William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 4 of 540

Thanks, Fellow Veterans

Off we go.

It was in the first night of my military service that I learned cockroaches could fly. I am from the Northwoods where cockroaches are light on the ground, so it was somewhat of a shock to be standing at attention at two in the morning with a group of dazed men, hearing a thwwwwwwwwp, and seeing a pterodactyl-sized chitinous-armored bug fly over our heads and attach itself to the wall.

That was right before we heard the slow clic-tap, clic-tap, clic-tap of the drill sergeant drawing out his entrance from behind. I think I was more frightened of the miniature dinosaur, which was now extending its wings in a menacing fashion.

They called us a Rainbow Flight because we all wore variously colored civilian clothes and still had long hair. I had a small sack with toothbrush, some spare underwear, shaving kit, that sort of thing. I had, I think, about twenty bucks, which I then (and, given the way things are going, soon will again) regarded as a small fortune. These consisted of my worldly possessions, except for some spare clothes and some books my mom had.

There are two scents that still bring me back. Packaged rough blankets (I don’t know how else to describe it; wool blankets processed cheaply?), and Pinesol. Maybe the memories are triggered by my amygdala: every other behavior apparently is.

Only time I ever caught the attention of the TI was when I accidentally mentioned the name of another unit. He heard this and made all fifty of us rush outside, form up, then rush back upstairs, form up by our bunks, rush back outside, and so forth, about five or six times in all. Turns out our TI hated the TI that ran the other unit.

My first base was Kelly, right next door to Lackland, a major disappointment. Or at least I thought it was at the time. It did allow the Blonde Bombshell to make her way south and get hitched up (she has now served a longer term of service than I did with my Uncle Sam).

Now we had no money but at no time did we ever feel poor. And when I say “no money”, I mean no money. I think the yearly salary then was around $7,100. From which came the rent, groceries, the car, and so on. We didn’t live in the swankiest section of town. The Air Force charmingly picked up the tab for our Number One son, but this was still in the days hospitals didn’t marshal teams of experts to attend a birth.

I became expert at floor buffing, two-deck pinochle, and soldering. Not soldiering: soldering. Very different skill.

After three years of this, off to Kadena and the 1962 Communications Group. The cockroaches were bigger there than in San Antonio. Plus there were deadly slugs, deadly spiders, and a deadly snake called a habu. I never heard of anybody dying from the spiders or snakes, but every now and then a Marine would kick over after being challenged to eat a slug. Or to go swimming in the surf after a typhoon, an especially interesting experience since Okinawa is made of coral. We always thanked God for the Marines—and thanked God we weren’t one of them.

The Navy picked up the tab for Number Two son.

I tooled around Japan and Korea where I first formed the conviction that the human race is insane. I think Sister Dorothy tried to impart this valuable knowledge earlier, but I was stubborn and rebellious and didn’t realize that I was part of the problem.

Once or twice “activists” from mainland Japan came down to protest war and the military. One time they had just enough people to link hands around Kadena. We lived out by the fence and were warned not to go near them, but they seemed friendly enough. Protesting is almost always a social outing with a picnic atmosphere. Of course, this was in the late ’80s and most Japanese probably now think differently.

After we decided to get out, I typed—on a typewriter—maybe 100 letters to various companies asking for a job. Every single one of them wrote back to say No Thanks (every life has constants). Which was but proper and civilized. Those days are gone.

That was me. How many vets do we have here?

Classic Posts

A collection of fundamental posts in philosophy, probability & statistics, and global warming & environmentalism.

