William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Open Thread: Effect Of Pope’s Visit?


Now the real excuse for this post is that yesterday, it being a sort of holiday, I made rather merry and neglected to cause a post to be written. Since I cannot rely on randomness, chance, or whatever else is supposed to be the modern, sophisticated replacement for hard chance, nothing got done. From nothing came nothing.

The New York Post became the New York Pope. The lachrymose speaker of the house was near to blubbering, and the wet stuff glistened the cheeks of several other other Congresspeoples. Great masses made pilgrimages to DC, NYC, or Philly. The sworn secular were lost in admiration, even, I am guessing, to the point of doubting their doubts. Even the die-finally atheists on Twitter were respectful, more or less.

Ross Douthat, of the secular Cathedral’s press organ, said Pope Francis bolstered progressives.

It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.

Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns. His personnel decisions have confirmed that encouragement; his rhetoric has reinvigorated left-leaning Catholic punditry and thought. And his media stardom has offered provisional evidence for a proposition dear to liberal-Christian hearts — namely, that a public Christianity free from entanglements with right-wing politics could tug the disaffected back toward faith.

His analysis is surely right, at least for many. But only because of two things. The Holy Father did not on this trip talk say, what he has said before and surely still believes, that for instance gmarriage is of the devil. That means Satan-caused, dear reader. A harsh and frightening proposition. The second thing is the left’s euphoric eagerness to mold any statement made by the Pope into their image.

But not all on the left are buying it. One headline: “Pope Francis is not a progressive–he just has terrific PR“. The writer of that piece noticed that Francis said this:

Gay adoption is discrimination against children: “What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother.”…

“Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you. No child should be deprived.”

These kind of “hidden secrets” so unnerved the writer that he used the “P”-word—-propaganda—to describe the Pope’s efforts.

And here at home I noted that the Pope has spoken deeply and eloquently on, for instance, the Eucharist and its necessity, as well on other matters of Catholic dogma. These statements were not buried, but where right there, plain to see, in his so-called environmental encyclical. It’s just that everybody pretended not to see, or somehow ignored, those words.

Lastly, given the weakening, perhaps only temporary, of the secular of the renewed, again perhaps temporary, faith of the lapsed, the visit at least shows that traditional religion is far from dead. Secular religion—democracy, scientism, etc.—is still with us. But has it been softened?

What do you think?

Update On lefty reporting: “Thus saith The New York Times: Compassion is the opposite of Catholic doctrine“.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Wills His Being But Not Necessarily You

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.

A milestone today, the answer to an infinite regress sometimes posed by doubters, at least those who demand to know who or what created God. The answer is: no thing and no body.

Chapter 80 That God Wills His Being And Goodness (alternate translation)

[1] FROM what has been proved above it follows that God wills necessarily His being and His goodness, and that He cannot will the contrary.

[2] For it has been shown that God wills His being and goodness as principal object, which is the reason of His willing other things. Wherefore in everything willed by Him He wills His being and goodness, just as the sight sees light in every colour. Now it is impossible for God not to will a thing actually, for He would be only potentially willing; which is impossible, since His willing is His being. Therefore it is necessary for Him to will His being and His goodness.

[3] Again. Whoever wills, of necessity wills his last end: thus man of necessity wills his own happiness, nor can he will unhappiness. Now God wills Himself as last end, as stated above. Therefore He necessarily wills Himself to be, nor can He will Himself not to be…

[5] Again. All things, in as much as they are, are like to God, Who is being first and foremost. Now all things, in as much as they are, love their own being naturally in their own way. Much more therefore does God love His own being naturally. Now His nature is per se necessary being, as was proved. Therefore God necessarily wills Himself to be.

Notes And there we have the answer—the proof—to the perpetual question “Who created God”?. No thing “created” God. God wills His own being. God’s existence is necessary. He must exist.

Chapter 81 That God Does Not Necessarily Will Other Things Than Himself(alternate translation)

[3] …Moreover. God, by willing His own goodness, wills other things to be, in as much as they partake of His goodness. Now, since God’s goodness is infinite, it can be participated in an infinite number of ways, and in other ways besides those in which it is participated by those creatures which now are. If, then, through willing His own goodness, He willed of necessity the things which participate it, it would follow that He wills an infinite number of creatures partaking of His goodness in an infinite number of ways. But this is clearly false: for if He willed it, they would exist, since His will is the source of being to things, as we shall prove further on. Therefore He does not necessarily will those things also that are not.

[4] Again. A wise man, through willing the cause, wills the effect which follows necessarily from the cause: for it would be foolish to will that the sun exist above the earth, and that there be no brightness of day. On the contrary, it is not necessary for one through willing the cause to will an effect which does not follow of necessity from the cause. Now other things proceed from God not necessarily, as we shall show further on. Therefore it is not necessary that God will other things through willing Himself.

Notes Regular readers of this blog will know there is a discussion ongoing whereby some people, by causing themselves to strike the keys of their computer keyboards in a particular order, seek to convince others there is no such thing as cause. This proves, or rather proves the opposite, what the first (quoted) article in this chapter proves: man’s thoughts can err in an infinite, or at least a rather large, number of ways.

