William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 150 of 616

About That Lefties-Drink-More-Than-Conservatives Study

Makes sense to me!

Makes sense to me!

“Honey? Did you meet our new neighbors?”

“Not yet. Why?”

“I’m a little worried about them. They have an ‘I heart NPR’ sticker on their Prius.”

“Oh, God. Pass me the bottle.”

This is only one scenario, and a plausible one, of how the migration patterns of progressives can change the drinking habits of normal citizens.

This isn’t Yours Truly speaking. Science itself says so.

Or so claim Pavel Yakovlev and Walter Guessford in their peer-reviewed “Alcohol Consumption and Political Ideology: What’s
Party Got to Do with It?” (pdf) You’d be inclined to answer “Not much”, but then you haven’t taken the almost-desperate need of sociologist to research questions like this. And research they have, compiling statistic after statistic which prove, beyond all doubt, that a person’s mood and circumstance has something to do with whether they’ll take a tipple. Who knew?

News organizations are breathless over the pair’s “findings.” The Week leads with “Study: Liberals drink more alcohol than conservatives: Apparently, being liberal is thirsty work” and UPI chimed “Study: When a state becomes more liberal drinking increases” (via this site).

And just what are these “findings”? Foremost—and economists will want to take note—“Alcohol shipments are highly collinear with alcohol consumption”. The more alcohol bought, the more that is drunk. Counterintuitive? However, this is independent of politics, our main interest, so let’s push on.

A fellow named Berry allowed our duo to measure the political attitude of each State of the union. How States can have political attitudes is a vexing question better left unexamined. How Berry did it is, however, easily answered. Through equations like the one pictured above. Each State is awarded (via equations) its own unique number per year, which is labeled more or less liberal.

How does Berry handle States like New York, which in surface area is largely conservative except for the dangling carbuncle which is New York City? How dare you ask is the answer. Science, he says. So Science.

Anyway, our researchers calculated Berry’s Number for each State for each year between 1967 and 2003 and then averaged over the years. Yes, because not much has changed politically from 1967 to 2003. Result: one number per State. Then our pair took the amount of beer, wine, and booze flowing into each State for the same years; they took the population of each State for each of those years, then calculated the per capita average consumption of each type of alcohol. Then, in a step of statistical boldness, they averaged this average across the same time period. Result: one number per State of each of beer, wine, and booze per capita consumption. Yes, because drinking patterns (especially type) have not changed over this period.

You still following? Point is, all that manipulation allowed our guys to make plots like this (I left out wine, which looks like beer).

Something to do with beer.

Fig. 4. Something to do with beer.

Something to do with booze.

Fig. 6. Something to do with booze.

Now my dad would call this, and call it rightly, a “German Airplane”, i.e. a Messerschmitt. But then my old man isn’t a scientist. No, a scientist would say something like this, “The scatter plots shown in Figure 4, 5, and 6 suggest that average U.S. beer and wine consumption rises and spirits consumption falls as states become more liberal over time.”

It suggests nothing of the kind, because these plots are part silliness (the political leanings measure) and part unjustified averaging of heterogeneous data (both axes). And even if this weren’t a problem, the weird patterns in the scatter proves the futility and fallacy of using regression as causal explanation. Those lines are nowhere neat the dots. (Yes, of course, wee p-values were discovered.)

The authors do go on from these pictures to create a statistical model so freaky that it made my eyes tear, so I’ll skip discussing it. I can tell you it’s typical in its arbitrary, piece-meal construction and in the wildly speculative conclusions drawn from it.

How they take all this and conclude “that when a state becomes more liberal politically, its consumption of beer and spirits rises” says more about the authors’ preconceptions than it does about the drinking habits of citizens.

On the other hand, I’m perfectly willing to accept that the more progressive a person becomes they more they are driven to drink. These sad people have to cope somehow.

Will Someone Please Laugh At These Jokes?

Well, I think these are funny.

Update And then for something not as funny.

Update This is for my number-two son.

Coming Out Christian: Guest Post by Hut Evenest

Nothing better to keep you warm in winter.

Readers should understand bestiality is allowed in many countries. Hut Evenest is a writer from Finland, a country in which the practice is legal. Their preferred term is zoophilia. The picture was my idea.

How faithful zoophilics are transforming our churches.

