William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 150 of 684

Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors Of Political Ideology?

From the paper.

From the paper.

The study

Another day, another dreary study purporting to show that the brains of “conservatives” are different than those of “liberals.”

This one hooked up to an electrical phrenology device (fMRI) 83 people1 and had them look at disgusting pictures (still shots from The View?) and other sorts of pictures and then rate them “using a nine-point Likert scale”. I’ve asked this before, but on a scale of -2 to 52.7, how good are these faux numerical scales at quantifying things like disgust or pleasantness? Never mind.

The peer-reviewed paper is by Read Montague and a slew of others in Current Biology, and has the same name sans question mark as today’s post.

To discover “conservatives”, “liberals”, and “moderates” questions were asked about how strongly participants supported items like “Biblical truth” (do no liberals believe this?) and “Foreign aide”. These were scored, the scores separated, and the results assumed infallible. Yes, really. There is no indication—which is to say, no indication—the uncertainty from these arbitrary questions arbitrarily scored and arbitrarily busted up was carried through in any analyses. But since everybody makes this mistake, we shouldn’t question it.

Anyway, the main result is no result. The three “groups did not significantly differ in subjective ratings of disgusting, threatening, or pleasant pictures”. Also turned out that “there were no significant group differences on [other] self-report measures”.

End of story? No, sir. Scientists do not let the absence of wee p-values discourage them. Out came the “penalized regression method called the elastic net” applied to the fMRI data. The theory was that even though there were no real differences in behavior, maybe the brains were different after all, which is a strange thing to think given there were no real differences in behavior. I hope my repeating that isn’t annoying.

Is this a good point to remind us the fMRI data are not pictures of the brain but are themselves output of models and heuristics (“Functional data were first spike-corrected to reduce the impact of artifacts using AFNI’s 3dDespike”, etc., etc.) which themselves are subject to uncertainty which should be carried forward in any analysis but which usually aren’t, and weren’t here? If not, let me know when is.

The analysis

I hesitate to describe the authors did next not because it’s difficult, but because I don’t think anybody will believe it. I will first remind us that we are to again lament that most statistical practice is designed around model fit, which tell the world how closely a model fits to the data at hand, and that the more models tried the better success of discovering one which fits.

The authors showed each person sets of neutral (whatever the hell that is), pleasant, threatening, and disgusting photos. There weren’t any reported differences in fMRI manipulated data between people seeing these images in the three different groups.

Next up was to form “contrasts”, which was to sort of difference the fMRI manipulated data from times when people looked at disgusting, threatening, and pleasant images against so-called neutral images. These same differences were applied to averages between “conservative” and “liberals.” The “moderates”, sad folks, were thereafter forgotten.

Incidentally, the types of people in the “conservative” and “liberal” groups were not the same: “liberals” averaged 33 years old, 39% female; “conservatives” 27 years old, 61% female. Might these biological differences account for differences in fMRI manipulated data? The authors admit (in supplementary material) that “religiousness”, age, and sex “were significantly correlated with political attitudes”. But they put this down to “false alarms” and carried on.

Now came generalized linear models—we still haven’t reached the elastic net—where for each individual “a temporal high-pass filter (128s) and order 1 temporal autocorrelation (AR(1)) was assumed”. And “The onsets for each picture subcondition (core/contamination disgust, animal reminder disgust, actual threat, no actual threat, social pleasure, nonsocial pleasure) and fixation crosses were convolved with a canonical hemodynamic response function…using a delta function of zero duration”, etc.

And that wasn’t all. “Six head motion parameters were also included in the first level GLM as covariates.” So were age and sex. Uh oh. Then they “separately examined the maps of [Disgusting – Neutral], [Threatening – Neutral], and [Pleasant – Neutral] contrasts”. Then some t-tests and some other things.

Result? “The contrasts with threatening or pleasant pictures revealed no regions surviving multiple corrections. However, in the [Disgusting > Neutral] contrast, the Conservative group showed greater activity than the Liberal group in several regions” (hint: amygdala! amygdala!). Yet, sadly, “No regions survived correction for multiple comparisons for the
[Liberal group > Conservative group] comparison.”

Another no result. So back to the computer and the “penalized logistic regression analysis”, a.k.a. “elastic net”.

“First, we extracted a map of the [Disgust > Neutral] contrast for each participant. Then, we applied an a priori mask, which was generated from the Neurosynth website”. Then they “obtained the union of meta-analytic (positively correlated and both forward and reverse inference) maps of ‘Emotion’ and ‘Attention'” and then finally formed up all the voxels into a matrix and submitted all to the “elastic net.”

That creature is so cumbrous I don’t dare describe it. But it was, in the end, fit to the “individual scores on a standard political ideology assay” and, mirabile dictu, the model fit was reasonable. But only for those time disgusting images were viewed (and leaving out “moderates”). Would young females dislike disgusting images more than older males? Just asking.

