William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 149 of 644

Is Laverne Cox Still A Man? Or, The Coming Transgender Wars


Meet Bob. Bob is 38 and possess an X and Y chromosome. He has been married to Cindy for almost 10 years and has with her sired two children.

But Bob is unhappy. Upon reading Time magazine he came up with a brilliant idea to cheer himself.

First thing he did was to say goodbye to the kids, divorce Cindy, and move out of the house to his own place. Is Bob still a man? Yes, he is.

Bob next took to wearing lipstick. Is Bob still a man? Yes, he is. However, he didn’t think painting his lips provided the fullness he desired, so he had silicone injected into them, which produced, said Bob, a charming effect. Is Bob still a man? Yes, he is.

Pants were exchanged for skirts, high-heeled for low-heeled shows, and a bra and other accoutrements were added. Is Bob still a man? Yes, he is.

He thought his voice too deep, so he had a fellow give him chemicals which, if taken regularly, would soften it. The same fellow gave him other chemicals which removed Bob’s beard and made his facial skin smoother. Is Bob still a man? Yes, he is.

Bob changed his name to Bobbi. Is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

Bobbi managed to find a person with a knife who promised Bobbi he would not have to live with those extensions of Bobbi’s which were a torment to him, and who said that those parts could be shaped into objects which would surely please Bobbi. Is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

Still more chemicals were added to the regime and Bobbi took to checking “Female” on applications which asked for “gender.” Is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

One day Bobbi ventured into a business whose owner refused to call him a female. He explained to this stranger that he was a woman, but the stranger would not acquiesce. “Are you not still a man?” the stranger asked. “Yes, you are.”

So Bobbi went to his congressional representative and asked that the law be changed to force people to call him the “gender” he wanted to be. The representative introduced a bill which made calling somebody other than the “gender” he wished to be called a crime. The bill said refusing was hate speech and discrimination and that a person’s “gender” status could not be the basis of any decision anybody would make of him.

The law was passed. Is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

Bobbi returned to the stranger and showed him the law. “You now have to call me a woman,” said Bobbi. “But you are a man,” said the stranger. “So I refuse.”

This was intolerable to Bobbi, who went straight to the authorities and to the press. The authorities instituted a fine on the stranger’s business and informed the stranger that as long as he refused to comply with the law, he must continue paying the fine.

Is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

The press hated the stranger and told the world that the stranger was a bigot and full of hate. The people took up this cry and vowed to ruin the stranger and his business by any and all means necessary. The press quoted the stranger as saying, “I cannot call a man a woman. I must only tell the truth. Science is on my side. Besides, the man is obviously insane.”

The stranger received threats of death, his business failed, and he had to go into hiding. But he was summoned before a judge to explain why he had stopped paying the fine. “Judge,” the stranger began, “why are you discriminating against my beliefs? Why are the bigots who caused my ruin not called to answer for themselves? I didn’t pay the fine because I lost my business and am now unemployed.”

The judge said, “We celebrate diversity of thought in this court and in this land. Hateful views like yours are not welcome. Competent medical authorities confirm that it is your sanity which is in question, not Bobbi’s. Since you no longer have a business, you may go, but let what happened to you be a lesson for all.”

Yet is Bobbi still a man? Yes, he is.

Update It didn’t take long, but arguing that Bobbi is still a man is now “hate speech” and “transphobic”. As predicted. Prediction number two is that the non-mentally ill will be forced to go along with Bobbi’s fantasy or face fines, etc. One year?

From this, in answer to the rhetorical “What’s wrong with that?” and “Why not just go along?”:

I often use the analogy of an alcoholic. If one truly loves or respects a person who is an alcoholic, one would not suggest to him that we celebrate together his alcoholism in an Alcoholic Pride Day and then invite him to a bar for some drinks. That would be a form of condescension to an alcoholic. It would be a sign of disrespect.


Summary Against Modern Thought: Faith, Proof, & The A Priori

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.

