William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Scientists: GOP Women More Feminine Than Dems

Science! Unadulterated, peer-reviewed, glorious science! What else but science could have provided this picture, which was taken whole from the University of California press release on the shocking new scientific, peer-reviewed, wee-p-valued paper The GOP has a feminine face? I’ll tell you: nothing.

Here are the main “findings”, which “are forthcoming online in the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Social Psychology”:

“Female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat, and the correlation increases the more conservative the lawmaker’s voting record,” said lead author Colleen M. Carpinella, a UCLA graduate student in psychology.

What’s worse—it makes you weep, but this is science—is this:

Female politicians with less stereotypically feminine facial features were more likely to be Democrats, and the more liberal their voting record, the greater the distance the politician’s appearance strayed from stereotypical gender norms [emphasis mine].

The study worked like this: participants rated pictures of both Right women and those women Not Right from the House of Representatives, and found that Right women matched “stereotypical gender norms” while Not Right women appeared to take their makeup cues from Rosie O’Donnell. Indeed, “the relationship is so strong that politically uninformed undergraduates were able to determine the political affiliation of the representatives with an overall accuracy rate that exceeded chance, and the accuracy of those predications increased in direct relation to the lawmaker’s proximity to feminine norms.”

Wait. Politically uninformed undergraduates? Never mind.

Since this is science, peer-reviewed science, published in a leading journal, and evincing small p-values, the findings are indisputable. They are true. They cannot be questioned. There must be a consensus. Nevertheless, I, being by nature untrusting and rebellious, decided to test the theory on new data.

A Republican Rosa DeLauro?

Using a sophisticated computer algorithm1, I therefore reconstructed Ms Rosa DeLauro’s image, assuming she first registered as a Republican and not a Democrat. Although the sample size is small, those polled rated this simulation as more “stereotypically feminine” than Ms DeLauro’s original image.

With this independent experiment providing the verification, I am therefore convinced the original findings are true.

Said study co-author Kerri Johnson, “[A]ssessing how much a face reflects gender norms may be one way of guessing political affiliations.” But just what are the keys to gender norms? Such things as “the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead, the fullness of the lips.” Compare for example each of these dimensions between the original and the converted Rosa DeLauro.

The big question is of course why Not Right women are so radically distant from feminine norms.

“The Democratic Party is associated with social liberal policies that aim to diminish gender disparities, whereas the Republican Party is associated with socially conservative policy issues that tend to bolster traditional sex roles,” Johnson said. “These policy platforms are manifest in each party’s image — apparently also in the physical characteristics exhibited by politicians.”

I think we can agree that the woman in the image presented by the scientists as their exemplar for a Democrat has indeed diminished gender disparity to the fullest extent possible. Further evidence is easy to have. Simply compare, for example, females in sympathy with pro-abortion causes versus pro-life women (examples here and here). Or women who are for Mr Obama versus those for Mr Romney (here and here).

Now, as is somewhat well known, most men, crude creatures that they are, prefer to mate with females with stereotypically feminine features. Whether our universities can correct this obvious bias is a separate question. For now we are left with its consequences, which are that Republican women, because they possess what men want in greater proportion than Democrat women, have an easier time marrying and reproducing.

Therefore, if there is anything to this genetics business, we should in time see many more Republicans than Democrats. It’s science!

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1Modified from a coupled GCM kindly supplied by my pal Gav Schmidt.

Thanks to Juan Ramirez who alerted me to this most important topic.

8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve—Update: Solved!

Surfing the internet is the wrong metaphor. Surfing is to skillfully ride a wave for thrills towards a destination. Aimlessly clicking enticing headlines in an effort to avoid responsibility and delay labor is better called drifting, to keep the watery theme.

Anyway, drifting the ‘net as I was, I came across i09 and their piece 8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve. It is important to note that this article was written on 24 September of this year.

I can report to you that in the week since its publication, the questions have been solved. Here are the questions, i09’s head-scratchings, and the correct answers.

