William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Truth

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.

There is more than the usual amount of material culled leading up to our ultimate goal, that God is Truth. But these are easy, relative to the normal chapters. Not many notes are needed. God is Truth itself.

Chapter 56 That God’s Knowledge Is Not A Habit (alternate translation)

[2] …For wheresoever knowledge is habitual, all things are not known simultaneously, but some actually and others habitually. Now God knows all things actually in the same instant, as we have proved. Therefore in Him knowledge is not a habit.

Notes Never forget that God is outside time; and that we’re stuck in it.

Chapter 57 That God’s Knowledge Is Not Discursive (alternate translation)

[2] …Our thoughts are argumentative when we pass from one thought to another, as when we reason from principles to conclusions. For a person does not argue or discourse from the fact that he sees how a conclusion follows from its premisses, and considers both together: since this happens not by arguing but by judging of an argument: even so neither does material knowledge consist in judging of material things. Now, it was shown that God does not consider one thing after another successively as it were, but all things simultaneously. Therefore His knowledge is not argumentative or discursive: although He is cognizant of all discourse and argument.

[3] Again. Whosoever argues views the premisses by one consideration and the conclusion by another: for there would be no need after considering the premisses to proceed to the conclusion, if by the very fact of considering the premisses one were to consider the conclusion also. Now God knows all things by one operation which is His essence, as we have proved above.[2] Therefore His knowledge is not argumentative.

[4] Further. All argumentative knowledge has something of potentiality and something of actuality: since conclusions are potentially in their premisses. But potentiality has no place in the divine intellect, as we have shown above.[3] Therefore His intellect is not discursive…

Notes Arguments imply incompleteness. If you don’t know the answer in advance, which is not at all unusual, your intellect is in potential to that answer, and therefore there is change. But God cannot change; in God there is no potentiality. God knows everything at once.

Chapter 58 That God Does Not Understand By Composition And Division (alternate translation)

[3] …Further. In God there cannot be before and after. Now composition and division come after the consideration of what a thing is, for this consideration is their foundation. Therefore composition and division are impossible in the divine intellect.

[4] Again. The proper object of the intellect is what a thing is: wherefore about this the intellect is not deceived except accidentally; whereas it is deceived about composition and division; even as the senses are always true about their proper objects, but may be deceived about others. Now, in the divine intellect there is nothing accidental, and only what is essential. Wherefore in the divine intellect there is no composition and division, but only simple apprehension of a thing.

Notes Decided accidentally by, for instance, holding a false premise. The senses will pick up wavy wiggles on the horizon and your intellect will say, “Hey! There’s an oasis.” Senses right, intellect wrong. It’s not that senses can break, but when they break, they still do what they do. Your intellect is still required to sit on top sense data and (the pun o’ the day) make sense of them. If you follow that, you have reached the sunny uplands of thought.

Chapter 59 That God Is Not Ignorant Of The Truth Of Enunciations (alternate translation) The translation switches to the alternate here because Saint Wiki is down again.

[2] …For since the truth of the intellect is the equation of thought and thing, in so far as the intellect asserts that to be which is, and that not to be which is not, truth in the intellect belongs to that which the intellect asserts, not to the operation whereby it asserts. Because the truth of the intellect does not require that the act itself of understanding be equated to the thing, since sometimes the thing is material, whereas the act of understanding is immaterial. But that which the intellect in understanding asserts and knows, needs to be equated to the thing, namely to be in reality as the intellect asserts it to be. Now God, by His simple act of intelligence wherein is neither composition nor division, knows not only the essence of things, but also that which is enunciated about them, as proved above.[4] Wherefore that which the divine intellect asserts in understanding is composition or division. Therefore truth is not excluded from the divine intellect by reason of the latter’s simplicity.

Notes “…truth in the intellect belongs to that which the intellect asserts, not to the operation whereby it asserts.” Truth is epistemological; it’s all in your head. I speak colloquially: the intellect is not material and therefore not really in your head, though it makes use of it. The act of understanding is immaterial.

