William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Curious Case Of Professor Richard Parncutt; Or, Death To Deniers And The Pope!

I’m killing you for your own good.

Austrian professor Richard Parncutt1 has called for folks like me to hunted down and, for his pleasure, shoved into gas chambers. I jest not. He really did say that “influential” people who refuse to join the Sky-Is-Falling chorus should be executed. I flatter myself that I am somewhat influential (right, Gav?) and thus entitled to join the List of Honor, which besides me includes Anthony Watts, Lord Monckton, Stephen McIntyre, and the Pope.

Of course the Pope: once you start a death list, you inevitably must include the Pope. Hey mom! I’m on a list with the Pope!

All this happened in October, but I only discovered it after learning (from Christopher Snowdon; ‏ @cjsnowdon) that Parncutt has had second feelings about calling for the wanton slaughter of scientists whose discoveries he dislikes. He chickened out and said yesterday, “I wish to apologize publicly to all those who were offended by texts that were previously posted at this address. I made claims that were incorrect and comparisons that were completely inappropriate, which I deeply regret.”

Offended? How about absurdly pleased! I wish he would have kept his bloodlust, because this is my first official Death List and I admit to being sinfully proud of membership. I was going to have t-shirts made up.

Just look at what I and other “deniers” are accused of:

For the purpose of argument, let’s give the GW deniers the benefit of the doubt and imagine that the scientists are wrong with a high probability, say 90%. If they are right, some 100 million people will die as a direct result of GW. Probably more like a billion, but this is a conservative estimate. If the probability of that happening is only 10%, then effectively “only” 10 million people will die. These are the numbers that GW deniers are playing with while exercising their “freedom of speech”.

His conservative estimate is a billion dead at the hands of “deniers.” Why, that’s even more than all those massacred by all (national and international) socialist regimes put together! Of course, we “deniers” won’t actually be assembling firing squads or starving souls to death, so it’s not clear how we’re going to amass this body count. It surely isn’t by direct recruitment of minions (oh! how I’d love to have minions!). After all, nobody has to listen to me or to any other scientist willing to speak his mind. If you don’t like what we write, don’t read it.

Parncutt is a professor of musicology, so it’s fair guess that he’s been over-exposed to Wagner—or even worse, the Beatles. What better explains a man who first blows a 100 words saying how he’s adamantly against the death penalty and then says, “I wish to claim that it is generally ok to kill someone in order to save one million people…I am simply presenting a logical argument.”

My guess is Parncutt, when he was feeling his oats, was still himself a coward, or at least squeamish, and would have outsourced the killings to those who take pleasure or money ending lives, like abortion doctors. But you never know. He might have fantasized lining his enemies in front of a ditch and putting one in their ears. “[I]t is justified for a few heads to roll.”

What’s his beef about one of the holiest men alive? Well, he doesn’t like the Pope’s call for abstinence or the Church’s recommendation against birth prevention devices. The Church prefers to advocate personal responsibility, citing the scientific fact that those who avoid intercourse will almost certainly not catch AIDS (nor other STDs). Sure, there are other ways to be inflicted with these maladies, but condoms wouldn’t help with these anyway.

The number of people dying of AIDS would have been much smaller if the Catholic Church had changed its position on contraception in the 1980s, or any time since then. Because it did not, millions have died unnecessarily.

These kinds of numbers have a special scientific status, what we statisticians call bulls**t. They are entirely made up, much like the rest of the “facts” on which poor Parncutt relies. Anybody not likely to follow the Church’s teaching on sexuality isn’t likely to follow it in other matters. In other words, there aren’t hordes of people attending mass in Africa who hold to the teaching of “no condoms” because the Church teaches it but who then run amok fornicating at will, spreading disease.

He gets one thing right: “People will be saying that Parncutt has finally lost it.” Indeed he has: his piece reveals a mind as familiar with reality as polar bears are with palm trees. His illness may be impermanent, which explains his public apology. I still wouldn’t go near him during feeding times, however.

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1Author of such works as “Prenatal and infant conditioning, the mother schema, and the origins of music and religion” in Musicae Scientiae, “The role of music in the integration of cultural minorities” in some book, and a number of others on piano keys (or something), all in preparation to opine on vorticity and cloud cover and human sexuality.

