William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Crisis: Vatican Burns with Global Warming Enthusiasm (And Temperature Fiddling)


Today’s post is at Crisis. The title the editor John Vella wrote is AUs—parsecs, even—above mine. His: “Vatican Burns with Global Warming Enthusiasm“. Mine? “The Church Burns To Jump Into Global Warming”. Yuck.

Worse than Yuck. Title writing is more art than skill. Skill can supply titles, but only art can make them sing. Putting strings of words together into readable sentences, as Your Host is doing at this very moment, isn’t the same. Titles are poetry, essays are—well of course they are—prose. Oh, the pic above is theirs, too.

My opening salvo:

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences had its one-day global warming conference yesterday. Not unlike a certain synod, it ended with the issuing of an anticlimactic pre-prepared climatic document “Climate Change and The Common Good: A Statement Of The Problem And The Demand For Transformative Solutions.”

Gist: we are soon doomed unless we “do something.”

I do two things: say why the Church might be involving itself in the politics and science of global warming and the religion of sustainability, and why the Pontifical Academy of Science really has no idea what that science is. They have some real whoppers in their summary document.

Go there to read the rest.


Many, many readers sent me the Telegraph article “Top scientists start to examine fiddled global warming figures: The Global Warming Policy Foundation has enlisted an international team of five distinguished scientists to carry out a full inquiry.” Thanks to all!

Article’s cute. And shows what I’ve said all along. That you must carry forward all uncertainty. They always present to us temperatures as if they come from on high, yet what we see are the result of models. And therefore must have plus-or-minuses attached. They never do. This is why we do not even know with any real certainty what’s happening (in many places), let alone that we’re doomed.

The problem does not only exist with temperature data, it exists everywhere statistics are used. We are condemned to this kind of rampant over-certainty because of the scourge of hypothesis testing, perhaps the worst practical philosophical invention of all time. Can you think of other candidates?

That’s a strong claim, but I can back it up, and have, and will. My book is now 221 pages and nearing completion. Stay tuned.

More on that another day. Meanwhile, add Crisis to your regular reading.

Catholic Climate Change Conference: Consensus Confusion. Updates

So the Vatican conference is off and running. I’m not there, and have no insider view, so that best that can be done is to point our telescopes that direction. See what we can see.

Tell you who is there, though. The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation led by Cal Beisner, a historian and evangelical. Heartland (politics) went. So is our friend Marc Morano.

I know why these groups went. And understand: I would have gone too if the opportunity presented. But I don’t think these uninvited emissaries will have much effect. I’m far from an expert on the politics of the Vatican, but from what I’ve gleaned, the best way to get things “done” in that glorious and ancient institution is to work behind the scenes. (Making contact with some skeptical bishops would have been my goal. It still is.)

Conferences like this one, run by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, are mostly theater. There’s no other reason to perch in public view UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and have him wave (well, slightly move) his arms around except to announce whatever was decided behind closed doors months ago. Given the appearance of the skeptical contingent, it’s street theater versus legitimate.

This piccolo dramma is being noticed. The Vatican Insider, a well known Catholic paper, wrote a piece entitled, “Santitá, non dia retta ai catastrofisti del riscaldamento globale“, a summary of the skeptical contingent’s plea, and which translated mean, “Dear Pope, Don’t Listen to Global Warming Doomsayers” (I’m putting that valuable word catastrofisti into the quiver; if I can work it into a sentence with that other inestimable Italian gem castrati, I will know glory; has to be something there about panicked gelded scientists…).

The Insider’s summary of a petition the skeptics are presenting is fair. Example, the paper snagged what I consider the best sentence in the petition: “there is a growing divergence between the observations on the actual temperature of the world and simulation models. On average, the models simulate more than double the warming observed. Over 95 percent of the models simulate a warming greater than that observed, and only a tiny percentage approaches to reality.”

Oddly, before the meeting began, John Allen, a respected writer at Crux, said the skeptical contingent “appear[s] to assume it’s the United Nations pushing Pope Francis on climate change, when in fact it seems almost the other way around.” Allen can’t be right here. The UN via the IPCC has been pushing government takeover (of everything) because of global warming for decades now, long before Pope Francis rose to power. Allen:

In January during a flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, reporters asked the pontiff if he believes that climate change is the result of human activity. He replied that he thinks it’s “mostly” man-made.

“I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have, in a sense, taken over nature.”

