William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Iowa Caucus Open Discussion. Update: Text Fixed, Those Coin Tosses Discussed

That tweet was my prediction early yesterday, which I made partly relying on polls but more on the size of the crowds those two men garnered. About those polls, these:

Nobody’s perfect (if anybody out there is making boasts, make sure to provide proof of your pre-caucus predictions, complete with proof they were pre-caucus). Here are the final(ish) totals as of 11:58 PM EST, with record turnouts:

R (votes): Cruz 50,528, Trump 44,327, Rubio 42,124;

D (delegates): Clinton 663, Sanders 660.

(I’ll update these with the final finals in the late morning. Update: Something was wrong with an anchor tag which somehow hid all the text below it. It is now fixed.)

Yet my prediction of the eventual nominee remains as it was a month ago: Trump wins. I’m also guessing he—and even if it isn’t he but another Republican—takes whoever is the eventual Democrat nominee. Will that be Hillary?

There’s an increasing frequency of official and semi-official rumors over her email scandal, with many saying she’ll be indicted. Doing that requires the approval of President Obama, and therein lies the mystery. Now if Hillary takes the nomination and wins the presidency, then Obama is out as de facto party leader, and Billary is in. Similarly, if Hillary takes the nomination but loses the presidency, then it’s a fight who is the leader, Billary or Obama.

But if Hillary loses the nomination, and Sanders takes it, then because it’s obvious to all that Sanders won’t have a chance in the general election, whoever the Republican nominee, then Mr Obama’s position as party leader is solid for at least four years, if not eight.

It all comes down to Mr Obama’s ego. If it triumphs, as it usually has, then the only question is timing. If he allows an early Clinton indictment, she may find a way to wriggle out of it before November. But if he waits until summer to pull the trigger, then she’s old fish.

Part of the calculation revolves around what Trump will do if he wins, or what Obama thinks Trump will do, or what he thinks whoever the nominee will do. Many pundits put Trump as cousin to the Antichrist, and they may well be right when they say the good ol’ USA will soon be engulfed in flames of glory. But I’m guessing Trump (or Cruz or Rubio) will learn to play Washington standard politics, and relatively soon at that. Besides, if, say, Trump (or another, which is less likely) does begin to enforce border laws, how does this hurt Mr Obama? Answer: it only helps him.

Your ideas, picks?

Update: Coin toss broke 6 Clinton-Sanders deadlocks in Iowa — and Hillary won each time.

Can such a thing happen? Of course. See “What Is A Game Of Chance?” and “The Four Errors in Mann et al’s ‘The Likelihood of Recent Record Warmth'”, which as an apropos discussion.

Gist: no way to tell just by looking at the numbers if this was a typical Clinton fix or the real deal. It looks, though, that if the tosses would have gone the other way, Sanders would have won, and I would have got at least half of my prediction right (if I counted right). As I said in those linked articles, there’s no way short of extreme physical measurement to be able to predict the result of coin tosses.

Unless you’re dealing with a magician…or a Clinton? Of course, it doesn’t appear that Hillary cheated, given the facts, I mean. But it sure sounds good that she might have. That is, it’s one more item in her long, long list. Which is to say, even if she didn’t cheat, which would have been difficult, many will think or suspect she did. These coin tosses helped her in the short term, but could do some decent harm long term.

On Virtue & Holiness Signalling

When dogma was oriented towards reality, cathedrals looked like this.

When dogma was oriented towards reality, cathedrals looked like this.

Since man’s deepest needs are spiritual, and man lives in society and is fallen, there is bound to be among men virtue or holiness signaling. We all have the desire, and often are required, to let others know where we stand with respect to cultural mores.

There will be signalling in the absence or presence of a recognized religion. In the West, which used to be Christian, there is now among the elites largely the religion of Man, i.e. Man worship. Christianity lingers at the edges. Christianity was, or rather is, an organized religion with a priesthood, more or less diffused among sects. The religion of Man, i.e. secularism, is at pains to say it isn’t a religion, which is absurd, but which has the practical result that there is no official priesthood.

