William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Democracy And The Global Warming Consensus—And That New Arizona Survey


Guy named Jonathan Overpeck who makes a living ensuring people are nervous about global warming conducted a survey of Arizona residents and discovered three-fourths of them are nervous about global warming. Job well done?

Quote: “A large majority of Arizona residents believe that the world’s temperature has been rising (74%)”.

Now this is false, as in it isn’t true, as in it isn’t so, by which I mean that the proposition that “the world’s temperatures has been rising” when compared against reality produces a glaring mismatch. The proposition is not only false, but easily discovered to be false. And it is so easily discovered to be false that we must seek an explanation why so many people’s thoughts have gone awry.

According to Overpeck, “The survey findings show that the people of Arizona are aware of and interested in climate change and that they understand there are policy decisions that can be made to address it”. Well, he claims they are interested, but that’s not clear. All we know is that 800 people were called and made to answer questions on a subject about which they were largely uninformed. Whether they were interested before that call is anybody’s guess.

Here’s what’s odd: “According to the poll, more than half of Arizonans believe global warming has caused more droughts and storms around the world, and more forest fires and heatwaves in the state.” And this is verified by examining the survey results (pdf). I mean, some 60% of Arizonans do believe global warming has caused more droughts etc.

That’s also false. As in none of it is true, as in…but you get the idea.

We’re now at the main point of this post: people’s opinions about subjects in which they are demonstrably ignorant (and I mean this word politely, in its technical sense) and what this means in a democracy.

One Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at Overpeck’s institute, thought it important to say, “This survey shows the majority of Arizonans seem to be concerned about climate change, which is pretty much in line with the majority of U.S. residents.”

We can guess Garfin would have been saddened had his fellow residents believed less strongly (in falsities) than the rest of the country. Does it then follow that in a democracy it is important that consensus is reached, even when the consensus is wrong, even whoppingly wrong?

The answer, I think, is yes. This is proved in the words of fellow survey author professor Jon Krosnick: “The University of Arizona has done a great service by using the science of survey research to give state residents an opportunity to express their beliefs about what has been happening to the Earth and what they want government to do and not do on this issue”.

What a strange thing to say! Were Arizona residents really burning with desire to tell academics their (false) beliefs about global warming, a stress only relieved by Krosnick’s call? If that’s true, there are still some 6.7 million unsurveyed people suffering. Krosnick ought to get them on the phone as soon as possible and put them out of their misery.

Now, either Krosnick is more concerned with consensus than with correcting error, or he himself is just as ignorant as the majority of his respondents. And if he is just as ignorant, and because finding the truth about weather records is easy, what does this say about the state of science?

The obvious: consensus is more important than truth.

All this is confirmed by none other than Bill “The Science Guy” Nye, who made a point of telling Rutgers graduates to “challenge those who dismiss” global warming. Nye actually said “climate change”, the preferred euphemism for global warming, a linguistic trick, incidentally, which also proves the desire for consensus. Nye said, “So, hey deniers—cut it out, and let’s get to work.”

Get to work? On what? Well, on the object of the consensus, a point so obvious that neither Nye nor the Arizona survey team felt they had to say it. And what is that object?

Hispanics are more concerned about the impact of global warming, and they more heavily favor policies such as cap and trade and government action to limit emissions. More women than men support government action to prepare for the effects of global warming, and 97 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 35) support government laws or tax incentives to reduce power-plant emissions.

What’s wrong with white men? Don’t they want consensus?

News You Can Use: I’ll be speaking at the Heartland Conference June 12th in DC. Autograph hounds are cautioned to bring their own pens.


Vote For Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan For President: It’s The Intelligent Thing To Do

Zoltan '16 For President.

Zoltan ’16 For President.

I normally don’t vote in presidential elections because the choices are between flavors of progressivism—D-type, R-type, etc.—and I desire none. But scrappy “transhumanist” Zoltan Istvan has changed my mind. He has my support.

Istvan is taking on the Clinton-Bush juggernaut and offering an alternative to standard issue progressivism. Complete, total, ran-to-its-logical-conclusion progressivism. Intelligence as salvation.

Our candidate promises to “overcome human death and aging within 15-20 years”! How? By creating a “cultural mindset in America that embracing and producing radical technology and science is in the best interest of our nation and species.” You can’t get more progressive that that.

These goals, Istvan says, “are so simple and obvious, you’d think every politician in the 21st Century would be publicly and passionately pursuing them.” They don’t because they don’t understand transhumanism. What’s that? A “movement [that] goes back decades, to a time when philosophers, futurists, and scientists began understanding how fast technology could solve all the world’s problems.”

