William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Best Books Project

Best Books ProjectI need your help. Together, we will reach out to those whom we consider to be possessed of the Biggest Brightest Brains and ask them to provide a list of must-read books.

There is praise to be had for the mediocre, the entertaining, the quixotic. But time is pressing and attention must needs be focused. Let us ask our betters what are the quintessential positive works to which we should commit ourselves. Which are the constructive books that led them to the views which they now hold, the views which, to our eyes anyway, make us consider these people worthy of respect?

By “constructive” I mean Das Kapital or Introduction to Psychoanalysis, as important as they are to history, won’t appear because they are entirely destructive. (Yes, if you consider Marxist or Freudian works to be compelling, you are invited not to contribute.)

Let’s not add books which we ourselves find worthy, lest this degenerate into another Internet list ending with Ayn Rand and the autobiography of [Insert Faddish Celebrity Here] top of the pops.

I’m counting on you to put in the leg work on this. If we don’t sweat, this effort will fail. You’ll have to track down and pester people on your own. And you’ll have to remember to do it, which is worse. Call them, email them, find them at book signings, lectures, or elsewhere.

Which people? Any whom you consider brilliant—which does not mean “academic” (though many brilliant academics exist). Those whom you are certain sure who legacies will be lasting.

We can’t, at least until the last trump, question the dead, but if you are able to produce solid evidence that a past peerless personage recommended a book, then send it along, too.

Books may be in any language on any subject, in or out of print. The only criterion is that they should be fundamental, foundational, and generally positive and constructive.

Write them below, or if you prefer anonymity, email all names and lists to books@wmbriggs.com.

Please use the following template. Feel free, of course, to add your own salutations etc. but keep intact the central plea.

Dear [Insert Name Here],

Could I beg of you the favor of listing no more than 10 books which you consider fundamental, foundational, and generally positive and constructive?

We are collecting a list of the best books recommended from the best minds, which will be published broadly (and freely) on the Internet. Please don’t worry about naming the obvious or consider that another might name a well known work. Just put down what you think is best.

The list will be at http://wmbriggs.com/bestbooks

I am reaching out to you because of my admiration for your achievements and because I believe we could all benefit from your experience about what is the best way to gain knowledge through reading.

Simply, the books you list should be those that you wish everybody would read.

Thanks very much for your help.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly

The list will be compiled, covered with our own blend of secret statistical sauce, and revealed in the space below.

Please copy this post far and wide; email it around. Tweet it, update your Facebook status with it (use the buttons below). I’ll remind us of the project from time to time, keeping it “sticky” by putting a link in the right sidebar. I imagine this will take months to years to complete.

Incidentally, I had a stab at such a list (my own choices) some month’s back. Essential (Philosophical) Conservative Book List; Initial Post.

Best Book List

Book, Author, Recommender

Bible, God et alia, Obvious.

Proposed Scottish Law To Allow 16-Year-Olds To Have “Doctors” Kill Them

“Assisted” death is not murder.

How many of you have kids? Remember when they were around the sixteen-year mark? Somewhat volatile emotionally, would you not agree? Particularly females of the species. Laughter today, bitter tears tomorrow, indifference by mid-week.

At least in this country and in these times, a sixteen-year-old is not considered to have reached adulthood. It’s not that some kids can’t think and act in a mature fashion, but we have learned that the overwhelming majority cannot. This is why we, say, restrict voting to those eighteen and over, or disallow kids from seeking without parental permission their own medical treatment.

Except for abortions, of course. That sacred right cannot be superseded by mere parental desire. Since this duty of young females to (surgically) remove impediments for leading an unburdened life cannot be questioned, I do not question it.

Instead consider instead this hypothetical. Your sixteen-year-old daughter, fresh off a breakup and therefore distraught, wanders into her GP’s office and says to him (or her!), “Doctor, I find life intolerable.” He (or she!) replies, “Intolerable is that which cannot be tolerated. Therefore, take this pill.” She does, her eyes go wide for second, and she drops dead. The doctor then picks up the corpse and props it into a corner where it, with the others, will be picked up in that evening’s disposal run.

Ha ha! Just kidding!

The doctor would never give her a pill. He’d shoot her up with an overdose of morphine instead. (And if the little girl is pregnant at the time, two birds—to use the British slang, I hope appropriately—could be killed with one stone(d).)

Or so Margo MacDonald Member Scottish Parliament would decree (pdf). She would only stipulate the person doing the killing (i.e. the “doctor”) have a medical degree (so he can know his killing worked; we’d hate to mistakenly dispose of not-yet-dead bodies) and the 16-year-old must “have either a terminal illness or a terminal condition.”

