William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 150 of 626

Guinness, Heineken, & Sam Adams Now Political Statements, Not Beer

No longer a beer, but a crusade

I was on the edge of abandoning Guinness anyway. Bars in Manhattan have been selling 13 ounce “pints” of it—and charging for 16 ounces—for the past few months. (If the bar charges $7 for a pint and the same for a false-pint, that’s a 43% increase in dollars per ounce.) This irked.

But after I saw that the cowardly company supported and promulgated literal nonsense, I decided to discourage them by withdrawing my support. They obviously have been over-sampling their product.

The news is Guinness has withdrawn its support from New York City’s St Patrick’s Day parade because of pressure from the Tolerance Brigade (the professional bigots whose motto is “Do what we say or else“). This would have been okay. It’s Guinness’s money and they’re free to do with it what they please. If they want to ignore their once best customers that’s their business.

No. What pushed me away and them over the Cliffs of Sanity was their Official statement: “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade.”

Problem one. “Gays” and “lesbians” are not barred from marching in New York’s (nor Boston’s) parades. Not even as groups. They are only barred from carrying signs which trumpet their sexual desires. Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co.) made this same error, probably willfully like most others.

Don’t we have enough people broadcasting their lusts, whether “gay” or “straight”? Must a parade organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the oldest Catholic organization in these United States, a religious parade devoted to the memory of a saint, be turned into yet one more “celebration” of all thing genital? Can’t we have just one public day where our thoughts are turned from our “sexuality” to something higher?

God bless the AOH for fighting back, for not backing down, for not cowering to the despicable pressure to conform.

Diversity means uniformity.

Every year in New York there is a “gay” “pride” parade. Should the organizers of this festivity (which features mostly nude to nude lascivious men) be forced to allow entrants from religious groups which carry signs saying, for example, “Homosexual lust is sinful”? If you refuse to answer this question, well, your ideology has clouded your mind.

Problem two. The phrase “equality for all” is literal nonsense. Yes, it’s a code word for “we endorse gay sex”. But taken at its face value, the words are idiotic and harmful. But they are popular words. Heineken parroted them (“We believe in equality for all”) as they withdrew their sponsorship from the parade.

Equality for all? That include child rapists? Should bands of pedophiles be allowed entrance to the parade holding signs, “Young love produces the best physical pleasure”? Would you support the KKK’s petition to join the festivities so that they could display their banner, “Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John Kennedy, Barack Obama”?

If not, then you are against equality for all.

Only the deluded, chemically imbalanced, clinically insane, possessed, and trepaned-by-college-degree preach “equality for all.”

I like Guinness; Sam Adams, too. I will miss them. (Heineken is no loss.) But I can’t participate in lunacy. Is this a boycott? Can one man be a boycott? Losing me will harm their bottom lines not at all. My withdrawal will mean nothing to them, but much to me.

Most of all I lament a culture which turns every action into a political act. It is spiritually wearisome. There must be a better way.


Your intrepid reporter ventured to the parade, where it was a balmy 25oF and breezy. I took pictures with my phone, but since it doesn’t have a memory card, and my cheap computer doesn’t have bluetooth, I cannot take the pictures off the phone. Useless. (I can send a message to whomever might like a bagpipe pic.)

But there were pipe bands, soldiers, and cops aplenty. I couldn’t tell who or what any marcher wanted to have sex with. Is that disappointing?

Update Gay Activists Target St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Update More details.

Update As predicted above, ideology clouds minds. Detractors either pretend the questions I ask don’t exist or that they are not “legitimate”. The only and sole argument progressives have—admittedly a powerful one—is I want it.

Update Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, says he has filed an application to march in the New York City Gay Pride Parade this year. We’re all in favor, right?

It’s Time To Lynch Those Who Deny Climate Skepticism

Torcello: Smug? Smarmy? Me?

Let us agree with the enlightened that the world is imperfect and ought not to be. The cause of imperfection is human error which ought to be eradicated with extreme prejudice. One form of error is deliberate misinformation and the most harmful misinformation comes from those who ought to know better and who are trusted. Professors of philosophy ought to know truth from falsity and are trusted.

