts for more money, she may think she’s doing it for the money but that’s just her brain tricking her into a situation where she’ll have more kids.

The rest of the paper is the same: “Another output of mate switching psychology is emotional disengagement, a process of psychologically divesting from the current partner.” I don’t have space to criticize things like “Woman’s mate preferences shift to more bodily masculine and behaviorally dominant men when ovulating”, results which rely on (typical) bad statistics but which have a grain of truth.



John Allen Paulos wrote of innumeracy, the mild malady of being unable to work with numbers. “I’m not primarily concerned with esoteric mathematics here, only with some feel for numbers and probabilities, some ability to estimate answers to the ubiquitous questions… people should have a visceral reaction to the difference between a million, a billion and a trillion.”

So it is true. And undisputed.

The opposite of innumeracy isn’t numeracy or even mathematical ability. High-level mathematics will always be closed off to all but the few, not only because it requires innate abilities most don’t have in the same way most can’t be centers on professional football teams, but because it requires years of dedication and few have the time or inclination.

The love of mathematics isn’t hypernumeracy: the ardent desire to quantify everything is. This is proved from realizing a person can suffer from innumeracy and hypernumeracy simultaneously. The cop who buys the daily lotto ticket with his badge number will exaggerate his chances of winning, evincing innumeracy. But he will also say things like, “I’m ninety-nine-percent sure that I left my glasses on the dresser”, which because it puts needless numbers to a strong conviction proves hypernumeracy.

Of course, this level of hypernumeracy is minor, and we can put down the “ninety-nine-percent” to a figure of speech. Thus there are degrees of hypernumeracy—which if we attempted to quantify would put us in the realm of the hypernumerate.

The parable of the lost sheep is instructive. “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” A hypernumerate approach is to take this literally and come up with an estimate of what fraction of repentant souls to righteous pleases God.

The hypernumerate answer descends to statistical modeling, and one might conclude “The observed data is that the fraction of repentants to righteous is one to ninety-nine, therefore the heavenly host will not bring out the ice cream if there is only one repentant and 100 or more righteous (P < 0.05).” A Bayesian would furrow the brow over the best prior to put on the ratio, but would still end at a number.

Whatever answer arrived at would be confronted by new data. “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?…In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Now the data insists on a fraction of one to nine and an entirely new model emerges. How to reconcile the evidence? Don’t answer because the parable of the prodigal son, which sees the fatted calf roasted over coals over just one sinner and one righteous brother.

There is probably a way to ingest all this and regurgitate a formal model, which no matter how sophisticated would still be an obvious affront to the intent of the passages. Repent and make your Maker happy. (Yours Truly is always working on this.)

Hypernumeracy is present in every questionnaire that graduates to class the of “instrument”. How happy are you on a scale of 1 to 7, and so and so forth, the stream of quantified remarks gushing forth. Scales, as they are called, are invented which weigh emotions and states of mind, which is odd when you consider our intellects have no material being, and which are therefore weightless.

These scales crop up everywhere. Entire academic fields are littered with them. Human Resource departments inflict them on employees. The bureaucracy is stuffed to the gills with them. And everywhere decisions are made on the results.

The hypernumerate quantify what can’t be quantified, a seeming paradox. But the act of putting numbers on things is the justification for the quantification. Without numbers there is no science, and everything must be science. Medicine must be “evidence based”; the rational rely on “evidence”; and always the evidence means quantification. And finally we land in Scientism, our current predicament (or one of them).

Why Does The Left Always Win?


Why does the Left always win? Easiest answer in the world! They fight. They shoot to kill. They hang traitors. They do not retreat unless faced with overwhelming forces. They say “The hell with the rules.”

Those with some reading will recognize that these are the same characteristics that allow any army to win. It was not in the spirit of dialog that George Patton crushed utterly his foe in the Ardennes—a practice he would have repeated with the detestable Soviets, thus preventing the Cold War, had enemies on the Left in his own government had not in turn crushed him. Compromise was not on the Left’s great General Sherman’s mind as he carved a scar through the country, which to this date has still not healed over.

Headline: Samantha Bee Condemns NBC and Jimmy Fallon’s Trump Interview. Fallon was a traitor because of the sin of parlay, of consorting with the Enemy. This stingless Bee said, “Network execs, and a lot of their audience, can ignore how very dangerous Trump is because to them, he isn’t.” Fallon, flying a flag of truce, failed to thump Trump. Fallon should have lured Trump in under the false flag and ambushed him. No rules.

Headline: Matt Lauer Fields Storm of Criticism Over Clinton-Trump Forum. Lauer, a man who (as the Blonde Bombshell puts it) is paid to drink coffee on TV, committed the same blunder as Fallon. Though Lauer was outmatched in the ring as a Wymen’s Studies Graduate would be to Mike Tyson and would have been reduced to a greasy spot on the carpet had he attacked Trump, that he failed to volunteer for this suicide mission brought the ire of his comrades. No compromise.

Peter Kreeft, the gentle Boston philosopher, man of brilliance, and solider for Tradition, was asked “about the simultaneous rise of militant Islam and the homosexual activist movement despite their opposing ideologies, Kreeft replied: ‘They’re the only two movements in Western civilization that will fight and die for their beliefs.'”

“It is an amazing paradox that they’re opposites in almost every way, and yet they’re similar in that they will still fight,” added Kreeft. “Christians are supposed to fight too, the notion of spiritual warfare, the true meaning of jihad — a war against sin rather than flesh and blood. This is central to Christianity and we’ve lost it, and therefore opposite forces are entering the vacuum.”

Instead of fighting, we surrender apologetically when pushed, and as we fade we mouth words about accompanying people on their “spiritual journey” or “My Constitution guarantees free speech.”

Jihad headline. Indiana pizza shop that won’t cater gay weddings to close. A Left foot-solider on patrol armed with a camera searched for a kill, entered Memories Pizza in Indiana and asked the owner whether they would cater a gay “wedding.” The owner said no. The Left army responded with every weapon at their command. The Mongol horde would have been jealous by strength of the onslaught. Insanely screeching banshees weren’t in it. The Battle of The Slice had its effect: the timid generals of the Right, after hinting they might resist, surrendered without honor and unconditionally.

But this isn’t a history of the Culture Wars, and in any case examples are easily brought to mind, especially if you’re on a college campus. Why do we lose? “Because,” says Kreeft, “we became sheep.”

We said, “Abuse us. We’re polite. We’ll smile at you. We are tolerant of everything.” When people are that way, someone who has principles, bad or good, enters. We so worship equality that we are afraid to be different, to be distinctive, to have a distinctive message. And equality is a good defensive weapon, but it has no offense in it. We need equal rights to protect ourselves, but we need something much deeper than equality: We need distinctiveness, we need identity. And if we abandon that, others will come in and take over.

Trump fights. His supporters, many still wearing masks, fight. You might not like the tactics or even the goals of the Alt-right, but, really, after so many decades of systematic withdrawal by the Normie-right—nay, a route, a retreat littered with position papers and think tank budget forecasts—what authority remains to complain?

The most gratifying thing about the rise of Trump and his army is the look of shock horror on the face of his Left enemies as they realize their nose has just been bloodied. Our prayer is that the generals of Right take notice (the Field Marshals of Tradition never forgot) that fighting works.

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