William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Reader Challenge: Find College WITHOUT Diversity Program

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Are there any (nonprofit) colleges or universities without programs, offices, or administrators for Diversity? In the United States, I mean, or, secondarily, anywhere in the West.

Type “Diversity” in Harvard’s site and you get the picture above. There is the Office of the Assistant to the President, Institutional Diversity and Equity, the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Office for Student Diversity and Inclusion, The Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership at the Medical School, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Public Health, the Multicultural Diversity program, the Diversity and Explorations Program at the Harvard Divinity School, the Diversity program at the Department of Biostatistics, the list of Diversity and Inclusion Resources, and all that is only on the first page of results. There are ten pages.

“So what,” you say. “Harvard’s soul was lost when they allowed unitarians into the Theology Department.”

True. But who knew the rot had spread to the Biostatistics Department? How about let’s try a decent State school. Ohio State?

They have an official Diversity statement for the main school and the Medical school, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, an official Diversity Action Plan, statement of Diversity & Inclusion at the Fisher College of Business, Recruitment and Diversity Services at the College of Arts and Sciences, a Diversity statement at the College of Engineering, and many, many, many more.

And I learned University of Michigan’s Chief Diversity Officer, a “long-time activist”, will make $385,000 a year. That’s over $1,000 a day. Each and every day. To be fair (that was a hard word to write), the school will spend $85 million on Diversity, so nearly half a million is nothing.

“Well, you can’t go by that. State schools have long succumbed to politics. How about some small liberal arts place in some tucked away, obscure place like Alabama? How’s Calhoun Community College?”

Nah, Diversity galore. It’s a “learning outcome” in programs of all kinds. Even in computer graphics.

“This is getting tricky. Perhaps a Catholic College? After all, their focus should be on Our Lord and not on current political fads. Give Sacred Heart University a go. ”

Another strike. They have the EPP Diversity Initiative, all kinds of courses on Diversity and “social justice”. Plus, the school’s Mission statement blathers on about Diversity.

“All right. Why not try that Hillsdale College. They’re always advertising on conservative sites.”

Bingo! No programs whatsoever. In fact, the only mention of Diversity (unrelated to biological diversity) comes in the school’s Mission Statement:

The College values the merit of each unique individual, rather than succumbing to the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so-called “social justice” and “multicultural diversity,” which judges individuals not as individuals, but as members of a group and which pits one group against other competing groups in divisive power struggles.

That’s one. And, so far, the only one I know about. Surely there must be others, or at least another. Your task, Dear Reader, is to discover these others (or the other).

Ways to check. Go to the school’s site and type “Diversity” in their search box. But also try typing “site:www.school.edu diversity” directly into Google (or your browser’s search bar). The latter search will often turn up mentions the first misses.

Why do we need this list? Primarily as a service to mankind. Diversity is our weakness. Parents need to have a source to know where to send their kids to school where they can, to the best extent possible, avoid indoctrination.

You have to look hard, too. Traditionally, the sciences, since they had to produce actual results aligned to reality, were bastions against political correctness. This is no longer the case, as Harvard’s Diversity in Biostatistics and Medicine prove. Well, the fanatical devotion to global warming has also mired science in politics. Science is no longer safe.

Some individual classes and programs, even at Diversity-laden institutes, hold out. My class, for instance. But they cannot last. Equality is the greatest leveling force known to man. Any appearance of inequality must and will be crushed. As I wrote before, what’s needed is a moat around the school to keep the Chaos outside the gates.

There you have it. Let’s get a list. In the comments, put your successes, but also let us know of your failures, so people don’t have to double check. The Future thanks you.

Summary Against Modern Thought: Our Nature And Possible Intellect

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.

We’re still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul. Rough hoeing this week: long and meaty. Put all that turkey and potatoes to work in exercising your little gray cells.

Chapter 60 That man derives his specific nature, not from the passive, but from the possible, intellect (alternate translation) We’re using the alternate translation this week.

1 These arguments are countered by others in keeping with the doctrine considered above. For Averroes says that man differs specifically from the brutes by the intellect which Aristotle calls passive and which is the same as the cogitative power that is proper to man, in place of which the other animals have a certain natural estimative power.