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is there all this stuff in the universe, and why is it governed by such exquisitely precise laws? And why should anything exist at all…as Sean Carroll notes, “Nothing about modern physics explains why we have these laws rather than some totally different laws, although physicists sometimes talk that way — a mistake they might be able to avoid if they took philosophers more seriously.” And as for the philosophers, the best that they can come up with is the anthropic principle — the notion that our particular universe appears the way it does by virtue of our presence as observers within it — a suggestion that has an uncomfortably tautological ring to it.?

Funnily enough, i09 had the answer embedded right in their question. It’s obvious why the missed it, too. The answer is uncomfortable for us Enlighteneds.

Now we can say that God created everything, which is true and which answers the question, but we cannot saw why He did so. To suggests God loves us, while correct, is not to answer the question, but to push it back one level further, for why would God love creatures who drift the ‘net in search of argument? I don’t know and neither do you.

2. Is our universe real?

More recently, the question has been reframed as the “brain in a vat” problem, or the Simulation Argument. And it could very well be that we’re the products of an elaborate simulation. A deeper question to ask, therefore, is whether the civilization running the simulation is also in a simulation — a kind of supercomputer regression (or simulationception).

The “simulation argument”, and its many Matrixy variants, is solipsism removed to a computer. Nothing exists except for me; the entire universe is simulated just for my benefit. I am that special. The comments you’re leaving in the box below to dispute this conclusion? Clever simulacra to keep me from awakening and realizing how very important I am.

And then there’s idealism, which David Stove called a Victorian horror story. Time to let these go.

3. Do we have free will?

Also called the dilemma of determinism, we do not know if our actions are controlled by a causal chain of preceding events (or by some other external influence), or if we’re truly free agents making decisions of our own volition.

Dilemma forsooth! Man must have his theories. If any observation violates the theory, well, so much the worse for the observation, for theories are beautiful, compact, sensible, and most of all understandable. Observations are free, while theories come at a dear cost and must therefore be protected.

Take a random NPR listener and fly her from point A to point B in an aeroplane. Ask her at A, “Are you at A?” and she will say, “Yes.” And when she is at B, ask her, “Are we at B, which is separate from A?” and she will say, “Yes.”

Then ask her how aeroplanes work. She will say something like, “The government provides taxes for their operation.” She will not understand how the aeroplane worked, but the evidence that it flew her from A to B will not be denied. But because she does not know how does not mean she did not travel. What could be more obvious than that?

It’s the same with arguments over free will. Everybody knows we have free will because of observation. However, certain theories are incompatible with these observations. Result? Toss out the observations. And then award tenure to the garbageman.

4. Does God exist?

Simply put, we cannot know if God exists or not. Both the atheists and believers are wrong in their proclamations, and the agnostics are right.

To make that claim implies a proof exists which shows knowledge of God’s existence is always indefinite. No such proof exists. The claim is pure bluster. Question 4 can be, and has been, answered affirmatively many times. Sure, people dispute the paths to Yes, but they never try to offer a path to No. Are you an atheist feeling your oats? Then do the yeoman’s of proving God does not exist.

5. Is there life after death?

Materialists assume that there’s no life after death, but it’s just that — an assumption that cannot necessarily be proven…This is highly speculative stuff, but like the God problem, is one that science cannot yet tackle, leaving it to the philosophers.

This is true: materialism implies real death, which is why, as the gentleman who wrote this article suggests, you should not turn to scientists for philosophy.

Quite simple proofs for the non-materialism of our intellects abound (here is one). Thus the question is answered easily: yes. So get ready for it.

6. Can you really experience anything objectively?

There’s a difference between understanding the world objectively…and experiencing it through an exclusively objective framework. This is essentially the problem of qualia — the notion that our surroundings can only be observed through the filter of our senses and the cogitations of our minds. Everything you know, everything you’ve touched, seen, and smelled, has been filtered through any number of physiological and cognitive processes. Subsequently, your subjective experience of the world is unique.

