William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 3 of 627

The Crybaby Fallacy (Which Atheists Often Use)

Possibly Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, that Pharnguligula fellow, Bill Maher, and a certain reader.

Possibly Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, that Pharnguligula fellow, Bill Maher, and a certain reader.

Many atheists are notorious for arguing from desire. (Be ever careful of the So’s-Yer-Old-Man Fallacy.) God doesn’t exist, they say or imply, because He’s a big meanie, because His demands are onerous, or because the atheist would rather not follow some “ancient” or “medieval” rule.

Take as a mild for instance this snippet from a review of the book Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh, penned by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein:

The philosopher Sydney Morgenbesser, beloved by generations of Columbia University students (including me), was known for lines of wit that yielded nuggets of insight. He kept up his instructive shtick until the end, remarking to a colleague shortly before he died: ‘Why is God making me suffer so much? Just because I don’t believe in him?’ For Morgenbesser, nothing worth pondering, including disbelief, could be entirely de-­paradoxed.

A more common form is this: “Why would I want to believe in a God that would send me to Hell for not believing in him?” Comedian Gilbert Gottfried built a (let us call it) joke which conforms to it which he calls “Jesus’s Theory”, and which goes like this: “I was talking to Jesus, and I said, ‘Jesus, I feel like no one will ever accept me.’ And Jesus looked at me and said, ‘You know what my theory is? Accept me or go to hell.'” I have seen him deliver a variant of this jest where he received not so much laughter, but a sturdy approving round of hoots and applause. This quip resonates—with just whom and why, we’ll see in a moment.

Another popular thrust is to directly disparage the notion of Hell. It’s easy to find examples. Hell, says one atheist, is one of the “cruelest of all concentration camps” and that it is “Certainly far worse than the ones created by the Nazis.” Conclusion? “[T]he existence of hell paints the Christian God as not fit for worshiping.”

Many know of atheism’s chief proselytizer Richard Dawkins’s antipathy. In the The God Delusion he said:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Therefore, implies Dawkins, God doesn’t exist.

The most popular version of all, used by non-serious atheists (agnostics, the uneducated, etc.), comprising the largest group of all, are variations on “I am a nice person.” Are you indeed. To the quarter- or non-trained atheist that he or she is “generally good” or kind or (the treacly) nice is proof enough that God doesn’t exist; or rather, is not worth thinking or worrying about.

Another name for this general argument for atheism is adolescent petulance, or, more formally, the Crybaby Fallacy. If God does not exist, there is no point—it is irrational—to (endlessly) say you don’t believe in Him because of what He does or doesn’t do or because of what He does or doesn’t require of His followers. Why? Because He doesn’t exist and therefore cannot require anything, least of all obedience! Nothing can demand nothing. And if God does exist, it is not merely silly, but asinine to go on and on about how aggrieved or burdened you are over the minimal, really the most trivial, and eminently rational, requirement to acknowledge His existence. It is rational because He exists. To not acknowledge His existence when He exists is the height (or really depth) of irrationality.

The Crybaby Fallacy is the same found in children the world over who rail and rant after being told “Because I said so” by their fathers. Many children think this reason insufficient justification for their tasks and therefore grumble, to themselves more than to anybody else, that the requirement is cruel or unnecessary because they cannot comprehend its necessity. They disbelieve in their fathers’ authority because they would prefer not to shoulder their burden. But even children don’t fall into the folly of saying, “My dad doesn’t exist because he wants me to take out the trash.” Or rather, only a minority of children think this way, wandering in the trenches of misery whether they were adopted.

The voracious god Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs said, demanded human bodies for his supper. His priests saw to it that he was not stinted in his meals. The god Huitzilopochtli enjoyed having the beating hearts ripped out of his victims. And there are many more examples of such brutality from the world over and through history. Funny thing about these examples are their similarities. The Aztecs, for instance, “Before and during the killing, priests and audience (who gathered in the plaza below) stabbed, pierced and bled themselves as autosacrifice”. The bled their sacrificial victims, too, in the most gruesome manner. And we recall the story of how Elijah teased the priests of Baal, the god who could not, in the presence of Elijah, start a simple fire: “When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: `Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears according to their ritual until blood gushed over them.” Curious, no? Let that pass for now. These days, few people believe in the Aztec gods or Baal (those who do the systematic killing at Planned Parenthood may be an exception in the latter case). Why?

