William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Climate Change Alarmists Appear Immunized Against Reality at The Federalist


Today’s post is at The Federalist: “Climate Change Alarmists Appear Immunized Against Reality“.

So Ars Technica sent a young man who bills himself as an “educator” and hydrologist to the 10th International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute, that was held June 11-12 in Washington, DC. This educator, Scott K. Johnson, gazed about himself in wonder and came to believe he had fallen into an “echo chamber of outrage“.

Kids these days.

I’m sure young Scott won’t mind me calling him a kid, he being a novice to the field and because, as the young are apt, he takes criticisms of his cherished beliefs rather too seriously. So worked up was this fellow that he tells us, “On the first night of the conference, one of the presenters actually invaded my dreams.” Dude. We’d rather not know about your nocturnal entrancements.

Go there to read the rest.



Take Burnham’s Test To See If You’re A Liberal: Suicide of the West at 50

Equality for all!

Equality for all!

It’s (past) time we examined James Burnham’s under-appreciated classic Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, a book written fifty years ago (in 1964). Everybody (yes, including you) should buy this book and follow along.

Since the test of a good theory is how accurately it makes predictions, we’ll review the many predictions Burnham made half a century ago and see how well his theory stands up.

What is that theory? That liberalism was and is going to cause the death, via suicide, of classic Western civilization. So what’s a liberal? Burnham spent a lot of time on that important question. Chances are you, dear reader, are a liberal, either in its progressive manifestation or its conservative variant. Reactionaries are few in number.

To find out who’s who, Burnham created a test of “thirty-nine sentences“, which do not quite mirror the 39 articles, to which you may assent or disclaim. Let’s try (pp 31-35 in the edition linked above) and then we’ll have a go at modernizing the list. This only serves as a quick filter. Burnham had much more to say on this subject.

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general. 11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Before commenting on the slightly dated nature of some of these questions, here are Burnham’s rules on scoring.

A full-blown liberal will mark every one, or very nearly every one, of these thirty-nine sentences, Agree. A convinced conservative will mark many or most of them, a reactionary all or nearly all of them, Disagree…I have confirmed experimentally…that the result is seldom an even balance between Agree and Disagree…self-defined liberals almost never drop below 85 percent of Agree answers, or self-defined reactionaries below 85 percent of Disagree; a perfect 100 percent is common. Certain types of self-styled conservatives yield almost as high a Disagree percentage as the admitted reactionaries…

These sentences were not devised arbitrarily. Many of them are taken directly or adapted from the writings of well-known liberals, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, or liberal questionnaires that have been put out in recent years by the American Civil Liberties Union. The last eight are quoted verbatim from the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declarations of Human Rights,’ adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Yours Truly scored well into the reactionary camp, but I read the test with a historical eye. It’s clear that liberals, most on the progressive side of the scale, no longer care about some of these articles or no long interpret them in the same way. It’s the changes that are fascinating. Every mutation has been for the worse, as we’ll see.

Consider “2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.” Liberals today assent to this readily enough, unless they suspect the opinion they’re about to hear is “hurtful”, “bigoted”, “hateful”, “x-phobic” (x is a variable) or something similar. People who will speak politically incorrect views are not entitled freedom, many liberals say, especially campus liberals.

While the reactionary might join the progressive in forbidding certain (but obviously not the same) speech—for instance, the reactionary might happily ban pornography while the liberal insists it be shown to grade schoolers—it is only the liberal who would punish thoughtcrime. Where the liberal will demand assent the reactionary will happily let people keep their mouths shut. Right St Thomas More?

Perhaps like the fortune cookie joke, we should add “as long as it is not hurtful, hateful, bigoted, sexist, or x-phobic” to the end of all items dealing with thought.

Likewise, the liberal will probably still assent to “12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong”. But who is it in practice who storms podiums or throws tantrums in order not to hear “disturbing” opinions? Fortune cookie it.

Item 15 is dated, but it can be modernized easily enough: “Stores ought to be obliged by law to participate in ceremonies of those professing same-sex attraction.” Quibble with the wording, but I can’t think of any liberal dissenting, while every reactionary would.

Number 18 has passed us by. Perhaps: “We should always be ready to negotiate with the socialist and other communist nations.”

The liberal will agree with 20, except in his own backyard. Ask one if it is okay for, say, Texas to secede. Theoretically, or to be consistent, he should agree. But he won’t. The liberal desires control above all.

Item 21 is dead. No liberal now thinks of allowing the freedom of religious practice. Modern version: “We should respect the right to religious worship but perhaps restrain or proscribe certain traditional religious practices if they interfere with the public.” Liberals Yes, reactionaries No, because both sides know what’s behind these words.

