William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 152 of 589

Anti-Human Leader: Every Woman, Everywhere, Could Have Contraception

It would be better for me if you were dead.

“Isn’t she pretty. What’s her name?”

“Susan. After my grandmother.”

“Have you had her fixed yet?”

Don’t fret! That’s a conversation you won’t be hearing. Because why? Because, of course, if Alan “Not So” Weisman got his way and “[e]very woman, everywhere” had (to avoid “draconian edicts”) free contraception, there’d be no babies named Susan, no, nor named anything else. There’d be no babies period.

And that would be hunky dory to the author of The World Without Us, a book in the eco-pr0n genre which lists the delights that await precisely no one in a “post-human” world.

“Oh, baby. Tell me again of the rotting corpses of seven billion humans. And do it slow.”

Strict anti-human philosophy is a special kind of lunacy which I don’t think will catch on to a great degree. It’s one thing to have a philosophy, à la most variants of socialism, which provides its followers with that special kind of frisson which comes from contemplating murdering your enemies—and this anti-human gives.

But it’s quite another thing to say “Suicide is the solution” and recruit enough members for a parade. Yet Weisman tries—though not, or at least not yet, by leading by example.

Weisman is a “Boulder Lefty”, i.e. the kind of person who moved to Boudler, Colorado because he liked the view but who, after he got there, votes to keep newcomers out so as not to “upset the balance.” In the same way, he votes for keeping new people from the Earth since adding more would spoil the time he’s having.

What escapes Weisman, and all the other not so Weismans, is that there can’t be too many people. If there isn’t food enough to sustain a population, then that population cannot increase. Populations increase just because there is plentiful food and lots of health to go around.

Health is what accounts for the current rate of population increase. People aren’t being born at historically high rates, quite the opposite, but they are dying at slower rates. Yet even these old people will kick off sooner rather than later, and the population (if trends continue in the same direction) will begin angling southwards.

Let’s indulge Weisman and suppose that it’s the week after the pills are handed out. No, make it a year after. Should be time enough for bacteria, wild animals and the wind to do its work.

Now what?

Well, nothing. A whole lot of nothing. And nothing for a long, long time.

Anti-human fanatics would call this a good thing. But why is it good? It can’t be good for anybody because there are no bodies. It can’t improve anything for anybody for the same reason.

It won’t be too good for some animals, either. Cows, for example. Most will starve, others will end up in the stomachs of dogs. But who cares how the animals sort out which gets to eat which? Nobody, because there will be no bodies to make a “who.”

There isn’t any version of anti-human that isn’t nonsensical or absurd. So how do we explain the Weismans among us?

Bloodlust. These people, or most of them, say they are anti-human but what they really mean is that they’re anti-you. They’ll happily escort you up the steps of the guillotine with a cheering lecture on what a noble sacrifice you’re making “for the planet.” They may even shed a tear for you as they yank the rope, especially if you splatter their Birkenstocks.

But they don’t see themselves making the same journey. They figure that once they clear out the undesirables what’s left of the planet will given over to their beneficent and wise rule. They’ll beat their guillotines into plowshares and, well, share the land, living in harmony with all creation.

Until wolf packs, now held in bay by irritable farmers, start picking them off. Or until the occasional bear looks into the cornfields—they’ll call it maize because that sounds more eco—at those delicious walking snacks. Or until some new bug wangles its way past their white blood cells.

Or until, with all that free time on their hands and with all the baskets filled with surplus maize, they start making babies. Thus beginning the cycle all over again.


Blasphemy Rights Day Twitter Contest Winners

The Sphinx is on the top left.

In an effort to unleash the inner juvenile inside all of us, the Center for Free Inquiry held the “Blasphemy Rights Day 2013 Twitter Contest.

They called this “an initiative to focus attention and efforts on defending the universal right to blaspheme.” Immediately we see the modern confusion between right and responsibility. Just because you have a right to act like an ass does not imply that you should.

Anyway, here was the winner:

In case you can’t see the tweet, here it is: “Banning criticism of ideas is banning ideas.”