The reason is complex and beyond this small article, but basically it’s this: those that have abandoned the old gods believe in something else. They do this not because they have any proof of the non-existence of these minor deities, such proof being impossible in most cases to get, but because they have discovered their new belief to be superior and better supported. For instance, Our Lady of Guadalupe accounts for the flight from the gods to God in the case of the Aztecs, a move which did not so much take leave of the old gods, but gave them new explanations. Others more recently mistakenly worship (in the loosest possible sense of this word) Science, a system so weak that it can’t even explain itself.

It is not a conclusive argument against the existence of any god that he requires human sacrifice, nor is it sound argument against God that He requires acknowledgement (He actually only requires accepting a free, no-strings-attached, eternally rewarding gift). It is not a conclusive argument against the existence of any deity that what the deity requires is repugnant, strange, or even illogical or impossible. If the god does not exist, it cannot ask for anything. But if the god really does exist, what it asks for is what it asks for. If it asks for the illogical or impossible, it could just be that that this simple god has a poor sense of humor. He is a god, after all, and can do what he likes. The Greeks knew this well. And consider we do not say modern university professors do not exist because what many of them say or require is absurd (right, JH?).

How is the Crybaby normall rebutted? Well, it’s an obvious fallacy, so it doesn’t need rebutting, but words of a certain sort are usually found. In children, it’s the father telling the kid to suck it up, that life’s not fair, to do what they’re told and like it; that when the kid grows up, if it pays attention, it might understand. With God Himself, something stronger is called for. What do you say to a bratty adult who doesn’t want to believe because the adult can’t understand God’s simple rules? How about words like this, spoken by God to a man who suffered a hell of a lot more than any in our increasingly decadent, effeminate society?

Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance? [Asked God to the man Job.] Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!

Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop?

Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from it?

The earth is changed as clay by the seal, and dyed like a garment; but from the wicked their light is withheld, and the arm of pride is shattered. Have you entered into the sources of the sea, or walked about on the bottom of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness?

Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell me, if you know it all…

Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected? Let him who would instruct God give answer!

It’s at that point you either stop sniveling, act like a man, and take out the damned trash—or you descend into a narcissistic pit.

Stay tuned. So if the god truly doesn’t exist, who’s making the requests? That can’t be known unless you first have proof of the existence and the nature of the deity. More to come…

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Cannot Will Evil

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.

Two important milestones: a definition of science and evil.

Chapter 94 That the contemplative virtues are in God. (alternate translation)

[2]…Again. Since science is the knowledge of a thing by its proper cause, and since He knows the order of all causes and effects, as we have shown above, it is evident that science is properly in Him: not that science however which is caused by reasoning, as our science is caused by a demonstration. Hence it is written (1 Kings ii. 3): The Lord is a God of all knowledge…

Notes The definition of science comes from The Philosopher, in his Posterior Analytics. Notice that this is not the modern definition, which pertains mainly to predictive ability. Knowledge of cause sometimes comes along for the ride in the predictive equations scientists develop, but this happenstance is not quite by design. Unfortunately, many scientists think their semi-determinative equations prove cause. But regular readers know this isn’t so; new readers can click Classic Posts and look for asinine uses of statistics.

Chapter 95 That God cannot will evil. (alternate translation)

[1] FROM what has been said it can be proved that God cannot will evil.

[2] For the virtue of a thing is that by which one produces a good work. Now every work of God is a work of virtue, since His virtue is His essence, as we have shown above. Therefore He cannot will evil.

[3] Again. The will never tends towards evil unless there be an error in the reason, at least as regards the particular object of choice. For since the object of the will is an apprehended good, the will cannot tend towards an evil unless, in some way, it is proposed to it as a good; and this cannot be without an error. Now there can be no error in the divine knowledge, as we have shown. Therefore God’s will cannot tend to evil.

Notes And that’s sin, sisters and brothers. Choosing what the will thought was a good in error. That makes sin objective, not relative. This is why unreflective appeals to one’s conscience as insufficient to knowing the good or evil of a thing. Conscience is not doing what feels good or right in the moment; rather, it is much more than that. Here’s an analogy. Think of solving high school math “story” problems. You can certainly answer using your gut, but it’s far better to learn the rules, and they whys of the rules, of right and wrong.