Like the other items mentioning speech, item 23 is now suspect. Liberals are firmly against censorship—of their ideas. But they like it fine for the opposition. Fortune cookie.

Most liberals will like 26 still, but that’s because the academy has been purged of all reactionaries and nearly all conservatives. Item 27 is out: quotas are in. This question is now the exact opposite. Perhaps: “…quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors which will enhance diversity are to be encouraged.”

The boogyman of the hour has changed in 29, but the idea is the same. Even George Bush is fading from memory, replaced maybe by Donald Trump or Scott Walker or Emmanuel Goldstein.

Item 32 is another polar opposite. Modern version: “Everyone is entitled to political and social rights and race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status shall be used to determine the extent of these rights.”

Numbers 33 and 34: fortune cookie.

Have we left anything out? Or can we live without Once we discuss these, I’ll put up the modernized list.

Read Part II: The Perfectibility of Man.


Planned Parenthood Kills And Sells Victims’ Body Parts. Evil Doc Says Yum

It was bit of black comedy yesterday watching the reaction to the news that Planned Parenthood was selling the body parts of its victims. If you were (understandably) in hiding, here is a good summary with the video. Right about 3 minutes, the evil Dr. Deborah Nucatola, purveyor of parts, says, “A lot of people want liver” then she eats something and says, “Yum.” Completing the theme, at about 7:40 she wondered about coming up with a “menu” of viable viscera. Yum.

The reactions from realists, i.e. those who hold to Truth, was as expected: uniform horror and a sort of triumphant I-told-you-so-ness. It wasn’t really a surprise that an organization as moral defunct as Planned Parenthood would sell body parts.

The reaction from the tolerant left? Crickets, at first, and for quite a long time. Nobody could figure out how to spin the gruesome video. All mainstream outlets and reporters pretended it wasn’t happening.

But, gradually and inevitably, a line emerged. The slaughter and sale were now called “tissue donation” and ordinary. This allowed an enormous gasp of relief from the left’s foot soldiers, who often do not know what to think until they are told.

Of course, tissue donation for a fee or “donation” is a sale, and that it is “ordinary” was part of the original charge. Too ordinary.

Anyway, it’s a good bet those who love the idea of killing won’t watch the video, because some progressive out there had the brilliant idea of claiming the video was “heavily edited.” Indeed it was. Mostly to rewind and replay the bit you just heard but couldn’t believe. Or to insert commentary.

But it doesn’t matter, because the Center for Medical Progress, the organization that conducted the sting, has the full, unedited version available at YouTube and at their site. It’s 2 hours 42 minutes.

What interests me most is the phenomenon. The killing of human beings we already knew about, have assimilated, and have mostly shrugged off as a culture, or even embraced it for the sake of “convenience”. The selling of the butchered is new and it’s curious to see how progressives deal with it.

Objectively, once you have talked yourself into killing because, you believe, the baby isn’t a human being, then it should be no trouble swallowing (I’m sticking with Nucatola’s theme) selling off the pieces. We buy chicken and pig parts from the supermarket and they used to be alive, too. What’s the difference?

No, I’m asking. What is the difference? Sure, it’s illegal. But skip that. We’re not interested in the law. We have learned from Anthony Kennedy (repeatedly) that the law is mutable and therefore meaningless, so there’s little point in discussing it. We want to know about the morality of the thing. What makes selling body parts morally right or wrong?

That progs were squeamish about it before they had their talking points must indicate that they know it’s wrong, but that their desire that abortion be allowed overruled their common sense. That they’re finding ways of talking themselves into believing the quick sale of baby livers is a moral good.

Evil is incremental. When the “right” to abortion was discovered hidden in the Constitution—only those who have swallowed the magic potion concocted from ivy leaves can find these—it wasn’t announced on the same day that organ trafficking would also be a hidden “right”. Indeed, laws were written to disclaim the idea.

But now we have open selling after barbaric eviscerations (see the video for descriptions). Investigations are promised, reforms to be announced. But it’s doubtful the practice will disappear.

What’s next on the bloody list? We already have academics calling for the killing of the post-born, which is to say children. They call them “after-birth abortions“. Prime source of healthy organs, there. Euthanasia, the purposeful killing by hospital-appointed executioners, already the rage in Enlightened Europe, is bound to be a “right” discovered, too. Making available more livers, hearts, and spleens the rich can buy.

All easy predictions, of course. What are yours?

Incidentally, I suppose it’s not surprising that the news came on Bastille Day. Same day we learned the religious of the Little Sisters of the Poor lost their court case and will now have to buy contraception coverage, among other things. Abortion, as Nancy Pelosi said, is sacred.