Coming out of the closet is the simplest tool of the zoophilia movement, yet it’s proven to be the most powerful and even the most spiritually profound. On the political side, Statistics Finland data this year found that knowing someone who is zoophilic was the most common reason people switched to supporting inter-species marriage, and the percentage of people who know someone openly zoophilic has risen over 25 points since 1993.

But on a more personal level, coming out is a practice of honesty and integrity—no more “pronoun games,” no more hedging and sudden silence when the conversation turns to romance or visions of one’s future. The coming-out narrative transforms a source of shame and stigma into a freely accepted, simple truth, which no longer excludes one from the ordinary social world. Coming out allows deeper bonds to be formed: not only romantic relationships but deeper friendships, more honest familial ties, and more pointed and relevant relationships with spiritual guides such as confessors or pastors.

As the zoophilia movement has enjoyed remarkable success, a new kind of coming out is occurring, in which zoophilic or interspecies attracted Christians openly discuss both our sexual orientation and our desire to live according to the historic teaching of the Christian church, which bars sexual activity between people and animals. As zoophilic Christians—an unavoidably reductive term—come out, our presence is changing the culture of our churches.

When I became Catholic, in 1998, I didn’t know of a single other openly zoophilic Christian who intended to follow Church teaching on sexuality. I made my way through what appeared to be a trackless wilderness armed with good friends, cheap vodka, and hubris. Nowadays an undergraduate in my circumstances could simply Google and find scores of websites with names like Odd Man Out and Sexual Authenticity. The blog Spiritual Friendship brings together a relatively wide range of writers with different sexual orientations, vocations, and church affiliations. (I’m a contributor there.) Those online communities have led to many real-life connections: it seems like every week I see somebody on Facebook posting about his road trip to meet other animal-loving Christians.

In July, Kristus Finn magazine profiled three Finnish “evangelical church leaders who experience interspecies attraction,” all of whom used real names and photos. Over the summer, in an uncoordinated movement that reflects a rapidly changing culture, several bloggers who had used pseudonyms began to use their real names instead. Bestiality is being transformed from a faceless, shadowy problem “out there” to an umbrella term for a wide range of experiences that affect ordinary people you might pass on the street or pass the peace to in church.

Many celibate zoophilic Christians have found support from their friends and church communities—although acceptance can take a long time.

We’re often ashamed to admit that we suffer. It’s humiliating and it makes us feel like we’re not good enough Christians. This is bizarre since there are very few aspects of Jesus’ own internal life that we know as much about as His suffering. Jesus—unmarried, marginalized, misunderstood, a son and a friend but not a father or spouse—is the preeminent model for zoophilic Christians. In this, as in so many things, we are just like everybody else.

She said what?

No, I’m only kidding. The real piece is from Eve Tushnet (Hut Evenest is an anagram) at American Conservative (did he say conservative?). I only switched telltale words: “gay” with “zoophilic”, “Pew Research” with “Statistics Finland”, and so forth. I did not change the names of the blogs Tushnet references. Readers are welcome to check me.

Was just curious to see how the increasingly common argument used by Tushnet would play using other “orientations.” Tushnet went on for treble the length of the excerpt and it’s a useful exercise to continue the substitutions because, as said, this line of reasoning is showing up everywhere.

I gather Tushnet’s “soft words”, digressions, and dancing around the point are meant to invoke the bully response, provoking opponents to dismiss her argument using untactful or distasteful language, so that Tushnet supporters (she’d be too polite to answer) could retort, “Quit picking on her!” Lost will be whether Tushnet’s approach makes any sense. Does it?

No, I’m not comparing men who lust after men and women who lust after women with people who lust after the beasts of the wood. “Orientations” are what “orientations” do. Bestiality is legal in Finland and other venues. Remember, Jesus never said you couldn’t date your Yak. And isn’t any increase in love a good thing?

If you don’t like zoophilia, why not try substituting bisexuality or pedophilia? Or…but need I continue the list? People didn’t like it much when a group of priests got caught orienting themselves toward teenage boys, though. As you read this, ask yourself: am I being judgmental?

Or—show of hands—who’s for the asking people to keep quiet about who or what they want to have sex with? Do we want men who lust after women donning club t-shirts and running around church saying, “Look at the keister on that one. Whoa! Too bad Church tradition forbids me a pinch. I’d be all over her except I remember Matthew 5-38: ‘But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.'”