The true test: How well does their model predict political attitudes for people not used to fit the model? [INSERT CRICKET CHIRPS HERE]

The End

The authors conclude “Neuroscience has started to provide rich information about the neurophysiological processes underlying political behavior.” No, it hasn’t. It is true that a spate of flawed papers are appearing, each borrowing the mistakes of the other. Yet the authors don’t even blush when the say “Our results have important implications for the links between biology, emotions, political ideology, and human nature more fundamentally.”

Here’s where it gets scary, folks. They suggest “people are born with certain dispositions and traits that influence the formation of their political beliefs”. This seems trivially true; after all, some of us are men and some women, and that difference means a lot. But the differences the authors means refer to flawed ad hoc idiotically scaled questionnaires. How long until some bright academic produces “the” list of questions which separate the sheep from goats?

Next: “A wide range of brain regions contributed to the prediction of political ideology (Figure 3A), including those known from past work to be involved in the processing and interoception of disgust and other stimuli with negative affective valence, but also those involved in more basic aspects of attentive sensory processing”.

The mistake here is to assume we are our brains, slaves to them somehow, that these curious organs can make us do what they like, and that we have little to say about it. The lack of philosophical training tells again.

Nowhere do these authors (or any other that I have seen) betray any lack of confidence in their convoluted analyses. It seems as if—I’m just guessing—that all these authors think that because their analyses are complex they are therefore right. We need a name for this fallacy.


1In supplementary material the authors say 12 people were removed from the analysis, but it’s not clear if these were before or after the 83.

Thanks to Rexx Shelton, Robert, and one anonymous reader for suggesting this topic.

Nothing Is Distributed: So-Called Random Variables Do Not Follow Distributions

Wow is this wrong, but common, common.

Wow is this wrong, but common, common.

People say “random” variables “behave” in a certain way as if they have a life of their own. To behave is to act, to be caused, to react. This is reification, perhaps caused by the beauty of the mathematics where, literally, the equations undergo biogenesis. The behavior of these “random” creatures is expressed in language about “distributions.” We hear, “Many things are normally (gamma, Weibull, etc., etc.) distributed”, “Y is binomial”, “Height is normally distributed”, “Independent identically distributed random variables”.

I have seen someone write, “[Click here to] see a normal distribution being created by random chance!” Wolfram MathWorld writes, “A statistical distribution in which the variates occur with probabilities asymptotically matching their ‘true’ underlying statistical distribution is said to be random.” Examples abound.

All of this is wrong and indicates magical thinking. It is to assume murky, occult causes are at work, pushing variables this way and that so that they behave properly. To say about a proposition X that “X is normal” is to ascribe to X a hidden power to be “normal” (or “uniform” or whatever). It is to say that dark forces exist which cause X to be normal, that X somehow knows the values it can take and with what frequency.

This is false. We are only privileged to say things like this: “Give this-and-such set of premises, the probability X takes this value equals that”, where “that” is a deduced value implied by the premises. Probability is a matter of ascribable or quantifiable uncertainty, a logical relation between accepted premises and some specified proposition, and nothing more.

Let S = “Sally’s grade point average is x”. Suppose we have the premise G = “The grade point average will be some number in this set”, where the set is specified. Given our knowledge that people take only a finite number of classes and are graded on a numeric scale, this set will be some discrete collection of numbers from, say, 0 to 4; the number of members of this set will be some finite integer n. Call the numbers of this set g_1, g_2,…, g_n.

The probability of S given G does not exist. This is because x is not a number; it is a mere placeholder, an indication of where to put the number once we have one in mind. It is at this point the mistake is usually made of saying x has some “distribution”. Nearly all researchers say or assume “GPA is normal”; they will say “x is normally distributed.” Now if this is shorthand for “The uncertainty I have in the value of x is quantified by a normal distribution” the shorthand is sensible—but unwarranted. There are no premises which allow us to deduce this conclusion. This is pure subjective probability (and liable to be a rotten approximation).

When they say “x is normally distributed” they imply that x is itself “alive” in some way, that there are forces “out there” that make, i.e. cause, x to take values according to a normal distribution; that maybe even the central limit theorem lurks and causes the individual grades which comprise the GPA to take certain values.

This is all incoherent. Each and every grade Sally received was caused, almost surely by a myriad of things, probably too many for us to track. But suppose each grade was caused by one thing and the same thing. If we knew this cause, we would know the value of x; x would be deduced from our knowledge of the cause. And the same is true if each grade were caused by two known things; we could deduce x. But since each grade is almost surely the result of hundreds, maybe thousands—maybe more!—causes, we cannot deduce the GPA. The causes are unknown, but they are not random in any mystical sense, where randomness has causative powers.

