William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is Nothing In God Against Nature

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.

A short entry this week, for next week we start on something bigger and of more importance: that God is not a body. Plus, this is the last hurrah of summer and many of us are not around. We could skip this, but why not be complete during the lull? Besides, I can’t see any of this being controversial, granting the previous arguments.

Chapter 19: That in God there is nothing violent or beside nature

1 HENCE the Philosopher[1] concludes that in God there cannot be anything violent or outside nature. For whatever has in itself anything violent or beside nature,i has something added to itself: since that which belongs to a thing’s essence cannot be violent or beside nature. Now no simple thing has in itself anything that is added, for this would argue its being composite. Since then God is simple, as shown above,[2] there can be nothing in Him that is violent or beside nature.

2 Further. The necessity resulting from compulsion is a necessity imposed by another. Now in God there is no necessity imposed by another, for He is necessary of Himself, and the cause of necessity in other things.[3] Therefore nothing is compulsory in Him.ii

3 Moreover. Wherever there is violence, there can be something besides what belongs to a thing by its very nature: since violence is contrary to that which is according to nature. But it is not possible for anything to be in God that does not belong to Him according to His nature, since by His very nature He is necessary being, as shown above.[4] Therefore there can be nothing violent in Him.iii

4 Again. Everything that is compelled or unnatural has a natural aptitude to be moved by another: because that which is done by compulsion has an external principle, without any concurrence on the part of the patient.[5] Now God is altogether immovable, as shown above.[6] Therefore nothing in Him can be violent or unnatural.iv


iDon’t take violent in its most common meaning. A pin in a hip to keep it swinging free is “violent” in St Thomas’s words. As the rest of this argument shows, since God is not in potential, he cannot possess anything that is besides His nature. Here is Aristotle on nature, from St Thomas’s footnote (to understand the language used if nothing else):

(4) ‘Nature’ means the primary material of which any natural object consists or out of which it is made, which is relatively unshaped and cannot be changed from its own potency, as e.g. bronze is said to be the nature of a statue and of bronze utensils, and wood the nature of wooden things; and so in all other cases; for when a product is made out of these materials, the first matter is preserved throughout. For it is in this way that people call the elements of natural objects also their nature, some naming fire, others earth, others air, others water, others something else of the sort, and some naming more than one of these, and others all of them.-(5) ‘Nature’ means the essence of natural objects…

(6) By an extension of meaning from this sense of ‘nature’ every essence in general has come to be called a ‘nature’, because the nature of a thing is one kind of essence.

From what has been said, then, it is plain that nature in the primary and strict sense is the essence of things which have in themselves, as such, a source of movement; for the matter is called the nature because it is qualified to receive this, and processes of becoming and growing are called nature because they are movements proceeding from this. And nature in this sense is the source of the movement of natural objects, being present in them somehow, either potentially or in complete reality.

Then much later, about privation, an important term:

We speak of ‘privation’ (1) if something has not one of the attributes which a thing might naturally have, even if this thing itself would not naturally have it; e.g. a plant is said to be ‘deprived’ of eyes. (2) If, though either the thing itself or its genus would naturally have an attribute, it has it not; e.g. a blind man and a mole are in different senses ‘deprived’ of sight; the latter in contrast with its genus, the former in contrast with his own normal nature. (3) If, though it would naturally have the attribute, and when it would naturally have it, it has it not; for blindness is a privation, but one is not ‘blind’ at any and every age, but only if one has not sight at the age at which one would naturally have it. Similarly a thing is called blind if it has not sight in the medium in which, and in respect of the organ in respect of which, and with reference to the object with reference to which, and in the circumstances in which, it would naturally have it. (4) The violent taking away of anything is called privation.

Also, on accident, “Accident’ has also (2) another meaning, i.e. all that attaches to each thing in virtue of itself but is not in its essence, as having its angles equal to two right angles attaches to the triangle. And accidents of this sort may be eternal, but no accident of the other sort is.”

iiNobody forces God to do anything, not even 800-pound gorillas. But you get the idea.

iiiIf somebody dents your skull with a lead pipe, he has done violence to your cranium. But don’t miss the subtle point, repeated: “it is not possible for anything to be in God that does not belong to Him according to His nature, since by His very nature He is necessary being”. A necessary being is one which must exist and in the form, or rather essence, it takes. If it were other than its essence, it would be contingent and not necessary.

ivThe note is back to the important Chapter 13, where it is proved God is the Unmoved Move, the Unchangeable Changer. God must be the first cause, and therefore cannot be done violence, nor can He be compelled against His will—and this is so despite some fanciful and overly literal interpretations one occasionally runs into.