Subjects: (click to brings you to a list)

My Favorites

  • William M Briggs, Statistician To The Stars, Now A Thought Leader link
  • Damn Straight News: Manly Men More Likely To Be Conservative link
  • The True Meaning Of Statistical Models link
  • Netherlands Temperature Controversy: Or, Yet Again, How Not To Do Time Serieslink
  • Homeopathic Blog Post link


  • Mysticism of Randomness: Philosophy of Probability & Statistics Series link
  • Probability Is Logic: Philosophy of Probability & Statistics Series link
  • The Mathematics Of Santa Claus’ Present Delivery System link
  • Is There Free Will? A Conversation With Dr. Sam Hurtus link
  • Bill Whittle on the Love of Theory link

Philosophy & Culture


  • Genetic. He works for an oil company! link
  • Ad Hominem, My Sweet link
  • The Imposing-Their-Beliefs Fallacy link
  • We Don’t Know Anything link
  • The Science-Is-Self-Correcting Fallacy link
  • Hypocrisy link
  • Wrong side of history link
  • The Apes Do It So It Is Fine For Us Fallacy link
  • The Epidemiologist Fallacy link
  • Mexican Hat link
  • One true religion link
  • The Somebody-Might-Get-Hurt! Fallacy link
  • The So’s-Your-Old-Man Fallacylink


  • The Summary Against Modern Thought, i.e. live blogging Summa Contra Gentiles link
  • Evolution & The Big Bang Are Perfectly Consistent With Christianity (And Catholicism) link
  • Comprehensive List Of Catholic Dogmas Refuted By Science link
  • Richard Carrier’s Argument To Show God’s Existence Unlikely Is Invalid And Unsound link
  • The Decline & Fall Of Radical Catholicism; Or, What The Synod Will Have Wrought link
  • What is faith? link
  • St Anselm and the ontological argument link
  • Swinburne’s P-Inductive and C-Inductive arguments (existence of God) link
  • Lawrence Krauss on nothing link
  • On The Probability God Exists link
  • Bayes Theorem Proves Jesus Existed And Did not Exist link
  • On Intelligence & Religiosity link
  • The Epistemology Of Miracles: Fulton J. Sheen Edition I, II

Diversity & Equality

  • Diversity is the dumbest idea ever I, II, III, IV
  • The tolerance paradox link
  • Variant on a theme link
  • Life Is Not Fair I, II, III
  • Equality is impossible link
  • Equality definitions link
  • Logan’s Run Is A Progressive Utopia link
  • Diversity! link


  • Genetic Engineering To Create New Super Moral Race link
  • The Moral Case Against Designer Babies link
  • We Are All Eugenicists Now. New Test Identifies 3500 Genetic Faults In Fetuses link
  • Killing newborns link
  • Killing Children Legally In Belgium link
  • Evolving past evolution link
  • Nine-month babies racist? link
  • Mark Twain On The Dictatorship Of Health link
  • Dutch Doctors Strange New House Calls link
  • Abortion to create master race link
  • Decisions made Angelina Jolie Should Not Necessarily Be Yours link
  • Health Is Not A Goal link
  • The Return Of Eugenics link
  • Sex Selection and In Vitro Fertilization link
  • Anti-Human Leader says Every Woman Should Have Contraception link
  • Bioethicist Calls Unborn Innocent Aggressors link
  • Bio-engineering humans and climate link
  • Pill to eliminate racism link
  • People Who Believe In Heaven Commit More Crimes link
  • Are There Any Arguments Against Eugenics Left link
  • Ask A Scientific Ethicist I, I

Free Will

  • Unsorted I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
  • A Conversation With Dr. Sam Hurtus (Video) link
  • Free Will Cannot Be An Illusion link
  • Disbelief In Free Will Causes Disbelief In Free Will link
  • Free Will The Result Of ‘Background Noise’? link


  • If We Are What We Sexually Desire, How About These Curious People? link
  • Same-sex “marriage” I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X
  • Let’s Find And Fire Those Who Support Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ link
  • E-Lynching The Politically Incorrect: Mozilla Edition link
  • Woman To Marry Fairground Ride. A New Sexual Orientation link
  • Coming Out Christian link
  • Bake your own damn cake link
  • Is Laverne Cox Still A Man? Or, The Coming Transgender Wars link