Therefore those professors of philosophy who spread misinformation ought to be gutted and strung up by their intestines until dead, both as punishment and as discouragement to others.

Now there is very little in that argument different from the one put forward by academic philosopher Lawrence Torcello in his essay “Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?

The very self-satisfied Torcello says scientists have a moral and “ethical obligation to communicate their findings as clearly as possible to the public.” He claims it is a known truth, one with no uncertainty, that “climate change”, i.e. global warming, kills people and causes multiferous harms. Those that deny these truths publicly deliberately spread misinformation.

Worse, these “deniers” do so for the unethical and immoral gain of thirty pieces of silver. Thus “funding of climate denial” is “criminally and morally negligent.” Poor Torcello concludes the “charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding”. “Deniers” are “criminally negligent in their willful disregard for human life.”

From this, we know Torcello would round up his enemies and exile them. He does not mention how long “deniers” should linger in jail nor whether they should be executed.

There is a technical, philosophical term for the kind of argument Torcello used (and I parodied). But it is harsh and vulgar. I restrain myself from using it to make a larger point. That his pathetic screed can only be the product of blind zealousness coupled with bloodlust and an ignorance of his subject so massive that children as young as three would gasp in horror were they to hear of it.

I have searched Torcello’s public record and nowhere can I discover the man has any familiarity with the physics of fluid flow, nor the chemistry or clouds, nor the field of radiative transfer, nor the science and practicality of computer modeling, nor the statistical and mathematical methods of forecast verification and inverse problems.

Whereas I have formal training in all these subjects; indeed, even certification of them—a PhD from Cornell in Mathematical Statistics (forecast verification), a Masters of Atmospheric Physics (climate model uses and skill), and even a Bachelors in Meteorology (I served a year as a forecaster in the NWS). Add to this a stint as member of the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee, a several-year term as Assistant Editor of Monthly Weather Review, several “peer-reviewed” articles in the Journal of Climate (these are the leading journals), and many other similar things. (See my Who is WMB page.)

Plus, I have spent years investigating not only the skillfulness of climate models (none, outside a few months ahead) but also the myriad papers which purport to show the evils which await us when global warming finally strikes. These papers, if the authors were to go back and assiduously rework them, might reach the standard of horrible. As it is, they are garbage. Bandwagon, confirmation-bias confirming, intellectually bereft, gimme-a-grant garbage. (See my Classic Posts page.)

Now I have come to the conclusion (it took me many years) that the terror of global warming is akin to many other “fear bubbles” or overblown alarums in history. It is no different in character than the “Satanic Panic” of the late 1990s, where legions of women “remembered”, via the kind assistance of “trained” therapists (folks who also relied on “peer-reviewed” literature), to have been abused by their fathers and to have eaten their babies in dark rituals. The only reason global warming lasted longer than that entertainment is that Global Warming Panic is truly global, involving Peu de Poulets as far away as France (incidentally, birthplace of our modern world).

The grand total of monies and any other form of consideration I have received or been offered for my services to call the ideas of people like Torcello idiotic is, to this date, precisely $0.00 (in 2014 dollars). And, in sad fact, my skepticism has actually cost me money in the form of lost jobs and missed opportunities. Taking a position against the majority is rarely a career-enhancing move. And now would-be Consensus Enforcers are calling for my arrest and imprisonment? And how much money have global warming proponents received?

The earnest enlightened must needs have enemies. Taking the place of Satanic cults and Goldstein in the great Global Warming Conspiracy are the Koch brothers and oil companies. The weak-minded (like Torcello) do not have the mental facilities to imagine there could be honest disagreement. So they invent nefarious forces to explain the derision their obviously brilliant ideas receive—then come the calls for torches and pitchforks. It’s only a wonder they haven’t (yet?) hit upon Jews as their “true” enemy.

Update Delingpoile on the same subject.

It Was Right To Dumb Down The SAT

Is the test speaking?

It’s difficult to design a test such that all those taking it do not all do well nor all do poorly. For instance, suppose the SAT were to consist of the single question, “Fill in the blank: A, B, __, D, E, …” We would expect something like 99% pass rates. (Only an enlightened optimist would say everybody would get this right.)