Chapter 60 That God Is Truth (alternate translation)

[2] …For truth is a perfection of the intelligence or intellectual operation, as stated above. Now God’s act of intelligence is His substance: and since this very act of intelligence is God’s being, as we have shown, it is not made perfect by some additional perfection, but is perfect in itself, just as we have said about the divine being. It remains therefore that the divine substance is truth itself.

[3] Again. Truth is a good of the intellect, according to the Philosopher. Now God is His own goodness, as we have shown. Therefore He is also His own truth…

Notes This follows from recalling truth is the good of the intellect; it is what is reaches for—and doesn’t always grasp. God knows all, therefore God knows all truth, and since what God knows is His essence, God is Truth itself.

This Week In Doom: Bad Science Edition


3 out of 4 scientists agree

The bagatelle about how more than half of published research is wrong—a fact well known to regular readers—is garnering comment hither and yon.

Joanne Nova has “The bureaucratic science-machine broke science, and people are starting to ask how to fix it.”

Science is broken. The genius, the creative art of scientific discovery, has been squeezed into a square box, sieved through grant applications, citation indexes, and journal rankings, then whatever was left gets crushed through the press. We tried to capture the spirit of discovery in a bureaucratic formula, but have strangled it instead.

Junk Science weighs in, too. “It is our theme, sort of–our beta noire, our obsession—why can’t scientists and intellectual issue investigators tend to the evidence and insist on good methods?”

Joe Bast, Heartland’s chief, sent my piece around and John Droz responded (via email) saying Horton and I did not “adequately distinguish between Science and scientists.” Droz says, “Science is (at its core) a process” and he asks, “can Science be ‘wrong?'” answering “I think not.”

Well, sure. It takes a scientist to do science, bad or good. It can be said science is a process, but then so is history, theology, literature. Knowledge does not stand still. It is added to and subtracted from continuously. We happen to be in a period where the subtractions outweigh the additions.

Science can be wrong. That is, propositions which are believed by all or most scientists can be false. The belief is “science is self-correcting”. Always? How can you prove it? Answer: you cannot. We may forever be stuck with ideas that are wrong.

Chocolate is good for you

It’s pretty darned easy to pull off a nutritional “science” hoax. Or any kind of science hoax, really.

John Bohannon teamed up with a German documentary crew to undertake a crappy junk-science study on the effects of bitter chocolate on weight loss, and managed to push their hoax to major media outlets all over the world — here’s how.

First, they created a fake science institute, The Institute of Diet and Health, and then recruited a friendly MD to help them recruit a small number of volunteers for a weight-loss trial…

…researchers paged through 18 other factors they’d measured in the study — “weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc” — and cherry picked a couple of factors that looked better in the chocolate than in the low-carb group. On this basis, they were able to assert that adding chocolate to a low-carb diet made you lose weight 10 percent faster.

Statistics! “They wrote up a paper that contained obvious statistical canards — small sample size, bad sampling methodology, p-hacking, poor control group analysis” and got the thing published in a “premiere journal”.

And then mainstream reporters, self-described geniuses to a man, swallowed it whole: “headlines in media outlets from Huffington Post to The Times of India.”

Is there any field in which the egos of its indigenous populants outstrips ability to such a degree as journalism?

Read the whole story from the trickster.

A gay old time

Speaking of fooling reporters, a study so outrageous that even the New York Times was forced to cover it.

In 2012, as same-sex marriage advocates were working to build support in California, Michael LaCour, a political science researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, asked a critical question: Can canvassers with a personal stake in an issue — in this case, gay men and women — actually sway voters’ opinions in a lasting way?

Since the study—published in Science, the queen of American journals—accorded with the ideological convictions of the elite, it was gobbled up, its author feted, lionized. Turns out the “researcher” made up his data, which certainly makes the statistics easier.

More details here (sort of long and boring, though): The Case of the Amazing Gay-Marriage Data: How a Graduate Student Reluctantly Uncovered a Huge Scientific Fraud.

Mark Regnerus, who is often accused of fraud by the same sort of people who believed in the real fraud, has a piece: “A recent paper on same-sex marriage appears fabricated; an earlier, disparaged one on same-sex parents was not.