All the world’s problems!

Telescopes pick up an object the size of the moon barreling our direction. With zero uncertainty it is proved the object will slam into the earth in 13.4 months, pulverizing the object and turning our planet into molten goo. How would we react?

We’d gather the smartest guys in the world in one room—Zoltan would be there—and give them anything they want. Money, booze, computers, sharp pencils, plenty of paper, companionship—whatever they desired and in whatever quantity they deemed sufficient. And what would happen?

Our planet would turn to goo in 13.4 months.

Intelligence is overrated. Yet almost every person now alive believes the opposite. Just as every person believes the opposite of these true propositions: There are some “problems” which cannot be solved, “problems” that we are under no obligation to solve, “problems” so intractable that even attempting to solve them is foolhardy and harmful.

I can peer into the minds of some readers—those who have read a lot science fiction, for instance—who are now feverishly imagining “scenarios” where the object is diverted from its murderous path. That these readers do so proves my point. And if you can see why their actions prove my point, then you will have truly grasped why intelligence is overrated. I’ll leave it as a reader exercise to solve this “puzzle”.

As a hint, the same answer is found in these words from John Maynard Keynes on the behavior of arch-intellectual Bertrand Russell (words we’ve seen before):

Bertie in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since all we had to do was to carry them on rationally.

As the late lamented philosopher David Stove commented, “Just two effortless sentences, and yet how fatal they are to any belief in Russell’s political wisdom, or even sense! They are like a bayonet thrust through the heart and out the back.”

Two of the greatest minds who have ever lived were not keen on the saving powers of rationality. After a lifetime of thinking the deepest thoughts man can think, one was forced to conclude he “knew nothing”, while the other, a man who wrote the subtlest and profoundest philosophy, pronounced his life’s work “nothing but straw.”

These recommendations are sufficient, one would think, to sober us up. They obviously are not. And they are not because intelligence in the form of rationality is the weakest form of knowledge we have, yet we insist on judging all things rationally! It is weakest compared to what Aristotle called the nous, the act of intellection which infallibly connects us to those most fundamental, consequential truths which we know are true but cannot rationally prove, truths which we must believe before any rational argument can ever start.

Saying you can solve all problems with rationality is thus like thinking you can leap over Mount Everest if you desire it strongly enough. Human perfection is only one transhumanist gene manipulation away!

There is no killing Russell’s and Istvan’s corrosive idea, which advances inexorably, zombie-like throughout our culture. Modern men march under the Rationality banner and find it inconceivable that they should not do so. So why am I voting for the man?

Because his extreme form of progressivism has the better chance of burning itself out quickly and leaving some traditional culture intact, whereas the alternative is like a black hole that will eventually suck in and crush everything.

Vote for Zoltan!

Oh. There is one way of averting that collision. Divine intervention. But don’t count on that. In these days of marrying and giving in “marriage”, it’s not likely, and it surely isn’t rational, to count on God’s support.


Summary Against Modern Thought: God Knows All At Same Instant

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

God is outside time, hence He knows everything at once. How is this possible? We can only argue by analogy. Be sure at least to see the hill analogy below. We are now two weeks away from “God is Truth.”

Chapter 55 That God Understands All Things At The Same Instant (alternate translation)

[1] FROM the foregoing it is also made evident that God understands all things at the same instant…

[4] Moreover. The intellect of one who considers many things in succession cannot possibly have only one operation: for since operations differ according to their objects, the operation whereby the intellect considers the first thing must needs be distinct from that whereby it considers the second. But the divine intellect has only one operation, which is its essence, as proved above.[3] Therefore it considers all that it knows, not simultaneously but successively.

Notes Also, if you’re not now thinking of hot dogs and how awful they taste, but instead thinking about how God could know all at once, then your intellect is in potential to thinking about hot dogs. If you are now thinking about hot dogs, then your intellect is in act with respect to these most disgusting of all sausages. But as Thomas proved much earlier, God is pure act, and is never in potential. Thus He must know all things simultaneously.

[5] Further. Succession is inconceivable apart from time, and time apart from movement: since time is the measure of movement according to before or after.[4] Now no movement is possible in God, as may be gathered from what has been said above.[5] Therefore in God’s thought there is no succession: and consequently whatever He knows He considers simultaneously.

