William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 148 of 718

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.

Sustaining Envy—Guest Post by Jim Fedako

The eternal question: To fry or to roast?

The eternal question: To fry or to roast?

According to Helmut Schoek (Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour), envy is a driving force behind the way societies are structured. And when a society succumbs to the collective force of individual envy, it inevitably slides toward one of the various -isms that filled 100 million graves in the twentieth century.

Sustainability is a recent manifestation of a certain strain of envy. This strain, though usually veiled behind rising cries of altruistic concern, is envy through-and-through. And like a virus, it is ever-present, and sometimes epidemic.

In the 70s, the virus was relatively benign. Those suffering from the ailment would occasionally accuse someone in a fancy German car of supporting the Holocaust. It made the envious feel a tad better—momentarily, anyway.

According to the envious, their accusations did not arise from the fact that they—the rich—had what we—the envious—wanted. Instead, the envious claimed their accusations were nothing other than an expression of disgust that the rich had cars built by companies with historical ties to the Nazi machine. Plausible, but not marketable. So, while the ailment spread, it never went truly viral, so to speak.

But then came the seal pups. Envy had softened its edge and become more subtle. Instead of, “rich man in his fancy car,” it was, “seal killer.” This allowed those who despised the success of others to claim they were justified in throwing paint on expensive fur coats. And who dared defend the rich over seal pups bludgeoned on beaches of the Newfoundland and elsewhere?

As with all epidemics, it ended as resistance grew. Yet, the virus changed slightly and reappeared as climate change. And, just as before, envy was veiled behind cries of concern. While “seal killers” was too parochial, impending destruction of the earth was garishly global. The cries of climate change quickly reduced any remaining resistance and another viral epidemic of envy ensued.

Now that two decades without warming have finally immunized the masses, the envy virus has morphed into sustainability—a concept that can never be defined, and never has to be.

Regardless of appearances, sustainability is simply one more manifestation of envy.

Certainly, this is only one thread through recent trends toward collectivism. Nevertheless, this is true: those who cannot control their envious hearts continually look for some sleight of hand to misdirect attention from their own sins. And, in doing so, nudge us ever closer to a slide toward those vile -isms.

Editor’s question How much does envy drive sustainability compared to the other deadly sins?

Bad Science Of The Year Nominee: Global Warming To Cause Bad Music

Perhaps climate change is the cause of this young man.

Perhaps climate change is the cause of this young man.

Strike the title. It’s probably wrong. But, if so, it was an understandable mistake. After all, it was based on the news article “Music: Will climate change give us the blues?“. The answer is, according to Oxford’s Karen Aplin,—drum rollyes.

Every part of the article contributed to the notion that Aplin’s study would make the shortlist of the uncoveted Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award. Consider: didn’t the reporter of that article say “the weather has powerfully but discreetly influenced the soundtrack to our lives”? She did.

And didn’t Aplin herself say, “These assumptions we have about certain weather being good and certain weather being bad, like sun being good — that might change”? Aye. She did. She also said that though some were enjoying the current warm weather, they might not always. “But if it’s going to be 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every summer for 10 years… that might change how people feel about the weather and the emotions they link to it.”

What of the study itself that hinted of its potential?

Aplin and five other scientists combed through databases of more than 15,000 pop songs, finding statistical backing for the assumption that our moods are strongly swayed by the weather.

These emotions, in turn, are expressed in the music that artists compose and what the public likes to hear…

They searched song titles, band names and lyrics for references to weather.

“We found about 800,” said Aplin.

And what did these songs say about the weather?

The sun was referenced most often, followed closely by rain, although “pretty much all types of weather came up”, said Aplin.

The seasons and wind or breeze were third and fourth most popular, while “frost” and “blizzard” were at the bottom of the list.

A quick YouTube search reveals one Gary Moore sang of the inclement weather one might find on descending from Heaven to that other place. And he didn’t sound too happy about it, either. Aplin concurs: “What we found about pop music was that the lyrics can be used very clearly to link the weather to a particular emotion, and usually the sun is positive and rain is negative.”

Who knew?

Of course, this is science, so she dug deeper. “An exception was some Country and Western songs, which ‘talked about rain as a positive thing: it brings crops and food'”.

So how does global warming figure in this? Aplin is glad you asked.

[There is the] potential for a shift in musical themes if climate change brings ever-more frequent extreme weather events, as predicted.

Chirpy songs about sunshine and gentle summer breezes could get elbowed in favour of darker, more dramatic fare…

“Under climate change, the type of weather people are influenced by to write might change,” said Aplin.

“You might find more songs about severe weather because that is more part of people’s live, or a backdrop to their lives, than the weather we have now.”

Now I ask you: based on these first appearances alone, wouldn’t it seem likely Aplin’s study was headed for a certain entry in this year’s BSA nominees?