What can we say in this case? Here is something we deduce: Pr(x = g_1 | G) = Pr(x = g_2 | G), where x = g_1 is shorthand for S = “Sally’s GPA is g_1” (don’t forget this!). This equation results from the so-called symmetry of individual constants, a logical principle. The probabilities are equivalent to G = “We have a device which can take any of n states, g_1, …, g_n, and which must take one state.” From the principle we deduce Pr(x = g_i | G) = 1/n.

“Briggs, you fool. That makes GPAs of 0 just as likely as 4. That isn’t possible.”

Is it not? I see you haven’t taught at a large state university. Anyway, the probabilities deduced are correct. What you are doing in your question is adding to G. You are saying to yourself something like “Pr(g_n | G & What I know about typical grades)” which I insist is not equal to Pr(g_n | G). Either way, x does not “have” a distribution.

Homework 1: discover instances of abuse. Homework 2: What’s wrong with the phrase “independent identically distributed random variables”? Hint: a lot.

Thanks, Fellow Veterans

Off we go.

It was in the first night of my military service that I learned cockroaches could fly. I am from the Northwoods where cockroaches are light on the ground, so it was somewhat of a shock to be standing at attention at two in the morning with a group of dazed men, hearing a thwwwwwwwwp, and seeing a pterodactyl-sized chitinous-armored bug fly over our heads and attach itself to the wall.

That was right before we heard the slow clic-tap, clic-tap, clic-tap of the drill sergeant drawing out his entrance from behind. I think I was more frightened of the miniature dinosaur, which was now extending its wings in a menacing fashion.

They called us a Rainbow Flight because we all wore variously colored civilian clothes and still had long hair. I had a small sack with toothbrush, some spare underwear, shaving kit, that sort of thing. I had, I think, about twenty bucks, which I then (and, given the way things are going, soon will again) regarded as a small fortune. These consisted of my worldly possessions, except for some spare clothes and some books my mom had.

There are two scents that still bring me back. Packaged rough blankets (I don’t know how else to describe it; wool blankets processed cheaply?), and Pinesol. Maybe the memories are triggered by my amygdala: every other behavior apparently is.

Only time I ever caught the attention of the TI was when I accidentally mentioned the name of another unit. He heard this and made all fifty of us rush outside, form up, then rush back upstairs, form up by our bunks, rush back outside, and so forth, about five or six times in all. Turns out our TI hated the TI that ran the other unit.

My first base was Kelly, right next door to Lackland, a major disappointment. Or at least I thought it was at the time. It did allow the Blonde Bombshell to make her way south and get hitched up (she has now served a longer term of service than I did with my Uncle Sam).

Now we had no money but at no time did we ever feel poor. And when I say “no money”, I mean no money. I think the yearly salary then was around $7,100. From which came the rent, groceries, the car, and so on. We didn’t live in the swankiest section of town. The Air Force charmingly picked up the tab for our Number One son, but this was still in the days hospitals didn’t marshal teams of experts to attend a birth.

I became expert at floor buffing, two-deck pinochle, and soldering. Not soldiering: soldering. Very different skill.

After three years of this, off to Kadena and the 1962 Communications Group. The cockroaches were bigger there than in San Antonio. Plus there were deadly slugs, deadly spiders, and a deadly snake called a habu. I never heard of anybody dying from the spiders or snakes, but every now and then a Marine would kick over after being challenged to eat a slug. Or to go swimming in the surf after a typhoon, an especially interesting experience since Okinawa is made of coral. We always thanked God for the Marines—and thanked God we weren’t one of them.

The Navy picked up the tab for Number Two son.

I tooled around Japan and Korea where I first formed the conviction that the human race is insane. I think Sister Dorothy tried to impart this valuable knowledge earlier, but I was stubborn and rebellious and didn’t realize that I was part of the problem.

Once or twice “activists” from mainland Japan came down to protest war and the military. One time they had just enough people to link hands around Kadena. We lived out by the fence and were warned not to go near them, but they seemed friendly enough. Protesting is almost always a social outing with a picnic atmosphere. Of course, this was in the late ’80s and most Japanese probably now think differently.

After we decided to get out, I typed—on a typewriter—maybe 100 letters to various companies asking for a job. Every single one of them wrote back to say No Thanks (every life has constants). Which was but proper and civilized. Those days are gone.

That was me. How many vets do we have here?

Classic Posts

A collection of fundamental posts in philosophy, probability & statistics, and global warming & environmentalism.