He also said that he wanted his encyclical on the environment to be out in June or July so it could influence a looming UN summit on climate change in Paris in early December. He complained that the last round of talks in Peru were disappointing, and said he hopes the Paris gathering will produce “more courageous” choices.

The Pope’s Plane Pronouncements receive more scrutiny and discussion than even (if it can be imagined) the comings and goings of the Kardashians. Now, given the traps into which many have fallen, I won’t indulge in interpretation. The PAS’s conference will give us some clue what might be in the Pope’s encyclical, but I think it is rash to condemn or praise it when none of us has seen it.

The still-holding-onto-its-Catholic-identity National Catholic Reporter characteristically went into a tizzy with its headline “Ahead of Vatican climate change summit, skeptics issues strong, blunt warnings to Francis.” First sentence in they say the skeptics “forcefully warned Pope Francis against speaking on the subject.” Oogie boogie.

They did catch our pal Lord Monckton at his blustery best saying to an in absentia pontiff, that if he were to embrace global warming he would “demean the office that you hold and you demean the church whom it is your sworn duty to protect and defend and advance”. Brits are like that. Or used to be.

Don’t know how they let it slip through, but they had Morano saying something good: “‘Fossil fuels are the moral choice for the developing world,’ said Morano, who also quoted what he said were words by Australian Cardinal George Pell on the subject.” Morano’s right.

Pell is the man, but he has his holy hands busy with straightening out Vatican finances.

Saint Medard, ora pro nobis.

Late Edition Addition The progressive New York Times’s Andrew Revkin has a late story which says apropos of done deals:

The much-anticipated environmental encyclical that Pope Francis plans to issue this summer is already being translated into the world’s major languages from the Latin final draft, so there’s no more tweaking to be done, several people close to the process have told me in recent weeks.

Update From Delingpole.

Update The PAS put out a statement before the conference entitled “Climate Change and The Common Good: A Statement Of The Problem And The Demand For Transformative Solutions”. I’ll be reviewing this tomorrow (I think).

Why Progressives Believe Global Warming


Everybody believes propositions based on arguments of some kind. All progressives (so far as I know) believe in global-warming-of-doom, defined as if-we-don’t-do-something-the-world-boils. What argument are they using?

Probably more than one, but also probably a variant of the same one. Whatever it is, or they are, is something we need to discover if we’re to have any chance convincing our lost brothers of their error.

Error? How do we know? Easy. The Reality Argument goes like this:

  • P1: The climate has changed;
  • P2: GWD is caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (and other gases) exacerbated by a positive heat feedback;
  • P3: Models based on assuming the GWD hypothesis were built and have for decades consistently made lousy predictions,
  • P4: Models which make consistently lousy predictions imply the theories underlying them are false.
  • ———————————————————————-
  • C: GWD is almost certainly false.

Premise 1 is true based on observation. But it doesn’t say how observed changes happen. It might be that Martians (buried deep under the Martian soil so as to avoid detection) are aiming heat rays at our atmosphere. Premise 1 conjoined with Premise 2 is the scientific theory of GWD.

Premise 3 is true based on sufficient multiple observations. A tacit Premise (given P1–P3) is that the scientists building these models have not made sequentially catastrophic blunders such that P2 really is true but that the models have failed to capture this properly because of, say, programming error or deceit. Premise 4 is a (logical) necessary truth.

The Conclusion is thus true. That is, it is true that GWD is almost certainly false. We have not proven beyond all doubt GWD is false. Nobody can prove that. Even if models over-predict for the next two centuries it will always be the case that next year the globe begins to melt. We are also left wondering how the climate has changed. May be Martians after all.

The Reality Argument can also be called the Old-time Science Argument. In days of yore, Premise 4 was a guiding light of science. Used to be part of the famed Scientific Method. That Premise 4 no longer retains its former glory gives us our first big clue about the argument progressives are using.

One possibility for the Progressive Argument is this:

  • P1: The climate has changed;
  • P2: GWD is caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (and other gases) exacerbated by a positive heat feedback;
  • ———————————————————————-
  • C: GWD is true.

Premises 1 and 2 are identical, but the conclusion does not follow unless the argument is circular. Which is to say, P2 and C are identical. Perhaps some progressives believe this. But it’s too pat. It would mean that merely hearing P2 is enough to convince. And it doesn’t explain why hearing about the Martians doesn’t convince. Perhaps this is better:

  • P1;
  • P2;
  • P5: A scientist told me P1 & P2 is true and scientists know of what they speak.
  • ———————————————————————-
  • C: GWD is true.