One still exists, of course, (which some call ironically The Cathedral), but the trouble is that, while there are many self-appointed priests, nobody is quite sure who is a bishop. Secularism also doesn’t have written dogma, where by dogma I mean fundamental, unchangeable tenets that are strictly controlled by a Magisterium, such as exists in the Church.

The nearest thing to secularists dogma is “Man is the measure of all things” (an ancient belief always thought of as recent revelation), but which has no meaning until it is applied to questions. Which questions are thought most important are in some part decided by history, hence the obsession with racism, sexism, and X-aphobia (where X is a variable). Now the lack of official dogma in concert with the absence of officially recognized central authority explains, in part, the continual leftward drift of secularism and history helps explain the destination.

Because there is no clear path of advancement, innovation and exposure are seen as a good methods to gain status. The loudmouth who thrusts noisily into new frontiers of Political Correctness (a.k.a. Cultural Marxism), the simulacrum of dogma, is accorded the most credit. Not always, but mostly. Hence the left grows ever strident. What was routine and accepted by all five years ago is now irremediably racist, sexist, X-aphobic. For example, a racist was once someone who killed or harmed another because of the other’s race. A racist is now one who refuses to concur that whites are congenitally evil. This is why who was once a priest, if he has not kept fresh and on his game, is now demoted to the congregation, or even seen as apostate.

As said, signalling still happens where there is recognized religion. But since most won’t or can’t join the official priesthood, there is a kind of ceiling for the congregation, meaning rightward drift is constrained among civilians. Priests still vie for promotion, but much of their signalling is to other priests and bishops.

Abuse can still and does occur under official religions, but the presence of dogma, or rather the recognition that it exists and can be known, tempers the abuse and constrains the drift. This implies that greater adherence to dogma, i.e. the more it is seen as unchanging and complete, the less drift there can be. Now, marry that to the extent dogma matches Reality, and you have a system with less strife and more predictability.

Not all official religions have as strong a grasp of dogma as say Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Splinter groups in Christianity (and other religions) form because of disputes in dogma, which is dangerous because it challenges the idea that dogma is dogmatic. And indeed those that have split have generally abandoned dogma and shifted towards secularism.

Across Islam, which is splintered, dogma might be summarized as “Allah does whatever He wants.” This, like Protagoras, must be applied, and is being applied as is obvious, but the drift is rightwards because of the increasing recognition in the necessity of dogma. Islam also knows it suffers from a lack of a centralized priesthood, which is why it seeking to strengthen it.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is The Cause Of All Being

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.

Note that the Chapter numbering is correct; we didn’t actually skip anything; I mislabeled two Chapters as one last week.

Chapter 15 That God is to all things the cause of being (alternate translation)

[1] Now, since we have proved that God is the source of being to some things, we must further show that everything besides Himself is from Him.

[2] For whatever belongs to a thing otherwise than as such, belongs to it through some cause, as white to a man: because that which has no cause is something first and immediate, wherefore it must needs belong to the thing essentially and as such. Now it is impossible for any one thing to belong to two and to both of them as such. For that which is said of a thing as such, does not go beyond that thing: for instance to have three angles equal to two right angles does not go beyond a triangle.

Accordingly if something belongs to two things, it will not belong to both as such: wherefore it is impossible for any one thing to be predicated of two so as to be said of neither by reason of a cause, but it is necessary that either the one be the cause of the other,–for instance fire is the cause of heat in a mixed body, and yet each is called hot;–or else some third thing must be cause of both, for instance fire is the cause of two candles giving light.

Now being is said of everything that is. Wherefore it is impossible that there be two things neither of which has a cause of its being, but either both the things in question must have their being through a cause, or else the one must be the cause of being to the other. Hence everything that, in any way whatever, is, must needs be from that to which nothing is a cause of being. Now we have proved above that God is this being to which nothing is a cause of its being. Therefore from Him is everything that, in any way whatever, is. If however it be said that being is not a univocal predicate, the above conclusion follows none the less. For it is not said of many equivocally, but analogically: and thus it is necessary to be brought back to one thing.