Then it struck me. When did hip hop first attack the public’s ears? Right: the mid 1980s to mid 1990s. The same time global warming took off. And when did all that Techno and other such electronica, sounds designed to simulate music and cause incurable brain damage, infiltrate our shores? You know it: in the late 1990s. Just when the globe was doing some serious heating up.

Aplin might be right. What else accounts for phenomena like Justin Bieber and Beyonce? How else can you explain that we are forcibly made to hear execrable music in every public space? Since we’re no longer allowed to believe in Satan, climate change is the only possible candidate remaining possessing enough inherent evilness to do the job.

Lastly, I dug up this old scientific paper: Global Warming Increases Disastrous Music: A Scientific Paper. Abstract:

Global warming has reached unprecedented, dangerous levels. This is beyond question. Soaring temperatures are causing an increase in weather- and climate-related FEAM-tracked disasters (P < 0.001), thus stressing both the economies and the psyches of Western Civilization. These environmental and economic stressors are beginning to take their toll and have resulted in a rapid, unprecedented increase in musical awfulness (P < 0.001). If these trends are allowed to continue, music will soon have devolved into a debauched state so awful that hearing a pop tune will cause irreversible brain damage.

Update This (incomplete) list is apropos: Music that makes you dumb. Maybe somebody can “link it” to global warming.

Grandmaster: Men Better At Chess. Or, Data And The Underdetermination Of Theory


Update Note the New & Improved title!

Chess Grandmaster Nigel Short caused a stink, reaching oooo-weee! but not quite burn-him! levels, when he said that men and women are different and that men are better at chess than women.

Yes he did. He said the two sexes are “hard-wired very differently”. From The Telegraph:

Speaking in the magazine New in Chess about the lack of women playing the game, Short said: “Why should they [men and women] function in the same way? I don’t have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife [Rea] possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do…”

He might have still been safe had he not added, “…we just have different skills. It would be wonderful to see more girls playing chess, and at a higher level, but rather than fretting about inequality, perhaps we should just gracefully accept it as a fact.”

And that goes smack! in the face in the Theory of Egalitarianism. There is no gracefully accepting any disparity under that Theory. All unlevel (yes, unlevel) surfaces must be pounded flat in the name of Fairness, a corollary of the Theory.

This is why female chess player Amanda Ross said in response to Short, it is “incredibly damaging when someone so respected basically endorses sexism”. Sexism is when a disparity of any kind exists between males and females and which is caused by men pushing down or limiting females. Egalitarianism demands disparities be abolished, but it also claims men should not be better at pushing-down than females, but this internal contradiction is never spoken of in public. Skip it.

Ross takes some comfort in the observation that a female once beat Short in a game, which to Ross proves males and females are equal. And she would be right if “equal at chess” meant “some woman somewhere can beat some man at chess.”

Evidently, this is not what Short meant when he said men and women were “unequal at chess.” He meant something like, “In any list of top players, the majority will be men.”

There exists such a list of living Grandmasters. The compilers admit that the odd entry might be deceased (the list is large), but they also claim it is generally correct. On the list there are 1413 men and 33 non-men. This evidence bolsters Short’s claim that men are better.

But it also boosts Ross’s theory that sexism is rampant!

You read that right: the same data supports both theories. Think about it. Short says men are superior chess players and here is a list showing they are. But Ross says mankind (and presumably culture) is sexist and keeps women from reaching top levels, and here is a list showing her prediction is right.

The data cannot decide which theory is true. The theories are underdetermined. And, of course,other theories might also explain the data. Men and women might be equal, but men like playing more. And so on.

There is no use bringing in Bayes’s Theorem and asking about “prior” probabilities on the truth of each theory, because the holders of both theories start by believing they are true. The data we have can’t shake either Short or Ross free from the conviction he or she is right. The data wouldn’t help us either if we are indifferent between the theories.

It is true that different data might support Short and Ross differently. Suppose on the list were 722 men and 722 non-men. Ross, claiming the triumph of equality over sexism, is upheld. But then it would be Short’s turn to claim that men really are superior, but the culture is pushing them down.

There is no general solution. The underdetermination of the contingent is a fact.

Collecting more data wouldn’t work, either. What we have to do, and even this is not a complete solution, is to look outside the data. For instance, chess is an abstract analytical activity. If Short is right, men should be better than women at other abstract analytical activities.

For Short to be right, only one thing must be true: men must have different brains. For Ross to be right, many more things must be happening in more places and at more times. Sexism under Ross’s scheme must operate like the nervous say the Trilateral Commission does: a worldwide occult top secret network with strange unstoppable powers.

If we accept the premise that fewer premises are more often associated with true theories, than there is good evidence Short is right. But it’s doubtful we’d get Ross to agree.

Close readers will realize that this article is one more argument against p-values.

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