[1] 5 Metaph. i. 6 (D. 4, v. 6).
[2] Ch. xviii.
[3] Ch. xv.
[4] Ch. xv.
[5] 3 Ethic. i. 3.
[6] Ch. xiii.

Calvin & Hobbes’s Atheist Days?

First comes the irresistible dawning of an ego-driven theory.


Followed by the rejection and castigation of tradition and consequent feelings of superiority.


Which creates the inevitable narcissism and the mistaking of self-indulgence for the Good.


And finally, in some, a repair and maturation of the soul.


Winner Announced In What Should Artists Do About Global Warming Contest

This is art.

This is art.


Ten short days ago, we started the What Should Artists Do About Global Warming Contest. It was inspired by a performance “art” piece by one Sarah Cameron Sunde, who bravely stood in San Francisco Bay “for a full cycle of tides”, which is “more-than 13-hour process”.


To battle Global Warming, what else?

Now, modern art is pure evil, as is well known. But so is Global Warming. Therefore, why not set one evil to battle the other? No matter who loses, we win! At least one foe of humanity will have been vanquished. Hence our inspiration.

On to the contestants!


  • Hans Erren suggested any Cartoon by Josh. But this would not be sending evil to fight evil, since Josh’s cartoons are not ugly—and certainly not transgressive.
  • Paul Murphy suggested a visual performance piece, in which the artist takes stage and shows an image of the southern end of a northbound bull named “Global Warming”. The artist then “sits—back to audience, facing screen—[and] types on his iPad.” This is brilliant and earns Second Place.
  • Rich suggested playing John Cage’s hoax 4’33”, a fine start of an idea that needs fleshing out.
  • Chronus said, “I will build a pyramid of charcoal, then light it afire. After a suitable period of pondering my paleo ice age ancestors who tamed the flame and fought the earliest duel with Global Climate Change, I will forage in the ice(box) for mammal meat to char as they might have. Beer, the original killer app of civilization, will be served to the audience.” This is good, but would tend to put the audience in happy mood, whereas we are aiming for, at the least, is melancholy, if not outright despair.
  • AM (via email) sent in a project outline called “The Greening Planet”, the highlights of which follow.

    “As carbon dioxide spits forth unhindered from the smokestacks of civilization the chaotic tipping point between ice age and fire age may occur…already the Australian Outback is greener, more proof that the carbon cycle is being broken…

    We don’t care that it has been hotter, wetter, colder, dryer in the past. The past is history, and therefore it was somehow perfect. The future is a mystery, and the unknown scares us until we cry green tears. But don’t cry too much, you’ll waste energy metabolizing and spew out more carbon dioxide.

    …But we do know that the civilization that has taken us so far must somehow be our doom. Maybe we should create a new myth, the counter Prometheus, who stole fire from man, and gave it back to the gods so that we could live forever in shadow, safe from uncertainty of our own making and misunderstanding.”

    This is a good start, but not a full project idea. We need art that cuts and wounds for the winner.

  • Scotian (via email) sent in a completed project. Below are two images which our reporter on the spot was able to capture, both of which show the devastating nature of Global Warming and the ravages of sea-level rise!

    “I and my lady love, the strawberry blonde bombshell, decided on a lobster dinner at Hall’s Harbour before global warming caused the inevitable extinction of the lobster. I took the following photo on arrival. The boats were dragged up on the beach for safekeeping and could be easily launched down the central river.”

    Image 1

    Image 1

    “After a leisurely and very enjoyable meal of lobster, made even more poignant by the thought of their coming extinction, I and my one true love exited the restaurant to encounter a horrifying sight. The Greenland ice sheet had clearly collapsed while we were eating the last lobsters in existence, causing an unprecedented increase in sea level.”

    Image 2

    Image 2

    This clearly deserves an Honourable Mention, and could well have been the winner, if only Scotian had melted those glaciers himself in an effort to raise awareness.

