Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men?

Richard von Mises did not self identify as a non-man.
Richard von Mises did not self identify as a non-man.

There are no such thing as the “odds” a panel would be “randomly” all men. Yet The Atlantic thinks there could be, and so does a fellow named Greg Martin, a mathematician at the University of British Columbia.

Before we get into this, without regard to the demographic, political, or sexuality of the persons considered, and going only on meritocratic principles, construct in your mind a list, of five to ten persons, of: (1) all-time greatest mathematicians, (2) best living chess players, (3) fastest runners, (4) those who have most contributed to computer science, (5) the most profound playwrights who ever lived.

Done? Let’s count the proportion of men on each panel. Say. Pretty large, no? Too unbalanced for modern university students to contemplate. Certainly the predominance of men is not politically correct. Maybe next time I ask for such a list I should do a little throat-clearing shaming first, maybe remind you of your higher duty to Equality and Multiculturalism, or give some hints about what happens to unrepentant sexists. Then we’d have better panels which look like “who we are.”

Skip all that and notice two things. To construct any panel there are two criterion: how many, and for what reason. Panels are limited, so the number will never be very large. The reason is thus our focus. Why are we convening a panel of the world’s greatest mathematicians? Easy. Because we’re interested in hearing a discussion on the topic of, say, innovation in mathematics. Why do we want to hear from the fastest runners? Because we want to hear about running fast. And so on.

In other words, we caused the topic to be chosen, and then we caused the members on the panel to be there. Two causes. Both are intentional.

Random means unknown, and only that. Therefore we cannot have a panel which is “randomly” comprised, because we have a known number and a known topic. So the odds of constructing such an impossibility, i.e. a “random” panel, are 0.

Why is hearing mathematicians talk about math of any interest? I’d bet the majority of human beings wouldn’t have the slightest interest in attending that panel. But if they would, which would they choose: a panel comprised of the the best of the best in all of math or perhaps in some specialty, or any old mathematicians, say, the first five we meet? Obviously the former, which is the assumption the panel creators probably make. The cause of creating the panel is multifaceted.

The Atlantic says Martin began his model with a “‘conservative’ assumption that 24 percent of Ph.D.s in mathematics have been granted to women over the last 25 years” and that “he finds that it’s statistically impossible that a speakers’ lineup including one woman and 19 men could be random.” The implication is that organizers toss every mathematician’s name into a hat and pull out twenty, a move which would surely place a few non-males on panels. You can even mathematically model this, as Martin did.

But who wants a panel like that? Not every mathematician is worth listening to. Most, like most people, are only average at their jobs, and some are even below average. Only a few are at the top. We want to hear from those at the top. And those at the top, for whatever reason, are more than predominately men.

A non-man The Atlantic linked to (because she’s pals with Martin) started off her article “If, like me, you still find yourself shaking your fist at the abysmal numbers of women speakers at your average STEM conference, and you enjoy a bit of geeking out over math…”

That’s an odd thing to say. Why would you want to have non-man speakers at an event where you anticipate “geeking out” over math? To hear them talk about their non-maleness? Wouldn’t this be better classified as geeking out over non-maleness? But that’s not really a STEM topic. Anyway, what does non-maleness have to do with math? Well, perhaps that has an answer, and perhaps not one some non-men would like to hear.

Even if the answer is “sexism”, that topic still has nothing to do with math. If the panel were convened to discuss sexism, then having non-men makes sense. But if the goal is to talk about this or that success in math as math, then purposely selecting non-men is itself sexist.

Another thing that bothers me is the scientism of Martin’s model. It couldn’t do what it set out to, because nobody in the world is interested in “random” panels. It was always clear that panels were caused to be, just as it was plain why the composition of certain panels are populated largely with men. Saying that you had a model to describe the rarity of non-men as if Science™ itself would, if left to itself, populate panels under the theorem of Equality is silly.

Last point: a clarification. Why panels of mathematicians? Or fast runners? Why not panels of nurturers? Or on motherhood? Or any of thousands of topics where the sex ratio would be just as skewed, but in the opposite direction and where nobody could complain?


Thanks to GK Graham at Twitter for suggesting this post.

Stream: Climate Circus, Climate Clowns at #COP21


Update Tell me: are we getting sick of discussing this topic, or what? It seems that, as is sane and rational, most of us would rather move on to something else. But the Green Horde moves ever forward. Its main tactic (used by all on the Left) is to wear you down. It works.