Notes Here’s our analogy. Think of you traveling through time as a journey along a hilly line. Draw a stick figure, representing your intellect, standing on a very choppy line where the peaks are all much higher than the figure’s head. You can only see what is right ahead of you because the hills further on block your view (and also behind!). But now, way above, imagine God is looking down. Since He is so high up, He can see all at once. Meaning, He can understand all at once, whereas you, stuck in time, can only think about one thing at a time.

In the skipped arguments, St Thomas shows, through technical arguments, why you can only think of one thing at a time. It doesn’t mean that you can’t switch between hot dogs and St Thomas very rapidly, or even imagine St Thomas eating a hot dog, but you can’t focus your intellect on more than one genera at a time. I mean, you are not and cannot now, in this instant, think of everything you know. Try doing that. You will fail. This is amplified by the next point.

[6] Again. God’s act of understanding is His very being, as shown above.[6] Now there is no before and after in the divine being, but it is all simultaneously, as proved above.[7] Therefore neither is there before and after in God’s thought, but He understands all things simultaneously.

Notes The analogy holds with even more force here if you consider there is nothing above God in our crude picture. If you are able to think mathematically, imagine the time line on which ordinary intellects must trek as extending very far to the left and right. And then put God higher and higher so that all below is just a speck. Well, it’s an analogy and the “distance” God is away from us (in intellectual ability) is infinite. Hence He can know all there is to know at once.

[7] Moreover. Every intellect that understands one thing after another is at one time understanding potentially, and at another time actually: for while it understands the first thing actually, it understands the second potentially. But the divine intellect is never in potentiality, but is always understanding actually.[8] Therefore it understands things, not successively, but altogether simultaneously.

Notes This by now follows easily. Next week we sprint through four chapters, picking up some interesting items about the Nature of God’s thoughts, and two weeks from today we return to juicier topics, starting with God is Truth.


[1] 3 De Anima iv. 12; v. 2.
[2] Ch. xlvi.
[3] Ch. xlv.
[4] 4 Phys. xi. 5.
[5] Ch. xiii.
[6] Ch. xlv.
[7] Ch. xv.
[8] Ch. xvi.


This Week In Doom: Grade Deflation

This is ART, which we know because it is ugly.

This is ART, which we know because it is ugly.

This week’s doom: “higher” education, art, and sex.

Racism’s return

It may be time to rethink the idea of academic freedom. Seems this professor blurted out a series of racist tweets, but the college at which she works can’t give her the boot because of the aforementioned “freedom.” See for yourself:

“Black masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, black masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges,” Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and Caucasian-American studies at Boston University, tweeted in March.

In another tweet from January, she wrote: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in black-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.”

In another, she called black males a “problem population.”…

“Why is black America so reluctant to identify black college males as a problem population?” she asked.

I may have some of the details wrong. You’d better click the original news story to check me.

Uniform diversity

One way to solve endemic academic racism is to enforce diversity on every campus. Or so says academic expert Daryl Smith. HT Brett Stevens.

In her keynote address, higher education diversity expert Daryl G. Smith recommended a path forward for UNC, drawing from her 2009 book Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making it Work…

The most radical idea Smith espoused in her address was that faculty and staff members should be hired and fired on the basis of their understanding of diversity…

She told the audience that, like technological proficiency, competence in issues of diversity “has to be a condition of employment.”

Smith also recommended reeducation camps (yes, really) for the growing-ever-smaller group of recalcitrant professors who insist on teaching only their expertise.

Gag orders

This item proves Smith’s contention. If we work hard enough, we can eliminate all unapproved ideas.

…the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense…

On today’s campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficial tactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling—and more far reaching—is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don’t like. They’ve invented a labyrinth of anti-free speech tools that include “speech codes,” “free speech zones,” censorship, investigations by campus “diversity and tolerance offices,” and denial of due process. They craft “anti-harassment policies” and “anti-violence policies” that are speech codes in disguise.

Darn tootin’ they do. How else can diversity survive unless everybody thinks the same?

Retroactive reeducation

The most creative ploy to diversify thought was thought up by students at one Washington college, who petitioned to have an alumnus’s degree revoked because, the students claim, this non-diverse fellow does not “believe in climate change” and publicly said so. Embarrassing, right?

“We’re framing it in a more radical way,” [student representative] D’Angelo said. “We’re not just trying to have a conversation with him or hold him accountable. We’re trying to revoke his degree and get people to pay attention.”

This could be the start of something big! Not only could a university threatening to retroactively revoke degrees impose diversity, which is good in and of itself, but it could produce new “revenue streams” (to use the lingo). Once a decade alumni must submit an Affidavit of Conformity, along with a hefty “processing fee”, else their degrees are erased. You heard it here first!