Morality & Ethics

  • The Scientific Ethicist link
  • Atheism And Its Problem Of Evil link
  • If You Disagree You Are Full Of Hate, You Bigot link
  • Dogmatism link
  • Animal rights entail animal responsibilities link
  • Is violence decreasing link
  • Health & responsibility link
  • More fat people link
  • Sandra Fluke Mows The Lawn. A Play In One Act link
  • Abortion link
  • Deciding morality by vote link
  • Academic Philosopher Finds New Way To Dehumanize People link
  • The Slow Death Of Perversion link
  • New Poll Says Forty Percent Don’t Believe In Evolution. So What. link
  • Herd Immunity And Christianity link
  • Prime Minister Kenny Abortion Bill Would Save One Life A Year link
  • Sam Harris Asks if Science Can Answer Moral Questions link
  • A New Row Over Pregnancy Caused by Rape link
  • Germany To Ban Sex With Animals link
  • Women Do Not Have A Right To Do Whatever They Want With Their Bodies link
  • Voting (And Wisdom Of The Crowds) I, II
  • Resolved: Companies Should NOT Be Forced To Fund Employees’ Birth Control link
  • Theories And Predictions: Sociology Version link
  • Animals Suing People, People Suing Animals: Lawyers Rejoice link


  • Malthus’ Proof That Welfare Leads To Increasing Need For Welfare link
  • From Paganism To Christianity To Deism To Malleism link
  • Educators Disease Reaching Epidemic Levels, Experts link
  • The Dismal Economics of Utopia: Lesson One link
  • 8 Great Philosophical Questions That We Will Never Solve Solved! link
  • Language and Truth I, II, III
  • The Consensus In Philosophy link
  • Ways of speaking about truth I, II
  • Scientific Truths Are Not Better Truths Than Just-Plain Truths link
  • The Imperfectibility of Politics. Voting And Unhappiness I
  • Give Children The Vote I
  • On Defeating The NSA: Privacy In A Time Of Government Overreach I

The University

  • Universities? Nuke ‘em From Orbit. It’s The Only Way To Be Sure. link
  • University Professors Teach Too Much I, II, III, IV, V
  • It Is Time For A New (Old) Kind Of University link
  • Teaching Comes First. But Only If You Bring In Grants. And Publish link

Essential Book Reviews


  • Edward Feser. The Last Superstition I, II, III, Interlude, IV, V VI, VII
  • Peter Kreeft. Summa Philosophica I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X
  • David Stove. What’s Wrong With Benevolence? link, Annotated Stove bibliography
  • Steven Goldberg. Fads and Fallacies in the Social SciencesI, II, III, IV
  • Jonah Goldberg. Liberal Fascism I, II, III
  • David Bentley Hart. The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Being I, II, III, IV
  • Charles Murray. Real Education link
  • Essential (Philosophical) Conservative Book List link
  • Michael Gazzaniga. Who’s In Charge? I, II
  • Our Brains Are Not Us. Review of Brainwashed link
  • My Genes Made Me Vote For Obama: Predisposed Reviewed link
  • Making Gay Okay, Robert R. Reilly, Reviewed. link

Probability & Statistics

Statistics philosophy

  • Machine Learning Big Data Deep Learning Data Mining Statistics Decision & Risk Analysis Probability Fuzzy Logic FAQ link
  • The Cult of the Parameter! link
  • I Was Wrong About Axioms: Day One Teaching link
  • The Mysticism Of Simulations: Markov Chain Monte Carlo, Sampling, And Their Alternatives link
  • Selling Fear Is A Risky Business Part I, II, III
  • Why You Should Care About The Philosophy Of Probability & Statistics link
  • The Applicability Of Experiments link
  • Nothing Is Distributed: So-Called Random Variables Do Not Follow Distributions link
  • Confidence Interval Interpretation link
  • What Statistics Really Is I, Paradox digression, II, III
  • All Of Statistics I, II,III
  • Statistics Is Not Math link
  • Statistics 101 Class 0, I, II, III, IV, V, no VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI
  • What Is A True Model? What Makes A Good One? I, II, III, IV,V, VI
  • Probability leakage link
  • What Does The Regression Equation Mean? Causality? link
  • Regression Isn’t What You Think link
  • Occam’s razor link
  • Bayes vs. Frequentism: The Lady Tasting Tea; or The Final Battle I, II, III, IV
  • Another reason to abandon p-values (another way to cheat) link
  • Correlation Implies Causation link
  • All Models Are Not Wrong I, II
  • True value of parameter? link
  • Frequentists Are Closet Bayesians: Confidence Interval Edition link
  • The difference between a confidence and credible interval link
  • On The Evidence From Experiments I, II, III, IV
  • Objective Bayes Vs. Logical Probability (Vs. Frequentism) link
  • Direct And Inverse Probability: The Bayesian Way link
  • Jumping The Infinity Shark: An Answer To Senn I, II, III, IV, V, VI
  • Subjective Versus Objective Bayes (Versus Frequentism) I, II, III, IV, V