This works: Premise 5 saves the argument from circularity. But it’s thin, because why? Because, for instance, I and other scientists often tell progressives Premises 1 & 2 (the conjunction) is likely false. Even scientists of the IPCC—those buried deep in the AR pages, far away from reporters’ eyes—don’t swear Premises 1 & 2 is true. In short, this argument doesn’t account for those progressives who have heard scientists like me and who are aware of the Reality Argument.

Progressives obviously reject the Reality Argument. Here we must bifurcate. To the political progressive, something like this argument must then hold:

  • P1;
  • P2;
  • P6: If I claim GWD is true, I might gain power;
  • P7: The Reality Argument is problematic for my claim;
  • P8: I’ll use my power to squelch the RA.
  • ———————————————————————-
  • C: GWD is true.

The conclusion does not follow: GWD is not true. But it does not matter to the political progressive whether it is true or false. Consider Senator Boxer who has attacked Reality-Argument scientists who (in Boxer’s words) “confuse the public.” But what about the non-political progressive? Something like this:

  • P1;
  • P2;
  • P9: Some scientists, or at least the press and my politicians, say GWD is true;
  • P10: It would good for my ideology if GWD were true;
  • P11: Reality-Arguments scientists are either ignorant or in the pay of Big Oil, which means the Reality Argument is in some way false, even though it seems true;
  • ———————————————————————-
  • C: GWD is true.

Premise 9 is true, based on observation, and Premise 10 is also true for obvious reasons. You’ll be surprised to learn that Premise 11 is partly true: some skeptics err and others (not me, unfortunately) have been offered and have accepted money from Big Oil. But the conclusion does not yet follow.

The argument is still missing a tacit Premise (P12) which is the genetic fallacy, which here (in brief) says that any who disagrees with what is good for progressivism must be lying. And part of progressivism says man is naturally environmentally evil. These are false, but they are believed. And since they are believed, the conclusion follows: global-warming-of doom is true.

I’d especially like to hear from our progressive pals out there to see how close this is. For instance, one loyal reader often says the Reality Argument is “pro pollution”, which in its raw form is the Circular Argument.

Anyway, you can see how difficult (impossible?) our job of restoring reality is.

How Come The Leftward, Lurching Drift? Riot Update

New rules are discovered where you least expect them.

New rules are discovered where you least expect them.

Because I was on a secret mission yesterday, the regularly scheduled tour through Summa Contra Gentiles has been preempted. It returns next week.

The Western world, particularly in these once United States, has been experiencing leftward lurches these past fifty or so years. These are localized accelerations on top of the gentle progressive drift we’ve experienced since the (victors really do get to write history) Reformation, or perhaps since Ockham lovingly introduced his Nominalism. The exact date is irrelevant. The question is why.

Drift is easier to explain than lurches. The moment any institution or society founded on a set of rigorous, clear, and unbreakable rules allows an elite of that group the first public unpunished exception to a rule, the precedent has been set that that rule can be broken, which eventually leads to the rule being abandoned. Keep in mind that a break is not the same as a (re)interpretation. A break is a departure, a reinterpretation is a blind eye and an acknowledgement of the primacy of the rule. We drift left (the denial of human nature) because the rules were once right (their acknowledgment).

All this happens at the small and the large, at the here and there, at the local and national. Space permits only a synoptic view here. A full treatment would require a book.

Our society’s and our institutions’ drift continues, particularly this past century in matters reproductive (a panicked retreat from human nature). Used to be a rule that a hotel would not let a room to an unmarried couple, or a couple that did not give every appearance (the blind eye) of being married. Once it became known that some elite had broken this rule, it was deemed breakable (first locally then everywhere), and it is now barely a memory. Afterwards, the rule was said to be burdensome and uneconomic.

Pregnant unmarried girls used to be shunned (the rule) or temporarily put away (blind eye), but again some signal from on high allowed a break, which over the course of a few decades led to the rule’s abandonment. Afterwards, the rule was said to be cruel. Before, it was said to be for her and for society’s own good.

Abortion (recall we’re discussing the West) used to be seen as horrible. Abortionists were punished. Women who were known to have had one (the rule) were also made to suffer, but women who had them on the sly, before their pregnancies became known, (the blind eye) got away with it. The breaking in this instance was a prime time circus in the USA. It was a combination of elite signal and public plea. This pleading was the cause of the lurch.

