William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Arguing About Climate Is Largely Pointless

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Regular readers will already know that arguing with climate-of-doom True Believers is pointless. Don’t bother. A for instance. When my piece appeared at Crisis on the Pontifical Academy for Science’s climate theater, a certain reader said, in effect, “Don’t listen to Briggs. He’s not a scientist. He’s a nobody. Only listen to scientists.”

Skipping the obvious genetic fallacy, I wrote providing evidence of my (extensive) bona fides, not so much for him, but for others. My interlocutor then said that, in his eyes, I don’t qualify. He said my background was in “weather” and that I didn’t hold a tenured job (he always left out the majority of my experience). Only listen to “real” scientists, he said.

His grasp of the genetic fallacy would not be weakened. So I decided to tease him and pointed out that he was not a scientist and that nobody should listen to him. He wrote back saying, “Frankly, you don’t know what I am.” I replied that I’d call his bluff and asked to see his qualifications.

He took his time replying but finally said, “My bona fides are not in question. I have never claimed a expertise.” But he did claim he could repeat the claims of “real” scientists.

Several other readers had a go, but nothing could shake the poor fellow. Real scientists were those who told him what he wanted to hear, and pretend scientists were those men who told him what he didn’t. And he knew the real scientists were real because they told him what he wanted to hear.

This man represents the state of debate. Absolutely pointless. Dick Lindzen was right. Global warming belief is a (democratic) cult. Let me be a Martian slug with an IQ of 2, and let Martian slugs be famed for lying. Whatever claims I, the slug, made would still have to be tackled one by one. They could not be automatically dismissed because of my slugness. Logic 101.

If wasn’t credentials, it would have been something else. If I had said (which I did) that contrary to what the PAS claimed, there has been no increase in extreme weather, this man, or some other True Believer, would have said rainy days in this particular location in the month of May had increased from last year. If I rebutted that the claim of non-increase applied to strong storms and not rainy days, and that in any case changes in rainy days was consistent with non-increases in strong storms, the True Believer would have either have insisted his observation was sufficient, or he would have shifted his discussion to some other irrelevant point.

Pointless points. On and on.

Two ways you know you are dealing with an ideologue. One: he will never admit a point made by his opponent. If he knows, on a point, he is wrong, he will pass by it in silence. We saw this the other day in our discussion of the purposeful lowering of physical standards for women, something we were promised would never happen. It did happen. Did any of those who were for lowering standards comment on this failed promise? No, sir. They did not.

And we had two examples: lowering of standards in the military and in the fire department. Lowered standard proponents shifted the argument to “The feminized military here is doing well, in this small metric.” Another non admission. Most sorrowful was that the lowered standard for the woman in the fire department was passed by in utter silence. Don’t be in a fire in a politically correct city.

The second point, and perhaps the best single test: the ideologue will never be able to say what evidence would convince him he is wrong. This is because the ideologue starts from his belief and conforms the evidence he discovers to the ideology. The ideology is mother, the ideology is father. It is true and can only be true. It is so true that the victim is certain sure he is no ideologue.

Backing up this point (on a day of points) is, if you can believe it, Nature magazine. Somebody rejoicing under the name Oliver Geden (himself a minor True Believer) wrote the article “Climate advisers must maintain integrity” in which he said, “Everyday politics is therefore dominated not by evidence-based policy-making but by attempts at ‘policy-based evidence-making’.” Conforming facts to their ideology is what ideologues can’t help but do.


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British Elections Open Thread. The Return of Nationalism?

Farage antebellum.

Farage antebellum.

We haven’t discussed much the elections of our English-speaking cousins, but it’s worth doing because of how this one played out. Particularly in its nationalistic aspects.

Ed Miliband, Labour, a man who looks like Jerry Seinfeld’s bepaunched (you heard me) sad sack cousin, and whom we met in This Week in Doom, was the big loser. Late in the election, he took to promising to make “Islamaphobia”, a fearful condition which only the government can secretly discern, an “aggravated crime”, i.e. jail-worthy (make that gaol-worthy). Quite obviously Miliband did this to suck up to immigrants and those ardent lefties who could not bring themselves to say British Western culture is superior to Islamism. But, as he already had those morally superior (as they never tire of telling us) voters, his desperation only hurt him among the normals.