Subjects: (click to brings you to a list)

My Favorites

  • First Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award! link
  • William M Briggs, Statistician To The Stars, Now A Thought Leader link
  • Damn Straight News: Manly Men More Likely To Be Conservative link
  • The True Meaning Of Statistical Models link
  • Netherlands Temperature Controversy: Or, Yet Again, How Not To Do Time Serieslink
  • Homeopathic Blog Post link
  • Old Lodge Skins’ Prayer Of Thanksgiving link
  • For The Love Of Models: A Global Warming Allegory link


  • Mysticism of Randomness: Philosophy of Probability & Statistics Series link
  • Probability Is Logic: Philosophy of Probability & Statistics Series link
  • The Mathematics Of Santa Claus’ Present Delivery System link
  • Statistical Follies and Epidemiology link
  • Is There Free Will? A Conversation With Dr. Sam Hurtus link
  • Bill Whittle on the Love of Theory link
  • William Briggs ICCC1: Tropical storms. I weep at how tedious, boring, and, at times, statistically old fashioned this talk was. Use only as a soporific. link

Philosophy & Culture


  • Genetic. He works for an oil company! link
  • Ad Hominem, My Sweet link
  • The Imposing-Their-Beliefs Fallacy link
  • We Don’t Know Anything link
  • The Science-Is-Self-Correcting Fallacy link
  • Hypocrisy link
  • Wrong side of history link
  • The Apes Do It So It Is Fine For Us Fallacy link
  • The Epidemiologist Fallacy link
  • Mexican Hat link
  • One true religion link
  • The Somebody-Might-Get-Hurt! Fallacy link
  • The So’s-Your-Old-Man Fallacylink

Theology & Catholicism

  • The Summary Against Modern Thought, i.e. live blogging Summa Contra Gentiles link
  • The Fourth Crisis Of The Church & Pope Francis link
  • Evolution & The Big Bang Are Perfectly Consistent With Christianity (And Catholicism) link
  • Comprehensive List Of Catholic Dogmas Refuted By Science link
  • Richard Carrier’s Argument To Show God’s Existence Unlikely Is Invalid And Unsound link
  • The Decline & Fall Of Radical Catholicism; Or, What The Synod Will Have Wrought link
  • What is faith? link
  • St Anselm and the ontological argument link
  • Swinburne’s P-Inductive and C-Inductive arguments (existence of God) link
  • Lawrence Krauss on nothing link
  • On The Probability God Exists link
  • Bayes Theorem Proves Jesus Existed And Did not Exist link
  • On Intelligence & Religiosity link
  • The Epistemology Of Miracles: Fulton J. Sheen Edition I, II

Diversity & Equality

  • Diversity is the dumbest idea ever I, II, III, IV
  • The tolerance paradox link
  • Variant on a theme link
  • Life Is Not Fair I, II, III
  • Equality is impossible link
  • Equality definitions link
  • Logan’s Run Is A Progressive Utopia link
  • Diversity! link


  • Genetic Engineering To Create New Super Moral Race link
  • The Moral Case Against Designer Babies link
  • We Are All Eugenicists Now. New Test Identifies 3500 Genetic Faults In Fetuses link
  • Killing newborns link
  • Killing Children Legally In Belgium link
  • Evolving past evolution link
  • Nine-month babies racist? link
  • Mark Twain On The Dictatorship Of Health link
  • Dutch Doctors Strange New House Calls link
  • Abortion to create master race link
  • Decisions made Angelina Jolie Should Not Necessarily Be Yours link
  • Health Is Not A Goal link
  • The Return Of Eugenics link
  • Sex Selection and In Vitro Fertilization link
  • Anti-Human Leader says Every Woman Should Have Contraception link
  • Bioethicist Calls Unborn Innocent Aggressors link
  • Bio-engineering humans and climate link
  • Pill to eliminate racism link
  • People Who Believe In Heaven Commit More Crimes link
  • Are There Any Arguments Against Eugenics Left link
  • Ask A Scientific Ethicist I, I

Free Will

  • On Computers ‘Learning’ link
  • Unsorted I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
  • A Conversation With Dr. Sam Hurtus (Video) link
  • Free Will Cannot Be An Illusion link
  • Disbelief In Free Will Causes Disbelief In Free Will link
  • Free Will The Result Of ‘Background Noise’? link


  • If We Are What We Sexually Desire, How About These Curious People? link
  • Same-sex “marriage” I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X
  • Let’s Find And Fire Those Who Support Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ link
  • E-Lynching The Politically Incorrect: Mozilla Edition link
  • Woman To Marry Fairground Ride. A New Sexual Orientation link
  • Coming Out Christian link
  • Bake your own damn cake link
  • Is Laverne Cox Still A Man? Or, The Coming Transgender Wars link