If the question means do we need our physical senses, which can only be our own, to sense the world, then nothing is “objective”. But if it means “Can we know things as they are in themselves?” then we have come to the winner of the Worst Argument in the World contest.

Worst, because it hasn’t an intelligible answer. But it is also the Best, because it gives employment to more academic philosophers than to any other argument.

7. What is the best moral system?

Essentially, we’ll never truly be able to distinguish between “right” and “wrong” actions…Who has more moral worth: a human baby or a full-grown great ape? And as neuroscientists have shown, morality is not only a culturally-ingrained thing…

To answer authoritatively and finally the question in the quotation: the human baby. There: we have our first of many universals, a moral fact true for everybody.

It is true that action X may be right at one time and wrong another, but that is because the facts that condition the action change between these two times. It may even be that we cannot delineate all the conditions which make X right and those that make it wrong. But we can sometimes.

8. What are numbers?

…are they real objects, or do they simply describe relationships that necessarily exist in all structures? Plato argued that numbers were real…but formalists insisted that they were merely formal systems (well-defined constructions of abstract thought based on math). This is essentially an ontological problem, where we’re left baffled about the true nature of the universe and which aspects of it are human constructs and which are truly tangible.

This question smells like an editor said, “Nobody wants to read an article about ‘7 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve’. Make it 8. That number always works for Cracked.”

Numbers are real, but are not physical. Physical objects can be counted using numbers. Ta da.

Update For non-regular readers: there are of course many truths which cannot be proved, but which we know innately are true. E.g. the axioms of mathematics—and morals!

Why I Am Becoming A Democrat

The One

This will come as a severe shock to long-time readers, but I am changing my political affiliation. Perhaps some of you saw it coming. I did not. To me, the shift arose with frightening rapidity. I awoke yesterday startled, shocked to the realization that I am, and perhaps always was, a Democrat.

Let me explain.

A short while back I was reading in the Wall Street Journal a review of Alexander Pantsov (must he have been beat up a lot as a kid) and Steven Levine’s Mao: The Real Story, in which the reviewer Andrew Roberts, quoting the authors, said:

“Our task as historians was neither to praise nor to blame Mao.” [The authors] state categorically that Mao’s policies “cost the lives of tens of millions of Chinese,” yet they also boast: “We show that Mao was neither a saint nor a demon, but rather a complicated figure who indeed tried his best to bring about prosperity and gain international respect for his country.”

It is true that despite his noble intentions, Mao instead created privation and misery and that he mercilessly—some even say gleefully—slaughtered tens of millions, but these innuendos ignore the most cogent datum. Mao acted for the public good. Mao cared. I figure the old syphilitic satyr deserved the rotating harem of underage girls he lovingly taught the facts of life.

Now don’t jump to any conclusions. I do not say Democrats are like Mao. Though Mao is, by her own admission, Anita Dunn’s, once the White House Communications Director, and now MSNBC contributer and advisor to Mr Obama, “favorite philosopher.” And what did Mr Obama’s Czar Van Jones say about Stalin’s brand of communism? Never mind. What I admire about men like Mao and Stalin is that even after compiling a body count so large that if they were stacked from end to end would have reached the moon and back (I’m guessing), these statesmen are still not condemned, can still be mentioned in polite company, can still be admired.

Because why? Because they cared about the little guy.

I care, too. That’s point one.

Point two. Besides the academicians and intellectuals who openly admire Mao and Stalin and their modern-day wannabes, there are three other kinds of Democrat voters. A, those who believe Democrats are the party of the poor and downtrodden; B, those who enjoy telling people what to do; and C, those who want “free” stuff.

About A-people I have nothing to say, because they are honest, sincere people. But I do sometimes wonder if they know that Democrat politicians are, just as much as Republican politicians, “members of the 1%”? Haven’t they heard of crony capitalism, and don’t they gape in wonder at how Harry Reid and others routinely write legislation and craft regulation to support hand chosen-rich corporate industries and penalize others? Solyndra anyone? The EPA if you please? Are we talking Nelsonian blind eyes among some A-people, or are their hearts so big that any promise that what politicians are doing is best for them is enough? Only history will say.