The Winner!

Sheri suggested three projects, the best of which is this: “Alicia and George volunteered to spend one hour in light clothing in a meat freezer to show how the warming planet may actually make things more cold and there would be more snow and ice. Outside of the violent shivering, both reported the experience was certainly worth it and they would be doing more such art in the future, after the skin graphs are finished and the amputated fingers and toes surgeries heal.”

This is a clear and convincing winner because it neatly highlights the paradoxical nature of Global Warming, and the mysterious way it often makes things cold. Also, it involves amputation and bloody stumps, and if that doesn’t put the modern in “modern art”, nothing does.

The Prize

Sheri will receive a Kindle copy of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein (due to be released November 13, 2014). A Kindle is not needed to read the book; it can be read various ways using Amazon’s free readers.

Sheri, supply me your Amazon-preferred email by 5 September 2014. If you’ve forgotten my email, use the Contact Page.

We Know The Climate Is Warming Because It Isn’t

Another balmy summer day, courtesy of global warming.

Another balmy summer day, courtesy of global warming.

What do you call the mental process which allows a man to say “What’s firmly established is that the climate is warming” while also holding that “There’s been a burst of worthy research aimed at figuring out what causes the stutter-steps in the process—including the current hiatus/pause/plateau [in warming]“?

Which is it? The climate is warming or it isn’t?

Since the man who said this is a reporter (for a far-left newspaper), I’m inclined to put it down to reporteritis, but if we have a psychologist in the house, perhaps he can suggest a better term.

Whatever it is, the man is not alone; indeed, he is only quoting his scientific betters, who also claim that the climate is warming because it isn’t. This stark, throbbing contradiction is called “settled science”, and if one doesn’t want to be called a fool, one had better avow it reasonable.

Among others, the reporter quotes Joshua Willis of JPL who said, “if you mean how robust is the ‘slowdown’ in global surface warming, the answer is it just probably just barely statistically significant.”

He also queried John Michael Wallace, emeritus at U. Washington, who said, “The prevailing view…was that the signal of human-induced global warming first clearly emerged from the background noise of natural variability starting in the 1970s..” and “It seemed to me that the hiatus in the warming, which by then was approaching ten years in length, should not be dismissed as a statistical fluke” and “I hope this will lead to a broader discussion about the contribution of natural variability to local climate trends and to the statistics of extreme events.”

These experts belie an ignorance of the nature of statistical evidence. Let’s review what that evidence implies for the theory of doom-laden global warming.

The theory said, for decades, that temperatures would be high, yet they were not high. That logically implies that the theory is wrong. That it it not right. That it is flawed. That it is in error. That it should not be trusted. That the science behind the theory cannot be settled. That to believe the theory is true in the face of this evidence is unreasonable.

To say the theory which promised an increase where there was instead a “hiatus” or “pause”, is to say the theory is false. The theory did not say “hiatus” or “pause”, but increase.

To still believe the theory true in the face of this evidence is to believe against the evidence, and to believe on the basis of something else. What this is can be told to us by our psychologist.

What this something else cannot be is “natural variability.” Natural variability is just what the theory promised to quantify. It didn’t. Natural variability is the climate. It is a mistake to say the climate is some “signal” overlaid with “noise”. There are only causes and effects. The effects are the natural variability—the observations—the causes, at least one of them, are what climatologists have obviously misidentified.

Statistics is only useful to quantify the uncertainty we have in observations not yet seen. Thus it is pointless to say the “hiatus” is or isn’t “statistically significant.” Some thing or things caused the temperature to take the values it did. If we knew what those causes were, we would have made good forecasts: we didn’t; therefore, we don’t know the causes. Statistical statements about the past are thus of no interest (other than tallying or noting what happened, of course).

If the statistical model that said the “hiatus” was “statistically significant” was any good, it would be able to skillfully predict future temperatures. Can it?

Some climatologists say, “The theory is true, but the oceans portion is broken.” This makes no sense. The theory was supposed to incorporate the oceans; rather, the oceans were part of the theory. The theory is still wrong, and for the same reasons.