Chapter 5: That those things which cannot be investigated by reason are fittingly proposed to man as an object of faith

(4) There results also another advantage from this, namely, the checking of presumption which is the mother of error. For some there are who presume so far on their wits that they think themselves capable of measuring the whole nature of things by their intellect, in that they esteem all things true which they see, and false which they see not. Accordingly, in order that man’s mind might be freed from this presumption, and seek the truth humbly, it was necessary that certain things far surpassing his intellect should be proposed to man by God.i

(5) Yet another advantage is made apparent by the words of the Philosopher (10 Ethic.).[3] For when a certain Simonides maintained that man should neglect the knowledge of God, and apply his mind to human affairs, and declared that a man ought to relish human things, and a mortal, mortal things: the Philosopher contradicted him, saying that a man ought to devote himself to immortal and divine things as much as he can. Hence he says (11 De Animal.)[4] that though it is but little that we perceive of higher substances, yet that little is more loved and desired than all the knowledge we have of lower substances. He says also (2 De Coelo et Mundo)[5] that when questions about the heavenly bodies can be answered by a short and probable solution, it happens that the hearer is very much rejoiced. All this shows that however imperfect the knowledge of the highest things may be, it bestows very great perfection on the soul: and consequently, although human reason is unable to grasp fully things that are above reason, it nevertheless acquires much perfection, if at least it hold things, in any way whatever, by faith…ii

Chapter 6: That it is not a mark of levity to assent to the things that are of faith, although they are above reason

(4) On the other hand those who introduced the errors of the sects proceeded in contrary fashion, as instanced by Mohammed, who enticed peoples with the promise of carnal pleasures, to the desire of which the concupiscence of the flesh instigates. He also delivered commandments in keeping with his promises, by giving the reins to carnal pleasure, wherein it is easy for carnal men to obey: and the lessons of truth which he inculcated were only such as can be easily known to any man of average wisdom by his natural powers: yea rather the truths which he taught were mingled by him with many fables and most false doctrines. Nor did he add any signs of supernatural agency, which alone are a fitting witness to divine inspiration, since a visible work that can be from God alone, proves the teacher of truth to be invisibly inspired: but he asserted that he was sent in the power of arms, a sign that is not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. Again, those who believed in him from the outset were not wise men practised in things divine and human, but beastlike men who dwelt in the wilds, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching; and it was by a multitude of such men and the force of arms that he compelled others to submit to his law…iii

Chapter 7: That the truth of reason is not in opposition to the truth of the Christian faith

(1) NOW though the aforesaid truth of the Christian faith surpasses the ability of human reason, nevertheless those things which are naturally instilled in human reason cannot be opposed to this truth. For it is clear that those things which are implanted in reason by nature, are most true, so much so that it is impossible to think them to be false.iv

Nor is it lawful to deem false that which is held by faith, since it is so evidently confirmed by God. Seeing then that the false alone is opposed to the true, as evidently appears if we examine their definitions, it is impossible for the aforesaid truth of faith to be contrary to those principles which reason knows naturally.v

(2) Again. The same thing which the disciple’s mind receives from its teacher is contained in the knowledge of the teacher, unless he teach insincerely, which it were wicked to say of God. Now the knowledge of naturally known principles is instilled into us by God, since God Himself is the author of our nature. Therefore the divine Wisdom also contains these principles. Consequently whatever is contrary to these principles, is contrary to the divine Wisdom; wherefore it cannot be from God. Therefore those things which are received by faith from divine revelation cannot be contrary to our natural knowledge.vi

(3) Moreover. Our intellect is stayed by contrary arguments, so that it cannot advance to the knowledge of truth. Wherefore if conflicting knowledges were instilled into us by God, our intellect would thereby be hindered from knowing the truth. And this cannot be ascribed to God.vii

(4) Furthermore. Things that are natural are unchangeable so long as nature remains. Now contrary opinions cannot be together in the same subject. Therefore God does not instill into man any opinion or belief contrary to natural Knowledge…

(7) From this we may evidently conclude that whatever arguments are alleged against the teachings of faith, they do not rightly proceed from the first self-evident principles instilled by nature. Wherefore they lack the force of demonstration, and are either probable or sophistical arguments, and consequently it is possible to solve them.viii


iModern intellectuals particularly avoid learning about or discussing God. The subject embarrasses them. At best, they might eagerly accept a weak counter-argument for God’s existence, glad to be shot of the obligation to investigate further, shoot opinions off the cuff, or quote a supposed witticism by some untutored New Atheist. Shameful behavior, really, on such an important question. Why not let’s examine the best arguments, as we should in all areas? Though St Thomas is right to emphasize that there are some things above us that we must take on faith, just as the common do when confronting most technical claims of Science—not everybody can understand all things. I repeat that we won’t be taking anything on faith, except for those bits of knowledge that come in-built (i.e. a priori knowledge).

ii[I]t happens that the hearer is very much rejoiced“. Isn’t this what the materialist rightly says about the higher truths in Science? That knowing it depths brings joy? Knowledge is good for its own sake. It us why mathematicians call their theorems beautiful. It is why once you hear St Thomas’s arguments in Chapter 13 and beyond, you will be happy.

iiiOf course, nowadays most come to Islam via other paths, but the promised carnality doesn’t hurt. Seventy-two virgins, is it? Not that all Muslims take that belief literally, of course. However, what Thomas says applies, I think, to the current rage for materialism. I can call myself any gender I want? Sign me up. What matters is what I desire and not what is? I’m right there with you. We are running from physics and metaphysics as fast as we can, straight into the arms of ourselves.