Probability philosophy

  • The Problem Of Grue Isn’t; Or, A Gruesome Non-Paradox About Induction link
  • Truth, Knowledge, Belief, & Gettier Problems link
  • Probability logic & induction I, II
  • Nine Counter-Arguments To Frequentism link
  • Comments On Dawid’s Prequential Probability link
  • Probabilities Aren’t Decisions link
  • There Is No Such Thing As Intrinsic Probability link
  • Failed Counterexamples To The Principle Of Indifference link
  • Physical Probability Doesn’t Exist link
  • What are the chances of that? link
  • The Humble Tautology And Probability link
  • Bayesian Probability Is Not Subjective (It Only Seems Like It Is) link
  • Symmetry Priors Logical Probability Infinities and Needless Paradoxes link
  • Intuitionist Math & Probability: Riemann Hypothesis Example link
  • What Is And What We Know Of It link
  • Why Falsifiability Is Alluring I, II
  • Most Probabilities Aren’t Quantifiable link
  • “Probably Fine” Isn’t A Number link
  • There Is No Such Thing As Unconditional Probability link
  • Russian Roulette And Certainty link
  • The Probability Of A Bottle Broken Into N Pieces When Struck By A Hammer link
  • It Makes No Sense To Say You’re More Likely To Die Of Bee Sting Than Shark Bite link

Statistics practice

  • Statistical Follies and Epidemiology video
  • Please Don’t Smooth Your (Social Media) Data! link
  • The Coming Cancer Panic link
  • Why Do Statisticians Answer Silly Questions That No One Ever Asks? link
  • What Regression Really Is I, II, III
  • The Biggest Error In Regression link
  • A Statistician’s Lament link
  • On Scientific Polls link
  • How Presidential Polls Work: D+7 or R-3 And All That link
  • What is a Dutch Book? link
  • The Great Bayesian Switch! link
  • How to fool yourself with Statistics I, II, III, IV
  • WEIRD people link
  • Johnson’s Revised Standards For Statistical Evidence link
  • Logical Probability Data Analysis Measurement Error Example I, II
  • The Alternative To P-Values link
  • Everything Wrong With P-Values Under One Roof link
  • How To Mislead With P-values: Logistic Regression Example link
  • What Regression Really Is link
  • Unsignificant Statistics: Or Die P-Value Die Die Die link
  • Regression To The Mean (And Performance Curses) Simply Explained link
  • What’s The Difference Between Polls And Models? link
  • A Peculiar Prevalence Of P Values Just Below .05 link
  • Drug Companies Tweaking Results To Produce Publishable P-values? link
  • How To Present Anything As Significant link
  • All Forecasts Predictions & Prophecies Are Contingent link
  • The Hot Hand: Statistical Fluke Or Genuine Article? link

Predictive Statistics

  • Explanation Vs Prediction link
  • There Is No Difference Between A Forecast, A Scenario, or A Projection link
  • GPA Case Study I, II
  • Definitions link
  • What A Prediction Is And What It Is Not I, II, III, IV
  • Risk Analysis And Over Certainty link


  • Randomized Trials Are Not Needed link
  • Randomness is a Matter of Information I, II, III, IV
  • What Random Means In Random Number Generation link
  • Never Say “Caused By Chance” link
  • On Truly Random Numbers link