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s weakly Tea-Party-like UKIP lost. That party only held two seats and was only supposed to keep them. It lost one; Farage’s seat. So, no matter what, UKIP was never going to be more than a blip. Yet the progressives in England, whenever they heard Farage’s name, reacted like irked maniac apes, gibbering incoherently and throwing their poop at whomever was in sight. Howling Social Justice Warriors stalked poor Farage and his family, chased him from pubs, even, and now from public life. Farage resigned.

David Cameron remains as Prime Minister. His one big idea seems to have been, “I’m not Ed Miliband.” I’m no expert in Parliamentary politics, but that looked to be the same idea he’s had since 2010. “I’m not Labour.” Which means, except for trivial differences—don’t forget it was he who pushed through same-sex marriage in England at just the time nobody was calling for it, and that he’s an Official Brussels Buddy—he’s pretty much Labour. Yet those voters who still thought themselves English and perhaps had items like Rotherham on their mind, had nowhere else to go but to him. Rank leftism was rejected.

You have to love—I do—how the cessation of accelerating profligate spending is called in Europe “austerity”. Here the slow-down-in-speeding-up-yet-still-increases-in-spending are called “budget cuts”. It’s a wonder that politicians who utter these outrageously disingenuous phrases aren’t struck down dead. That they aren’t is sure proof of the Devil.

This is relevant because, as we recall, Scotland a short while ago had a national referendum about disuniting themselves from (what’s left of) the United Kingdom. They barely decided to stick it out with Merrie England. Well, yesterday Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party stomped all competitors into the dust, guaranteeing a hefty presence in Parliament. This was an effective second referendum, and this time in favor of breaking free at some time, nobody knows when, in the future.

So you think to yourself: nationalism good, subsidiarity in action and all that. But. Nicola Sturgeon’s first act was to call for an “end” to austerity, which is to say, a return to the bad old days of wild spending. Since Scotland doesn’t have the money, what she means is that she wants England to pay.

Here my imagination runs dry. Perhaps those more familiar with Island politics can help us guess the future. Will the Northern money flow cause England to say “Good riddance” or will Scotland grow so dependent on its keeper that she rolls over lest she lose her free lunches? And wouldn’t Scotland have to vacate Parliament?

The nationalistic flavor to this election is what’s most interesting. Can we look forward to some of that here? Would we be better off with a Queen Hillary rather than a President Clinton II? There are many points in favor of the first situation. It would certainly stop Her Majesty’s populist pandering.

I saved the best news for the last. The Spectator opines that the election’s “biggest loser” was Russell Brand. Let’s pray this is true. Brand is the intellectual giant—a cerebral state certified by elite celebrities—of that influential monograph My Bookie Wook, a man whose voice is so grating that listening to The Beatles at full volume is to be preferred, and a man who would have been overwhelmingly voted Person I’d Like Most To Never Of Again had there been such an award. Buh-bye, Rusty.

Your thoughts?

Update Of statistical interest: “How did the pollsters get it so WRONG? Experts claim voters ‘said one thing and did another’ after polls failed to predict Tory victory.”

If that’s true, and there’s some evidence for it, it means many people tell pollsters what they think the pollsters want to hear. And what these citizens think public figures want to hear are lefty thoughts.

Update Another discussion showing polls the world over are underestimating “conservative” results. Some stranger calls you on the phone and says, “Sir, do you support marriage equality?” What fraction of people will hang up or lie?


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The Purposeful Lowering Of Physical Standards: More Consequences Of Egalitarianism

We're ashamed to report, sir, that we have no women!

We’re ashamed to report, sir, that we have no women!

Remember how we were told that when women joined the military there was no danger of lowering standards to accommodate them? Letting them join was a question of “fairness”, which we saw yesterday was a theory of egalitarianism.

But do you also recall that realists predicted that because women are vastly less physically capable than men that standards will have to be lowered else few to no women would succeed? Egalitarians agreed about the importance of standards and swore the standards would never be abandoned.

There are recent reports about the lowering of standards in the military. Before those, I remind the reader that physical requirements for women have long been set lower.