Mark Twain thought that the lack of a carnal nature in the afterlife of Christians was an argument against belief. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven bothered him greatly. Yet Plato in his Republic taught us that with age comes the diminishing of carnal thoughts and distractions, he showed us the great freedoms which accompanies this release.

ivNotice that this does work for propositions implanted by evolution. Suppose we were born with the innate knowledge that fire is hot because the unfit among our ancestors were burnt, much in the same way many animals are born with an innate fear of man. In this case, evolution would be creating a built-in belief which was true. But then suppose we were born with the innate idea that that we believe ideas because they make us happy and allow group cohesion, i.e. our ancestors who had happy notions bred more copiously than our ancestors who demanded proof and evidence. How would you ever know if you were a member of the former group? You could be fooling yourself that was actually false you think true because it is comforting. For example, we could be born with a gene for atheism (it can’t be that believing you are of variable “gender” or “sexuality” will help your reproductive chances). There is no reason to trust evolution leads to truth. We’re stuck with metaphysics and the grueling task of proving difficult claims.

On the other hand, there are some truths implanted in us, though not be evolution, that are true and impossible to think other than true. That a thing cannot exist and not exist simultaneously is one. That nothing which is not already actual can be a cause. That if x and y are integers and if x = y, then y = x. I don’t know if anybody has collected these truths. Would make a fascinating monograph.

vBe careful to understand Thomas is claiming a conditional true. If God told you to believe X because it is true, then X cannot be false. You needed yet believe in God to believe, which you must, that statement. See paragraph (3) for clarification.

viAnd now we see the candidate source for our a priori knowledge.

viiGod cannot lie to us (another conditional statement). But we sure can lie to ourselves (true by multiple overwhelming observation).

viiiI skipped over the (conditional) arguments about the veracity of scripture, which you won’t yet believe, and are at this point distracting. Thomas is talking to the teacher in the excised paragraphs, not the student. But here he repeats that we shall test and prove all things. I emphasize that you will not be asked to swallow anything, that all will be given ample demonstration.

Note We’re just getting past the introductory material and into the good stuff! Like I said, the juiciest bits start in Chapter 13, which I think we’ll reach in two or three weeks. Stick around.

[3] vii. 8
[4] De Part. Animal. i. 5.
[5] xii. 1.

Killing Children Legally In Belgium

Madam, your child appears insufficiently happy.

Madam, your child appears insufficiently happy.

Euthanasia, the purposeful killing of another human being supposing or claiming his consent, represents the triumph of utilitarianism. When a life is deemed no longer “useful” or capable of generating pleasure, that supreme goal which animates the lives of us Moderns, it is snuffed out and buried—though perhaps pieces of the body are first salvaged for use in other units.

Belgium now allows children to be killed by “doctors”, a profession once given to the preservation of life but now one, at least in Enlightened countries, equally devoted to taking it (don’t forget abortions), albeit in the most efficient cost-effective sanitary way possible. Oddly, in the countries where it still occurs, “doctors” are increasingly being used in executions, not just to certify death but to cause it. Makes a change from a firing squad manned by civilians ignorant of the finer points of human anatomy.

Anyway, if the Internet does not lie, the voting age in Belgium is 18. Marriage has to wait until 18, the same year one may begin a career as a prostitute. The legal age to attempt to create life is 16, the same age one is allowed to enter unguided into a dance contest. Children before these ages are deemed insufficiently ready to rise to the listed challenges.

But a child may request its own death at the hand of a Belgian “doctor” at any age. According to the article “Pediatric Euthanasia in Belgium: Disturbing Developments” in JAMA by Andrew Siegel and others, “In addition to requiring the child’s own voluntary and explicit request for euthanasia, the new law requires parental consent, excludes children with an intellectual disability or mental illness, and mandates a multidisciplinary team carefully examine the child’s capacity for discernment.”

