William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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For The Love Of Models: A Global Warming Allegory


A very odd thing happened in Science. Turns out a famous weatherman has been forecasting highs in the 60s then 70s for New York City all winter long. But the temperature never rose above the single digits, teens, twenties, and thirties.

One day a writer at the New York Post wrote an article telling people not to trust the weatherman, who, it turned out, had issued a prediction for the following day for a “High of 80!”

Climatologists stationed at NASA on the Upper West Side were incensed that a non-scientist would interfere with Science. So the climatologists spoke with the weatherman, who said he was basing his predictions on a sophisticated computer model. The weatherman admitted his difficulties, but said his model would have performed great if only he had better measures of surface snow cover.

This reasoning wholly convinced the climatologists who held a press conference at which they insisted, “Whoever disagrees with this weatherman is a science denier. The weatherman is using a sophisticated computer model, which can only get better since we have provided the weatherman with New & Improved! measures of surface snow cover.”

Cowed, the press skittered away, went home and put on their shorts to await the promised warmth. But the next day the high was only 16oF. And for the next week it was bitterly cold, yet the weatherman went on predicting a heatwave. This raised eyebrows, but since nobody wanted to be called a denier, they didn’t insist the weatherman was wrong.

The climatologists suspected, however, that something wasn’t quite right. So they called another meeting with the weatherman. He admitted he had incorporated the New & Improved! surface snow cover measurements, but that hadn’t helped much. And besides, there wasn’t anything wrong after all. The model was still great—better than great—but it was natural variability that was to blame for the wayward observations. “Nobody,” he said, “Can anticipate natural variability.”

Again, the climatologists were convinced by this argument and they called another press conference. “The model this weatherman is using is correct,” they said. “It is really a quite excellent model. But natural variability interfered with observations.”

A man in the audience, a non-tenured engineering professor, was perplexed. He was bold enough to ask, “But that doesn’t make any sense. Natural variability is what the weather is. What you’re really saying is that the model does a poor job of representing the weather.”

“That is false,” the climatologists said. “The model is terrific. From whom do you receive your funding?”

The engineering professor said, “Well, partly from a company that manufactures a specialized product. But what does that matter? Your model said the temperature would be high and instead it was low. That can only mean the model is wrong.”

Now the engineering professor didn’t know it, but his Dean was watching the press conference. The Dean was embarrassed that he had a science denier in his department and the next day he moved to have the young professor terminated. A reporter (shivering like mad and dressed in a t-shirt) heard about the firing and asked the climatologists for their opinion.

“That this man was fired is proof of his incompetence. He wasn’t even a meteorologist. He obviously had a conflict of interest by receiving money from companies that might benefit from his work. This proves the model the weatherman is using is a good one.” And the reporter believed.

Meanwhile, a team of scientists argued that the model didn’t work and they offered a suggestion why it might be busted. They published their thoughts in a science journal, which caught the attention of the small fraction of the public who were tired of having to wear skimpy clothes in frigid temperatures merely to prove they were not science deniers.

The climatologists quickly called another conference to assure the public that all was well in hand. “The team’s suggestion of why the weatherman’s model is broken can’t possibly be right. Therefore the weatherman’s model must be a good one. Only science deniers can deny this.”

The weatherman continued predicting hot air, but only cold air was to be seen. Some in the public grumbled louder. So the climatologists contacted the state authorities. The governor and state legislature were brought in, as were educational, union, and business leaders. All begin promoting the climatologists’ message that the weatherman was right and the weather wrong. The president of the United States eventually came to the rescue with an official list of Science Deniers. He said that those who love Science should “go after” the deniers.

Which they did. And then everybody died of pneumonia.


The Quality Of Speeches And Education Has Diminished. Egalitarianism Demands It

Everybody counts.

Our friend John Cook points us to an analysis, of sorts, of the so-called reading-level of States of Union addresses, and its decline through the years, from the site Priceonomics.

Here is their picture of the various ways of quantifying reading “complexity” (ignore that site’s first picture which superimposes a red line, which is not data, over the real data, a bad but widespread habit):

Go to their site for the original.

Go to their site for the original, full-sized picture.

The reading-difficulty methods take things like number of words, lengths of sentences, and even the number of syllables of words into account. Of course, none of these methods capture fully, or even well, the nature of literature. They are at best a crude indication of the complexity of writing; and where, of course, we must acknowledge that complexity alone is a far from sufficient indicator of literary worth.

