William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Fun (page 1 of 92)

Two cannibals are eating a clown and one says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

Stephen Hawking Thinks Too Much Of Us; More

These people are reading.

These people are reading.

Autumn of the Modern Ages

What!? You haven’t headed over to Mike Flynn’s place and read his series The Autumn of the Modern Ages? Sometimes I don’t understand you people at all.

The decline of the book goes hand in hand with the decline of the bourgeois. Considered reflection requires time, silence, logic, and thinking in depth. But post-modern media — we cannot call them books any longer — are oriented to “brevity, speed, change, urgency, variety, and feelings.” This would be very dangerous to democracy, but in a future dominated by extended adolescence, we might not miss that too much. We will always have the sputtering fuse.

The only remaining god in the West will be the symbiotic Me-State beast.

Update Proof of that last claim. Louisiana State University introduces new LGBT minor, from which “Krebsbach, who identifies as a cisgender lesbian…” Identifies.

Hawking Says Not God

The man never tires of doing bad philosophy, and has reiterated his disbelief in God. We postmoderns say, Whatever.

“Religion believes in miracles, but these aren’t compatible with science.” Proof, please? Nah. Just bluster.

Skip it. The thing that caught my eye was this: “In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.” So speaks a research professor who never had to teach statistics classes to people who did not want to take statistics.

Any experience with actual human beings is enough to prove that there is much beyond the reach of the human mind. We can, for instance, never know the mind of God. We can never know what infinity is like. We can never know everything, even collectively. We can never know how things which are necessarily true are necessarily true (Hawking, disdaining philosophy, does not know this). And so on.

Again, perhaps this is the postmodern in us which no longer sees the sky as the limit. That destination now seems much closer to the ground.

16-year-old Voters

They did it in Scotland, so why not here? Why not everywhere? So argues Jason Brennan, “assistant professor of strategy, economics, ethics and public policy at Georgetown University.” His thrusts backwards:

The trouble is that the main reason most people cite for barring 16- and 17-year-olds from voting looks like an equally good reason to stop most American adults from voting, too.

Amen, brother. But the cuts the other way, too, and says that we ought to pare back voting privileges. The closer we get to a true Demos, where everybody votes on everything, the closer we get to madness because the collective mind is shockingly easy to sway in the short term.

Proof? This headline: “Poll: 51% of Democrats support criminalizing hate speech” The implications are so obvious, I will not insult you by stating them.

Bad Medicine

This link no longer works. Sorry.

. Labos doesn’t come to the full realization, but he gets many things right. See especially the part on Exaggerated Risks.

Gerd Speaks

I like this Gerd Gigerenzer guy, and he has things to learn in his essay “Scientific Inference Via Statistical Rituals.

Sir Ronald Fisher, to whom it has been wrongly attributed, in fact wrote that no researcher should use the same level of significance from experiment to experiment, while the eminent statisticians Jerzy Neyman & Egon Pearson would roll over in their graves if they knew about its current use. Bayesians too have always detested p-values.

Detestation is right. But the real kicker is here:

I do not mean to throw out the baby with the bathwater and get rid of statistics, which offers a highly useful toolbox for researchers. But it is time to get rid of statistical rituals that nurture automatic and mindless inferences.

Scientists should study rituals, not perform rituals themselves.


Dover Beach

You might have seen his comments from time to time. He has a new bookmarkable site The Ordeal of Consciousness, with articles like “Scruton and Taylor on the Secular and the Sacred”, “Mathematics and the Order of the World” (did you buy a copy of Franklin’s book? It’s outrageously expensive!).

C.S. Lewis’s Epistemology

Brandon Vogt has a video of a lecture by “Union University philosophy professor Justin Barnard, who makes two relatively bold claims: first that Lewis was probably not the greatest Christian apologist of the twentieth century, as many Protestants and Catholics believe, and yet he probably was the greatest Christian epistemologist of the twentieth century.”


Boing Boing has a fun article: Making better use of dice in games, about a game developer who takes the “randomness” out of dice games.


I got bit by one on the tip of my right ear. I want sympathy. Hasn’t stopped itching in hours.

William M Briggs, “Statistician To The Stars”, Now A Thought Leader

Thought Leader, Second Class.

Thought Leader, Second Class.

Some unexpected travel today, so a friendly reminder the purpose of this blog is, at base, mercenary. Hire me. Ask me to come and give a talk.


