William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Monday Mail

Incest can be swell.

Inbox

I’m several hundred emails behind. This weekend, always the slowest of the year, allowed me to catch up some. I appreciate very much all the missives and apologize if everybody doesn’t get a timely reply. My backlog of story ideas—which I am thrilled you all send in—goes back to 2011. All great, meaty ideas. Keep ‘em comin’!

To help catch up, I’m going all British style for a few running Mondays, with brief quips and links.

Note: unless you tell me not to, I assume it’s okay to say who sent what.

Krauss comes out for brotherly & sisterly love

“Nothing” specialist Larry Krauss (@LKrauss1), über-skeptic, recently said “It is not clear for me that incest is wrong.” It’s also not clear to him that something is not nothing. He stubbornly will not acknowledge that the “laws” of physics, quantum mechanical fields, and the “multi-verse” is not nothing. My bet is he knows of his critics but is too vain to admit to error.

Incest, says he, is an “empirical taboo”, meaning “most cultures” shun it because incestual matings result in politicians and other genetic defectives. Yet that only pushes the problem back a level. Why is having defectives wrong? And why is whatever reason you have for that right or wrong? No: you always end up flapping in the breeze; unless, that is, you can build morality on a solid foundation. “Nothing” holds nothing up. Being Itself can support everything.

Watch the video. He’s okay with a brother and sister going at it, as long as they use contraception and as long as they “love” each other and that their behavior “doesn’t affect anything else.”

Incest clip sent in by Anonymous.

Iowa Democrats Thank Not God

Iowa Democrats thanked “God” for abortions.

We give thanks, oh Lord, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care…

Today we pray for the families who have chosen. May they know the blessing of choice…

We pray for women who have been made afraid by their paternalistic religion.

I think these ladies are on their way to Switzerland.

Found this myself.

Bill Watterson Abides

Cartoon, via Mark Shea.

Nut Nudges

Cass Sunstein, yet another of Obama’s retired “czars” and now “Harvard” professor, thinks people don’t “fear” global warming enough.

Sunstein thinks that even though global warming has not yet struck, it will. With a vengeance! It will be Sharknado City all over the place. If only we could get people to believe! We must overcome common sense and the plain evidence of a steady thermometer and assure them that if only we increase the size, scope, and power of government, all will be well.

It’s not clear, but it looks like Sunstein wants to create a government agency which will hide agents behind bushes dressed like global warming. Whenever citizens pass by, they’d jump out and frighten the begeebers out of them. And thus, in their induced nervousness, vote for the Establishment in greater numbers.

All above me, but then, as I said, Sunstein is at “Harvard”, which makes what he says gospel.

Sent in by Willie Soon.

Guns reduce crime?

Take the headline “Harvard gun study concludes gun bans don’t reduce the murder rate.” I haven’t looked at his, and probably won’t, except to note that everywhere this appeared it had a headline which mentioned the place of origin of the authors.

Is it a case of “It’s Harvard, gosh” or “I thought all the profs at Harvard were unthinking, reflexive lefties, all of whom despise guns and freedom, so this new gun stuff must be true”? Or it is the standard appeal to authority fallacy? You tell me.

Sent by Al Perrella.

SSM is too political

Not as in exceedingly, but as in “It is, too!” Proof? The organization to be least affected and indeed likely to suffer a lack of clients, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, felt it had to issue an “official endorsement.

Abolish gender!

A substantial and growing proportion of the professoriate ready to chuck out science and embrace lunacy in the goal of not hurting feelings. Take Dr Russell Luyt, a specialist in gender and identity at Anglia Ruskin University, who said

Gender is another social category, like race or social class. It remains something we consider important in differentiating between people.

My feeling is that gender is a social construct, something that we have imagined into being. It’s not real but it has a real importance in terms of how we act and feel and behave.

One interesting question is why even ask it in the first place and what makes it an important category for birth certificates?

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16 Comments

  1. I can’t find the clip that you refer to and one of your links is broken. Is it this?

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2013/08/a-gigantic-book-royalty-check-from.html

    Someone should tell Feser that sneering is not an argument. Maybe he suffers from the Fear of Physics.

    Watterson: RC does PC?

    Guns at Harvard: The new meme?

    The gender story reminds me of Robert Conquest’s three laws:

    http://porphyrogenitus.blogspot.ca/search/label/The%20Laws

  2. Briggs

    2 September 2013 at 10:16 am

    Scotian,

    Of course, neither is calling somebody out for sneering an argument!

    Kruass’s idea fails: something just isn’t nothing.

    Link fixed.

  3. There is no place on a UK birth certificate for gender. One column is, however, headed, “Sex”. Does Mr Luyt not know they are different?

  4. I’m still confused about this gender business. If Bradley Manning had claimed he was Napoleon everyone would have said he was crazy. Instead he declared he is Josephine and everybody said that he is sane.