Here is why I changed. I, like academicians Pantsov and Levine, am a B-person. I have a PhD. From Cornell. An institution in the Ivy League. Harvard’s League.

That should be all that need be said about that, but since some of you reading this won’t be of my orientation, I’d best elucidate. I have worked out, to the tiniest detail, what an Ideal Society would look like, how it would function and how beautiful it would be, and since I am so astonishingly intelligent that one can resist this solution only if one is immoral, or is evil.

Some examples. I know how to make people into the body shape I find most pleasing, and I’ll get them there by denying them certain foodstuffs and requiring ingestion of certain others. I know that people can’t take care of their personal safety, so I’ll tell them, for their own good, where they can go and how they’ll get there.

There is plenty more, but since I am among the elite of the elite, I doubt you’d understand if I told you. So I’ll keep quiet, bide my time, and wait for a government office to be bestowed upon me so that I can start making change.

Finally, there a C-people, the Sandra Flukes of the world, folks who really have everything, but want more and don’t want to pay or work for it. Fluke went after the Catholic Church, for example, for not providing her “free” birth prevention drugs. Mr Obama then mandated that the Church pay up, and be damned to their religious convictions. That’s the kind of rule making I’m talking about!

Remember all this Tuesday.

A vote for Obama is a vote to increase the rate of government control. A vote for Romney is a vote to decrease that rate, though it will still remain solidly positive.

Update I forgot to mention how I like a riotous good time.

Update I just did the calculation. If we assume that those sacrificed in the name of progress were on average 5 feet tall (there were kids and emaciated adults in the mix), then using a conservative body count of 100 million, we have 500 million feet of flesh to stretch. That translates to just under 100,000 miles. The moon is on average about 240,000 miles away. So we’re left dangling in space. But have no fear. There is still time to make up the rest.

Update Rank Sophist suggests that National Socialism’s Hitler was of the right. According to Golderg’s Liberal Fascists this is a debatable point, but it is as least widely believed. And therein lies the difference.

No politician or intellectual on the right can invoke National Socialism’s ideas or policies and remain an employed politician or intellectual. And rightly so. But politicians and intellectuals on the left can and do invoke Mao’s or Stalin’s International Socialism’s ideas and policies—members of Mr Obama’s inner circle did so—and not only do they remain employed (though not always in the White House) but they even see themselves promoted and feted.

Now since the body count of International Socialism is much higher—an order of magnitude?—than the body count of National Socialism, why is this? My only theory is that most of the victims of National Socialism were actively exterminated, while most (not all) of the victims of International Socialism were purposely, willfully, heartlessly left to starve.

Is this a distinction without a difference? I have the idea that intellectuals—the main target of sarcasm in this post—are rightly sickened about the first method of producing corpses, but their massive brains allow them to rationalize the second. Sure people starved, they probably reason, but if only they were a little smarter, they needn’t have. I don’t know.

The real enemy of the people, I tried to imply, but failed, is that those, of the right or left, who favor government control. Now since “government” is just people—government is not a thing—this is people who want to be in charge because they believe that since they are so smart they have everything figured out.

Nothing is more complicated that human behavior, so the absence of humility in a person’s theory of government is always telling. And if any intellectual can praise people like Mao or the CCCP, they can’t be that smart after all.

Incidentally, because of the discontent in China, there is a growing movement to resurrect Mao, both his reputation and policies. “Mao,” these modern-day Chinese intellectuals says, “Is a man who got things done.” He sure did.

Anyway, next time a return to better jokes.

Dominicans And Jesuits Battle It Out Over Thomism—Guest Post by John Kelleher

Dominicans butt heads with Jesuits

First, I want to thank Matt for all he does. Not every Statistician to the Stars has risked career and fortune to teach an extraordinary and fruitful revolution in statistics, but he has. Matt is also not afraid to write about other things, like metaphysics, that All The Very Best People Nowadays seem to think are laughable, and don’t pay any attention to, and think we shouldn’t, either. To his credit, Matt disagrees.