It can now be revealed that my recent secret trip was to secure a reverse MBAectomy, a painful operation which has frappéd my cranial capacity a statistically significant 342.7%. I am now qualified to be, and do hereby accept the title of, Thought Leader.

Forbes defines this pinnacle of business leadership thusly: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.” This is right: I am ready to profit from being me.

Mashable says, “a thought leader has earned his or her title because that person’s ideas have gone viral.” Many on this very blog have said that Briggs’s philosophy must be the result of some sickness, so I’ve got the viral prerequisite nailed, too.

I’ve been on hundreds of Thought Leader sites and have noticed the following phenomenon. All leaders have mastered the Thought Leader hand gesture; a kind of soft yet authoritative one-handed karate chop (the off hand holds an advance-a-PowerPoint-slide clicker device). The chop says, “I’m so bursting with thought leadership that I don’t have to raise my voice. But mess with me and I’ll talk about my credentials.” I’ve worked on this for hours and I’m very convincing.

Not only that, but I can now use the following list of words without blushing or choking from embarrassment: bucketized, action-item, partnering, peel-the-onion, and of course data-driven. I can synergistically turn any noun into a verb, and grow any verb into a noun—when I have the bandwidth.

This momentous announcement has also appeared on Twitter, so you know it’s true.

Stand by for future announcements of my patented demotivational lectures. For example, my “Why You’re Wrong” series unpopular with climatologists and epidemiologists the world over.

All fees are painful and necessary, just like taking medicine. Call today. Ask about my St Valentine’s Day special.

Yes, you will

Yes, you will

Ad Hominem, My Sweet


Ad Hominem, My Sweet, a mini-play in one act.

MOOSE: “Hey, Hayden. C’mere.”

HAYDEN: “Not now, Moose. Please?”

MOOSE: “What are you? Deaf as well as stupid? I said get over here.”

HAYDEN: “But Moose…Ouch! That hurts!”

MOOSE: “When I say get over here, it means get over here. You savvy?”

HAYDEN: “Okay, so I’m here. What’s so urgent.”

MOOSE: “I got something to tell you, and I don’t want no argument about it. You ready? Listen good, ’cause I ain’t gonna repeat it, and you better have it—or else. Got me? Here it is. If P, then Q. Q. Therefore P. Now say it back.”

HAYDEN: “Hey! There’s no need to hit me. I heard you. If P, then Q. Q. Therefore P.”

MOOSE: “Whadda ya know! He can learn!”

HAYDEN: “Only…”

MOOSE: “Only what, smart ass.”

HAYDEN: “Only…oh never mind. Look, I’m late to see my mother. She expects me. You know if I don’t show or call, she worries.”

MOOSE: “Always a mama’s boy. But you’re not gettin’ outta here until you have it. Now. Do you have it. Yes or no?”

HAYDEN: “I have it. Butitisn’tright!

MOOSE: “Whadda ya mean, it isn’t right. I told you. That should be enough for you.”

HAYDEN: “But…but…isn’t that a formal fallacy? That I should believe you just because you threatened me?”

MOOSE: “Don’t give me any of that fallacy malarkey. You just do what I tell you and you’ll get through this.”

HAYDEN: “Hey! I told you! No Hitting!”

MOOSE: “I’ll do what I need to. Just so you know that. I’ll do what I need to.”

HAYDEN: “Someday…You just wait and see.”

MOOSE: “I don’t know why I like smacking you around so much. It’s that look on your face. Now say it again.”

HAYDEN: “Fine! If P, then Q! Q! Therefore P! Have it your way!”

MOOSE: “That’s right, Spunky. My way. It’s—”

PHILIP: “—Hello, big guy. Circus in town?”

MOOSE: “What? Just who do—”

PHILIP: “—Only I just heard your boyfriend here, and she’s right. Right twice. You can’t bully him into believing a fallacy. Affirming the consequent is as old an error as denying Truth exists. See how you like it. If you hold to fallacies, you’re a bully. You’re a bully. Therefore you hold to fallacies.”

MOOSE: “Who’s a bully! He likes it. Don’t ya, Spunky.”

HAYDEN: “He hit me!”

MOOSE: “Besides, you can’t tell me I’m wrong because I’m givin’ Spunky what he needs. That’s you’re own fallacy. A grade-A ad hominem.”

PHILIP: “No, it isn’t.”

MOOSE: “The hell it ain’t. I know what you’re tryin’ to do. You’re appealing to Spunky’s prejudices and emotions, his special interest in not being pushed around, rather than to his intellect or reason. And you’re attacking my character rather than answering my argument. That’s an ad hominem, pal. No gettin’ around it.”