He could instead say, “The theory is false, and perhaps the oceans portion is why.” That could be true. Maybe the oceans portion of the theory is broken. If so, fix it, thus creating a new theory. Make new forecasts with this new theory and let’s see if they better match reality.

The reason good scientists do not believe in apocalyptic global warming theory is because that theory has failed consistently (and outrageously, given its hype) to produce skillful predictions.

It it flabbergasting therefore to hear so many say that “obviously” the theory is still true. It can’t be.

Tomorrow: the winner announced in the What Should Artists Do About Global Warming Contest!

Scared Scientists! Climate Terror!


Picture this

The heck with evidence: it’s how much you care that counts. That sentiment is what’s behind Nick Bowers’s new Scared Scientists project. Motto: “Nobody is safe”!

The far-left Huffington Post reports that Bowers asked scientists with livelihoods based on environmental work to contemplate their findings and stare into the middle distance while he, Bowers, captured their pensive and “frightened” expressions.

That the burdens of the world are on these narrow shoulders is what Bowers hoped to show (examples above). Well, that’s not what his pictures say to me. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I see different thoughts passing through these top minds—thoughts like these:

  • Shauna Murray (top left), a biologist, looks like she just discovered her goat’s milk yogurt bought at the food co-op contained non-organic fruit.
  • Tim Flannery (top right), a mammalogist, appears as if he’s come to the realization that generic stool softeners are not a wise investment.
  • Sarah Perkins (bottom left), a weather researcher, might be wondering how many people will notice the ill-advised steel post puncturing her face (I did).
  • Matthew England (bottom right), an oceanographer, could be thinking about his first pet, a puppy perhaps named Oopsie, who strayed too near the M4 Western Motorway.

Bowers’s idea isn’t as silly as it sounds—or looks. Much can be learned from the facial expressions of our deepest thinkers. For instance, I was able to discover this picture of physicists (not grant-funded climatologists) discussing the accuracy of climate models:


The full range of emotion can be seen. This poor woman, a scientist reliant on government grants and worried that the flow might cease once it was recognized that climate models have no skill, was captured mid contemplation in this snapshot.


She needn’t have worried, of course. Accuracy is no longer a scientific requirement.

Not yet known is just what’s on the mind of this climatological fellow.

Climatologist are people too or Terror from the skies!

We good-naturedly tease climatologists in our as-yet vain, but surely ultimately successful, strategy of reminding them of the key scientific principle that bad forecasts logically imply bad theories. But sometimes we forget that climatologists are more sensitive than the average scientist, and that they have feelings, too.

Joe Duggan never forgot. He cares, always and ever.

How? Well, he has a Masters in science communication (not to be confused with a Masters in just-plain science), which led to the masterful plan to ask climate scientists to describe how they feel, about their climate terror.

According to the leftist National Journal (Australia), Duggan solicited the most nervous of climatologists and had them write letters which could be displayed in an “installation.” They are also collected on Twitter.

Yours Truly’s favorite, written by an ecologist who missed his true calling as a greeting card writer:

Duggan’s website contains a wealth of information, like that provided by Dr Elvira Poloczanska Climate Change Ecologist, CSIRO, who tells us there are seven billions folks on the planet and, I quote, “I am one of seven billion, as are you”.

Dr Roger Bodman, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Victoria University, disputes Poloczanska’s numbers and says global warming “will impact adversely on many thousands of people.” When global warming impacts, people get hurt.

Kevin Walsh, Associate Professor and Reader, School of Earth Sciences University of Melbourne said, “I wish that climate change were not real.” Your wish is my command, Walsh, old thing, if by “climate change” you mean a world doomed by the odd carbon dioxide molecule.

Somebody named A.J. Pitman is “scared” that he “cannot trigger action.” That’s what gun oil is for, A.J. Always clean your weapon after use! That you don’t know this shows you how far over-specialization in science has progressed.

The same Sarah Perkins we met above (of face-piercing fame) might be the most concerned.

For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening. I used to think I was paranoid, but it’s true. She’s slipping away from us. She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behaviour is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviours that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger. I’ve tried to highlight these changes time and time again, as well as their speed of increase, but no one has paid attention.

Who’s this “she”? Herself? Somebody call a shrink before it’s too late!

Still to come! The winner in the What Should Artists Do About Global Warming Contest.

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