But…I am going to present some facts not in dispute, and from them I am going to argue that however useful classical Thomism (or outlines of it from modern proponents such as Edward Feser and Peter Kreeft) may be, we already know that classical Thomism has to be seriously flawed and therefore is not going to be the last word on metaphysics.

I’m going to look under the hood of classical Thomism for a second, and without taking the engine apart, show you one place where it has has plainly ‘gotten stuck’. By ‘getting stuck’ I mean a long-standing dispute within the inquiry that’s never been resolved.

When an inquiry mires down in that sense, then one logical possibility is that reality is being its typical annoying self and prodding a previously-unknown sore spot within the inquiry. Reality is exposing some unresolved incoherence or other deficiency in the theories and assumptions that the inquiry is currently using, even if nobody has yet put their finger on exactly what the specific difficulty is.

So, I can only suggest, I can’t logically prove, that classical Thomism ‘getting stuck’ means that there’s something not quite right about classical Thomism’s fundamental assumptions, theories, and methods. But I can prove that around 1600 AD, about 300 years after St. Thomas’s death, in just the sense I mean, classical Thomism did bog down, and that it has remained at the same place, in all the years since.

The problem at hand was providing within the classical Thomist framework a coherent account of human freedom (and hence and crucially, of each man’s individual moral agency and responsibility), while at the same time providing a similarly coherent account of efficacious grace and Divine Providence.

Two competing camps of Thomists, at the time represented by Jesuits on one side and Dominicans on the other, vehemently opposed one another. And, remarkably, 400 years since the 1600s and counting, the issue has never been satisfactorily resolved within Thomism. You don’t hear a lot about it, but they’re still at odds. You can look it up:

Vast as was the subject of that controversy, its principle question, and the one that gave its name to the whole dispute, concerned the help (auxilia) afforded by grace; while the crucial point was the reconciliation of the efficacy of grace with human freedom.

Finally, after twenty years of discussion public and private, and eighty-five conferences in the presence of the popes, the question was not solved but an end was put to the disputes. The pope’s decree communicated (5 September, 1607) to both Dominicans and Jesuits, allowed each party to defend its own doctrine, enjoined each from censoring or condemning the opposite opinion, and commanded them to await, as loyal sons of the Church, the final decision of the Apostolic See. That decision, however, has not been reached, and both orders, consequently, maintain their respective theories, just as any other theological opinion is held.

Please note that the entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the issue has never been resolved. A coherent account, satisfactory to all, that simultaneously honors the reality of human freedom, and hence safeguards the reality of man’s real moral responsibility for his actions, while also respecting the reality of efficacious grace and hence of Divine Providence, has so far not been achieved within classical Thomism, even after all this time.

In 1607, the Pope finally in effect told the disputants to go home, shut up, and make nice; and nothing much has changed since then.

Yes, we might laugh, but c’mon — is human freedom real? is each man truly morally responsible for his actions? is there such a thing as Good? does it all matter? does God really care about us, and is He truly active in this vale of tears? — these are, just possibly, real questions.

My mission is thus not to laugh at the questions themselves, but to point out something that is true but not widely known: classical Thomism really has stalled regarding some matters that bystanders might consider important, and the problem persists, even after all this time.

To be precise, it’s not that some individual Thomist hasn’t resolved the problem to his own satisfaction. That was already the case in 1600. The problem then as now is that these individual ‘resolutions’ have not adequately persuaded other Thomists, who have been able to find what they consider to be substantial flaws in them.

I think that the issues involved: being able to provide a coherent account of human freedom, and hence, of man’s moral responsibility for his actions, while also providing a similarly coherent account of the efficacy of grace and divine Providence, are pretty serious.

And I have directly suggested that classical Thomism has remained static, and on some issues that you or I might consider to be non-trivial, may mean, despite the enthusiasm of modern day proponents of classical Thomism such as Edward Feser and Peter Kreeft, that there’s something not quite right with classical Thomism’s fundamental assumptions and theories, and thus, that it might not be the final word in metaphysics. Or, by extension, in ethics, in philosophy, in theology.