HAYDEN: “Don’t hurt him, Moose!”

MOOSE: “Ah, these amateur philosophers ain’t worth hurtin’. Now blow, Socrates, before I squeeze your spinal column into some symbolic logic.”

PHILIP: “Who wants to stay? It’s clear brawn is no substitute for brains.”

MOOSE: “See what I mean, Spunky? A little friendly pressure and Socrates here starts in with remarks which cannot be construed as necessary or objective. Ad hominem all the way.”

HAYDEN: “You should be nice to Moose, mister. He doesn’t take disagreement well.”

PHILIP: “Nicest thing you can do for somebody is tell them the truth. He has it. He doesn’t want it.”

MOOSE: “What truth? All I hear are insults. You think by makin’ me look bad in front of Spunky, here, that we’ll forget you don’t have an argument. Noting’ but distractions.”

PHILIP: “There are none so blind as those who won’t listen.”

MOOSE: “Ha! He can’t even keep his metaphors straight. C’mon, Spunky. We’re never going to get through to this guy. So long, Socrates.”

HAYDEN: “Okay, Moose. We can go. But I have to see mother first.”

Climate Hustle, Readers Write


Hustling along

I was over at the UN yesterday and met Marc Marano, who interviewed me for his upcoming documentary tentatively titled Climate Hustle.

With fedora jauntily tipped back to reveal my sparkling hazel eyes, tie loosely knotted and purposely mismatching the pocket square, all counter-balanced by my genetically British teeth and Honda-sized honker, I launched into my defense of the slogan, “Actually, the science is settled.”

It is, too.

Used to be, before the tsunami of money washed over Science, drowning much common sense, a scientific precept was that when a theory made rotten predictions, the theory was condemned. The coupled GCMs around which climatology revolve have been making rotten predictions for decades. Therefore, in the days or yore, we would have said there is something wrong with the models.

And that is still so for those traditionalists among us who cling to the old ways. We say the models stink, because why? Because the models stink: they do not make skillful predictions. You would have done better with persistence. To us old timers, that means something about the models is wrong.

What, exactly, is wrong, I haven’t a clear idea. Too many tunable parameters in the models to know with any certainty. Anyway, if we knew, we’d be able to fix or adjust. We don’t know, so we can’t.

But to young whippersnappers, and especially to their worshipful followers, model accuracy means nothing. What matters more than anything is how consonant the theory which drives the models is with their “lifestyles”—or with their livelihoods.

The theory has become more important than reality. This is so true that even attacks on the theory using reality are seen by believers as confirmation of the theory. “Why is he denying my theory? He must be evil. My theory is stronger than his hate.”

A secondary problem is the expansion of democracy. Yes. Oh, yes. I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Somehow we have developed the idea that everything can be put to a vote. Why else do we see these bug-witted attempts to convince us of the theory’s truth because this-or-that percentage of scientists believe it? Why else would people take to the streets for “climate justice”, in hopes their mere numbers would sway?

With my fellow gloom-and-doomers and grinning curmudgeons, I see no way out of this. Comfort yourself with the thought that, except for God, nothing good lasts forever.

Readers write

At the time of writing, I have 185 emails in my Inbox, all containing ideas for posts, another 200 or so in a folder of post ideas saved for future, and 656 in a third folder called “global warming” sent in by readers, again all with material that demands my attention.

First, from the southernmost tip of the right ventricle of my heart, I thank you for these emails. Please keep them coming. Your emails make this blog work, and provide all of us which prime material.

Second, please understand when I don’t write back and say thanks. I eventually try to thank everybody and answer each question, but I am many, many months behind and I’m not confident I’ll catch up.

If I would have had a secretary, I would have had to let her go for such negligence. But as the amount of money I get from Big Oil, and from all other sources, for my avant-garde work in climate denialism is, at last count and rounded to the nearest dollar, rapidly approaching single digits, I can’t afford a secretary. So there is nobody to fire.

Oh course, it doesn’t help that I seem to taken the wrong position on every culture matter. But no matter.

I got this email this morning:

…often your website is the only interesting thing I can find upon rising and drinking my morning coffee. At other times, the fall back to statistics or assaults on specific individuals that I’ve never heard of makes me feel uninformed and is not interesting.

I enjoy posts that are “pro stuff” not just “anti stuff”. This website tips in favor of the “anti stuff” approach.

What say you about the “balance”?


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.”


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.

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