Today’s post is at The Stream: Climate Circus, Climate Clowns at #COP21. It was inevitable that this would turn into a circus. There is no science at COP21, just fantasy.

It’s clear that the Paris global warming—excuse, me: climate change—conference is a circus in the best tradition of circuses. There are parades, concessions, a Big Top, even boat shows, and a general spirit of fun.

And, of course, every circus has its clowns. Clowns lift our spirits and make us laugh. They are silly and antic. They say preposterous things. They keep the show going when attention begins the flag. Let’s hear it for the clowns! Clowns like this:

Bernie “The Government Should Control Everything” Sanders, erstwhile presidential candidate, slapped on the paint and did his level best to make the world giggle by revealing his Master Plan to “bring climate deniers to justice.” I agree, Bern, old son; we should be brought to justice—and be rewarded for our prescience, perspicacity, and perseverance in the face of nonsense like calls to “Stop climate change!” A more pseudo-scientific statement you’d be hard pressed to discover. Saying that you can stop the climate from changing is like saying you can stop socialists from spending other people’s money.

Dictator and brutalist Robert Mugabe, an accomplished thief with impressive credentials in fingering “aid” money shipped to Zimbabwe, went the traditional route and painted exaggerated white tears on his cheeks. Mugabe leads the African Bloc and has accused the West of being “miserly” with its promised largess of $100 billion per year. He wants that money to “eradicate poverty”. It surely would. It’s a sure thing, Bobby, that if you got that money, you won’t be going broke.

Go there to read the rest. If you can stomach it.

Memo to GOP Presidential Hopefuls (Who Aren’t Named Trump). Guest Post by The BB


Mr Editor says: note the name of the author.

Dear GOP Presidential Hopeful,

You are probably wondering why your campaign isn’t turning out as well as you expected. Up to now, you’ve followed the conventional playbook for running for president. You have name recognition. You have a decent enough resume. You are out there on the trail, shaking hands and kissing babies, but your poll numbers can’t get out of the doldrums. What can you do to up your game?

(1) Disavow “politics as usual”. Big campaigns run on big money. And big money means big favors. You’ve courted the moneymen, you’ve done some behind-the-scenes meetings with some corporate types to assess their support. If there hasn’t been any actual quid pro quo, there were probably a couple winks and elbow nudges. The public perceives politics to be a dirty business, and is tired of being on the hook for a bailout here and a bailout there. The reality is that you need outside funding, but you have to work to assure the voters that you are looking after their interests.

(2) Work on messaging. What is your message? What do you want to accomplish as president? Can you state the three or four things that are at the top of your list briefly, without weighing yourself down with caveats and legal exceptions? This is a campaign, and it is perfectly fine to talk in broad strokes. Remember that Obama wanted to “close Guantanamo”? Very clever pitch-pithy, and spoken directly to his base. Has anyone noticed that Guantanamo is still open? Does anyone really care? This is not an endorsement of abandoning one’s campaign promises, but an example of the general rhetoric that a candidate is expected to employ.

If you are stuck for an idea of what you stand for, consider:

(A) Terrorism (yes, you have to say that terrorism is a problem and that you are willing to work to combat it);

(B) Immigration (of course there are potentially wonderful citizens streaming across our borders, but there needs to be some reassurance that the bad guys can be accounted for);

(C) Healthcare (the status quo is going to put most of the country in the poor house keeping up with the premiums, never mind the actual billings for doctor visits);

(D) Energy (the whole “climate change” shenanigans fit here);

(E) Jobs (this also applies to immigration; what kind of work will these newcomers be doing? How can a healthy middle glass be sustained and expanded?);

(F) Education (how can young adults move from education to jobs without incurring five- or six-figure debt? Note: the solution is not “free” college for anyone who asks.)

(3) Manage the media. Journalists are experts in getting candidates to be tongue-tied. They glory in the “gotcha”. Don’t be extemporaneous in your interactions with reporters. Stay on message. As you gain in the polls, you will be mocked. Persevere, and don’t let the media make you walk back or dilute your core message.

(4) Articulate your position on social issues. In the current era, this is a tough one for conservatives, because it the larger culture has galloped on to be more than overwhelmingly favorable to abortion and gay “marriage”, and is heading in the same direction and pace on euthanasia. There is the matter of law, and there is also the matter of your conscience. Your task is to balance both, without seeming to be offensive to anyone. If you can state your beliefs sincerely, and also acknowledge the status of the law, you will able to better navigate these tricky waters.