Asinine uses of statistics

  • List of asinine papers link
  • Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors Of Political Ideology? link
  • Sex With 21 (Not 20) Women Lowers Risk Of Prostate Cancer. It’s Science! link
  • Exposure To Fracking Reduces Low-Birth-Weight Babies link
  • That Conservatives Smell Different Than Progressives Study Stinks link
  • Judgments About Fact And Fiction By Confused Researchers link
  • Casual Sex Is Good for You, Says New Biased Study link
  • Conservatives suffer from Dark Triad personalities link
  • Exposure to the American flag turns one into a Republican link
  • Exposure to 4th of July parade turns one into a Republican link
  • fMRIs can tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians? I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
  • Newberg again link
  • Low IQ & Liberal Beliefs Linked To Poor Research? link
  • Weapons Make the Man Larger: New Scientific Growth Formula link
  • Brain Atrophy Responsible For Religious Belief? link
  • Do Conservatives Distrust Science More Than Liberals? link
  • Women Spot Snakes Faster Before Their Periods link
  • Wearing A White Coat Makes You More Careful link
  • Autism caused by highways link
  • Do Heat Waves Cause Birth Defects? link
  • Scientists: GOP Women More Feminine Than Dems link
  • Spanking Kids Causes Cancer. Also Asthma and Cardiac Disease link
  • Researchers Invent Exciting New Disease: Poverty Blindness link
  • Racism Eats Telomeres link
  • On The Role Of Genetics In Politics link
  • Do Dogs Poop In Alignment With The Earths Magnetic Field? link
  • Exposure to Fast Food Impedes Happiness link
  • Women With Large Posteriors Live Longer? link
  • Blinks As Lie Detectors link
  • Analysing Perceptions Of Cute Videos Of Threatened Species link
  • fMRI Discovers Freud Distribution Plushies Lurking In Brain link
  • Tweet Hate Map: Awful Really Awful Use Of Statistics link
  • Coal-Fired Power Plants Fuel Suicide—Or Maybe Sanguinity link
  • Scientists Discover Men Don’t Understand Women link
  • Poor Statistics Undermine The Reliability Of Neuroscience link
  • Thinking About Dying Or Just Saw Bad Art? Pop A Tylenol link
  • Science Can Tell If You’re A Racist Just By Looking At You link
  • Yet Another Study Proves Liberal-Conservative Brain Differences link
  • Statistics Proves Men And Women Are The Same link
  • Lightning May Cause Headaches Moon May Cause Domestic Intranquility link
  • Males Play More Sports Than Non-Males link
  • Political Neuroscience Shows Obama Voters Are Different Than Romney Voters link
  • GOP Women More Feminine Than Dems link
  • Stressed Men Prefer Chubby Chicks link
  • Personality Predicted By Pedal Extremity Wrappings? link
  • Believers Less Vindictive Than Godless Atheists: New Research link
  • Atheists More Motivated By Compassion Than The Faithful? link
  • Conservatives Produced By “Low Effort” Thinking link
  • Brain Atrophy Responsible For Religious Belief? link
  • Do Conservatives Distrust Science More Than Liberals? link
  • That Lefties-Drink-More-Than-Conservatives Study link
  • Scientists Discover Men Enjoy Looking At Women’s Breasts. link
  • Female-Named Hurricanes Deadlier Than Males. Implicit Sexism Kills! link
  • Can A Disgusting Smell Turn You Conservative And Against Gay “Marriage”? link

Firearms & Homicide

  • Update On Gun Crime: Downward Bound. Vote Accordingly link
  • World firearms and homicide rates link
  • Mark Twain on firearms link
  • Black vs. White homicides link
  • Homicide Demographics link
  • Mass shootings link
  • Firearm Homicides Dropping link