Drift is caused by rules being broken by somebody at the top where knowledge of the break is generally known and where the break is unpunished. Once an elite breaks a rule he finds it difficult (but not impossible) to punish or to support punishment for those under him who have broken the same rule, or even other rules. Elitehood itself atrophies. Drift happens because people quite naturally look up to elites. The phenomenon applies to all cultural matters, from speech to dress to music to sexual behavior. Did not somebody once say that with great power comes great responsibility?

A lurch is another thing. This is caused mainly from below, an agitation partly from the masses but mostly from the sub-elite with the complicity of friendly elites. The sub-elite are those who (with good reason) imagine themselves attaining elitehood. They have not much formal authority. They are what we used to call the upper middle class. They are generally younger and many will be promoted but are impatient for the transition. Drift occurs in the relation between elites and sub-elites, too. Elites (those who hold authority and power) no longer engender automatic respect because they, the elite, have allowed an egalitarian drift to influence their behavior. Once an elite asks himself, “What makes my idea so special?” he is lost and can be swayed easily by those under him.

Before the abortion taboo was abandoned there were public arguments and demonstrations from the sub-elite generally citing pity and the suffering “unwanted children” would cause their would-be mothers. These were made prior to the rule being broken, and not cited after the fact as comforting post hoc explanation as in drift. To prevent this promised suffering, a new “right” to kill was discovered in the rule book by elites. The elite was not forced and could have easily resisted (the majority of elites held to tradition), yet the “elite” by now was not the same as the elite before the drift. After the break, drift came back into play and abortion is now euphemistically termed “reproductive healthcare.”

The acceptability of homosexual acts followed a similar path. Those men discovered misconducting themselves were punished, shunned, and made to suffer (the rule). Those who could keep their activities secret were generally ignored (blind eye). But a general public flouting of the rule and an agitation by sub-elites who cited “fairness”, “equality”, “consenting adults” and the like again caused the elite to discover a new rule which said homosexual acts were to be “celebrated.” Drift returned until the sub-elite again pressured elites to allow two men to call themselves “married.” Smart money says elites will soon discover that this “right” has been in the rule book all along, too.

The masses acquiesce. They have little choice. But something odd happens during a lurch. The more intelligent of the masses and most of the elite keep to the old rules a long as they can, until drift has caught up to them and wiped away all traces of tradition. It it only those less intelligent in the masses, i.e. those mostly likely to give themselves over to self, who join the sub-elites in forsaking the old. This is because the less intelligent reason the sub-elites, who are closer to them than elites, because they are the loudest, are the elite. That mistake helps the lurch do its work, of course.

As is by now clear, the general argument given by sub-elites for abandoning civilization and human nature is to eliminate suffering and sacrifice in the particular. Yet the old elites understood what the sub-elites, all post-Christians, do not: that suffering and sacrifice in the particular can lead to a greater general good. Worse, he cannot comprehend that a lack of sacrifice must cause a greater evil. Elites are too exhausted to hold themselves up as examples.

So the drift left will continue, and it is likely to be increasingly punctuated by lurches producing more acute breaks and painful disruptions. It seems to me only one of two things can happen. The first is this. Once most of the old right rules are seen to have been eliminated, a new left rule book will be in place. It will be rigorous, clear, and unbreakable. It will be enforced, all experience suggests, ruthlessly. The “good” of suffering will be rediscovered. Rightward drift might set in here, too, and it will be somewhat faster paced than the leftward drift was because, of course, ignoring human nature produces deleterious effects. More likely, the new rules will cause the new elites to be so fascinated by themselves, they won’t see their external enemies approach. Either way, look for a substantial reduction in population.

The second possibility is this. One of the lurches will cause a disruption too painful to be born. There will be revolt. Locally? Nationally? Who knows? Whether it is quashed by a new elite bent on imposing by force the new rule book or led by an old elite sickened past endurance is the big question. Examples from history support both scenarios, but lean to the right.

When? If this woman’s words are any guide of the abyssal state of left argumentation, then soon, madam, soon.

Update Hints the camel’s straw lurch will come from the left in this article: “When Washington fiddled while Baltimore burned“. Why? Because the elite left are waiting to be asked to “step in” and save the day. They use the riots for drift, it is true, because racism, etc. But some will want to use the next big one to solve “all” riots by squelching the “cause”. And the cause, they will say, is the outspoken right who needs immediately be silenced and punished.


HT to Mike Flynn for discovering that woman’s article.

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