We don’t ourselves have to pinpoint the exact difficulty within classical Thomism to suggest this possibility, either. We don’t have to be the mechanic and know how to fix the problem to look under the hood and observe that something is in fact, broken.

The Most Curious Use Of ‘Only’ You Will Ever See

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: Yours Truly is not a psychologist, nor does he have psychiatric training. Therefore his use of lunatic, insane git, mentally deficient in the highest degree, dangerous submoronic infant and the like might be in error.

Now then: here is the most curious use of the word only you may ever see:

“Piss Christ” is not Mr. Serrano’s only photograph depicting an object immersed in his urine—

Yes, not only has this Serrano submerged a crucifix in a jar of urine, and then lovingly photographed it, but “also replicas of Michelangelo’s ‘Moses,’ Myron’s ‘Discobolus’ and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, as well as a statue of Satan”.

The New York Times, which generously supplied these quotations, went on to say that none of these other objets d’art “have generated as much controversy.”

The story becomes interesting when you learn that these photographs, each the size of a small man, were purposely put on display at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in New York City. The logical implication is that they therefore were meant to be seen by members of the public, perhaps even purchased and brought home by these same peoples.

What a curiosity!

Now we can all agree that, because of certain genetic or environmental effects, say via the prolonged ingestion of harmful chemicals by himself or by his mother, a man can wake one morning, look reality square in the face and say to it, “Thou art a stranger to me.”

At this point he will exhibit perplexing behavior, such as eating raw spiders, tuning in to MSNBC, or gleefully calling his excretions “art.” Ordinarily, this man would be led into a small room, fed tooth cups of orange juice laced with aspirin and given volumes of P.G. Wodehouse in the hope that he should recover. If his disease should prove incurable, he is at least contained so that he cannot harm himself or others. Yet somehow in this case, Serrano remains at large.

A lunatic is not responsible for his actions. His mental faculties are so diminished that he deserves nothing but our charity and sympathy. We therefore cannot blame poor Serrano when he says of his so-called work, “I just feel I have to stay proud.” We should instead smile patiently and ask, gently, whether he has remembered to take his medications.

Madness is rarely contagious. And this is what is so puzzling. Because it is unlikely that the owners of the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery and its customers who purchased Serrano’s soiled wares have “caught” Serrano’s insanity. Too, it is beyond probability to expect such a large coincidental gathering of the pathologically unhinged. But these people do exist, and thus their, and not Serrano’s, slackwitted behavior demands explanation.

I have a theory. In one word: Inheritance. In two words: Paris Hilton. This infamous young lady was unlucky enough to have inherited the fortunes of her family, whose progenitors created the Hilton hotel chain. She is not insane in any clinical sense, but spending a life bathed in unearned money has allowed her to comport herself in a way not consistent with civilized society.

And there it is, you see. Serrano’s pictures sell for vast sums, the kinds of monies you find being passed by inheritance. There are self-made wealthy people who have of course not inherited, but these people by definition cannot be ignorant because they are out making the stuff they will eventually leave their children. No: it isn’t wealth alone, but its combination with idleness which generates imbecility.

True incorrigible stupidity can only come from having one’s every wish granted by the application of money. This is because real education is hard work which cannot be contracted out. Knowledge of the quadratic equation cannot be had for a fee: it requires effort, which is priceless. Mere money does not make one intelligent, but when it accumulates it is notorious for bamboozling its holders into believing that dollar signs are equivalent to IQ.

Strike that: not just its holders, but others, too. Intelligence diminishes in direct proportion to the perceived adjacency of those in the possession of fortunes. Incidentally, the effects are not usually permanent, and can be erased by simple change of situation.

These and the evident misfortune of an inheritor happening upon the insane and (thus far) un-institutionalized Serrano are all the facts we need to explain the calamity before us.

Update Be sure to read the link (and links therein) kindly provided by YOS.

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