Again, suppose the test were to consist of the single question, “Derive from first principles twenty-six dimensional Bosonic string theory.” Pass rates would be south of 1%.

Neither version could ascertain the differences in ability between people.

What is our hidden premise for these conclusions? The pool of examinees. If this pool were to consist of professional, working physicists pass rates for either version would be high. But if it were to consist of one-year olds, pass rates for either would be low or zero.

The SAT’s pool are near-graduation high schoolers. This pool is not static; it changes and has changed characteristics dramatically since the SAT was first introduced in 1901 (the first multiple-choice version was issued in 1926). Perhaps the most profound shift over this period is the percentage of children who attend high school and who took the test. In 1926, this percentage was low. Only the most highly educated children completed high school and took the SAT. In 2013, the percentage was high. Children of all abilities enrolled in high school and sat the exam.

If the test were static, this increase in the pool, because it contains larger and growing proportions of less able children, would drive scores lower and lower, maybe so low that the majority of takers would now fail (especially considering the SAT used to penalize for wrong answers). The static test would resemble (in a crude way) our string theory version. Discrimination would suffer.

The widening pool, along with various other cultural changes too depressing to contemplate, also caused an easing of the material taught in high school thus leaving kids even less prepared for the more difficult versions of the SAT. Perhaps the most fundamental alteration is in reading. Kids (and teachers) read much less now than a century ago. But the SAT assumes reading ability. (Similar watering downs occur with increasing frequency in college; consider, for example, “remedial” reading and math university courses using materials historically taught in middle school.)

Some even claim that intelligence on the whole has been decreasing for reasons of biology. Maybe this is so, but it is very difficult to tease out environmental versus biological influences as they change through time.

Anyway, it’s impossible for anyone but a bureaucrat or academic to say that kids are growing smarter or are better educated. Given the road our culture (and politics) are taking, there is no reversal of these downward trends in sight.

This means it was right for ETS to dumb down the SAT.

If they did not, the quondam SAT would have larger and growing clusters of scores at the low end and fewer and more strung out scores at the high end. Discriminating between students would thus become more and more difficult. (What’s ideal is a test the result of which is a spread out distribution of scores over the enter range of possibilities with the mean score somewhere near the middle.) Considering that the goal of the SAT is discrimination, no other course of action makes sense.

Dumbing down the SAT is thus like a clothing manufacturer retooling his patterns to reflect a population which is growing shorter and squatter. Further, it makes no sense to decry the manufacturer’s sensible and prudent decision.

This isn’t the first time the SAT has been dumbed down, either.

In 2005 the SAT famously removed analogy questions. Example, P-VALUES : STATISTICAL THEORY :: MARXISM : POLITICAL THEORY. Analogies are difficult and require higher levels of thinking than other types of question. For the same reasons noted above, the proportion of kids doing poorly on the analogies was growing too large, so out they went.

Interestingly, besides eliminating penalties for wrong answers and simplifying its math, in this latest purge the SAT will remove “obscure” and “esoteric” vocabulary words (the Settle Times lists “prevaricator” and “sagacious”). Both analogies and “obscure” words, of course, relate to reading. Reading ability among high schoolers must be shriveling. Well, no surprise there.

The timing is also curious. It was only a short nine years since the last major restructuring. This indicates the pace of decline is accelerating. And this is despite the increasing efforts (and funding) of teachers to “teach the test” to the exclusion of more important matters.

Or maybe “despite” is the wrong word.

The Probability Of A Bottle Broken Into N Pieces When Struck By A Hammer

Get some!

Get some!

Logic is the study of relationships between propositions, and probability, which is the same, is thus the completion of logic to instances where the relationships are not certain.

From this it follows (by a long path which we’ll skip over today) that not all probabilities are calculable. And anyway, it is proved easily by example. Here’s is one which I heisted from Henry Kyburg Jr (Epistemology and Inference; chapter on “Chance”). The proposition of interest is:

    q = “This (really quite tasty) bottle of 2009 Muga Rioja Reserve will break into N pieces when struck by a hammer”,

and we want to know the probability of q. The answer is that there is no answer: there is no “probability of q.” This non-answer answer holds for all q which are not self-referential, and the reason is that, as said, probability is a measure between propositions. Here there is only q; there is no between. This is the end of the lesson. If you’re in a hurry, there’s no need to read further.