[4] Moreover. God is the sovereign good, as was proved above. Now the sovereign good does not suffer the company of evil, as neither does the supremely hot suffer an admixture of cold. Therefore the divine will cannot be inclined to evil.

Notes Homework problem: What other metaphors, besides admixtures of cold and hot, might work here?

[5] Further. Since good has the aspect of end, evil cannot be an object of the will except the latter turn away from its end. But the divine will cannot turn away from its end, because He cannot will anything except by willing Himself, as we have proved. Therefore He cannot will evil.

[6] It is therefore evident that in Him free-will is naturally established in good.

[8] …Hereby is confuted the error of the Jews who assert in the Talmud that God sins sometimes and is cleansed from sin; and also of the Luciferiani who say that God sinned in casting out Lucifer.

Notes The first one’s for you, Ianto. I hadn’t known anything about the Luciferiani, but this Wiki article might be of help.

Evil exists, of course, and can be chosen by us, but only because of error, only because something we thought was good was, in fact, objectively the absence of good.

This Week In Doom: Meat Eating & The Sins Of Sexual Normalcy

This bear hates the environment.

This bear hates the environment.

Too many people eating too much meat?

The Stream has the most hilarious, but eminently practical, article “There Aren’t as Many People as a Lot of Environmentalists Think: Some Elementary Calculations” in which is demonstrated with scientific precision (1) how big a bag we’d need to hold every person’s blood, (2) how big a hole we’d have to dig to bury the bodies, and (3) how cruelty is rife in the animal kingdom because so many animals eat meat and what to do about it.

This article is, of course, shows the effect of environmental policy taken to its natural extreme.

…So far, so good. But, we’re not quite done. Environmental activists don’t like people eating meat. This is why you see back-of-the-envelope calculations to show how many cows or pigs the average cowboy chows down over a year or a lifetime. The total is meant to discourage you. Funny thing about these mathematical exercises: they’re always done for men and not beasts.

Now meat-eating beasts outnumber men by scads and scads. I don’t have an exact figure, but a walk in the woods or a glance at the National Geographic channel is enough to confirm the fact that animals that eat other animals eat more meat than men do. Some of these animals even eat us! Never mind that. Tautologically, meat-eating beasts eat meat, which is, as environmentalists assume, bad. So we need to quantify just how much adverse influence non-human meat-eating animals have.

Go there to read the rest.

Sexual normality is now abnormal

Best way to introduce this is via the headline, inspired by a BBC television show: “Transgender girl says she is rejected by straight guys for ‘having male parts’“. Alternatively, it could have read, “Mentally disturbed young man appropriately rejected by the sane.”

The boys, who were originally attracted to Claire, did not call after finding out that she is trans.

“That’s it, silence,” says Claire. “Like nothing from them again.”…

She says: “In a lot of ways, I don’t like telling a guy. Once I tell him all respect goes out of the window.

“Straight guys just can’t get over you having the male parts…”

This sad drama is being picked up everywhere. Another headline: “Unlucky-in-love transgender woman reveals she’s rejected by straight men because she still has ‘male parts’ – despite being chatted up all the time.

In that article, the young man is quoted as saying, “I had to shave twice a day. I would never wish for a woman to go through this.” Of course, women don’t normally have to go through this (except in rare cases), but men who pretend to be women do.

These stories paint this young man as the aggrieved party, as if he deserves pity not for his unfortunate affliction (and surely irresponsible mother), but because he was rejected by sexually normal men. In turn, it is the sexually normal men who are the bad guys in the story. They will not freely give their Anthony-Kenedy-esque wuv. It is they who are hurtful, cold-blooded, vicious.

I’m accepting congratulations for predicting this very thing in the year leading up to gmarriage. Any encomium will do.

Does this not remind you of something? Yes! Just two months ago I wrote: “This Week In Doom: Rejecting Sex With HIV+ Is Now Discrimination“.

Throughout these articles, those with HIV are painted as harmless victims suffering unwarranted, unreasonable discrimination. Not only is their HIV not their fault, but if you refuse to engage in immoral acts with those who have HIV, it is you who is at fault. You are the one with the problem.

As far as the current story goes, there is some good news. “I’m an abomination, that’s what my dad told me I was.” Harsh words, yes, but not inaccurate. Do not forget that it was this man’s free choice to mutilate his body (with the connivance of the medically trained, and albeit not yet irreversibly). That we are unwilling to speak the truth is why we are doomed.

