William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 146 of 744

Trenberth Is Wrong About Global Warming: The PDO Is An Effect, Not A Cause

From the paper's Figure showing the PDO and odd regression.

From the paper’s Figure showing the PDO and odd regression.

Kevin “Travesty” Trenberth had a peer-reviewed article in Science entitled, “Has there been a hiatus? Internal climate variability masks climate-warming trends.

First, the word “hiatus” is wrong. Using it assumes what it seeks to prove: that the atmosphere is warming substantially because of human activity. We do not know this is true; and given model results, an area where Trenberth treds oh so lightly, it is almost surely false. The word “hiatus” implies the warming is there, but has been “masked” or “beaten down” by other causes such that the total cause is a no-warming signal in the (operationally defined) global mean surface temperature (GMST).

The real question of interest is not whether there was a “hiatus” but what are the main causes of the (value of the) GMST? Some of the causes Trenberth mentions are uncontroversial; for instance, volcanic eruptions, which block incoming solar radiation. But one cause he mentions, and which is says is responsible for the “hiatus”, is not a cause at all. This is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

He says, “Observations and models show that the PDO is a key player in the two recent hiatus periods”. He cliams the PDO is responsible for “interannual variability” of the atmosphere. This cannot be so. The PDO is an effect, an observation. It is not a primary cause. The PDO is not something apart from the atmosphere, independent of it and which only shows up every so often. It is a pattern formed in the atmosphere by the same (and other) causes which are responsible for the GMST value.

And the same is true, of course, for the El Nino, La Nina, AMO, and any other human-identified handy pattern. To say the PDO is a cause is like saying the “pattern” of colder temperatures we notice in December in the northern hemisphere are responsible for (a.k.a. cause) winter.

Trenberth skirts around the lack of skill exhibited by climate models and implies the models would have been right—which means he acknowledges they were wrong—had this nasty PDO not had its way with the atmosphere. Such faith. He says, “the associated changes in the atmospheric circulation are mostly not from anthropogenic climate change but rather reflect large natural variability on decadal time scales. The latter has limited predictability and may be underrepresented in many models”.

This is silly. The models claimed to be able to identify the main causes of atmospheric change. Because the predictions were so awful is proof that this claim is false. We do not know all the main causes of atmospheric change. If we did, our forecasts would have been accurate.

As I said, the main causes of the changes in the atmosphere also cause changes in the man-identified pattern we call the PDO. We also do not do a stellar job of predicting the PDO. More evidence we do not understand all the causes of the changes in the atmosphere.

Further, there is no such thing as “natural variability”. It doesn’t exist like volcanoes and even human carbon dioxide emissions do. Natural variability is a measure, the result of us holding up a sort of yardstick to the atmosphere. The yardstick exists all right, but it has no causal influence of the atmosphere itself.

For being a world-renowned expert on our climate, Trenberth certainly speaks poorly of its operation.

Small points: Trenberth ignores the satellite data temperature record and instead relies on a statistical reconstruction which does not show the uncertainty in its estimates. He smooths his “data” to show us black lines which are not the “data”, and then speaks of these lines as he speaks of “natural variability”, i.e. as if it’s something real. And then he does some odd ad hoc piece-wise linear regression the purpose of which is unclear and, as far as I can tell, is of no use whatsoever, i.e. it makes no predictions like all good statistical models should.

Stream: No, Half of British Youths Aren’t “Bisexual”


Today’s post is at the Stream: No, Half of British Youths Aren’t “Bisexual”.

A survey by YouGov in Great Britain recently announced that “1 in 2 young people say they are not 100 percent heterosexual.” This headline betrays an enormous confusion in our culture’s understanding of human nature, and the language we use to refer to ourselves.

The survey makers asked respondents “to plot themselves on a ‘sexuality scale’,” a pseudo-scientific quantification of desire invented by the disturbing and unreliable Alfred Kinsey. The results were that “23 percent of British people choose something other than 100 percent heterosexual– and the figure rises to 49 percent among 18-24 year olds.”

But there is a difference between human sexuality and human desires and behavior. As I hope to demonstrate, confusing one for the other has been, and increasingly will be, a source of much grief in our society.