An Exchange with Newsday About Pope Francis


Regular readers will recall that I like to document my interactions with the press, especially the mainstream media. I do this to show the discrepancy from what they are told and what they print. We have something of an adventure with this in the Willie Soon affair. Yesterday I received a request for an interview from Bart Jones at Newsday, forwarded by Maureen Mullarkey (whom everybody should read). I requested the questions in writing. Here are his questions and my word-for-word response. If anybody discovers what Newsday actually says, please let us know.

OK. Doing a story on traditional/conservative Catholics reaction to Pope Francis. What is their take on him? What are their main concerns? How do they view his upcoming trip to the U.S.? What is your own take on Francis?


Bart Jones

My response:

Mr Jones,

I can’t speak for others, only myself; everything I say here are my opinions; whether they are the opinions of others too, I have no idea.

The largest concerns are two: (1) self-aggrandizing politicians who will use the Holy Father’s visit to further their secular agendas, in particular to push for larger more intrusive anti-religious-freedom government, and (2) people will mistake the views of the Pope’s advisors for the views of the Pope himself.

As I wrote elsewhere ( https://stream.org/laudato-si-science-global-warming-loud-clear-mistaken/ ), the Holy Father welcomes debate. He himself said, “There are quarrels and arguments in the Church? Well, it makes good news! This is so since the beginning. A church without quarrels is a dead church. Do you know where there aren’t any quarrels? In cemeteries!”

So I look forward to his arrival here to have a debate on some of the big questions facing the Church. Foremost is the decrease in religious freedom pushed by our government, primarily in the areas of forcing support for abortion and gmarriage. “Gmarriage”, incidentally, stands for “government-defined marriage”, a state which is only coincidentally actual marriage (see https://stream.org/gmarriage-worse-think/ ).

As examples, think of how our government tried to mandate (their own word) that the Little Sisters of the Poor provide services for contraception, or how the state of Oregon is actively persecuting Christians and paying for 15-year-olds to receive “sex change” operations without parental knowledge. There is no such as a “sex change” operation, of course: it’s scientific and grammatical folly to use such a term.

How is the increase of secular government related to the breakup of the family? The Holy Father himself said children deserve a mother and a father and are deprived without them ( http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/pope-francis-prepares-shock-liberals-sex-marriage ). He meant those words in their plain sense, naturally. And not in the increasingly pretend sense they’re coming to mean. We’re already reading that some politicians (I’ll let you guess their party) are trying to rid the language of the words “husband” and “wife”. (See inter alia http://www.dcclothesline.com/2015/07/10/democrats-introduce-bill-to-ban-husband-and-wife-as-anti-gay-words/ )

I doubt you’ll hear many politicians eagerly quote from the Holy Father on these matters. Nor will most of them urge the public to read all of his “Laudato Si'”, the so-called environmental encyclical.

It’s here the second concern arises. The Pope has unfortunately had some bad, even lousy, advisors on matters of the environment. One of the chief scientists with ties to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a man named Hans Schellnhuber, a die-hard anti-evidence believer in global-warming-of-doom.

I’ve written a lot about Schellnhuber (here https://stream.org/pope-francis-dr-strangelove-craves-one-world-government-run-experts/ and here https://stream.org/scientific-pantheist-who-advises-pope-francis/ and here http://wmbriggs.com/post/16400/ ) and his strange, anti-science views. A quick scan of any of these ought to prove to you that the man’s views are highly suspect.

Yet his fingerprints are on Laudato. For example, the claim that the world’s temperature has been increasing is demonstrably false: it hasn’t, and not for almost two decades. Another is the claim that storms are increasing in size and strength: also false; indeed, the opposite is true. Another is the claim that thousands of species are going extinct: false, and easily proved to be so (see http://wmbriggs.com/post/15887/ ). Another is…but you get the idea. Most of the scientific claims cited in Laudato are not true.

And men like Schellnhuber and the big chief of PAS Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo have openly admitted to barring and banning any scientist with contrary findings (see https://stream.org/junk-science-cheap-moralism-tiber/ ). So it’s no surprise the Pope has been misled.

Even if he wasn’t, we can’t let politicians claim to have the Pope’s backing. The Pope said in Laudato (para. 123), “We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.”

He also said (in 211) ” The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct, even when effective means of enforcement are present. If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond. Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment.”

The solution to the failed philosophy and culture of materialism, which the Pope is absolutely right to condemn, is not socialism (or worse). It’s what the Holy Father himself said in Laudato (cf para. 235) are the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. “The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life.” And (236) “It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.”

It’s doubtful you’ll hear those passages on the nightly news.

Let me know if I can help with anything else. You may also want to contact Jay Richards and John Zmirak, who are editors at The Stream (the journal I cited above). They are enlightening on these questions.



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