Set your DVRs now: “Young, Trans and Looking for Love airs on Monday 23 November at 9pm on BBC.” I remind the reader the BBC is no small source. The mainstreaming of casting the normal as abnormal is accelerating.

Prediction: the young man in this pseudo-documentary will find a male lover as a result of his publicity. This unlucky fellow (the new lover) will be feted and praised in many follow up stories. He will be said to be enlightened, a hero of equality. That he is in fact a Charlie Sheen wannabe will not be noticed. Anybody want to bet against me?

Keenan’s $100-Grand Climate Challenge & Randomness

I stole this picture from Anthony, who swiped it from Wiki.

I stole this picture from Anthony, who swiped it from Wiki.

Lots of people are asking me about Douglas Keenan’s challenge to identify which time series meets a certain criterion. If our betters are as good as they say at identifying signals in temperature time series, challenges Keenan, they ought to be able to tell signal from noise.

There have been many claims of observational evidence for global-warming alarmism. I have argued that all such claims rely on invalid statistical analyses. Some people, though, have asserted that the analyses are valid. Those people assert, in particular, that they can determine, via statistical analysis, whether global temperatures are increasing more than would be reasonably expected by random natural variation. Those people do not present any counter to my argument, but they make their assertions anyway.

In response to that, I am sponsoring a contest: the prize is $100?000. In essence, the prize will be awared to anyone who can demonstrate, via statistical analysis, that the increase in global temperatures is probably not due to random natural variation.

Keenan asked me for comments on his column before he released it, and I’m sure he won’t mind me telling you what I told him:

I think the offer will be ignored, but it’s a good tactic. You know James Randi? Before he lost his mind he offered a million bucks (or whatever) for whoever could demonstrate psychic abilities under controlled conditions. Some no-names took the challenge and lost, but the big boys sniffed that it was beneath them.

The real reason for their refusal is obvious, as it will be for your challenge. But it will be great fun doing it! It will highlight the main point you made at the end: these people have no idea what they’re doing.

Incidentally, my prediction has already come to pass. Yesterday, a major figure in the doom camp sniffed that Keenan’s challenge had nothing to do with climate. (I was in an email chain where I learned of this.)

You have to honor a man who is willing to put up a choking wad of his own simolians to back a boast. Spread the word and help Keenan get some well-deserved publicity. (I’d do something similar, but all I could offer is an old lottery ticket that I’m fairly sure is out of the money but which I haven’t yet checked.)

Now randomness. Some folks over at Anthony Watts’s place were discussing the challenge and, with the prime exception of one MattS (intelligent fellow), were misunderstanding randomness. We’ve talked about it many, many, many times, but here it is once again, with respect to Keenan’s challenge.

I have no idea—I didn’t ask, and Keenan didn’t explain, plus I don’t want to know—how each of the series in his file were generated, but generated they were. Caused to be is another phrase for generated. Some mechanism caused each value. A popular mechanism is called a “pseudo-random number generator”, in which pseudo-random means known. Random, of course, means unknown, and nothing else. There is no such thing as real, objective, or physical randomness.

So this known-number generator (if it was used) made numbers according to a known formula, where the numbers are as determined as death and taxes. One number follows another with perfect predictability—if one knows the algorithm, of course.

It appears Keenan used three different algorithms, one which added positive numbers according to some similarly determinative scheme to a base scheme, one which added negative numbers to a base scheme, and a base scheme. The base scheme is the known-number generator.

Of course, I’m guessing. I don’t know. But this procedure is certainly common enough under the term simulation. Problem is, too many people (not Keenan) think simulations are semi-magical, claiming they have to be fed with “random numbers.” That makes no sense, because random means unknown, and you can’t feed an algorithm with unknown numbers. More detail is here.

Anyway, this is all beside the point. Keenan asks which of the three types of generated data each series is. Now we’re into the realm of modeling. Modeling? The process of collecting premises which come as close as possible to identifying the causes of the data and which describe our uncertainty in observables.

Now…but, no. That’s all I’ll say. I’ve already given information sufficient to deduce the methods Keenan used, accepting only that he used one of the known generators. Sufficient in theory. Practically? God bless.

I stop because I don’t want the fun to end and because it is besides Keenan’s main point, which is the methods climate scientists use (and everybody is a climate scientist these days) are crap. Amen to that with bells on. Follow the “many, many, many” link above for why.

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