That first argument should also give a thrill: “since God’s goodness is infinite, it can be participated in an infinite number of ways”. Since God is infinite, heaven, if we make it, will never get boring, even though we’ll be there for an infinite time. As I’ve been saying all along, infinity is the trickiest of all mathematical business.

The main point here is that everything but God is contingent, as philosophers say. Contingent, in their thinking, means does not necessarily exist or is not necessarily true, and this is so. But we now know—and this is science, or should be—what everything is contingent upon, and that is God’s will. The converse is also true: everything that is necessarily true or necessarily exist must be part of God. That leads to the idea that all the words and concepts we use to describe the ineffable—good, true, beauty, etc.—are attempts at describing what God is like. And that, if we’re interested, brings us to the concept of transcendentals. But that’s too much for us, at least now, so here is one resource.

In sum, to understand the ground of all science, and also all ethics, morality, and the other subjects traditionally recognized as being part of religion, we must first understand what we can of God. But since God’s mind is infinite, we’re never going to reach our destination. And, given the human condition, this is a joyful thought. You, dear reader, are contingent, which should create in you a sense of gratitude. Here, just for the asking, you have a change to participate in this infiniteness. What a gift!

Stream: UN’s Vision for Lifting Up the World’s Poor Differs Sharply from the Pope’s


Today’s post is at the Stream: “UN’s Vision for Lifting Up the World’s Poor Differs Sharply from the Pope’s“. And dangerously.

Pope Francis, in his speech to the UN, expressed his continuing and deep concern for “reclaiming the environment.” To the Holy Father, ecology is no small matter, but is instead a terrible, if not the primary, problem besetting humanity. To stress this, in his encyclical Laudato Si’ he said, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

The Pope asked the UN to clean up the mess. How? He said, “The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change [this December] will secure fundamental and effective agreements.”

Now let’s accept for the sake of argument that the Holy Father is right and that the environment is in need of emergency surgery to “save” it. It’s true that the evidence for this need, particularly concerning global warming, is overblown. And it’s also true that the Pope came to his views based on the flawed, disingenuous, anti-scientific, and even anti-Christian advice of people whose vision of the world is entirely secular. But let that pass. The Pope is, after all, the master of his own words, and he has chosen to believe his advisors.

And so too shall we believe them, but only here and only in support of the goal of understanding what can and should be done and the consequences of the actions we would take.

Go there and read the rest.

This is different than The Pope’s Bargain, which we discussed yesterday. I argue the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which the Holy Father singled out for praise, are the exact opposite of Church teaching on several fundamental matters.

I also show the consequences of calling for “stopping climate change” which such a thing is physically impossible. And I also argue, again, that “sustainability” is an unattainable goal.

The end result of increasing UN and governmental control will to make them hungrier for more.

The Pope’s Bargain. Accept It—If You Dare


Pope Francis told Congress we need to care for the environment. And in people’s minds, and in his encyclical Laudato Si’, this means at least acknowledging the threat of man-caused global-warming-of-doom. Support by the pontiff for this cause cheered many environmentally minded.

The Holy Father also said that we should welcome immigrants. And this pleased those who champion open borders. And so on for comments regarding wealth inequality, the death penalty, and other matters well known to us all.

Result? Environmentalists, for instance, are using the Pope’s authority as an argument that their (also well known) environmental policy positions should be adopted.

And perhaps it is true that the Pope is an authority on these matters. He is, after all, the Pope, and he might just have a more direct line to the Ultimate Source. It’s possible.

But if we accept the Pope’s guidance here, it implies we should take the Pope’s direction on all the matters on which he advises us. After all, you can’t pick and choose. How could you? After all, how much secular authority does he possess on the physics of cloud energy transfer and the economics of the welfare state? So why point to him unless you think he has potentially divine, or otherwise superior, insight?

Seems that in order to avoid being a hypocrite, it’s either disregard the Pope on any subject in which he is not an expert, or take him at his all. And that is the Pope’s Bargain. Are we up for it?

I am. I’ll willing to accept whatever the EPA says about waterways, the atmosphere, everything. And those items the left has on their shopping list? Income redistribution, open borders, and all the rest? Let’s all agree on these, as we must, if we are to be guided by Holy Rome.

But then you, dear reader, and everybody else who leans on the Holy Father must acknowledge the Pope’s lead in ending all abortion, nixing any idea of gmarriage, upholding the primacy of the man-woman-child family, not tolerating homosexual acts, not tolerating divorce.

After all, in his speech, the Holy Father also said:

The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development…

Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

And that isn’t all. There’s also this Eucharist thing. In paragraph 236 of Laudato, he said:

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.

And there’s even more! In paragraph 238 we have:

The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways. The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed…

So full acceptance of the Eucharist and the Trinity is part of the price you must pay to keep your side of the bargain. And that means, if you aren’t already here, sincere conversion to the Catholic faith. Come on in! The holy water’s fine!

And that’s sincere, mind. Sincerity means being dutiful. Attend mass, go to confession, pray, and all the rest. No abortions, no contraception, no divorce, no sexual deviancy. That means those who are Catholic only in name, including many priests and bishops, have to convert, too.

I think it a more than reasonable price to pay, for both parties. A truly equitable and, dare we think it?, holy compromise. It’s either take that compromise or give up using the Pope as an argument. The line forms at the rectory tomorrow.

God bless Pope Francis!

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