Morality & Ethics

  • The Scientific Ethicist link
  • Bad Arguments Against The Death Penalty link
  • Atheism And Its Problem Of Evil link
  • If You Disagree You Are Full Of Hate, You Bigot link
  • Dogmatism link
  • Animal rights entail animal responsibilities link
  • Is violence decreasing link
  • Health & responsibility link
  • More fat people link
  • Sandra Fluke Mows The Lawn. A Play In One Act link
  • Abortion link
  • Deciding morality by vote link
  • Academic Philosopher Finds New Way To Dehumanize People link
  • The Slow Death Of Perversion link
  • New Poll Says Forty Percent Don’t Believe In Evolution. So What. link
  • Herd Immunity And Christianity link
  • Prime Minister Kenny Abortion Bill Would Save One Life A Year link
  • Sam Harris Asks if Science Can Answer Moral Questions link
  • A New Row Over Pregnancy Caused by Rape link
  • Germany To Ban Sex With Animals link
  • Women Do Not Have A Right To Do Whatever They Want With Their Bodies link
  • Voting (And Wisdom Of The Crowds) I, II
  • Resolved: Companies Should NOT Be Forced To Fund Employees’ Birth Control link
  • Theories And Predictions: Sociology Version link
  • Animals Suing People, People Suing Animals: Lawyers Rejoice link


  • Malthus’ Proof That Welfare Leads To Increasing Need For Welfare link
  • From Paganism To Christianity To Deism To Malleism link
  • Educators Disease Reaching Epidemic Levels, Experts link
  • The Dismal Economics of Utopia: Lesson One link
  • 8 Great Philosophical Questions That We Will Never Solve Solved! link
  • Language and Truth I, II, III
  • The Consensus In Philosophy link
  • Ways of speaking about truth I, II
  • Scientific Truths Are Not Better Truths Than Just-Plain Truths link
  • The Imperfectibility of Politics. Voting And Unhappiness I
  • Give Children The Vote I
  • On Defeating The NSA: Privacy In A Time Of Government Overreach I

The University

  • Universities? Nuke ’em From Orbit. It’s The Only Way To Be Sure. link
  • University Professors Teach Too Much I, II, III, IV, V
  • It Is Time For A New (Old) Kind Of University link
  • Teaching Comes First. But Only If You Bring In Grants. And Publish link

Essential Book Reviews


  • Edward Feser. The Last Superstition I, II, III, Interlude, IV, V VI, VII
  • Peter Kreeft. Summa Philosophica I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X
  • David Stove. What’s Wrong With Benevolence? link, Annotated Stove bibliography
  • Steven Goldberg. Fads and Fallacies in the Social SciencesI, II, III, IV
  • Jonah Goldberg. Liberal Fascism I, II, III
  • David Bentley Hart. The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Being I, II, III, IV
  • Charles Murray. Real Education link
  • Essential (Philosophical) Conservative Book List link
  • Michael Gazzaniga. Who’s In Charge? I, II
  • Our Brains Are Not Us. Review of Brainwashed link
  • My Genes Made Me Vote For Obama: Predisposed Reviewed link
  • Making Gay Okay, Robert R. Reilly, Reviewed. link
  • The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein, Reviewed. link

Probability & Statistics

Statistics philosophy

  • Machine Learning Big Data Deep Learning Data Mining Statistics Decision & Risk Analysis Probability Fuzzy Logic FAQ link
  • Sampling Variability Is A Screwy, Misleading Concept link
  • Journal Bans Wee P-values—And Confidence Intervals! Break Out The Champagne! link
  • The Cult of the Parameter! link
  • Improper Language About Priors link
  • I Was Wrong About Axioms: Day One Teaching link
  • The Mysticism Of Simulations: Markov Chain Monte Carlo, Sampling, And Their Alternatives link
  • Selling Fear Is A Risky Business Part I, II, III
  • Why You Should Care About The Philosophy Of Probability & Statistics link
  • The Applicability Of Experiments link
  • Nothing Is Distributed: So-Called Random Variables Do Not Follow Distributions link
  • Confidence Interval Interpretation link
  • What Statistics Really Is I, Paradox digression, II, III
  • All Of Statistics I, II,III
  • Statistics Is Not Math link
  • Statistics 101 Class 0, I, II, III, IV, V, no VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI
  • What Is A True Model? What Makes A Good One? I, II, III, IV,V, VI
  • Probability leakage link
  • What Does The Regression Equation Mean? Causality? link
  • Regression Isn’t What You Think link
  • Occam’s razor link
  • Bayes vs. Frequentism: The Lady Tasting Tea; or The Final Battle I, II, III, IV
  • Another reason to abandon p-values (another way to cheat) link
  • Correlation Implies Causation link
  • All Models Are Not Wrong I, II
  • True value of parameter? link
  • Frequentists Are Closet Bayesians: Confidence Interval Edition link
  • The difference between a confidence and credible interval link
  • On The Evidence From Experiments I, II, III, IV
  • Objective Bayes Vs. Logical Probability (Vs. Frequentism) link
  • Direct And Inverse Probability: The Bayesian Way link
  • Jumping The Infinity Shark: An Answer To Senn I, II, III, IV, V, VI
  • Subjective Versus Objective Bayes (Versus Frequentism) I, II, III, IV, V