As blasphemy rights statements go, it’s on the tepid side. Worse, it’s false. It just doesn’t follow that if criticism were banned, ideas would also be banned. Only some ideas would be banned; namely, the critical ones.

I feel like a bully pointing this out, though.

@SkepticalPoet, the winner, only snagged two-hundred-eighty bucks for his cleverness. That kind of money is not going to attract the sharpest wits.

There was a tie for second place:

Text: “Criticism is the currency in the marketplace of ideas. You either pay the entry fee or you don’t get to participate.”

Perhaps all that need be said is that author of this tweet, @Krow9768, is a “UNI MPP graduate” and “Community Outreach Coordinator at One Iowa.”

The other second:

Text: “Without questions, there are no answers.”

This was sounds like it was written by a skeptical Joel Osteen. Or maybe by The Sphinx from Mystery Men. He was the not-so-superhero who said things like “To overcome the darkness, you must first become the light.” (I have no idea whether he said that, by the way.)

Point is, I think CFI could have done better (here are more entries, all sad). Why, just off the of of my head I have:

     “Only the keen blaspheme,”


     “A blasphemy a day keeps theology at bay.”

Why didn’t I enter? I could have used the money, sure. But the winner was also forced to receive a subscription to Free Inquiry which I don’t think comes in a plain brown wrapper.

Update How about some tweets about the rank depression caused by abject skepticism? All tweets have to be 140 minus the length of @center4inquiry (which should be included) characters.

See this space for when I have time to think of one. Okay, I did. I stole this one from Gary below.

Or how about:

     “Believing in Nothing is what makes us smart.”


Pascal & Barzun On Scientism

That science is an explanation of all things is itself not a scientific statement.

Blaise Pascal was a man smarter than I and smarter than thou. He was a scientist, mathematician, probabilist, and was deeply, deeply Catholic. Pascal as scientist warned against trusting science too well; which is to say, Pascal spoke out against scientism. Statistics, incidentally, contributes as least as much as any other field to this dismal fallacy.

From From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun, 2000, HarperCollins, New York, p 218.

Ten succinct paragraphs of the Pensées state [the warning against scientism] with finality. Scientism is the fallacy of believing that the method of science must be used on all forms of experience and, given time, will settle every issue. Again and again, the bright thought has occurred, “If we can only define our terms, if we can only find the basic unit, if we can spot the right ‘indicators,’ we can then measure and reason flawlessly, we shall have created one more science.” And nearly as often, the shout has been heard: “Eureka! We are scientists,” the new science being some portion of the desired Science of Man—history, sociology, psychology, archaeology, linguistics, and other more or less short-lived ologies…

The motives behind scientism are culturally significant. They have been mixed, as usual; genuine curiosity in search of truth; the rage for certainty and for unity; and the snobbish desire to earn the label scientist when that became a high social and intellectual rank. But these efforts, even though in vain, have not been without harm, to the inventors and to the world at large. The “findings” have inspired policies affecting daily life that were enforced with the same absolute assurance as earlier ones based on religion…The case of Karl Marx is typical. Infatuated with the kudos of science, he persuaded himself and his millions of followers in and out of the Soviet Union that he had at last formulated the mechanics of history and could predict the future scientifically.

Curiously, the only Marxists left have all joined jobs programs (so fertile at providing employment for all manner of politically desirable groups) at Western universities. There they plot their bloody revenge. Never mind.

And from Pascal himself, these:

The vanity of the sciences.—Physical science will not console me for the ignorance of morality in the time of affliction. But the science of ethics will always console me for the ignorance of the physical sciences.”

“The world is a good judge of things, for it is in natural ignorance, which is man’s true state. The sciences have two extremes which meet. The first is the pure natural ignorance in which all men find themselves at birth. The other extreme is that reached by great intellects, who, having run through all that men can know, find they know nothing, and come back again to that same ignorance from which they set out; but this is a learned ignorance which is conscious of itself. Those between the two, who have departed from natural ignorance and not been able to reach the other, have some smattering of this vain knowledge, and pretend to be wise. These trouble the world, and are bad judges of everything. The people and the wise constitute the world; these despise it, and are despised. They judge badly of everything, and the world judges rightly of them.”