Have no fear. Experts are on the case. If the multidisciplinary team says the child knows what its doing when it asks to be slaughtered, then the child understands. The only real question is what sort of experience is required to be a member of a multidisciplinary team. Butcher? Chicago Alderman? Income tax bureaucrat? Driving instructor?

See how this sentence from Siegel grabs you: “In March 2005, recognizing the rising incidence of pediatric euthanasia without any legal sanction, physicians at the University Medical Center of Groningen, in the Netherlands, published practice guidelines for the ethical implementation of euthanasia for severely disabled newborns.” This is called the Groningen Protocol.

Wait. The rising incidence of pediatric euthanasia without any legal sanction? I don’t know about you, but the last place I’d want to take my kid in the Netherlands is to the “doctor.”

Not to unduly highlight the city, but this is like saying “Recognizing the rising incidence of murder without legal sanction, politicians in Chicago published practice guidelines for the ethical implementation of the killing of South Side residents” and calling these guidelines the Chicago Protocol. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

Siegel and friends agree with history: “[Children] lack the intellectual capacity to develop a sophisticated preference against palliative interventions of last resort. Instead, in the case of the new Belgian law, children seem to be asked to choose between unbearable suffering on the one hand and death on the other.”

And: “The criterion related to the ‘capacity for discernment’ runs the risk of ignoring the fact that children and adolescents lack the experiential knowledge and sense of self that adults often invoke—rightly or wrongly—at the end of their lives.”

Since Siegel is himself a physician, he couldn’t bring himself to admit, in print anyway, that doctors are often wrong about their diagnoses and prognoses in end-of-life illnesses. Death, unless there be divine intervention, is still the one unrecoverable mistake. So he and his co-authors, both ethicists like Yours Truly, argue instead of resorting to the knife, “aggressive” palliative care should be used to relieve pain. “Such interventions are far more ethical than allowing clinicians to euthanize children who do not possess the cognitive and emotional sophistication to either need or comprehend what they might appear to seek.”

I am glad to see these words in so prominent a journal. It means hope is not yet lost. I can’t help but find them a delaying action, though. American elites are jealous of European innovations and hate to see themselves left behind in any cause du mort. Given their penchant for redefining reality, it can’t be too much longer before we see editorials entitled, “Let Poor Susie Die.”

UpdateSwiss group to allow assisted dying for elderly who are not terminally ill: Exit adds ‘suicide due to old age’ to its statutes…” When you gotta go, you gotta go.


Thanks to Bruce Foutch @ChristosArgyrop for alerting us to this article.

There Is No Such Thing As Intrinsic Probability


This is less fun than looking at the so-called principle of indifference, which you must read first, and I realize we’re wading into the depths and on a Friday, but I wanted to finish Draper’s paper for two reasons: a few people are interested, and if I don’t do it now, I never will.

Draper defines intrinsic probability for a hypothesis (proposition) as the “probability independent of the evidence we possess for or against it.” Since probability is epistemological and not ontological, and since all probability is conditional of stated premises, I cannot see how this definition makes any sense. There is no such thing as unconditional probability, therefore there can’t be “intrinsic” probability. The closet we could come is if probability was ontological, which it isn’t. Nevertheless, let’s examine his justification and see what comes of it.

Intrinsic probability “consists of three postulates: that intrinsic probability depends on modesty, that it depends on coherence, and that it does not depend on anything else.”


“The degree of modesty of a hypothesis depends inversely on how much it asserts (that we do not know by rational intuition to be true). Other things being equal, hypotheses that are narrower in scope or less specific assert less and so are more modest than hypotheses that are broader in scope or more specific.”

One example of “modesty” he gives is “the hypothesis that either Hilary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi will be the 45th President of the United States is less specific and thus intrinsically more probable than the hypothesis that Joe Biden will be the 45th President.”

This is meaningless as it stands, unless it is accompanied by conditions/evidence/premises. It is the same as asking, “What is the probability that ‘A Schmenge will come out‘”? There is no tying that proposition to anything; it has no probability, not unconditionally. No proposition does. You are left groundless if you are wholly ignorant of the meaning or context of the proposition. It is like asking what is the intrinsic probability of ‘雪是黑的’ (which I hope I have right)? Unless you read traditional Chinese, unless, that is, you accept premises such as the meaning of the symbols, you can’t answer. There is no intrinsic probability.

Now if I offer E = ‘There are 12 people in the room two of which are Schmenges and one person must come out” the probability of ‘A Schmenge comes out’ given E is 1/6. But if E = ‘There are two people in the room both of which are Schmenges and one person must come out’ the probability of ‘A Schmenge comes out’ given this E is 1. Change the premises, change the probability.