Probability philosophy

  • Bayesian Statistics Isn’t What You Think link
  • The Problem Of Grue Isn’t; Or, A Gruesome Non-Paradox About Induction link
  • Resolved: Statisticians To Cease Using “Independence”, Change To “Irrelevance” link
  • Truth, Knowledge, Belief, & Gettier Problems link
  • Probability logic & induction I, II
  • Nine Counter-Arguments To Frequentism link
  • Comments On Dawid’s Prequential Probability link
  • Probabilities Aren’t Decisions link
  • There Is No Such Thing As Intrinsic Probability link
  • Failed Counterexamples To The Principle Of Indifference link
  • Physical Probability Doesn’t Exist link
  • What are the chances of that? link
  • The Humble Tautology And Probability link
  • Bayesian Probability Is Not Subjective (It Only Seems Like It Is) link
  • Symmetry Priors Logical Probability Infinities and Needless Paradoxes link
  • Intuitionist Math & Probability: Riemann Hypothesis Example link
  • What Is And What We Know Of It link
  • Why Falsifiability Is Alluring I, II
  • Most Probabilities Aren’t Quantifiable link
  • “Probably Fine” Isn’t A Number link
  • There Is No Such Thing As Unconditional Probability link
  • Russian Roulette And Certainty link
  • The Probability Of A Bottle Broken Into N Pieces When Struck By A Hammer link
  • It Makes No Sense To Say You’re More Likely To Die Of Bee Sting Than Shark Bite link

Statistics practice

  • Statistical Follies and Epidemiology video
  • Don’t Use Statistics Unless You Have To link
  • How Good Is That Model? Scoring Rules For Forecasts: Part I, Part II, Part III
  • Please Don’t Smooth Your (Social Media) Data! link
  • The Coming Cancer Panic link
  • Why Do Statisticians Answer Silly Questions That No One Ever Asks? link
  • What Regression Really Is I, II, III
  • The Biggest Error In Regression link
  • A Statistician’s Lament link
  • On Scientific Polls link
  • How Presidential Polls Work: D+7 or R-3 And All That link
  • What is a Dutch Book? link
  • The Great Bayesian Switch! link
  • How to fool yourself with Statistics I, II, III, IV
  • WEIRD people link
  • Johnson’s Revised Standards For Statistical Evidence link
  • Logical Probability Data Analysis Measurement Error Example I, II
  • The Alternative To P-Values link
  • Everything Wrong With P-Values Under One Roof link
  • How To Mislead With P-values: Logistic Regression Example link
  • What Regression Really Is link
  • Unsignificant Statistics: Or Die P-Value Die Die Die link
  • Regression To The Mean (And Performance Curses) Simply Explained link
  • What’s The Difference Between Polls And Models? link
  • A Peculiar Prevalence Of P Values Just Below .05 link
  • Drug Companies Tweaking Results To Produce Publishable P-values? link
  • How To Present Anything As Significant link
  • All Forecasts Predictions & Prophecies Are Contingent link
  • The Hot Hand: Statistical Fluke Or Genuine Article? link

Predictive Statistics

  • Explanation Vs Prediction link
  • There Is No Difference Between A Forecast, A Scenario, or A Projection link
  • GPA Case Study I, II
  • Definitions link
  • What A Prediction Is And What It Is Not I, II, III, IV
  • Risk Analysis And Over Certainty link


  • Randomized Trials Are Not Needed link
  • Randomness is a Matter of Information I, II, III, IV
  • What Random Means In Random Number Generation link
  • Never Say “Caused By Chance” link
  • On Truly Random Numbers link