Human Nature

The nature or essence of a human being is to be sexually reproductive…

Go there to read the rest.

Another in a long series of consequences of abandoning Christianity.

Is Young Fatherhood Causally Related To Midlife Mortality? Wee P-values Say Yes!

Table 1 from the paper.

Table 1 from the paper.

The title of today’s post is culled from the peer-reviewed paper “Is young fatherhood causally related to midlife mortality? A sibling fixed-effect study in Finland” by Elina Einiö and two others in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The question the title poses is answered “Yes.”

What is it with these academic attacks on marriage? Last week having a kid was said to be worse than death. “Having A Kid Worse Than Divorce Or Death? Wee P-values Say Yes.” Yesterday another academic asked, “Two thirds of married people admit to or desire an affair. Is it time to rethink sexual morality?” She says yes. (At least she didn’t abuse any p-values.) And everything about this making-the-rounds “Tinder-hookup culture” article is depressing.

What is striking in today’s academic foray is the word “causally” in the title. Wee p-values are being used to claim a causal relationship, which is exactly the wrong thing to do (video). It might be true that having kids young kills men, but proving it via wee p-values cannot be done.

It also sounds preposterous to claim that young men fathering children kills those men. That’s, after all, what “mortality” means. Kills. Rubs out. Knocks on the head. Sends to the Great Beyond. Being “at risk” for mortality because of having kids early means that the act of fathering is somehow killing some men.

Now this study looked at a sample of Finns. The authors followed men from age 45 to death or age 54, at which time they were “censored” (in the usual statistical way). All-cause mortality or censoring was the end point.

That’s a common approach, but it’s a silly one. Bus runs over a man, which is a cause of death (no p-value needed to confirm). If that man fathered a child young, in this database it was counted against him as a death not being caused by the bus but because he was a young father. In order for this to be true, it has to be that this young father walked (or was pushed? or slipped? it’s Finland, after all) in the bus’s path because he had a kid before gray hair set in. That sound plausible?

No. It doesn’t sound impossible, of course. But it is implausible. Especially when you consider the same thing can and must be said for every other “mode” of death. And listen, since it is obvious that the authors are wrong and that young fatherhood in and of itself isn’t killing men, we’re not after direct causes, but causes of the cause of the death. A cause of the cause of death in the bus example is that a young father was forced to take a bus to work because he was a young father.

How could this happen? Well, I don’t know, but that is, of course, no proof that it cannot.

Here’s the conclusion: “Men who had their first child before the age of 22 or at ages 22–24 had higher mortality as compared with their brothers who had their first child at the median or mean age of 25–26.” Smells like an arbitrary cut-off, no? Like maybe, just perhaps—I make no accusation—that ages were played with until a wee p-value from the model came forth.

But this is ungenerous. Nobody really hunts for wee p-values, right? The real story is in their Table 1, which is reproduced at the top of this post.

More (but not all) fathers under 22 had only “basic” education, more were unmarried, more were divorced than older fathers. This suggests it’s not so much fatherhood which killed the 6.6% of the young men, but other activities. What might these be?

We have no idea, at least, no idea from this data set. For, you (don’t) see, the authors never examined the stated or measured cause of death in any case. They should have—but that’s too much work!

This is a very important point, which we must repeat. Something caused each young and each old father to die (of those who died, naturally). If we say it is young fatherhood that is killing some young men, then it must be something else that killed the old fathers. What was that or what were those causes? Why and how did they differ?

The problem with classical statistical analysis is that it substitutes formulaic manipulation for hard work and hard thinking. And it’s a lousy substitute.

What is needed is (A) proper understanding that statistics can’t prove cause, and more importantly than anything else (B) a new (old)—dare we say a third?—way of doing analyses.


Thanks to KA Rogers for alerting us to this article.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Knows Infinite Things

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.


Chapter 69 That God Knows Infinite Things (alternate translation)

[1] WE must next prove that God knows infinite things. For in knowing that He is the cause of things He knows things other than Himself, as was shown above.[1] Now He is the cause of infinite things, if there be infinite things, since He is the cause of whatever is. Therefore He knows infinite things…

Notes Infinity, as I’m frequently pointing out, is not a very large, or even unimaginably large number. It is way beyond any conception of any number; indeed, it is infinitely beyond. We cannot—we are dealing in an impossibility, and not in the modern sense of that word, but in its old-fashioned definition of cannot be done no matter what—have any true conception of all that infinity is. We cannot because our minds are finite. God’s mind is not. Only an infinite mind can create something from no-thing.