I know how it feels to be accused of scientific malfeasance and sampling and data manipulation. I do not, however, know what it feels like to actually be guilty of those things. And yet over at the New York Times, my 2012 studies have been opportunistically lumped in with Mr. LaCour’s in an effort to tag my New Family Structures Study as tainted data. (They are not.)…

It’s the latest in a very long string of efforts to criticize the data, together with its sample, its author (and his friends), its funders, its measures, its analytic approach, its terminology, its data-collection organization, its reviewers, its journal’s editor, and its supporters. First one, then another, university inquisition has come to naught.

Moral of the story

Letting the public and the mainstream media decide what’s right and wrong is folly.


Update Forgot to say thanks to Paul Martin for the chocolate study.

Equality Always Wins


The gloomy, but accurate, words forming today’s title were penned by Damon Linker in “How Ireland’s gay marriage vote exposes the catch-22 of modern Christianity“.

That equality always wins is our predicament. It wasn’t always true, and since there is no force more destructive, it won’t always be true, either. And since those of us alive now are fated to suffer its ill effects, it is our duty to catalog its calamitous consequences in the service of future generations.

So, gmarriage never made much progress until one of its proponents hit upon the happy idea of calling it “marriage equality”. How can one stand against equality? One can’t. The Western mind has little or no resistance against any argument phrased in terms of equality. Hearing it creates a fog. It is the slayer of sanity. That any thing or situation should be unequal is intolerable, even if in inequality is impossible to remove, or even if removing it causes more harm than good.

Linker, though he doesn’t know it, poor soul, is right when he diagnoses the Egalitarian Virus as a corruption of Christianity, though of course he doesn’t see it as a bug of that man-made religion, but as a feature.

As I suggested in a column back in February 2014, the movement for gay marriage appeals to the ideal of equality — and the ideal of equality originated with Jesus Christ, “who taught the equal dignity of all persons, and declared in the Sermon on the Mount that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, and that the meek shall inherit the earth.” As I also noted, “These are among the most subversive teachings ever uttered — and … Western civilization has been working out their logic for the better part of two millennia, as political communities have applied Christ’s egalitarian teachings in stricter and stricter terms.”

That paragraph demonstrates the horrors of replacing thought with ideology. If the meek inherit the earth, then the meek will have something the non-meek don’t. Inequality. If the last are first, then they become first and the first last, another inequality.

Egalitarian Christians always manage to forget the parable of the talents (a clever pun in English). “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” Inequality is built right into the system.

And there are many more examples. Just as there are in real life. Some people are men, others women. Inequality. Some are tall and some short. Inequality. Some smart, some dumb. Inequality. Some born yesterday, some today; some born there, some here. Inequalities. Trying to eliminate inequality is like passing laws to forbid mountains (one area of land towers above another, you see).

But Linker’s right about one thing: political communities have applied egalitarian teachings in stricter and stricter terms. And will continue to do so. Linker: “we live in a culture in which reformers who successfully claim the mantle of equality inevitably triumph — because those who oppose equality find it impossible to gain public traction for their own side of the argument.”

That’s right, too. The only mistake is to cheer on this murderous force.

Equality always wins. And when it does, the victory is in a very real sense a triumph for the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, whether or not the reformers view their efforts in religious terms. No institution — not even a church founded in Christ’s name — can withstand the subversive power of his message. Confronted by critics preaching equality, defenders of the institution’s authority and traditions invariably end up sounding like modern-day Pharisees upholding abstract rules and ancient privileges against a gospel of love and universal dignity. It’s fruitless.

Except for the falsity (and absurdity) of claiming the “moral teachings” of our Lord are egalitarian, Linker’s on the money again. The institutional Church cannot stand against Equality. And what cannot stand, won’t. It will crumble, like in Ireland, everywhere equality is embraced. It’s not that it will fall everywhere—that’s guaranteed not to happen—but it will in many places.

There is only one weapon against Equality, only one force which stops it, just one lance sharp enough to pierce its black heart. Inequality. The sooner that it is taken up, the better.