Asinine uses of statistics

  • List of asinine papers link
  • Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors Of Political Ideology? link
  • Men Who Post ‘Selfies’ Are Psychopathic, Narcissistic. Science Says So! link
  • Sex With 21 (Not 20) Women Lowers Risk Of Prostate Cancer. It’s Science! link
  • Climate Change Causing Short Peruvians! link
  • Do Sunspots Shorten Lives By 5.2 years? link
  • Exposure To Fracking Reduces Low-Birth-Weight Babies link
  • That Conservatives Smell Different Than Progressives Study Stinks link
  • Judgments About Fact And Fiction By Confused Researchers link
  • Casual Sex Is Good for You, Says New Biased Study link
  • Conservatives suffer from Dark Triad personalities link
  • Exposure to the American flag turns one into a Republican link
  • Exposure to 4th of July parade turns one into a Republican link
  • fMRIs can tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians? I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
  • Newberg again link
  • Low IQ & Liberal Beliefs Linked To Poor Research? link
  • Weapons Make the Man Larger: New Scientific Growth Formula link
  • Brain Atrophy Responsible For Religious Belief? link
  • Do Conservatives Distrust Science More Than Liberals? link
  • Women Spot Snakes Faster Before Their Periods link
  • Wearing A White Coat Makes You More Careful link
  • Autism caused by highways link
  • Do Heat Waves Cause Birth Defects? link
  • Scientists: GOP Women More Feminine Than Dems link
  • Spanking Kids Causes Cancer. Also Asthma and Cardiac Disease link
  • Researchers Invent Exciting New Disease: Poverty Blindness link
  • Racism Eats Telomeres link
  • On The Role Of Genetics In Politics link
  • Do Dogs Poop In Alignment With The Earths Magnetic Field? link
  • Exposure to Fast Food Impedes Happiness link
  • Women With Large Posteriors Live Longer? link
  • Blinks As Lie Detectors link
  • Analysing Perceptions Of Cute Videos Of Threatened Species link
  • fMRI Discovers Freud Distribution Plushies Lurking In Brain link
  • Tweet Hate Map: Awful Really Awful Use Of Statistics link
  • Coal-Fired Power Plants Fuel Suicide—Or Maybe Sanguinity link
  • Scientists Discover Men Don’t Understand Women link
  • Poor Statistics Undermine The Reliability Of Neuroscience link
  • Thinking About Dying Or Just Saw Bad Art? Pop A Tylenol link
  • Science Can Tell If You’re A Racist Just By Looking At You link
  • Yet Another Study Proves Liberal-Conservative Brain Differences link
  • Statistics Proves Men And Women Are The Same link
  • Lightning May Cause Headaches Moon May Cause Domestic Intranquility link
  • Males Play More Sports Than Non-Males link
  • Political Neuroscience Shows Obama Voters Are Different Than Romney Voters link
  • GOP Women More Feminine Than Dems link
  • Stressed Men Prefer Chubby Chicks link
  • Personality Predicted By Pedal Extremity Wrappings? link
  • Believers Less Vindictive Than Godless Atheists: New Research link
  • Atheists More Motivated By Compassion Than The Faithful? link
  • Conservatives Produced By “Low Effort” Thinking link
  • Brain Atrophy Responsible For Religious Belief? link
  • Do Conservatives Distrust Science More Than Liberals? link
  • That Lefties-Drink-More-Than-Conservatives Study link
  • Scientists Discover Men Enjoy Looking At Women’s Breasts. link
  • Female-Named Hurricanes Deadlier Than Males. Implicit Sexism Kills! link
  • Can A Disgusting Smell Turn You Conservative And Against Gay “Marriage”? link

Firearms & Homicide

  • Update On Gun Crime: Downward Bound. Vote Accordingly link
  • World firearms and homicide rates link
  • Mark Twain on firearms link
  • Black vs. White homicides link
  • Homicide Demographics link
  • Mass shootings link
  • Firearm Homicides Dropping link


  • The Vaccine Discussion link
  • Presidential mandates link
  • Changing Attitudes On Suicide And Euthanasia (GSS) link
  • Support For Abortion by Reason (GSS) link
  • Wishcasting the 2012 Presidential Election link
  • How Long Do Popes Serve? link
  • Abortion Safety: Doctors V. Nurses & Physician Assistants & Midwives I, II
  • The Most Depressing Graphs: Per Capita Federal Spending Rises Alarmingly I, II
  • More Proof Music Is Growing Worse link
  • The Decline And Increase Of Mainstream Religions In The USA link
  • Sexual Immorality, Low Birth Rates, And Religion link
  • Government Per Capita Spending: Up, Up, And Away! Or, Happy Tax Day! link

Probability Puzzles

  • The Philosophy Of Rock Paper Scissors link
  • Monty Hall (All Probability is Conditional) link
  • The Probability Of Your Existence link
  • Sleeping Beauty link
  • St Petersburg Paradox link
  • Sorites Paradox link
  • Two-envelope Problem I, II
  • One Son Born Tuesday link
  • Prisoner’s Dilemma link
  • Monkeys Typing Shakespeare link
  • Newcomb’s paradox link
  • Measurement Error Of Colored Balls link
  • Jeffreys-Lindley Paradox link
  • Does 1+2+3+… Really Equal -1/12? link
  • Every Family Has Children Until They Have A Boy link

Global Warming & The Environment

Time series & Data Handling

  • Natural Variations In Weather DO NOT Explain The ‘Pause’: Update, With Letter to Nature link
  • Temperature Grids, Interpolation, And Over-Certainty link
  • Real Climate Temperature “Trend” Article Gets It Wrong (Like So Many Do) link
  • Can We Predict The Unpredictable? link
  • That “1-in-27 Million Chance That Earth’s Record Hot Streak Is Natural” Is Preposterous link
  • Netherlands Temperature Controversy: Or, Yet Again, How Not To Do Time Serieslink
  • The IPCC’s And McKitrick’s “Hiatus” Time Series Models I
  • There Is No Difference Between A Forecast, A Scenario, or A Projection link
  • How to think about time series (temperature example), I, II, III, IV, V
  • The BEST project I, II, III
  • How To Cheat (Or Fool Yourself) With Time Series link
  • The Data Is The Data (Not The Model) link
  • Do not smooth times series you hockey puck! I, II, III
  • Homogenization of temperature series I, II, III, IV, V
  • Hurricanes have not increased: misuse of running means I, II
  • Proper statistical description of temperature (parameter-based versus predictive statistics) I, II
  • How To Properly Handle Proxy Time Series Reconstructions link
  • (Most) Everything Wrong With Time Series link
  • An Ensemble Of Models Is Completely Meaningful link
  • Does Averaging Incorrect Data Give A Result That Is Less Incorrect? link
  • Time Series And Causality: Global Warming Example link