Now, it is the function of this cogitative power to distinguish individual intentions and to compare them with one another, even as the intellect which is separate and unmixed compares and distinguishes universal intentions. And by this cogitative power, together with the imagination and memory, the phantasms are prepared to receive the action of the agent intellect, whereby they are made intelligible in act, just as there are certain arts which prepare the matter for the master artificer. Accordingly, this power is given the name of intellect or reason, which physicians declare to be seated in the middle cell of the head. And according to the disposition of this power, one man differs from another in genius and in other qualities pertaining to understanding. And by the use and exercise of this power a man acquires the habit [habitus] of science. Hence, the habits of the sciences are in this passive intellect as their subject. Moreover, this passive intellect is in the child from the beginning, and through it the child receives its specific nature as a human being, before it actually understands.

Notes Instead, the body’s sensory apparatus serves up phantasms to the intellect, which digests them, if you will. So much, too, for the rumors medieval science was ignorant: [the intellect], which physicians declare to be seated in the middle cell of the head. And there, as before, is inequality: one man differs from another in genius and in other qualities.

2 But it is quite obvious that these notions are false and involve an abuse of terms. For the vital operations are compared to the soul as second acts to the first act, as Aristotle makes clear in De anima II.

Now, in the same thing first act precedes the second in time, just as knowledge precedes reflection, Consequently, in whatever thing we find a vital operation we must place a part of the soul which will be related to that operation as first act to second act. But man has a proper operation higher than the other animals, namely, understanding and reasoning, which is the operation of man as man, as Aristotle says in Ethics I.

Hence, we must attribute to man a principle that properly gives him his specific nature and is related to the act of understanding as first act to second act. Now, this principle cannot be the aforesaid passive intellect, because the principle of man’s proper operation must be impassible and not mixed with the body, as Aristotle proves [De anima III, 4]; whereas, the contrary is clearly true of the passive intellect. Therefore, it is impossible that man’s specific nature, whereby he is distinguished from the other animals, should be given him by the cogitative power, which is called the passive intellect.

3 Furthermore, an affection of the sensitive part of a thing cannot place it in a higher kind of life than the sensitive, just as an affection of the nutritive soul does not place it in a higher kind of life than the nutritive. Now, it is clear that the imagination, and like powers consequent upon it, such as the memory and so on, are affections of the sensitive part, as Aristotle proves in the De memoria [I].

Hence, an animal cannot be placed by these powers or by any one of them in a higher category of life than the sensitive. But man’s life is of a higher kind—a point clearly explained in De anima II, where Aristotle, in distinguishing the kinds of life, places the intellective, which he attributes to man, above the sensitive, which he ascribes to all animals in general. Therefore, it is not by virtue of the aforesaid cogitative power that man is a living being with a life proper to himself.

Notes We should have it by now, but if not, re-read that paragraph until you have it cold.

4 Then, too, every self-mover is composed of mover and moved, as Aristotle proves in Physics VIII. Now, man, in common with the other animals, is a self-mover. Therefore, mover and moved are parts of him. And the first mover in man is the intellect, since the intellect by its intelligible object moves the will.

Nor can it be said that the passive intellect alone is the mover, because the passive intellect has to do with particulars only, whereas, actual movement involves both the universal judgment, which belongs to the possible intellect, and the particular judgment, which can belong to the passive intellect, as Aristotle explains in De anima III, and in Ethics VII. Therefore, the possible intellect is a part of man. And it is the most noble and most formal thing in him. Hence, man derives his specific nature from it, and not from the passive intellect.

5 The possible intellect, moreover, is demonstrably not the act of any body, because it is cognizant of all sensible forms universally. Therefore, no power whose operation can extend to the universals of all sensible forms can be the act of a body. Now, such a power is the will, for our will can reach out to all the things that we can understand, at least our will to know them. And the act of the will is clearly directed to the universal; as Aristotle says in the Rhetoric [II, 4], “we hate robbers in general, but are angry only with individual ones.” Therefore, the will cannot be the act of any part of the body, nor can it follow upon a power that is an act of the body.