Notes Understand this is metaphysics and not physics which is under discussion. A thing having being is not given being by “laws of nature.” We can plant an acorn, which is a nascent oak tree, and which grows according to certain formula we might discover. But its the whole package, including the “laws” and “formula”, are what exists as being-an-oak-tree. It is the totality of the thing which has being. And that being has to have been caused by something. It is that totality which can only have come from some First unchanging cause, which we earlier proved was God.

Science comes after being. Science takes being for granted, and seeks to discover the “formula” to apply to being. But science can never explain being; it cannot even explain the laws and rules which science itself uses. Physics must always be built on top of metaphysics, for without metaphysics there is no physics.

[3] Moreover. That which belongs to a thing by its nature, and not by some other cause, cannot be diminished and deficient therein. For if something essential be subtracted from or added to a nature, there will be at once another nature: even as it happens in numbers, where the addition or subtraction of unity changes the species. And if the nature or quiddity of a thing remain entire, although something is found to be diminished, it is clear that this does not depend simply on that nature, but on something else, through the absence of which it is diminished.

Wherefore that which belongs to one thing less than to others, belongs to it not through its nature alone, but through some other cause. Consequently that thing will be the cause of all in a certain genus, to which thing the predication of that genus belongs above all; hence that which is most hot is seen to be the cause of heat in all things hot, and that which is most light is the cause of all things that have light. Now God is being above all, as we have proved in the First Book. Therefore He is the cause of all of which being is predicated.

Notes Review: A hat is not essential to be a man; a hat is an “accident” and not part of his essential nature. But a man with a head to place the hat on is not a man, but a corpse. Heads are essential and hats are accidents.

[4] Further. The order of causes must needs correspond to the order of effects, since effects are proportionate to their causes. Wherefore, as proper effects are reduced to their proper causes, so that which is common in proper effects must needs be reduced to some common cause: even so, above the particular causes of the generation of this or that thing, is the sun the universal cause of generation; and the king is the universal cause of government in his kingdom, above the wardens of the kingdom and of each city. Now being is common to all. Therefore above all causes there must be a cause to which it belongs to give being. But God is the first cause, as shown above. Therefore it follows that all things that are, are from God.

[5] Again. That which is said to be essentially so and so is the cause of all that are so by participation: thus fire is the cause of all things ignited as such. Now God is being by His essence, because He is being itself: whereas everything else is being by participation: for there can be but one being that is its own being, as was proved in the First Book. Therefore God is the cause of being to all other things.

Notes Don’t forget that when say anything has being, we are speaking of that thing in its totality, including the “forces” which hold the thing together, to use more physical language.

[6] Further. Everything that is possible to be and not to be has a cause: because considered in itself it is indifferent to either, so that there must needs be something else that determines it to one. Wherefore, since we cannot proceed to infinity, there must needs be some necessary thing that is the cause of all things that it is possible to be and not to be. Now there is a necessary thing that has a cause of its necessity: and here again we cannot proceed to infinity, so that we must come to something that is of itself necessary to be. And this can be but one, as we showed in the First Book: and this is God. Therefore everything other than Him must be reduced to Him as the cause of its being.

Notes We’re back to Chapter 13 in Book One. A can be the cause of B, and B of C, and so forth, but this has to end, or rather start, somewhere, because something is needed to explain the cause of being in A.

[7] Moreover. God is the maker of a thing, inasmuch as He is in act, as we have proved above. Now by His actuality and perfection He contains all the perfections of things, as we have shown in the First Book; and thus He is virtually all things. Therefore He is the maker of all. But this would not be if something else were of a nature to be otherwise than from Him: for nothing is of a nature to be from another, and not to be from another, since if it be of a nature not to be from another, it is of itself necessary to be, and thus can never be from another. Therefore nothing can be except from God.

[8] Again. The imperfect originate from the perfect, as seed from an animal. Now God is the most perfect being and the sovereign good, as was shown in the First Book. Therefore He is to all things the cause of being, especially since it was proved that there can be but one such thing…

[10] This sets aside the error of the ancient physicists who asserted that certain bodies had no cause of their being: likewise of some who say that God is not the cause of the substance of heaven, but only of its movement.