More black racism

Even the presence of black people is giving some students the jitters. Or so says a new report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

…just “walking into or sitting in” a classroom full of black people is an aggression in itself.

“Students of no color reported feeling uncomfortable and unwelcomed just walking into or sitting in the classroom, especially if they were the only person of no color, or one of a few,” stated the report, which designated the experience an aggression.

“People do not necessarily say I do not belong, but I feel as if I do not when I am in a classroom and I am the one White person,” said one student, identified as a Spanish female, who is quoted in the report.

Again, my cut-and-paste function is on the fritz today, so you’d better check the original for precise quotes.

From theory to practice

Academics invented the idea that not only can you be whatever you what to be, but that everybody else must agree to your “choice” or they must be labeled a bigot or something-or-other-phobe.

Transgender army major wins victory in conservative Serbia. “A Serbian human rights body ruled that the army had discriminated against [this man pretending to be a woman] by saying [this man] was a potential stain on its honor.”

We’ve come to the point where it’s necessary to say “It’s Not Hateful To Point Out Bruce Jenner Isn’t A Woman.

No less a formidable source than the “AP Stylebook” declared a few years ago that Associated Press employees are to use “the pronoun preferred by the individuals” in cases where confusion may arise.

My preferred pronoun—and you had better use it or I’ll sic the government on you—“His Exultedness.”

Now there are no such things as “gender reassignments” or “sex change surgeries”. Not only are they physically impossible, but they are a barbaric assault on the English language, an abuse which leads to things like this:

Lopez implied variously that gender as we know it is “a social construct, not a biological one,” and thus malleable, and that there also may be a “biological link to a person’s transgender identity.” These two concepts are flatly irreconcilable, but the point here is not to make sense of anything; the point is to signal your sensitivity to a controversial topic, even though such signaling encourages a mass delusion and puts peoples’ health and well-being at risk.

Filed under toilet training: “A Canadian mom is dragging the Catholic Church before the Alberta Human Rights Commission because the Catholic school district said her son had to use the boy’s bathroom.

The school has even installed a special non-gendered bathroom for this situation, but the mother feels this solution is not good enough for her child; she claims no harm will come to anyone if he is allowed to use the girls’ restroom. She cited a doctor who said the boy has “gender dysphoria.”

This is something to follow because Canada has slipped a little lower down the Slide of Insanity than we have.

Here’s a question nobody was asking, yet somehow it got asked: Polling Finds Growing Acceptance of Gay Marriage—and a Gay President. Perhaps her Hillaryship will discover she is same-sex attracted? Beats claiming to be an Indian, am I right?

Bad art

Last week was good for bad art—which is now most of it. A hideous painting by Picasso, the Iberian Imp, sold for a whopping $179 million bucks (and change). This fascinated the citizenry, of course, because they equate price with value.

Here’s an item on the Scourge of Eyes “Banksy” that is nearly as depressing. “It’s standard dormroom Marxist stoner type stuff aimed at the lowest hanging fruits of social critique. Pretty insipid and rarely if ever at odds even the most milquetoast mainstream progressive thought.” Et cetera.

This one’s not for the squeamish. I hesitate to post it, but I do so to document that the end can not be very far off. “‘Vaginal Knitting’ Is Here To Make Everyone Afraid Of Performance Art Once Again.”

“I’m spending 28 days knitting from wool that I’ve inserted in my vagina,” the Melbourne-based artist explains in the video above. “Everyday I take a new skein of wool that’s been wound so that it will unravel from the centre and I stick it up inside me… and then I pull out the thread and knit.”

The work is officially called “Casting Off My Womb,” but was lovingly dubbed “Vaginal Knitting” by the Australian TV channel SBS2Australia. Taking place in Darwin, Australia, the performance project aims to address taboos surrounding female genitals and a woman’s body in general, similar to the many provocative endeavors spearheaded by Jenkin’s art activism group, Craft Cartel

Jenkins is not the first female artist to test the limits of the public’s uneasiness with the naked female form. Marina Abramovic explored pagan rituals associated with a woman’s body in “Balkan Erotic Epic,” Yoko Ono dared audiences to literally cut off her clothes in “Cut Piece,” and Marni Kotak, well, she gave birth in an art gallery. And that’s just naming a few veterans. More recently, the Brooklyn-based artist Christine Cha challenged woman to “Rub Out” together in support of female masturbation.

For more doom and doom-like matters, see this roundup.

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