16 Comments

  1. Hi William, thanks for the link.
    Of course with the good Professor’s stats and logic skills being what they are, there is little chance reliable metrics on the success (or otherwise) of his policy would have emerged, even if he’s managed to get it implemented.

    Given that climate sceptics are in the majority in many countries, I doubt their incumbent governing parties would have the temerity to pass the required laws.

    But we should always be on our guard against those seeking to drive in the thin end of the wedge. Richard Tol informs me that the University of Graz responded to his email about their errant staff member saying they were “horrified” by his article.

    Given that his second attempt at formulating it wasn’t much of a change, I’m guessing his most recent change of mind has quite a lot to do with an ensuing ‘come to God’ meeting with the senior HR team.

  2. It seems that his job means more to him than saving the world, which in turn means more than the lives of some pestilential skeptics. Who is going to save the world now that the brave professor has packed it in?

  3. Thank you for a refreshing view on the subject. I have been following an Australian blog for the past two days on just this subject. I am amazed at the anger over this–it certainly seems to have been taken very personally by many skeptics. Again, thanks!

  4. one session of Wagner qualifies as over-exposed to Wagner.

  5. “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds” is a truth that I will defend to my grave.

    Killing others is repulsive and barbaric. I call for the death of all those who call for the death of others. In the name of life.

  6. I accept Parncutt’s apology. A lesson’s learned and life goes on. I’ve already wasted too many words on him.

  7. I’ll bet he’s a secret admirer of the inquisition and really likes how they dealt with heretics. Nothing like an auto-de-fe to change someones opinion.

  8. What is interesting here is the promotion (once again) of the concept of Thought Crime. The assertion that ideas are dangerous and those who communicate them should be punished or killed. Its justification is the ‘good cause’. The ‘good cause’ itself nonetheless being something subject to opinion. It is disturbing to observe how fascism bubbles under the surface even in liberal Western democracies.

  9. What are the implications of the fact that we only see this hysterical rhetoric from non-scientists?

  10. Sander van der Wal

    30 December 2012 at 5:17 am

    The only people likely to heed the Pope’s words on the use on contraception are the Pope’s followers. But if they do not listen to him regarding only to have sex after marriage (and only with the person they are married to!) then the Pope is not that influential. So, because people do not listen to the Pope, he is to blame for the deaths of people who would live if they followed all his advice?

  11. One of the great achievements of Austrians is that they convinced the world that Beethoven was Austrian while Hitler was German.

  12. I will never understand hyperconservative hate for The Beatles. What qualifies as “good music” in these parts? Sweet Home Alabama?

    In any case, the climate nuts are starting to turn their movement into the new New Atheism: a quasi-jihad based on fundamentalist fearmongering and blind rage. Naturally, they’re going to label their opponents freaks and attempt to silence them by any means necessary. I’m glad that places like this blog still exist to cut their math off at the knees.

  13. Briggs

    30 December 2012 at 9:12 pm

    rank sophist,

    “I will never understand hyperconservative hate for The Beatles.” Oh, understanding comes easy. Just listen to them!

    Good music: this, this, this, etc., etc.

  14. Prof. Briggs,

    I found myself enjoying all of the above, but to each his own.

  15. For the record,Parncutt is an academic in Austria but an Australian by birth, education and his earlier academic career. As an Australian, myself, I am closer to local views of the Professor’s background. This commentary tells it all http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/musicologist_of_death/.

  16. William,

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. I am all too familiar with the rabid witch-hunt mentality that has invaded science and threatens to turn it into a fanatical, dogmatic, and frankly dangerous religion.

    In addition to being a GW skeptic, I am also an AIDS survivor who no longer believes in the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. As such, I have heard every argument that men like Parncutt have to make, and worse. Dr. Mark Wainberg has said that he wants to change the Constitution to allow us to prosecute and incarcerate scientists like Dr. Peter Duesberg. Duesberg’s crime? Publishing numerous peer-reviewed articles critical of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis (http://duesberg.com/papers/index.html ). What’s worse, Dr. Duesberg’s body of work is compelling and stands without successful refutation after more than 25 years. Surely prison would be too good for him!

    Threatening those who question dogma with imprisonment and/or death is NOT the way of scientific minds; it is the tactic of religionists who know that their dogma cannot withstand scrutiny, and that their only recourse is to silence their critics, lest the public begin to suspect the truth.

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