[3] Moreover. If God’s knowledge extends to all things that exist, in whatever way they exist, as we have shown,[4] it follows that He knows not only actual being but also potential being. Now in natural things there is the infinite potentially although not actually, as the Philosopher proves in 3 Phys.[5] Therefore God knows infinite things: even as unity, which is the principle of number, would know infinite species of numbers, if it knew whatever is potentially in it; for unity is every number potentially…

Notes Back to basics. What is potential is not actual (and it takes something actual to turn a potentiality into actuality), but what is potential is unbounded. And since God is the ultimate or first cause of everything, it follows He knows all potentialities, hence He can known infinite things.

[6] Moreover. According to the Philosopher (3 De Anima)[10] an intellect which knows the supremely intelligible knows the less intelligible not less but more: and the reason for this is that the intellect is not corrupted by the excellence of the intelligible, as the sense is, but is the more perfected. Now if we take an infinite number of beings, whether they be of the same species–as an infinite number of men–or of an infinite number of species, even though some or all of them be infinite in quantity, if this were possible; all of them together would be of less infinity than God: since each one and all together would have being confined and limited to a certain species or genus, and thus would be in some way finite: wherefore it would fall short from the infinity of God Who is infinite simply, as we proved above.[11] Since, therefore, God knows Himself perfectly,[12] nothing prevents Him from also knowing that infinite number of things…

Notes We haven’t discussed this topic much, but according to St Thomas that whereas each man belongs to mankind, each angel is its own species. Angels are also immaterial, and thus there is no difficulty in stacking them up from here to forever. Now put you and me together: the sum of our intelligences is not arithmetic, as is obvious from any reading of history. Simply putting more of us together is not going to increase our “joint” mind to infinity. Infinity is infinitely far away. Whereas God is in a different unapproachable class altogether.

[9] Again. Since our intellect is cognizant of the infinite in potentiality, for as much as it is able to multiply the species of numbers indefinitely; if the divine intellect knew not also the infinite in act, it would follow either that our intellect knows more things than the divine intellect knows, or that the divine intellect knows not actually all the things that it knows potentially: and each of these is impossible, as proved above…[15]

Notes The tidbit here is that we can, as any mathematician already knows, be aware of the infinite in potentiality, as admitted in the first note. But a proof that a thing exists does not imply that we understand fully the thing.

[13] From the foregoing it is clear why our intellect knows not the infinite, as the divine intellect does. For our intellect differs from the divine intellect in four respects, which constitute this difference. In the first place, our intellect is simply finite, whereas the divine intellect is infinite. Secondly our intellect knows different things by different species: wherefore it cannot grasp infinite things by one knowledge, as the divine intellect can. The third difference results from the fact that our intellect, since it knows different things by different species, cannot know many things at the same time, so that it cannot know an infinite number of things except by taking them one after the other. Whereas it is not so in the divine intellect, which considers many things simultaneously, as seen by one species. Fourthly, because the divine intellect is about things that are and things that are not, as we proved above.[19]

Notes Ponder this well. Memorize it.


[1] Ch. xlix.
[2] Ch. xlvii.
[3] Ch. xliii.
[4] Cf. ch. l.
[5] iv. seqq.
[6] Ch. xlix.
[7] Ch. xliii.
[8] Ch. xlv.
[9] Ch. xliii.
[10] iv. 5.
[11] Ch. xliii.
[12] Ch. xlvii.
[13] Ch. xlv.
[14] Ch. xlv.
[15] Cf. chs. xvi., xxix.
[16] Ch. xlvi.
[17] 1 Phys. ii. 10.
[18] Ps. cxlvi. 5.
[19] Ch. lxvi.
[20] Cf. ch. lxiii.: The fifth . . . p. 134.
[21] 1 Phys., l.c.
[22] Sum. Th. P. I., Q. xiv., A. 12 ad 1.
[23] Cf. ch. lxvi.

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