Update On Sexuality Wars

What is this dog's orientation?.

What is this dog’s orientation?

Item: What if—don’t panic—there is no such thing as sexual orientation in any biological sense (save heterosexualism) where a person is born and “condemned” inescapably to lust after one fixed object (so to speak). Searches for “gay genes” or other biochemical markers have been in vain, therefore it’s rational to suppose none exist and that environment plays a large role. What if human sexuality isn’t as cut-and-dried as modern (and only modern) interpretation has it and that “orientation” is entirely man-made?

Celebrated denizen of the left Michel Foucault said:

In his Histoire de la Sexualité, Michel Foucault argues that homosexuality is a social construct, and one constructed terribly recently at that. “As defined by the ancient civil or canonical codes,” he writes, “sodomy was a category of forbidden acts; their perpetrator was nothing more than the juridical subject of them.” The late-nineteenth century saw this classical view displaced, however, when the sodomite was set up as the bearer of a distinct and pervasive psychological persuasion. “Homosexuality appears as one of the forms of sexuality,” Foucault writes, “when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul.”

Item: The categories which define “orientation” are increasing, too. LBGTQIA—more?

Item: The Very Reverend Gary Hall, chief of the Washington National Cathedral and member of one of the protesting Christian sects, recently said, “Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin…Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are.”

Of course, “homophobia” is a fluid word, but this is the first I’ve seen “Heterosexism” (which might in other words be called natural law) called a sin. Hall also said that people’s attitudes towards homosexuality are based on “a misreading of the Bible.”

Thus we have, at least with Hall, who surely has many imitators and who preaches to a grateful media, a complete reversal of classic theology.

Item: A now 11-year-old boy, who with the help of his two lesbian guardians, decided at age 8 that he was “really” a girl, has completed three years of chemical injections to make his male body more resemble a female one.

Psychiatrists “diagnosed” the boy with “gender identity disorder”. A modern disease, one only recently “discovered.”

Item: Argentina’s government has granted a 6-year-old boy an ID that corresponds the boy’s claim that he is a girl. His proud and energetic mother even managed to have the government an amended “birth” certificate which claims the boy is a girl. This was fully legal. From the relevant law:

Gender identity is understood as the internal and individual way in which gender is perceived by persons, that can correspond or not to the gender assigned at birth, including the personal experience of the body. This can involve modifying bodily appearance or functions through pharmacological, surgical or other means, provided it is freely chosen. It also includes other expressions of gender such as dress, ways of speaking and gestures.

Interesting choice of words, “gender assigned at birth” and “freely chosen.” How “free” are the choices of pre-teens regarding sexuality? The modern presumption is “Perfectly so.” Does it follow puberty is a choice?

Item: A boy pretending to be a girl at Florence High School in Colorado was reportedly

harassing girls in the bathroom. When parents complained, school officials said the boy’s rights as a transgender trumped their daughters’ privacy rights.

As the controversy grew, some students were threatened with being kicked off athletic teams or charged with hate crimes if they continued to voice concerns.

This news arrives from an interested source, and I could not discover corroboration. The story mentions the Pacific Justice Institute, a traditionalist (the modifier, as we learned from above, is now needed) Christian organization which had involved itself in California’s new law to allow children to access whichever bathroom accorded with their “gender identity.”

So the story has some plausibility. But even if it’s false or exaggerated, it’s of interest to note its direction.

Item: California Governor Brown “signed a new law that will allow the state to recognize more than two legal parents for a child.”

One of the catalysts for the bill was a case in which one lesbian in a relationship was impregnated by a man, and later fought with her lesbian lover. One woman was jailed and the other went to the hospital, and the daughter wound up in foster care because the sperm donor did not have parental rights.

Conclusion? The first lesson is you are not who you are, but you are what you want to be. And not only that: others must acknowledge not who you are, but who you claim to be. If they do not, it is they who are troubled, not you.

The second lesson is that people have absolutely no sense of humor or proportion about these things.

Of course, the real trick is not to compile these stories, but to say where they are pointing. Readers should recall that not the whole world is acquiescing, Russia and large swaths of Africa hold to older ways.

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