  • Presidential mandates link
  • Changing Attitudes On Suicide And Euthanasia (GSS) link
  • Support For Abortion by Reason (GSS) link
  • Wishcasting the 2012 Presidential Election link
  • How Long Do Popes Serve? link
  • Abortion Safety: Doctors V. Nurses & Physician Assistants & Midwives I, II
  • The Most Depressing Graphs: Per Capita Federal Spending Rises Alarmingly I, II
  • More Proof Music Is Growing Worse link
  • The Decline And Increase Of Mainstream Religions In The USA link
  • Sexual Immorality, Low Birth Rates, And Religion link
  • Government Per Capita Spending: Up, Up, And Away! Or, Happy Tax Day! link

Probability Puzzles

  • Monty Hall (All Probability is Conditional) link
  • The Probability Of Your Existence link
  • Sleeping Beauty link
  • St Petersburg Paradox link
  • Sorites Paradox link
  • Two-envelope Problem I, II
  • One Son Born Tuesday link
  • Prisoner’s Dilemma link
  • Monkeys Typing Shakespeare link
  • Newcomb’s paradox link
  • Measurement Error Of Colored Balls link
  • Jeffreys-Lindley Paradox link
  • Does 1+2+3+… Really Equal -1/12? link
  • Every Family Has Children Until They Have A Boy link

Global Warming & The Environment

Time series & Data Handling

  • Netherlands Temperature Controversy: Or, Yet Again, How Not To Do Time Serieslink
  • The IPCC’s And McKitrick’s “Hiatus” Time Series Models I
  • There Is No Difference Between A Forecast, A Scenario, or A Projection link
  • How to think about time series (temperature example), I, II, III, IV, V
  • The BEST project I, II, III
  • How To Cheat (Or Fool Yourself) With Time Series link
  • The Data Is The Data (Not The Model) link
  • Do not smooth times series you hockey puck! I, II, III
  • Homogenization of temperature series I, II, III, IV, V
  • Hurricanes have not increased: misuse of running means I, II
  • Proper statistical description of temperature (parameter-based versus predictive statistics) I, II
  • How To Properly Handle Proxy Time Series Reconstructions link
  • (Most) Everything Wrong With Time Series link
  • An Ensemble Of Models Is Completely Meaningful link
  • Does Averaging Incorrect Data Give A Result That Is Less Incorrect? link
  • Time Series And Causality: Global Warming Example link


  • We Know The Climate Is Warming Because It Isn’t link
  • Don’t Say “Natural Variability” link
  • Don’t Say “Hiatus” link
  • Paper Claims Surprisingly Strong Link Between Climate Change And Violence. Nonsense. link
  • On The Kaya Identity link
  • Do You Believe In Global Warming Because Of The Seriousness Of The Charges? link
  • Idiots calling for my arrest I, II, III, IV, V
  • A Citizen’s Guide to Global Warming Evidence link
  • Use And Abuses Of Decision Analysis link
  • What Probably Isn’t: Heat Waves and Nine Feet Tall Men Prelude I, II
  • That 1 in 1.6 Million Heat Wave Chance, I, II
  • What is and isn’t evidence of global warming, Overview, I, II, III, IV, V, VI
  • Anthropogenic Forcing Signals Not Significant? link
  • Climate Model Uncertainty I, II
  • Causation And Correlation link
  • Parliament The Met Office And Statistically Significant Temperature Change link
  • A Common Fallacy In Global Warming Arguments link
  • 1 Billion To Die By 2030: Global Warming’s Deadly Rampage! link
  • End Of The World Approaches—This Time Via A “State Shift” link
  • HANDY Not So Dandy: NASA-Funded Mathematical Model Of Doom link
  • Ivy League Statistician Debunks NASA-Funded ‘Socialism or Extinction’ Study link

The Epidemiologist Fallacy

  • The EPA Dust And The Ecological Fallacy link
  • Criticism of Jerrett et al. CARB PM2.5 And Mortality Report link