  5. I have listened to (read) Krauss’ video. It all seems straight forward and reasonable to me. Feser seems to go out of his way to misrepresent Krauss and to quote him out of context. As I’ve said in the past, pure sophistry. Krauss is examining a serious of definitions of “nothing” used in the past and pointing out their inadequacies in the light of modern physics. Feser’s real complaint seems to be that there is no room for God in Krauss’ physics. But, as with Laplace he saw no need of that assumption.

  6. I’ve now read the Subversive Thinking link and have found the Krauss incest video comments through a google search. Two points stand out. First, Subverse Thinking’s main thrust is the strenuous objection to skeptic’s debunking of free energy machines using the second law of thermodynamics and the debunking of paranormal claims, e.g. ESP and telekinesis. The website calls this bogus skepticism. To say the least, I am not impressed. There are many things to complain about in some of the organized skeptical societies, but these are not among them.

    Second, as does not surprise me, Krauss’ comments on incest have been ripped out of context and crudely misrepresented, much as the audience did with their gasps of shock, the purpose of which may have had more to do with signalling behaviour than anything else. There was certainly no chance that his statements were to be given careful consideration. Actually listening to him you realize that although he personally did not approve he was going to take the “let he without sin cast the first stone” approach.

  7. Ye Olde Statistician

    2 September 2013 at 12:59 pm

    My feeling is that gender is a social construct

    By which we may assume he means grammar, such as das Messer, die Gabel, der Löffel, so that knives are neuter, forks are feminine, and spoons are masculine. But I much fear he means biology! The scariest point is that he does not know this, or does not think this, but that he feels it. Nothing quite writes finis to the Enlightenment Project as the abandonment of thinking for feeling.

  8. The “Harvard gun study” may or may not have been a Harvard study, but an impressive paper on the subject was published in “Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy”, Vol. 30. Using statistics on gun control, and on murder and suicide rates in several European nations, the paper shows that gun control really does not affect murder or suicide rates.

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

  9. So what is the objection to brother-sister sex, as long as they using contraception: is it the contraception part? you know: no chance of the woman dying during childbirth hence the sex is evil. Or just the yuck factor puts it in the too hard to think about basket, hence let’s ban it? What if the brother-sister weren’t raised together but got to know each other as adults?

  10. Ye Olde Statistician

    2 September 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Or just the yuck factor puts it in the too hard to think about basket, hence let’s ban it?

    Begging the question. Why do people find it too hard to think about? Where does the yuck come from in the first place?

  11. Some thoughts on the Harvard study:
    1) There’s actually a paper on guns by a guy named Mauser?
    2) Seems like a discussion comparing gun ownership and suicide ought to mention Japan, which has an extremely high suicide rate along with very low gun ownership. No mention of Japan in the paper.
    3) How much of a role does advanced trauma care in the US play in reducing the murder rate? Especially when comparing the US to Eastern Europe or Russia? It might be telling to look at the assault and battery rate, as in this country most recorded cases of battery that result in hospitalization are really homicides that missed. Maybe the number of recorded gunshot wounds would be a good comparison.
    4) Why do they keep calling banning of guns “gun control.” Is not licensing people to carry guns also “gun control?” If crime reduction is the actual goal of public policy, shouldn’t the question be the likelihood of people licensed to carry to commit a crime against the likelihood of those not licensed?
    Opinion: I would feel safer in the most dangerous parts of Houston than I would in the safest parts of Chicago.

  12. Incest, says he, is an “empirical taboo”, meaning “most cultures” shun it because incestual matings result in politicians and other genetic defectives.

    Widespread incest results in a lack of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is the last defense against the periodic plagues that cultures must survive is they are to survive.

  13. Ye Olde Statistician

    3 September 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Widespread incest results in a lack of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is the last defense against the periodic plagues that cultures must survive is they are to survive.

    Excellent. And primitive man knew this how?

  14. Gender is another social category, like race or social class. It remains something we consider important in differentiating between people.

    Gender and race are demographic categories, not social. Social class is an artificial construct created and maintained by those who believe they fall within the higher social classes — whatever those are.

    One of the first things I learned about marketing was not to segment based on demographics, an idea best epitomized by Amazon and Google who categorize people based on what they read, what they spend money on, who they associate with and so forth. Perhaps sociologists will figure that out as well. Sooner would be better.

  15. >>Excellent. And primitive man knew this how?<<

    Ye Olde Statistician,
    Incest was an acceptable practice in ancient times.

  16. Ye Olde Statistician

    4 September 2013 at 10:25 am

    There were some royal lineages that made a point of inbreeding; e.g., incas married their sisters. But then why would not this “lack of genetic diversity” pull down the “last defense against the periodic plagues” among them?

    In fact, in band-level societies one must often eschew not merely one’s sister, but any member of one’s own moiety. If you are a Fox you must marry a Bear and must not marry another Fox. There is a useful discussion of incest taboos among hunter-gatherers in Peter Farb’s Man’s Rise to Civilization.

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