(5) Cross-over appeal. Mrs. Clinton does not necessarily have a lock on the Democrats. There are many Reagan Democrats and others who have been disaffected and disillusioned by the current president and the direction of the Democrat party. There is a wide swath of Democrats who will gladly put their name on your dance card. You need to reach out to these voters, and show that that you can work together.

(6) Pretend like you’re enjoying this. The public is treated to reel after reel of the GOP candidates looking like they just stepped in a pile of horse manure. Honestly, you don’t look like you are enjoying the campaign. You seem like you can’t take a joke or have a laugh. The general effect you have is that you look like you’ve been sucking on lemons. Would it kill you to crack a smile? If your intimates and family claim that you are warm and friendly person, show it.

The public is looking forward to an energetic, enthused, and reinvigorated campaign. Remember, it’s yours to lose. Sorry, I mean win.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Eternal

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.

God is eternal. Okay, what does that mean? God is happy. So what is happiness?

Chapter 99 That God’s Life Is Eternal. (alternate translation)

[1] IT follows from this that God’s life is eternal. For nothing ceases to live except by being severed from life. But nothing can be severed from itself: for all severance results from the separation of one thing from another. Therefore it is impossible that God cease to live, since Himself is His own life, as we have proved.

[2] Again. Whatever sometimes is and sometimes is not, results from a cause: for nothing brings itself from not-being to being: since what is not yet, acts not. Now the divine life has no cause, as neither has the divine existence. Therefore He is not sometimes living and sometimes not living, but is ever living. Therefore His life is eternal…

[4] Moreover. God is utterly unchangeable, as we have proved above. But that which begins or ceases to live, or is subject to succession in living, is changeable: for the life of a being begins by generation and ceases by corruption, and succession results from change of some kind. Therefore God neither began to be, nor will cease to be, nor is subject to succession in living. Therefore His life is eternal.

Notes This accords with divine simplicity, which not only states God is not made of parts, but that God is not changing. If you like, the state of non-changeability is the definition of eternity. So how does a non-changing God interact with the contingent, i.e. the changeable, i.e. us? I have no idea. We do know, back from Chapter 13, to which we are ever hearkening back, that God is the first cause of all secondary causes, which is to say, of all changes. And we know God himself is unchangeable, but that without Him nothing changeable changes! So the unchangeable changes the changeable; Actuality itself activates all potentials. Again, how? Again, I have no idea. This is where metaphysics and physics meet, the Grand Unification Theory if you like.

Chapter 100 That God Is Happy. (alternate translation)

[1] IT remains for us to show from the foregoing that God is happy. For happiness is the proper good of every intellectual nature. Since then God is intelligent, His proper good is happiness. Now He is compared to His proper good, not as that which tends to a good not yet possessed–for this belongs to a nature that is changeable and in potentiality, but as that which already possesses its proper good. Wherefore He not only desires happiness, as we do, but enjoys it. Therefore He is happy…

[3] Again. Every desire is set at rest by happiness; because once it is possessed nothing remains to be desired, for it is the last end. Accordingly He must be happy, since He is perfect in all things that can be desired; wherefore Boethius says that happiness is a state made perfect by the assemblage of all good things. Now such is the divine perfection that it contains every perfection with simplicity, as shown above. Therefore He is truly happy.

[4] Again. As long as a person lacks that which he needs, he is not yet happy: for his desire is not yet set at rest. Whosoever, therefore, is self-sufficient, needing nothing, is happy. Now it was proved above that God needs not other things, since His perfection depends on nothing outside Him: nor does He will other things for His own sake as their end, as though He needed them, but merely because this is befitting His goodness. Therefore He is happy.

[5] Further. It has been proved that God cannot will what is impossible. Now it is impossible for anything to accrue to Him that He has not already, since He is nowise in potentiality, as we have shown. Therefore He cannot will to have what He has not. Whatever then He wills He has. Nor does He will anything ill, as we have proved. Therefore He is happy, according as some assert that a happy man is one who has whatever he desires, and desires nothing amiss.

Notes That God cannot will the impossible was Chapter 84; regular readers will recall this Chapter the occasion of one of Aquinas’s rare jokes. Taking only the definition of happiness as a kind of repleteness is, I think, uncontroversial.

Next week we finish the topic of happiness, and, more important, finish the first book of {\it Summa Contra Gentiles}! This leaves us three more to go. If it’s any indication, it took us about a year to get through the first book.