Now it’s unclear if, at least in these early days, the emotional ending of a “relationship” would be considered a “terminal condition”, but given enough time, and the present momentum in moral attitudes, smart money says it will be. Anybody recall the two Belgian brothers who killed themselves because they discovered they were going blind? Blindness wasn’t going to kill them, you see, but it would have made them sad. Therefore a “doctor” killed the pair (at their behest).

What is a “terminal illness”? A forecast, a doctor’s best guess that the course of a disease will kill the patient. However, this isn’t sufficient as a definition because everybody dies. In this sense, everybody suffers from a “terminal” illness. Thus a “real” terminal illness implies a limited time reference. What is “limited”? Six months? A year? Two years? Ten?

Since MacDonald’s proposed law doesn’t say, this trivial detail is presumably to be left to the patient and the “doctor” who would kill his (or her!) patients. Many doctors, and even “doctors”, are notoriously bad at making death-date predictions. We’ve all heard the (true) story of the patient given six months to live, but who go on for years, decades later.

What happens if—nay, when—the “doctor” who kills one of his patients, distraught from the news she has only weeks to live and therefore deciding it intolerable to linger, later discovers he read the wrong chart, or had it upside down? Oops. Well, what’s a mistakenly killed person or two against progress?

Plus, these kinds of inevitable mistakes will be a boon to the legal industry. Just wait for the first “doctor” who is discovered to be a beneficiary of his ex-“patient”. I can’t wait to see the New York Post headlines!

No law has ever stood in the way of a determined person killing herself. This action, in English, is called suicide, an obvious point which nevertheless must be made, because that word defines a singular, personal act. One cannot commit suicide except on oneself. In particular, one cannot assist in a suicide except unknowingly—say, the hardware salesman who unwittingly sells a man a plastic bag which the man later uses to asphyxiate himself.

One can hand Romeo his poison, but if one does so knowing it is poison and is reasonably sure of Romeo’s intent, then one has not provided assistance but is complicit in an act of homicide. Far better then to call “assisted suicide” laws what they really are. I suggest “doctors legally killing their patients” laws.

Update MacDonald has been kind enough to post public responses to the proposed law on her web page. The laughs start with the very first one. One Guy Johnstone wrote:

Rather than see an animal suffer, the kindest thing is to put it to sleep.
Why, therefore, should we not offer the same dignity & understanding to our loved ones…

Yes. Humans put down in the same manner as rabid dogs. Well, it’s for their own good.

New Science Fiction Recommendation

Buy yours today!

Buy yours today!

What would happen if you equipped Inspector Jacques Clouseau with a space blaster, set him up with a sultry robotic assistant, plopped him down on a purple planet located at the farthest reaches of the universe, and clothed him in intergalactic intrigue?

I won’t tell you what! You’ll have to discover it yourself in Mine Tomorrow: Polon Percival and the Political Ploy, a new old science fiction tale. I mean, just published and written in the classic style.

That is to say, it’s not ponderous and boring and long, but fun and snappy and sleek. In the Elmore Leonard style of leaving out the stuff that everybody skips.

Polon (sounds like colon, the punctuation mark or, if you prefer, the nethermost region of the human psyche) has a moustache, a mail-order diploma, and supreme confidence in his own abilities. He takes for a ride a hip robotic professor (who is putting on a play to celebrate The People), but Polon is played a patsy to evil, scheming capitalists, plotting to take over the mining moon Klayton. The plan backfires thanks to, well, thanks to blind luck.

“I doubt they will be able to injure a man of my skill and mental capabilities. Now that Lucy has turned the senors off, I’ll recruit my old friend Surprise and when Mr. Reed returns, I’ll spring my trap.”

Kidnappings! Mistaken identities! True love! Unmitigated detecting! All this for only a measly $2.99! At prices this cheap, you can’t afford not to buy! (Available only on the Kindle at this time.)

Incidentally, careful readers will notice the similarity between the author’s name and Yours Truly’s. Don’t let that put you off. This kid, unlike his sire, can write and tell a story that won’t put you to sleep.

Best Deal Going

The first 10 people who email matt@wmbriggs.com (with subject line FREE BOOK) will receive Mine Tomorrow as a gift, as long as they pledge on their honor to (1) go to Amazon’s book page within a week and rate and write a comment about the book and (2) to email at least three people telling them the good news that the book can be had by one and all.

In order to do this, in the BODY of the email (and NOT just the return address), I need the valid email you use with Amazon, so I can “Give as a gift.” If you give me the wrong email or don’t put your email in the text so I can read it simply, tough luck.

Look to this space for when to stop emailing me after I get the first 10.

Update All 10 spots have been taken! Thanks for the overwhelming response everybody. It’s very much appreciated.

The Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage, Part IV (Final)

Part III

Question 5

I have heard you say that homosexuals do not choose their “orientation” and that everybody has a right to be happy and thus has the right to marry. That accurate? My dear, nobody has a right to be happy; our government was founded on the idea that our true right (not given by but recognized by government) is the pursuit of happiness. Whether you achieve nirvana is your business, not the government’s. My advice is that before reading further, you fetch a calming drink, for we are about to enter treacherous territory. Experience shows that people are none too pleased to do so, and are apt to strike out to relieve the resultant mental pressure.

It is true that some people might not choose to whom they are attracted, but it is equally true that some people do choose. Nothing could more obvious than this, even to supporters of SSM. How do we tell the two groups apart? Well, there is no known objective error-free way: a “gay gene” has not been discovered, nor a “bisexual gene”, nor a “cross-dressing gene.” Yet even if nobody had any choice in the matter of attraction, everybody always has a choice what to do about it. A person, for example, who claims to be “oriented” as a pedophile can choose not to pursue children, and is wise not to do so. It also does not follow—it is an invalid logical argument—that because a person has no choice in attraction that he therefore can marry the object of his attraction. The point at question is whether same-sexed people can marry each other, not whether they are “oriented” to have this or that attraction. Remind yourself: many men who have claimed to be gay have married women, and vice versa.

I see your blood rising. Are you saying gays are the same as pedophiles!? No, and only a simpleton would (and will) make that claim. What’s this about pedophilia being an “orientation”? Well, isn’t it? Many academics now make that claim (yes). How do we ascertain if desiring sexual intercourse with children is purely a choice? How could we ascertain whether any person’s sexual preferences are purely a choice, or are built-in, biologically speaking? Not too easy, maybe impossible, as the search for “orientation” genes shows. What we do have are people saying they are attracted to children, that they can’t help themselves, that they are just “that way.” Do they therefore have the right to marry infants? Surely not. Yet you must claim they do have this right if you claim the right that homosexuals should marry those to whom they are sexually attracted. If you say homosexuals are somehow different, you must then say why, but you haven’t, by your own admission, anything more to offer why they are different save their self-acknowledged attraction. What of bisexuals? They claim orientation toward both sexes. Therefore, assuming fairness and equality, a bisexual must be allowed marry both a man and a woman simultaneously. Would the spare man and woman married to the bisexual also be married to each other?

Enter the acronym LGBTQA. That’s as it is of this writing. Hardly a year goes by when more letters aren’t added. What a strange society that tracks its citizens by whom (or what) they want to have sex with! I’ve lately seen “P” proposed, for polygamy, by polygamists who claim to be “oriented” that way (yes). How about when in Germany “B” for beastiality (which is currently legal). Wither the necrophiliac lobby? There has been more than one case of persons who claim to be “oriented” towards beasts and wish to marry their dogs or horses (yes). Have these folks therefore the right to marry Sparky? Surely not.

But forget all that. Let’s accept for argument’s sake everybody in the LGBTQAPBN list is just as they say they are: bound by genetics to suffer their attractions. People just are born to want to have sex with goats, or with small children, or with upholstered furniture (yes). That can’t help themselves; there is no “cure” because it is all “natural.” Well, what of it? All that we can say is that, unless these folks are willing to suppress their (non-adult-heterosexual) “orientation”, they cannot find happiness through marriage. That’s just tough luck.

Having an “orientation” different than heterosexual is a deficit when considered evolutionary (non-heterosexuals acting non-heterosexually will not transmit their genes efficiently or at all, a scientific statement). Some people are born or made blind, others are born or made deaf, and still more are born lame or lose limbs later in life. This is all sad stuff, but that does not imply that because some are blind “seeing” can be redefined—by fiat by some government—as something the blind can do too; that because some are deaf “hearing” can be re-classified as a deaf person’s activity; that because some are lame “physically able” can be legislated as applying to everybody. Because, we are assuming, some are born “questioning” or “oriented towards both sexes” or even to others of the same sex, that does not imply that “marriage” can be made into what it isn’t. Do you remember when your mother said life wasn’t fair? If there’s one thing that marks this generation, it is the belief that it can be made fair, that the impossible can happen, that all we need are new laws, more government control.

Not everybody can find happiness. Not everybody can have what they want when they want it because they want it. Not everybody can be married. Sad, yes. But that’s the way the world works.

Update The Mark Regnerus case is apropos here.

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Warning Tolerance is a hallmark of those supporting same-sex marriage. Never will you find proponents employing abuse, vituperation, appeals to emotion, or angry senseless shouting. They do not label their opponents enemies, nor accuse them of being hate-filled. They instead use calm, logical, well-reasoned argument; they understand rational and sincere people may disagree on certain points. I therefore expect supporters of traditional marriage to act similarly. Comments which do not accord with ladylike or gentlemanly behavior will be ruthlessly expurgated.

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