  • We Know The Climate Is Warming Because It Isn’t link
  • On The Attribution Of A Single Event To Climate Change link
  • How Good Is That Model? Scoring Rules For Forecasts: Part I, Part II, Part III
  • Don’t Say “Natural Variability” link
  • Don’t Say “Hiatus” link
  • Paper Claims Surprisingly Strong Link Between Climate Change And Violence. Nonsense. link
  • On The Kaya Identity link
  • Changing sun, changing climate link
  • Do You Believe In Global Warming Because Of The Seriousness Of The Charges? link
  • Idiots calling for my arrest I, II, III, IV, V
  • A Citizen’s Guide to Global Warming Evidence link
  • Use And Abuses Of Decision Analysis link
  • What Probably Isn’t: Heat Waves and Nine Feet Tall Men Prelude I, II
  • That 1 in 1.6 Million Heat Wave Chance, I, II
  • What is and isn’t evidence of global warming, Overview, I, II, III, IV, V, VI
  • Anthropogenic Forcing Signals Not Significant? link
  • Climate Model Uncertainty I, II
  • Causation And Correlation link
  • Parliament The Met Office And Statistically Significant Temperature Change link
  • A Common Fallacy In Global Warming Arguments link
  • 1 Billion To Die By 2030: Global Warming’s Deadly Rampage! link
  • End Of The World Approaches—This Time Via A “State Shift” link
  • HANDY Not So Dandy: NASA-Funded Mathematical Model Of Doom link
  • Ivy League Statistician Debunks NASA-Funded ‘Socialism or Extinction’ Study link

The Epidemiologist Fallacy

  • The EPA Dust And The Ecological Fallacy link
  • Criticism of Jerrett et al. CARB PM2.5 And Mortality Report link


  • The Quality Of Speeches And Education Has Diminished. Egalitarianism Demands It
  • Government Funding Is A Conflict Of Interest: Cowardly Calls For Climate Scientist’s Firing. link
  • Climate Paper Causes Chaos, Angst, Anger, Apoplexy! (Hacking?) link
  • People’s Climate March: The Face Of True Belief link
  • Zombie attacks might increase due to global warming link
  • Global Warming Increases Disastrous Music link
  • Interview With A Climatologist link
  • Lewandowsky’s Faked Moon Landing link
  • Sharknadoes To Increase Due To Global Warming link
  • The Case of the Missing Global Warming: A 17th Precinct Mini Mystery link
  • Homeopathic Blog Post link
  • Global warming causes prostitution! link
  • IPCC Intensifies Search For Missing Global Warming link

Why models run hot, Reporters & Willie Soon affair

  • Mainstream Global Warming Reporters Are Biased, Unteachable, Lazy, & Unethical link
  • Journalist Bias For Sale Vs. Academic Freedom: More On The Soon Pseudo-Controversy link
  • Coming Clean On My Global Warming Funding link
  • Government Witch Hunt Of Scientists Begins: DOJ To Join In? Update! Inhofe Fights Back link
  • For The Love Of Models: A Global Warming Allegory link
  • Left Panics Over Peer-Reviewed Climate Paper’s Threat To Global Warming Alarmism link
  • Goon Squad Fails To Distract Public From Fact That Climate Models Stink link
  • Response To Trenberth Over “Why Models Run Hot” link
  • Reporting On So-Called Climate Reporters link
  • How Good Is That Model? Scoring Rules For Forecasts: Part I, Part II, Part III
  • Natural Variations In Weather DO NOT Explain The ‘Pause’: Update, With Letter to Nature link
  • Government Funding Is A Conflict Of Interest: Cowardly Calls For Climate Scientist’s Firing. link
  • Climate Paper Causes Chaos, Angst, Anger, Apoplexy! (Hacking?) link
  • I Was Hacked link
  • NEW PAPER: Why Models Run Hot: Results From An Irreducibly Simple Climate Model link

Mini Plays & Stories


  • Dinner with Atheists link
  • Ad Hominem, My Sweet link
  • Climate Change Summer Camp! link
  • All Men Are Mortal: A New, Award Eligible Mini Play link
  • Sandra Fluke Mows The Lawn link
  • A Priest And A Reporter Walk Into A Bar link
  • I Offend Thee! A Christmas Play link
  • Free Mumia! And Tunisia! link
  • Dances Without Feathers link
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