Now, every part of the soul is an act of the body, with the single exception of the intellect properly so called. Therefore, the will is in the intellective part; and that is why Aristotle says in De anima in: “Will is in the reason, but the irascible and concupiscible appetite are in the sensitive part.” So it is that acts of concupiscence and irascibility involve passion, but not the act of the will, which involves choice.

Now, man’s will is not outside him, as though it resided in some separate substance, but is within him. Otherwise, man would not be master of his own actions, since he would then be acted upon by the will of a separate substance, and in him there would be only the appetitive powers functioning in association with passion, namely, the irascible and concupiscible powers, which are in the sensitive part, as in other animals that are acted upon rather than act themselves. But this is impossible and would destroy all moral philosophy and sociality. It follows that there must exist in us the possible intellect, so that by it we differ from brute animals, and not only in terms of the passive intellect.

Notes Free will again. And try dropping “concupiscible appetite”, especially among those who have stuffed too much stuffing into themselves.

6 Likewise, just as nothing is able to act except through an active potentiality in it, so nothing can be passive save through an inherent passive potentiality; the combustible is able to be burned not only because there is a thing capable of burning it, but also because it has in itself a potentiality to be burned. Now, understanding is a kind of undergoing, as is stated in De anima III [4]. Therefore, since the child is potentially understanding, even though he is not actually understanding, there must be in him a potentiality whereby he is able to understand. And this potentiality is the possible intellect. Hence, there must already be a union of the possible intellect to the child before he understands actually. Therefore, it is not through the actually understood form that the possible intellect is brought into connection with man; rather, the possible intellect itself is in man from the beginning as part of himself.

7 Averroes, however, has an answer to this argument. For he avers that a child is said to be understanding potentially for two reasons: first, because the phantasms in him are potentially intelligible; second, because the possible intellect is able to come in contact with him, and not because the intellect is already united to him.

8 Now we have to show that neither of these reasons suffices. Thus, the potentiality that enables the agent to act is distinct from the potentiality that enables the patient to receive action; and they differ as opposites. So, just because a thing is able to act, it does not follow that it is capable of receiving action.

But ability to understand is ability to be passive; for as Aristotle remarks, “understanding is a kind of undergoing.” The child, therefore, is not said to be able to understand simply because the phantasms in him can be actually understood; this has to do with the ability to act, since the phantasms move the possible intellect.

9 Moreover, a potentiality derivative from the specific nature of a thing does not belong to it as a result of that which does not confer upon the thing its specific nature. Now, ability to understand is a consequence of the specific nature of man, for understanding is an operation of man as man. But phantasms do not give man his specific nature; rather, they are consequent upon his operation. Therefore, it cannot be said that the child is potentially understanding because of the phantasms.

Notes As above, even animals have sensations.

10 And it is likewise impossible to say that a child is potentially understanding because the possible intellect can be in touch with him. For a person is said to be able to act or to be passive by active or passive potentiality, just as he is said to be white by whiteness. But he is not said to be white before whiteness is united to him. Therefore, neither is a person said to be able to act or to be passive before active or passive potentiality is present in him. Consequently, it cannot be said that a child is able to understand before the possible intellect, which is the power of understanding, is in contact with him.

11 Furthermore, a person is said in one way to be able to act before having the nature by which he acts, and in another way after he already has that nature, but is accidentally prevented from acting; thus, a body is in one sense said to be capable of being lifted upwards before it is light, and in another, after it is made light but is impeded in its movement.

Now, a child is potentially understanding, not as though he has not yet the nature enabling him to understand, but as having an obstacle to understanding, since he is prevented from understanding “because of the multiform movements in him,” as is said in Physics VII [3]. Hence, he is not said to have the power of understanding because the possible intellect, which is the principle of understanding, can be joined to him, but because it is already in contact with him and is prevented from exercising its proper action; so that, upon the removal of the obstacle, he immediately understands…

Notes More science! The mechanisms are even now not fully understood, and may never be fully understood. But that a thing happens is different from understanding why it happens.