Notes In mixed-modern-medieval parlance, a potential cannot be actualized without something being in act. Something that does not have being but could is only in potential to being; therefore to be requires an actuality. Now since “chance” or “randomness” cannot be causes since they are not actual, certain effects at the very small, in the realm of quantum mechanics, cannot be said to have no cause of their being. An actuality must still exist to actualize their potential. Now we may not know what this actuality is, but our ignorance does not prove non-existence.

The Corrosive Effect Of Democracy, Far East Edition

Taiwanese duck tongue, yum yum yum.

Taiwanese duck tongue, yum yum yum.

Taiwan had its election on January 16th, elevating Tsai English Language (her real name) to the presidency. Tsai represented the DPP, which is roughly equivalent to the island’s progressive party. She beat the traditionally minded KMT candidate and a third party handily, with about 60% of the vote.

Her victory was celebrated by the young and celebrities with a similar kind of euphoria as when Barack Obama took office, with many happy that Tsai is female.

The DPP is seen as younger and more enlightened than the stodgy KMT, which is the party of Chiang Kai-shek, who was the leader of the Republic of China before being chased to Taiwan in 1950 by the bloodthirsty mainland communists. Which makes it sound strange that DPP is the anti-China party. But it’s only odd when you consider that well into the 1970s Taiwan claimed to be the legitimate authority of all China. That is, of course, no longer the case. Taiwan moved from its authoritarian nature and became a modern democracy in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and it maintains a weird and touchy relationship with China. That is a gross simplification, but it captures some large currents.

Part of the DPP’s appeal are to those who consider themselves Taiwanese and not Chinese. For instance, many, largely in the south of Taiwan, make a point of speaking Taiwanese and not Mandarin. But it is also true that much of the DPP’s pull, especially among the young, is its progressive stance on many questions. For instance, a DPP “green” paper, the Taipei Times, is deeply concerned about global warming and the “rights” of those claiming same-sex attraction. Et cetera. The blue papers return insult for insult, but with less vitriol, not being as progressive.

The picture will be entirely familiar to those living in older democracies, with folks there understanding democracies force politics on its citizens, with the concomitant acrimony necessarily following. For example, what is the best official attitude to take on, say, the Muslim migrant crisis in Europe? An equivalent question in scope is how Taiwan should treat China economically. In both cases the majority of citizens can offer little of value, for the trivially simple reason that they have no experience in statecraft and little understanding of history and so forth beyond their own family.

Yet democracy runs on egalitarianism, which insists lack of ability, interest, or sense is no barrier to participation. Indeed, even to mention these matters, as I’m doing now, is seen as gauche. The fallacy that one ignorant man is of no help but that a million ignorant men can vote its way to truth will and must be believed. This is why democracies are corrosive of tradition.

As a for-instance, consider same-sex “marriage”, i.e. gmarriage (for government-marriage). That democratic governments have the conceit that they can define marriage is the first and major problem. The second is then invoking this fictional power. Gmarriage, incidentally, is always misunderstood. What’s troubling is not that two persons of the same sex choose to call themselves “married”, which is of little to no interest, but that democratic governments must force everybody to call that pair “married”, too. Gmarriage is totalitarian. Which, as readers familiar with history recognize, is another common trait of advanced democracies.

In Taiwan, Tsai English Language is not married, which is far less usual there than in the West. She has a fondness for cats and has publicly revealed her support for gmarriage. She said, “In the face of love, everyone is equal. Let everyone have the freedom to love and to pursue their happiness. I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality.” Raw egalitarianism.

Immediately after her election, a group called Pride Watch Taiwan released a survey showing support of Legislative Yuan members for gmarriage. The DPP had 32 members agree, and 4 disagree; but the amazing thing was 32 members didn’t have the guts to say either way. The ratio is skewed more toward disagree in the KMT, but still 21 members (60%) are waiting to see which way the wind blows.

It’s blowing away from traditional Confucianism with its heavy and significant emphasis on duty and family (which, of course, does not technically exist in gmarriages, since the couples cannot procreate; incidentally, egalitarianism will soon attack the “couple” notion). Abandoning 2,500 years of culture in a short 25 winters is something a democracy can certainly do, but will it happen in Taiwan? Those in the DPP who only wanted to oppose China and are satisfied with cultural traditions might not be ready. But it’s not a bad bet to take.

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