  • People’s Climate March: The Face Of True Belief link
  • Zombie attacks might increase due to global warming link
  • Global Warming Increases Disastrous Music link
  • Interview With A Climatologist link
  • Lewandowsky’s Faked Moon Landing link
  • Sharknadoes To Increase Due To Global Warming link
  • The Case of the Missing Global Warming: A 17th Precinct Mini Mystery link
  • Homeopathic Blog Post link
  • Global warming causes prostitution! link
  • IPCC Intensifies Search For Missing Global Warming link

Mini Plays & Stories


  • Dinner with Atheists link
  • Ad Hominem, My Sweet link
  • Climate Change Summer Camp! link
  • All Men Are Mortal: A New, Award Eligible Mini Play link
  • Sandra Fluke Mows The Lawn link
  • A Priest And A Reporter Walk Into A Bar link
  • I Offend Thee! A Christmas Play link
  • Free Mumia! And Tunisia! link
  • Dances Without Feathers link

Pregnant, And No Civil Rights?


Now there’s nothing more wearisome than a discussion of “rights”; and having one on a Monday may be unforgivable. But I beg the reader’s indulgence as last Friday’s New York Times piece of the same name as this post (sans question mark) by lawyer Lynn M. Paltrow and sociologist Jeanne Flavin somehow “gained traction”. Best to see why.

“Rights” as these ladies use it is of course a synonym of “I want!” or “Gimme!” We post-Christians are nothing if not all deserving, and, dammit, somebody must give us what we want. It’s our right. New “rights” are being discovered faster than San Francisco (and now Westminster, Mass) can find things to ban.

“Briggs, you fool. You uttered a contradiction. You say post-Christians want to be given whatever they want. Yet you also claim they happily ban other citizens from having what they want. Get it straight.”

But I do have it straight: there is no contradiction. If I want that cheeseburger and you want that cheeseburger, only one of us will be satisfied. And because I am 6’2″, 210 pounds, and mean, I’ll get my “right” and you won’t. San Francisco bans because they believe they have the “right” to live apart from whatever it is they are banning this week.

“Rights” always clash. There is no resolution in any dispute where both sides only have “I want!” as an argument. Might makes rights is the only solution.

Let’s hear from Paltrow and Flavin:

WITH [sic] the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee’s anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the “personhood” rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.

Paltrow and Flavin demand the right to choose to kill and they recognize that their enemies want to take that “right” away. They correctly fret that since their enemies are now mightier, their enemies could have their “right” granted to them and that the “right” to choose to kill will go unsated. They exaggerate only to the extent that their perceived enemies really are enemies.

Talking solely or mostly about “rights” is why the abortion debate goes nowhere. It is why it can only be settled by might. And since the mighty are often fallen, it is why the predominate “right” changes.

If you’re unconvinced, read the rest of Paltrow and Flavin’s article. They side-step the one philosophical question of any interest right at the beginning, by putting scare quotes around “personhood”, and go on to describe the horrors which await pregnant women once the “right” to choose to kill is replaced by another right.

For example, “In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for ‘attempted fetal homicide.'” But this is only the scare-quoted “personhood” in other words. Another:

Anti-abortion reasoning has also provided the justification for arresting pregnant women who experience depression and have attempted suicide. A 22-year-old in South Carolina who was eight months pregnant attempted suicide by jumping out a window. She survived despite suffering severe injuries. Because she lost the pregnancy, she was arrested and jailed for the crime of homicide by child abuse.

This at least shows the enemies of Paltrow and Flavin recognize what the philosophical question is. It also proves Paltrow and Flavin know it but choose not to discuss it.

Is the living creature in the mother’s womb a human being? If so, killing it for the sake of convenience, because it is the wrong sex, because the woman has some shopping to do or a “career” to pursue (we really need more women in offices gazing lovingly at spreadsheets 60 hours a week) , or whatever is murder. End of story. There is no “right” to murder, even for hysterical women, or even for a feminist.

And, of course, the only answer consonant with biology—with Science itself!—is that, yes, the living creature is a human being. It isn’t a fish, nor a Buick, nor even a “lump” of tissue. Once people recognize that, the depressing talk of “rights” can cease and we can go on to better things.

