William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Female-Named Hurricanes Deadlier Than Males. Implicit Sexism Kills!

This is Wilma. And boy is she unhappy.

This is Wilma. And boy is she unhappy.

“Say, Elbert. What’s the name of that there hurricane that’s fixin’ to pounce upon us?”

“Lolita, I think.”

“What? Lolita!? I ain’t evacuatin’ nowheres! Not for no fee-male ‘cane. Gimme that there beer and turn on the TV.”

Poor Earl and Elbert! Blown away by “implicit sexism.”

If only Earl read Discover or the Washington Post, which tells us of a “new groundbreaking study.” Groundbreaking!

It’s the PEER-REVIEWED paper “Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—the National Academy of Sciences!—by Kiju Jung, Sharon Shavitt, Madhu Viswanathan, and Joseph Hilbe. They say, “Laboratory experiments indicate [female-named hurricanes are deadlier] because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action.”

Look out! “This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.”

Everybody remembers how the media downplayed female-named Hurricane Sandy, right?

Listen. This paper has no near rival in sheer awfulness, as evidence by its opening sentence: “Estimates suggest that hurricanes kill more than 200 people in the United States annually, and severe hurricanes can cause fatalities in the thousands.”

If they checked the National Weather Services’s numbers, they’d’ve learned that in 2006 there were 0 fatalities, in 2007 just 1, in 2008 only 12, in 2009 a mere 2, in 2010 another 0, in 2011 a meager 9, in 2012 a paltry 3, in 2013 a whole 1. Update These are USA land deaths. See the comment from me to Dan Jones below.

Since 1940, only 4 years out of 74 had hurricanes which killed more than 200, the number they claim is the average. The 10-year average is 108 yearly deaths but the 30-year average is 47. Hurricane Katrina killed 1,106 in 2005 and bumped the 10-year average.

The authors used hurricanes from 1950 to 2012. Who remembers that up until 1979 hurricanes only had female names? Skip it. This is science, not history. They had “raters” “rate” the degree of femininity of hurricane names, from 1 to 11. Hurricane Flossy (1956) got a score of 7, but 1971’s Ginger beat her with a 10. Numbers are what make it science!

Here come the stats: “A series of negative binomial regression analyses were performed to investigate effects of perceived masculinity-femininity of hurricane names, minimum pressure, normalized damage, and the interactions among them on the number of deaths caused by the hurricanes”.

Guess what? Right! The regressions spat out wee p-values! Negative binomial regression! Your average bad paper relies on everyday ordinary regression. But this is negative binomial. Hoo Ah! does that sound impressive.

Wee p-values prove sexism kills, sisters and brothers. Statistics don’t lie. So what if hurricane names are assigned in advance before the season begins and before anybody has any idea of what may come? And so what if nobody in all of history can be found poo-pooing a hurricane because it had a girl’s name? Implicit sexism kills in the same way that splicing in a single frame of a photo of popcorn into a movie convinces people to buy it subliminally. I despair.

The authors must have conducted actual interviews with real people who recalled thinking about real hurricane names, and how they acted on the femininity of those names, right?

Wrong. They ran six “experiments” to generate fictional data instead.

First experiment asked 346 non-house owners (college kiddies) to ponder boy and girl hurricane names and predict the “intensity” of these from 1 to 7. “Arthur” had a mean fictional made-up imaginary pretend fantasy nothing-to-do-with-real-hurricanes “intensity” of 4.246—not 4.245, nor even 4.247, but 4.246—while Dolly had 4.014. Another wee p-value. What more proof do you need, you misogynist.

Another experiment scrapped 142 volunteers from the Internet and asked them to rate their “evacuation intentions” and fake hurricane “risk”, from 1 to 7 of course. Hurricane Christina had a mean 2.343 fictional made-up you-get-the-idea evacuation score, while Christopher had 2.939. More wee p-values, you sexist.

There were other experiments, but all were equally asinine and had zero bearing on any real-life decisions people make with real storms. The authors’ conclusion that the greater deaths seen under female-named hurricanes is “because feminine- vs. masculine-named hurricanes are perceived as less risky and thus motivate less preparedness” is smellier than that which is ejected out of a cow on a forced diet of wet crabgrass.

Listen sisters and brothers, there is no point being nice about this. This paper is dumb. The idea is dumb. The experiments are dumb. The analysis is dumb. The statistical errors are dumb. The media which reported it lovingly was dumb.

The theory is so preposterous that only an academic could believe it. That it even saw the light of day is a measure of how politicized Science has become, how willing the so-called intelligentsia is to accept any evidence, no matter how farcical, as long as it bolsters their prejudices.

Update Shavitt is professor of marketing at the University of Illinois, Kiju Jung is a PhD student in advertising same place, Madhu Viswanathan is a business prof there, too, and Joseph Hilbe is the statistician at Arizona State. The paper prearranged to have Susan T. Fiske, psychology prof at Princeton specializing in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, as editor.

Update But wait—more research is needed! We still need to discover whether Femnadoes are more destructive than Sharknadoes!

Update Another take at AW’s place. The best comment, “So if we start calling them ‘Butch’ and ‘Vlarg, the Destroyer of Worlds’, it’ll save lives?”

Update There is nothing wrong with using the negative binomial. I was being sarcastic. No model at all should have been run. The picture alone proved the theory was folly (James below made one, though I think he mistakenly classified some early hurricanes as “male”).

Update I’ve run into some folks who say the theory is plausible and that the study, such as it is, might suffer from “low power.” I say the theory is nonsensical because nobody ever thought about a hurricane’s name before deciding whether to run away from it. The authors present ZERO direct evidence anybody ever did. Do we not remember the media frenzy over (female) Sandy? “Run away or die tonight!” However, and quite technically, the theory is contingent, meaning it has a vanishingly small probability of being true. Just as do the theories, “Hurricanes starting with the letter P kill more than the letter R” or “Hurricanes with three syllables kill more than with one or two.” These have low power, too. Just as will any of the infinite theories you can think up which would explain the data.


Thanks to Ant O’Fearghail ‏(@aofarre) who provided the name Femnado. And thanks for Al Perrella for finding the Discover connection.

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.

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