Voting (And Wisdom Of The Crowds)

First read Wisdom of the Crowds (and Voting).

There are in this great land of ours some 315 million souls. Citizens, I mean. Another 12 millions (or so) are, as the euphemism goes, undocumented. If democracy is defined as one-man-one-vote then democracy does not exist in the USA for the very simple reason that only about seven out of ten are permitted to vote in national elections. And even those eligible are not allowed to vote on everything.

It’s true, I promise. Somewhere around one-third of all people are forbidden to vote for candidates for office. And the numbers barred from casting ballots in other governmental matters? Monumental.

Are you scandalized? Is this an affront to Equality, that great and noble goal? Should we march?

In a “pure” democracy everybody votes on everything. We are thus not a pure democracy, but something else (we used to say “republic”). Some think a pure democracy undesirable because it is absurd. It is absurd because most of us do not want infants and children voting (but then we’re not all progressives), and we do not want citizen-wide votes on every matter which arises.

Ask yourself what receives more praise than Democracy, that system as bad as all the others except somehow superior? Why, it even garners more veneration than diversity! It is so wonderful we’re intent on exporting it by force. Peoples will be democracies, we say, even if it kills them.

So we’re not a democracy, but we aim towards one. Take a gander at this:

Onwards and upwards!

Onwards and upwards!

The percent of citizens eligible to vote in presidential (a position of increasing power) elections has been inching ever upwards, and so has the percent of voters who showed up.1 Some of this increase is due to structural changes, such as the fifteenth (race) and nineteenth (women) Constitutional amendments, but more interesting to us is the twenty-sixth (extending the vote to 18-year-olds); and some change is due to shifting age distributions (the greater the proportion over eighteen, the more eligible to vote).

Citizens have also been encouraged to vote in more matters, such as latterly for Senators (seventeenth amendment), or directly for legislation, thus far only at the State level (right, California?). This is all in the direction of pure democracy; however, nobody, except possibly academics, thinks we’ll ever get there.

It’s become a staple of talk radio to quiz dazed-looking folks as they exit polling stations in presidential elections. Oddly, few of these voters can name the Vice President, almost none know the Secretary of State. How many can define (say) the difference between the deficit and the debt? Or could name the ambassador to China? Ignorance abounds, but still people vote. And let’s don’t forget ardor: voters sure love their man.

Why vote? Because there are disagreements. Why are the disagreements? Because there is uncertainty in the sense that people base their decision on different information. People also have differing near-term or small goals, though presumably voters share the meta-goal of “making a better country” (or whatever).

And so finally we return to the Wisdom of the Crowds, which has (as we showed) three forms. Averaging votes—here, as a guess of the best man for the job—can work when the crowd is operating on (largely) unbiased information, when they have some clue about the real answer but have uncertainties that vary from person to person. Elections for small-town council members are a good example. So is voting where to go to lunch.

Wisdom of the Crowds can also be a formal fallacy. When a crowd is ignorant of its subject matter it cannot reliably provide accurate guesses, i.e. good votes. Darts thrown blindfolded are just as dependable. Votes of ignorant crowds will in general be harmful. High school seniors escorted to the polls on a bus driven by democracy-loving teachers is an example of a voting bloc best stuck in traffic.

The third and most insidious form is biased information. Averaging biased votes gives biased resultes. Now a good proportion of populaces in democracies imbibe willingly drafts of information from sources far more dubious than the moustachioed man from our last example. Bias therefore abounds.

And must, necessarily. As the proportion of a population eligible to vote increases, both ignorance and susceptibility to bias must increase. This result assumes the tacit premises that intelligence is subject to variation, which most accept, and that the young are less wise and more swayable than the old, which everybody believes.

The result is that the closer a state comes to a pure democracy, the larger the mistakes it is capable of making in voting.

I think many already know this, but mentioning it is considered gauche.


1Population data was compiled from the US Census Bureau, with linear extrapolations between decades prior to 1900. Turnout was found here and here. The percent turnout differs in different sources: it is often an estimate, which means it is the product of statistical models, the precisions of which I don’t know. Meaning, all results above are not entirely certain.

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