Footnote: I am saddened to report that Flavin, author of Our Bodies, Our Crimes, is a sociology professor at Fordham University, a once Catholic university that found the cross it had to bear too burdensome.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not In A Genus

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

We know God’s essence and existence are the same thing. God necessarily exists; existence necessarily exists. We know God is not made of stuff, has no potentiality, is not made of parts (is “simple” in a technical sense). He has no extraneous properties. Let’s continue to flesh out, as it were, more of God. We’ll skip a little quickly through these two chapters, because they’re easier and non-controversial (everything here follows simply if you accept what came before). The reader is encouraged (do it!) to go to the original chapters for the complete story.

Chapter 24: That the divine being cannot be specified by the addition of any substantial difference

2 …Whatever needs something added to it, in order to exist, is in potentiality to that thing. But the divine substance is not in potentiality in any way, as proved above:[3] and God’s substance is His being. Therefore His being cannot receive essential specification from something added to it.i

3 Moreover. Whatever makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to that thing, is either the whole essence thereof or part of its essence. Now that which specifies a thing by an essential specification, makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to the thing specified: otherwise the latter could not be specified essentially thereby.ii Therefore it must be either the very essence or part of the essence of that thing. But if something be added to the divine being, it cannot be the whole essence of God, for it has already been proved[4] that God’s existence is not distinct from His essence. Therefore it follows that it is a part of the divine essence: and thus God would be composed of essential parts, the contrary of which was proved above.[5]…

Chapter 25: That God is not in any genus

1 HENCE it follows of necessity that God is not in any genus.iii For whatever is in a genus, has in itself something whereby its generic nature is specified: for nothing is in a genus without being in some one of its species. But in God this is impossible, as shown above.[1′] Therefore it is impossible that God be in any genus…

3 Again. Whatever is in a genus differs as to being from the other things contained in the same genus: otherwise a genus would not be predicated of several things. Now all things that are contained in one same genus, must agree in the whatness of the genus, because the genus is predicated of all in respect of what a thing is. Therefore the being of anything contained in a genus is beside the whatness of the genus. But this is impossible in God.[4′] Therefore God is not in a genus.

4 Further. A thing is placed in a genus by the nature of its whatnessiv, for genus is predicated of what a thing is. But the whatness of God is His very being.[5′] Now a thing is not placed in a genus according to its being, because then being would be a genus signifying being itself.v It remains therefore that God is not in a genus.

5 That being cannot be a genus is proved by the Philosopher as follows.[6′] If being were a genus, it would be necessary to find a difference in order to contract it to a species. Now no difference participates in the genus, so that, to wit, the genus be contained in the notion of the difference, for thus the genus would be placed twice in the definition of the species: but the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the genus.vi Now there can be nothing besides that which is understood by being, if being belong to the notion of those things of which it is predicated. And thus by no difference can being be contracted. It remains, therefore, that being is not a genus: wherefore it follows of necessity that God is not in a genus.


iIf you need food, then you’re potentially fed. (Something actual must bring this about.) But if you need something that you don’t have, you’re not complete. And God is complete, and has no potentiality (and no parts).

iiThis two sentences are, after a moment’s thought, obvious. But look how well they’re put. Succinct city! It’s also good to reflect. That which causing something to be actual is what makes up that thing’s essence. Causality (act) and essence are linked. This applies everywhere, of course. Not just to God.

iiiFor Aristotle and Aquinas, there are two levels, species and genus, the latter being a collection (if you like) of species. Genus is higher up in the taxonomic order. If something is in a genus, it must then be in one of the species of that genus. But God is sui generis. There is nothing like Him.

ivQuiddity, essence.

vEvery being has being; rather, everything that is in existence, so that it exists does not a genera make.

viThe key phrase is “the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the genus.” You cannot use the definition of genus as a genus. It is to be real differences which make up a genus. The rest is like the previous argument.

[3] Ch. xvi.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xviii.

[1′] Ch. xxiv.
[4′] Ch. xxiv.
[5′] Ch. xxii.
[6′] Metaph. iii. 8.

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