15 Then, too, the perfection of a higher substance cannot possibly depend upon a lower substance. Now, the perfection of the possible intellect depends on the operation of man, for it depends on the phantasms, which move the possible intellect. Therefore, the possible intellect is not a higher substance than man. Consequently, it must be part of man as his act and form.

Notes Under the category Decartes was wrong, these next two paragraphs:

16 Again, things separate in being also have separate operations, because things are for the sake of their operations, as first act for the sake of second act; that is why Aristotle says that, if any operation of the soul does not involve the body, then “it is possible for the soul to have a separate existence.” But the operation of the possible intellect requires the body, for Aristotle says in De anima III [4] that the intellect can act by itself, namely, it can understand, when it has been actuated by a species abstracted from phantasms—which have no existence apart from the body. Therefore, the possible intellect is not altogether separate from the body.

17 And again, every thing naturally endowed with a certain operation has by nature those attributes without which that operation cannot be carried out. Thus, Aristotle proves in De caelo II [8] that if the movement of the stars were progressive, like that of animals, nature would have given them organs of progressive movement. But the operation of the possible intellect is accomplished by bodily organs, in which there must be phantasms. Therefore, nature has united the possible intellect to bodily organs. Consequently, it has no being separate from the body…

Asimov’s Cult Of Ignorance

Russian-born American author Isaac Asimov is seen in 1974.  (AP Photo)

Russian-born American author Isaac Asimov is seen in 1974. (AP Photo)

Eons ago—in 1980—word-machine Isaac Asimov had an essay in Newsweek entitled “A Cult Of Ignorance.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain against anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by a false notion that democracy means “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Asimov was wrong. On matters where people think, or know, they are ignorant, they scarcely or never weigh in with an opinion. Ask an ordinary citizen the best method to measure recalcitrant membrane proteins, or what other configurations of his fleet d’Aigalliers might have chosen and this citizen will tell you he hasn’t a clue and will happily leave the matter to experts.

Unless the citizen is asked to vote on a question related to these matters. Then he will be forced to form an opinion. Then that man’s ignorance is just as good as, and must be just as good as, your knowledge. That is the definition of democracy.

Put up for vote a question in which our man must weigh in on the importance of transmembrane versus integral monotopic proteins, say a matter of funding over which is best to explore first, and then suddenly everybody has an opinion and must have an opinion.

Good Democrats always choose transmembrane proteins. Everybody knows all but RINOs opt for integral monotopic proteins. Only deniers deny the importance of transmembrane proteins! Once politics discovers the subject, it wouldn’t be long before students in colorful vests harass passersby with, “Do you have a minute for monotopic proteins?”

Since proteomics is not a subject to faint of heart, only the minority of minorities will understand it. Yet since everybody must have an opinion it (as we are imagining), those who do not, or are not, able to grasp its essentials are subject to being led by those who have strong opinions, or interests, or demagogues.

Asimov admits as much without understanding. “Politicians have routinely striven to speak the language of Shakespeare and Milton as ungrammatically as possible in order to avoid offending their audiences by appearing to have gone to school.” Who wants to be spoken down to on a matter on which he must have an opinion?

Democracy is politics. Once something becomes political, there is little chance of it becoming unpolitical, unless it is forgotten by some more-current crisis. Because Democracy is politics, and since people have to have opinions on matters they don’t understand, it’s natural for the citizenry to disparage elite opinion which differs from their own.

That makes Asimov partly right. There will be anti-intellectualism in a Democracy, yet it will be caused by Democracy.

Anti-intellectualism will also be caused by intellectuals themselves.

Adlai Stevenson, who incautiously allowed intelligence and learning and wit to peep out of his speeches, found American people flocking to a Presidential candidate who invented a version of the English language that was all his own and that has been the been the despair of satirists ever since.

George Wallace, in his speeches, had, as one of his prime targets, the “pointy-headed professor,” and with what a roar of approval that phrase was always greeted by his pointy-headed audience.

Stevenson, a Democrat, the progressives’ progressive and anti-anti-communist—he backed the nortorious spy Alger Hiss—was trounced in 1952 and again in 1956 by Eisenhower. Wallace, also a Democrat, was a segregationist who gave the party a bad name at a time when the party’s more progressive members sought to clean up its image; he also made attempts at the Presidency.