And they’re not necessary. Here is a quote from John Adams’s 1797 address:

Indeed, whatever may be the issue of the negotiation with France, and whether the war in Europe is or is not to continue, I hold it most certain that permanent tranquillity and order will not soon be obtained. The state of society has so long been disturbed, the sense of moral and religious obligations so much weakened, public faith and national honor have been so impaired, respect to treaties has been so diminished, and the law of nations has lost so much of its force, while pride, ambition, avarice and violence have been so long unrestrained, there remains no reasonable ground on which to raise an expectation that a commerce without protection or defense will not be plundered.

And here, for contrast, is a modern man many say is a great orator:

As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.

Formulas aren’t needed; the comparison is stark. Explanation? Mr Adams had one great advantage over Mr Obama beyond the obvious: Mr Adams was addressing a concentrated group of men of far superior knowledge—I almost said “education”, a word that is nearly dead to us.

The picture at the head of today’s post tells the tale better. The percent of citizens eligible to vote in presidential elections has been steadily increasing since this nation’s founding (see this post for more details), from about 10% in Mr Washington’s day to around 70% in ours. Why this is so I discuss below. First, to quote myself:

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.

Intelligence is not uniform, and given the nature of the changes in eligibility—primarily lower ages—increasing the percentage of eligible voters must necessarily have driven down the average intelligence of the electorate. The change—the decrease—in intelligence since Mr Adams’s time has, not unexpectedly, been enormous.

A speech of the quality of Mr Adams’s today would perplex the majority of voters, and would probably incur the charge of elitism. TV pundits would make nothing of it, the second sentence far exceeding the limits of the soundbite and of mainstream reporters’ mental capacities. And Mr Obama, if he or his ghosters had the ability to write to the same level of Mr Adams, wouldn’t. It would be bad politics. Speech quality is following the expected path.

The unquestionable Theory of Egalitarianism which caused this corrosion is still playing out, guaranteeing a further diminution, not solely in presidential speeches, but everywhere. For instance, the average college degree now is as proportionately watered down as States of the Union addresses; and the same is true of high school diplomas. Degrees, diplomas, and speeches also share this in common: a burgeoning amount of time devoted to the Theory and a hostility to difficulty. It’s an exaggeration to say that in fifty years the Theory will be all that is left—but not much of one.


Today’s Posts Are At Breitbart

Head on over.

The white fury guy in the center is me before shaving.


Steve Bannon had me on his radio show Sunday night, which can be caught at Sirius Patriot channel 125. Robert Wilde has a summary of the interview which ends with this:

Briggs emphasized that “if you don’t remember anything else from this radio program listen to this: If you have a theory and that theory makes bad predictions, that theory is in error…Climate forecasters have made, for decades, lousy predictions. They are therefore in error…People should not rely on them to make decisions. Certainly, they should not rely on them to make legislation.”

I don’t have access to Sirius, but I’ve heard rumors past shows can be found for subscribers. Can anybody confirm that?

Lead article

Editor Bannon was very kind and put my contribution up as the lead article of Monday night: Left Panics Over Peer-Reviewed Climate Paper’s Threat To Global Warming Alarmism (which beats the heck out of the title I suggested).

That article starts:

You’ve heard it said that the science is settled. And it’s true. It is settled—settled beyond the possibility of any dispute. A fundamental, inescapable, indubitable bedrock scientific principle is that lousy theories make lousy predictions.

Climate forecasts are lousy, therefore it is settled science that they must necessarily be based on lousy theories. And lousy theories should not be trusted.

Go there to read the rest.


The editors very kindly also posted two letters, one from Bob Carter and another from Lord Christopher Monckton, defending Willie Soon. Here’s the introduction:

Editor’s Note: As reported by Breitbart News, the New York Times over the weekend ran a hit piece on astrophysicist Willie Soon, pressuring his superiors, Charles R. Alcock of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center and W. John Kress of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, to punish him after the publication of a peer-reviewed paper debunking climate models that predict carbon dioxide will lead to catastrophic global warming.

Go there to read the rest.

Article second

The editors really went all out for us, posting another article by Bob Carter (who did most of the writing on this one), David Legates, and myself, entitled The Silence of the Scientists.

In it we say:

The saddest part of today’s sorry state of climate research is that so many scientists choose to remain mute about these widespread abuses of scientific nomenclature and method. They fear intimidation.

Again, go there to read the rest.

We owe ‘em

Breitbart has been amazingly supportive over this wholly artificial manufactured story. Head on over to express your thanks, drop them a line, add a comment.