I think Draper might have in mind evidence something like E = ‘There will be n candidates for the 45th President of the US, and these include Clinton, Pelosi and Biden, and only one candidate will win’. Given that, and given only that E, the probability of ‘Clinton or Pelosi wins’ is 2/n, which is higher than ‘Biden wins’, which has probability 1/n.

With the ‘A Schmenge comes out’, unless you knew, as all good people should know, Cabbage Rolls and Coffee, you had nothing to bring to the mental table. No evidence or premises sprang to your mind, thus the probability seemed incalculable. There was no intrinsic evidence for it, thus no intrinsic probability.

Premises surely do swim into view—it is impossible for most of us to keep from this—when assessing whether Joe “Are My Hair Plugs Too Tight?” Biden versus Hilary “What’s A Benghazi?” Clinton will win the Democrat nomination, let alone the presidency. For myself, I judge Mrs Clinton to have a higher chance than Mr Biden, who in my opinion missed the turn off to Sanity quite a few miles back. But maybe you have a different idea. If so, you will have a different probability for Draper’s propositions, but only because you have different evidence. No piece of evidence is more intrinsic than any other. But if we agree on the evidence, such as that I supposed Draper might have had in mind, then we have to agree on the probability.


“To the extent that the various claims entailed by a hypothesis support each other (relative only to what we know by rational intuition), the hypothesis is more coherent.” His example, which will take a couple of readings:

Consider, for example, the hypothesis that all crows are black. This hypothesis is identical to the hypothesis that all non-Asian crows are black and all Asian crows are black. Now compare this hypothesis to a second hypothesis, namely, that all non-Asian crows are black and all Asian crows are white. The two hypotheses are equally modest, but not equally coherent. The first half of both hypotheses states that all non-Asian crows are black. This supports the second half of the first hypothesis, which states that Asian crows are also black, while it counts against the second half of the second hypothesis, which states that Asian crows are white. Thus, the hypothesis that non-Asian and Asian crows are all black is more coherent and thus intrinsically more probable than the equally modest hypothesis that all non-Asian crows are black and all Asian crows are white.

Proposition 1: P1 = ‘All non-Asian crows are black and all Asian crows are black’. Proposition 2: P2 = ‘All non-Asian crows are black and all Asian crows are white.’ Draper claims the probability of P1 is “intrinsically more probable” than P2.

Again, since both propositions are anchor-free there just is no probability. Suppose I invent E = ‘All the crows I have seen are black’, then P1 is more probable than P2 given this E, only because P2 allows crows of a color I haven’t yet seen. Or suppose E = ‘Animal species coloring is independent of continent’ then again P1 is more probable than P2 given this E. But then I might have E = ‘Animals are lighter colored in Asia than in other continents’, then P1 is less probable than P2 given this E.

If Draper thinks P2 less probable than P1 he must have some sort of “uniformity of animal color” evidence in mind. Maybe that evidence is even right, or close to right. But it’s still evidence even if it’s unstated, meaning there is no “intrinsic” probability of either proposition only probabilities conditional on tacit premises. And indeed Draper closes this section with the words (meant as self-proving), “More generally, hypotheses that attribute objective uniformity to the world are, other things being equal, intrinsically more probable than hypotheses that postulate synchronic or diachronic variety.”

Nothing else needed

“[I]ntrinsic probability does not depend on anything else besides modesty and coherence.” His proof is “ask yourself: what else could the intrinsic probability of a hypothesis depend on besides how little the hypothesis says (its modesty) and how well what it says fits together (its coherence)?” Meh.

Extensions & Homework

There’s more to Draper’s paper, but that’s enough for us. I believe Draper recognized the weaknesses given above, which is why the paper was never published, so there’s no point going on and on. He does bring up the venerable grue (which I just realized we never did), and Richard Swinburne’s ideas of intrinsic probability (which I say are also wrong), and induction. But enough’s enough for today.

Now homework. Dissect these examples in the manner I did above, to show they do not have intrinsic probability, but that all have tacit unacknowledged premises. Hint about the arsenic example: how hard is it to exclude all you already know about arsenic before answering this?

1. Under modesty. “First, the hypothesis that all cats are curious is narrower in scope and so intrinsically more probable than the hypothesis that all animals are curious.”

2. Under coherence. “[T]he hypothesis that all arsenic is poisonous to human beings is intrinsically more likely to be true than the hypothesis that, while all observed arsenic is poisonous, all unobserved arsenic is nutritious.”

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