Progressive Catholic Groups Giddy Over Pope’s Upcoming Global Warming Encyclical

Global warming will reduce the number of deadly ice storms.

Global warming will reduce the number of deadly ice storms.

Great news, Pope Francis encyclical watchers! The climate has not been growing hotter. This is to be celebrated because for the last thirty years politicians, the mainstream media, environmentalists, faith groups, Kindergarten teachers, and even the occasional scientist has promised that globally averaged temperatures might soar a few tenths of a degree Celsius.

But it didn’t happen! Temperatures have remained more or less constant these past two decades, and there’s no sign this steadiness will waver.

Let’s repeat that, because, strange as it might seem, word of this happy fact, this most welcome, cheering circumstance, does not appear to have reached the ears of those who are certain sure the sky has already fallen, including those many organizations who are preparing to turn Pope Francis’s issuance of an (anticipated) environmental encyclical into a holy day.

We bring glad tidings to these nervous groups: the world has not been growing hotter. It is not worse than we thought; it is better. The scientists were wrong, as scientists sometimes are. (Science, after all, is said to be self-correcting.) Dear activists, your source of concern has been removed. You can cease worrying and stand down! Isn’t that wonderful?

No, it probably isn’t wonderful.

If global-warming-of-doom is false, which it must be, since, consistently, predictions have not matched reality, organizations that have been created to fight it are battling a nonexistent enemy. These organizations thus have no reason to exist. Which means they have no need to raise funds. Which means they may as well disband. Yet they haven’t and won’t.

Instead, the lack of an enemy is being ignored. For instance, Nancy Tuchman, director of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, is almost giddy as she awaits the Pope’s encyclical. According to one report, her institute “has been working to unite 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities as a common voice on climate change”. After the encyclical arrives, she “plans to collect papers from students, faculty and staff with their reflections” on it. A sort of climatological kumbaya.

That same news report says that on that great day when the encyclical arrives there “will be prayer vigils and pilgrimages, policy briefings and seminars, and sermons in parishes from the U.S. to the Philippines.” The “Archdiocese of Manila’s decade-old ecology ministry is asking bishops to encourage all parishes to ring their church bells”. Hallelujah?

Many of those sermons are being written now, well before anybody has any idea what the Pope will say. “Dan Misleh, director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, an education and advocacy network that works with the U.S. bishops, is preparing model sermons on the expected themes of the encyclical.”

[E]nvironmental advocates — who work with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities and lay movements –have been preparing for months to help maximize the effect of the statement, hoping for a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.

Now, the global warming “fight” has already been won, as we have seen. Yet this hasn’t stopped progressive Catholic groups from enlisting soldiers. But since they can’t hit what isn’t there, this may be why the main interest of these groups is often “social” or “climate justice.”

One of these groups is the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which boasts of being “a global network of over 100 organizations working to respond to climate change from a Catholic perspective”.

It should be noted there is no uniquely “Catholic perspective” on thermodynamics and the physics of fluid flow, but this has not stopped the GCCM from gathering together organizations like the Holy Cross International Justice Office, the Justice, Peace and Development Office, the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative Steering Committee, the Office of Life, Justice, and Peace and many more. Perhaps they will discover the proper Catholic theology of cloud parameterizations in climate models?

Another player is the Catholic Climate Covenant who asks you to “Shrink your carbon footprint and live more justly.” They have formed partnerships with several very highly influential groups, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the frequently beleaguered Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and many others with ties to progressive politics.

One of the biggest, and richest, organizations to join the non-fight is Caritas International. They appeal for donations by saying the “poorest countries of the world are being hit disproportionately hard by the extreme weather brought by climate change.” And they think this is “a very unjust situation.”

Yet it’s difficult to know what “extreme weather” they have in mind. Hurricanes are down, and so are tornadoes. Any way you count it, extreme weather of any kind is decreasing.

The answer lies with a petition the Catholic Climate Covenant wants it followers to sign, a petition which begins with these curious words: “I’m Catholic, and I know that climate change is real.” Yet the only way they can “know” this is by ignoring reality.

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