Because the question makes some kind of sense, though, it encourages (what we can call) the Subjective heresy, which is the belief that probabilities are subjective “feelings.” The most virulent form of this heresy is the diversity-loving academic who spouts “all truth is relative” or “there is no ‘truth’.” Skip that. Subjective probabilists presented with q and asked its probability are tempted beyond resistance to provide an answer. The move requires them to provide unstateable evidence so that q can be put in a relation. Such evidence is in the form of a complex proposition, which might look like this:

    e = “I feel this and that.”

Given e, the Subjectivist can say “the probability of q given e is X”, where X is usually stated with astonishing precision.1 The danger is e is likely to vary based on the Subjectivist’s last meal (fast-food Chinese produces very small Xs). Of course, if e is rigorously specified, then it is quite possible for “Pr(q|e) = X” to exist. The only problem is that this is not the answer to the question; instead, it is the answer to “Given e, what is the probability of q?” And nobody asked that.

Relative frequency is the number of times a proposition is true (given a set of observations) divided by the number of times a proposition is true or false (given the same set of observations). Relative frequency is not probability; further, relative frequencies often do not exist. Counterfactuals do not have relative frequencies, nor do hypotheticals (Martians wearing hats). Worse, followers of the Frequentist heresy (which is the claim that probabilities are RFs) are also prone to the Subjective heresy.

Notice that q does not specify how and under what circumstances the bottle is to be struck. If we are to keep q, unadulterated as logic requires,2 then these informational tidbits must remain forever unknown. The Frequentist, like the Subjectivist, is tempted beyond all ability to withstand and invents this information. “Suppose,” he might say, “we set the bottle on a concrete pavilion and have a drunken one-eyed orangutan belt it with a 20 OZ Solid Steel Nail Eagle Claw Hammer (my father’s and therefore my choice) whilst I try to feed it bananas.” This—and it must be something like this, with the experiment precisely defined—becomes the e. Or, rather, the e’, because it is still impossible to compute Pr(q|e).

The Subjectivist (as above) agglomerates emotions to e’ but the Frequentist must insist that the experiment he imagined be carried out. The results from these experiments (call them r) are tacked onto e’ with the result that, after a very long time, just after the last trump sounds to be exact, he finally can state Pr(q|e’r). Never wait on a Frequentist.

We’re back at the deeply unsatisfactory result that q has no probability, not in isolation, not without respect to some other proposition. Since we do not know what this other proposition is, we are unable to compute. Computing is scientific; science is numbers. Perhaps the “real life” quality of q is what causes people to invent information. They see the question (reminder: “What is the probability of q?”) as a scientific one, which it is not. It is logical and logic is not a branch of any empirical science. The tendency to invent is yet another symptom of the rabid scientism which permeates our culture.


1There are times when the Subjectivist heresy isn’t quite: these are when you have actual bottles and hammers in front on you and an experiment will be carried out. “What is the chance?” is then tangible and a tacit invitation to supply missing information. People may use their knowledge of hammers and bottles to hone in on a probability, though unless a person’s knowledge of the physics of breaking bottles is magisterial, this probability should be no more than a wide interval (yes, interval). It only becomes a fixed number when this person makes a bet (perhaps only a mental wager with himself), which is a decision to act in a certain way. A decision or bet is not a probability, but an act. And anyway, probabilities are immaterial, like logical statements, and are not acts.

2Believing you have God-like control over specified propositions is like telling your calculus teacher that you decided not to answer the questions he gave you, but ones you invented based on his questions.

Technical notes: Suppose we agree to amend our question with an e which describes an experiment, like with the orangutan. We are still ignorant of N. A secondary temptation arises to let N be any number from 0 (the bottle might not break) to infinity. Bottles cannot break into infinitely many pieces, but supposing they might allows mathematics to enter, and allowing mathematics to enter is what scientism demands. This in fine if the real experiment was of definite interest, but the approximation necessarily implies the calculations will be too certain.

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