And it’s not finished. Dastardly distractors are still going after Willie Soon. Why? Because these malevolent menaces can’t stomach disagreement. The Theory of Tolerance demands there exist only one opinion on any subject to which all must subscribe—or else. Soon and the other three of us dissented, so we must pay the price.

These science deniers have convinced Soon’s employers to open a formal investigation. Let them. They will discover nothing untoward. But since this is politics and not science, only God Himself knows what the outcome will be. Truth is the first and last victim of zealotry—with bodies of the innocent strewn along the way.

Incidentally, Soon’s employers, shivering under the vaporous weight of public opinion, put out a statement, in which they said, “Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon is a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. He was hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar variability. The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research.”

In other words, Soon has to go out and find his own money as a condition of his employment. We call this a “soft money” position. So even though his squeamish employers know damn well Soon is without stain, they still had to kowtow to the uninformed.

Let’s not forget our purpose! As the Smithsonian did not when they closed their public statement:

The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian’s official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming.

Asinine. The first sentence contradicts the second. Soon, and Lord Monckton, David Legates and I, based upon our many years of scientific research, also agree that human activities are a cause of climate change. We say so clearly in “Why models run hot”!

Can nobody read any more?

Our finding is only that the risk has been wildly exaggerated and that human contributions are modest at best. And that, dear reader, is real science.

Update All of Appell’s comments go to moderation, where I can see if they’re relevant or not. And your comments mentioning his name go there, too. I’ll release all comments that follow the rules I set. Multiple people are answered in one comment, and comments are limited.


Government First Encouraged, Now Wants To Reduce Screen Time For Kids—Guest Post by the Blonde Bombshell

Citizen's at the release of Apple's new i-whatitz 12.7.

Citizen’s at the release of Apple’s new i-whatitz 12.7.

The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has been released, and is open for public comment. Allegedly, public comment is open until April 8, 2015, but the website claims that comments were closed on December 30, 2014 (see the last line of the page). Incompetence or clever legerdemain?

Among other things, the report is very concerned about how much time that children and youth are spending in front of screens (defined as “television and other types of media”). From the report:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than 2 hours a day of screen time (including television and other types of media) for children ages 2 years and older and none for children younger than age 2 years. However, children ages 8 to 18 years spend an average of 7 hours on screen time each day.

Very young children should not be consuming any electronic media at all, and the AAP is being very generous with suggesting 2 hours a day. What is remarkable is that school-aged children are in front of glowing screens for 7 hours a day. Only 7 hours? The report is not clear if the 7 hours include in-school screen time.

In the last quarter century, the cry has been that that “computers in the classroom” were “essential to learning” and to “prepare students for the workplace”—even though up to about 1978 there were virtually no computers in any K-12 institution. Today many children tote around a school-issued tablet. Children are wired practically from the moment they wake up, and this is the result of government meddling and indulgent parenting. Now that the monster has been created, the experts are busy creating “interventions” to reduce screen time. More from the report:

Multifaceted interventions to reduce recreational sedentary screen time may include home, school, neighborhood, and pediatric primary care settings, and emphasize parental, family, and peer-based social support, coaching or counseling sessions, and electronic tracking and monitoring of the use of screen-based technologies.

This is the native tongue of the educrat. To suggest “electronic tracking and monitoring” as a serious solution is a blatant abdication of responsibility and a clarion call to passivity.

One way guaranteed to slash the dreaded screen time in half is to order the students to turn their school-issued tablets and other devices to the proper authorities. Another way is that mom or dad can put it away the device until certain chores are done. Moms and dads (at least those of another generation) were not burdened by having to coach or counsel their progeny when switching off the TV when the Saturday-morning cartoons droned on past noon. “No,” is a pretty good intervention strategy.

The problem that “reducing screen time” is supposed to resolve is obesity, as well as a host of other health problems, such as diabetes and cancer. It doesn’t follow that children and youth with reduced screen times will be running around outside.

Especially since some municipalities have criminalized unattended children. There will be fewer kids walking to school, and walking to the library after school.

What used to be gym class—where actual running around took place—has been overtaken by “health” class, where one would think that students would learn how important it is to wash their hands, eat broccoli, and run around outside. Instead, “health” is code for “sex” where students can learn about contraception and various ways to pervert the regular course of nature.

The government created this sorry state of affairs, but given enough money and time, they can create even greater problems. To address (alas, never to be solved) these new-found problems will require time, money, and a special commission.

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