Asimov praises Stevenson as an intellectual, which is true. Yet even intellectuals err. The greater public was surely unable to analyze in-depth philosophical arguments about international socialism’s inherent contradictions and fallacies, just as they aren’t able to discuss intelligently the finer points of proteomics (or naval history), but it didn’t, and doesn’t, take a genius to recognize the horrors of communism and progressivism. Unlike proteomics, the errors or communism are obvious to most (alas, not all), and the strictures of progressivism touch everybody. Hence it is natural for people to dismiss the high-faultin’ theorizing of intellectuals who support these ideas.

It is also true that most public intellectuals have been and are now progressives; or Enlightened, if you prefer. Since many of the ideas of progressivism go against Reality and Tradition, the areas average folk know well and instinctively, it’s also natural there would develop a tradition deriding intellectuals. Of course, tacit premises in this argument include American’s native rambunctiousness and independence.

Chapter 10 of Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics FREE for New Subscribers!

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Today a deal so unbelievable that it can’t be believed!

No, wait. In fact, the deal was so unbelievable that it couldn’t be believed. This follows logically: that which is unbelievable cannot be believed. And since I was anxious that readers believe the deal, I had to soften it from unbelievable to believable-but-shocking.

Can you believe this?

All new subscribers will receive a PDF copy of Chapter 10 of Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics (all current subscribers should have already received their copy a while back; if not, email me).

I hope you were sitting down when you read that. It was a believable deal, but it was also a shocking deal. Please don’t sue me if you became so excited that you lost control of your extremities and injured yourself or others. Please don’t sue anybody. Suing people is no fun. Besides, you were warned.

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Get the book everybody is talking about—when they talk about this book. Yes, none other than the award-eligible Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics.

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Bonus Chapter 10 Opening!

Here are the opening paragraphs of Chapter 10 (with math and references suitably adapted).

“A genuine expert can always foretell a thing that is 500 years away easier than he can a thing that’s only 500 seconds off. ——Mark Twain

An entire book could be written of various implementations of models in the predictive, observable form Pr(Y in y | X,D,M)$ (see the previous Chapter for the explanation of this form). Here I can do no more than cover those areas that seem most important to decisions common in science. I emphasize not so much particular models by specific persons, but how model results should be communicated and the errors usual in the classical methods. Universally, statistical results are presented as if they were not conditional on a model, which of course all are. Over-certainty abounds.

Regression is of paramount importance. The horrors to thought and clear reasoning committed in its name are legion, a fact which is well known, e.g. [various authors]. But it’s more than bad regression: misunderstandings of the nature of evidence are everywhere, but that this is so is increasingly gaining attention; see among many [these fellows], and in the hot field of neuroscience [like these guys]. It’s bad enough in academia, but if any reader has experienced consulting in non-academic settings, in, for instance, marketing, you will realize the problems detailed below are trivial. From my many experiences I have been able to discover that ordinary people think statistics is something akin to magic. The discussion on how statistical “control” is not control in the Section on regression should be read by everybody.

Reification is the deadly sin of modelling. The model is not the territory, though this fictional land is unfortunately where many choose to live. When the data do not match a theory, it is often the data that is blamed for marring a beautiful model. Models should never take the place of actual data, though they often do, particularly in regression and time series. Risk is nearly always exaggerated. The fallacious belief that we can quantify the unquantifiable, especially human emotions, is responsible for scientism. Hayek, in his Nobel prize speech, cautioned against assuming that the data we have, which is often times the only data we have, must therefore, because of its availability, be causal. This is a form of availability fallacy. Incidentally, Hayek also recommended (a version of) the predictive approach, especially with economic data. “Smoothed” data is often given pride of place over actual observations. Over-certainty is, as I have already claimed, at pandemic levels.

The general, overarching admonition is to escape the Cult of the Parameter. Speak of observables and not parameters. Models should be used in the predictive sense and checked against reality.

Because this Chapter describes the some of the many (infinite?) ways probabilistic thinking can go awry, it is more conversational in tone. Finally, at the end, I express some hope about the future.

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