I was in the basic training in the early 80s and the women had PT next to the men. I am a witness that women had it much easier. For example, the women were allowed to do push-ups from their knees (try it) and they had to do fewer of them than the men. And a strange sort of blindness overcame the instructors when assessing marginal women, who despite their inabilities somehow passed. Now when I bring this up as a for-example to an egalitarian, the first thing I hear is “Would ya look at the time?”

The more intelligent realize the paradox and resolve it thusly: “You know, those old standards weren’t really necessary. We’re better off having equality and allowing women greater opportunity.”

This argument is viciously circular and thus fallacious because simply stating the standards “were necessary”—standards that up until yesterday in the absence of egalitarianism worked just fine—without offering any reasons why fails. And the conclusion is merely a restatement of egalitarianism, which is what we wanted to prove.

Fast forward to today. Here’s a headline “The Marines are dropping a fitness test meant to level the playing field for women because more than half of female Marines have failed it.Saepe fideles, boys?

Now what can “level the playing field” mean? The field was the test and it was already the same for all, men and women alike. What could be more “level” than having the exact same test for everybody? Is that not already egalitarian? Is that not true equality?

Of course not. Egalitarianism is not a theory about “level playing fields”. It is a theory about the equality of people. Because people are not equal, and everybody knows this, the field has to be made unlevel so that equality of outcome is a result. The field can be made unlevel by either making the men work harder, a tactic which is rarely adopted, or allowing the women to have it easier, which is eagerly embraced.

Thus a “level playing field” means the precise opposite of its plain English definition.

Isn’t that right, Mr Egalitarian?

“Would ya look at the time?”

And then this from the progressive Washington Post: “Opinion: It’s time to reevaluate standards for women in the military“. Having Marines be, well, Marines, elite physically robust unstoppable soldiers, “does not help the military win wars” says the Post, without offering proof (except to claim other egalitarian armies contain a few women). Besides, it is a myth that manly “farting, burping, and swapping sex stories invaluably promote infantry unit cohesion”.

It isn’t just the military. Firemen, too, are no longer all firemen. Earlier this week: “Woman to become NY firefighter despite failing crucial fitness test.

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed…

Some FDNY members are angry.

“We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified,” the source said. “Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.”

This is a seemingly unanswerable argument. But it is easily rebutted by an egalitarian, for, do you see, “Only 44 of the FDNY’s 10,500 firefighters are female.” This is a “disparity”, an “inequality”, and is thus, given egalitarianism, automatically “unfair”. Inequalities must be eliminated.

And since women are, as everybody knows, not even close to being equal to men physically, the standards must be, and are being, lowered. Right now the responses are still of the “Would ya look at the time?” stripe. But in time the New York Times will offer an editorial which says something like, “Most fires are easy to put out.”

It is worth pointing out that the lowering of physical standards has already taken root in all police departments. And last week I saw a commercial which asked, “Where will you be when the first woman pitches in the majors?”

Right here in my chair, well pleased with myself for having predicted the leveling effects of egalitarianism.

Update Perhaps the most pertinent quotation from the linked article:

“In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.”

See also the table.

Update Yawrate below reminds that I stupidly forgot to emphasize that egalitarianism means equality of outcome and not (strictly) equality of opportunity. We already have in the entrance exams equality of opportunity, but it is, as we see, not enough.


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Kids Raised By Parents Creates Unfair Advantages, Inequality: A Consequence Of Egalitarianism

The inequalities implied by this picture are too numerous and horrifying to mention.

The inequalities implied by this picture are too numerous and horrifying to mention.

The deadliest, most destructive, and dumbest philosophical idea of all time is egalitarianism. It says not that all things are equal, but that they should be. A good case can be made that egalitarianism, in its insistence on equality, is the original sin. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Even if this isn’t true, nothing is more obvious than that people are different. Egalitarianism is the philosophy that these differences should be eradicated, and it tells us how the Utopian goal of Equality can be met.

Academic philosophers are largely progressives, and progressivism is to look forward to an ever-brightening future. This explains why progressives must despise the past. The past is that which is to be escaped from, a necessarily vile and dark place. That it is so is an excuse not to be familiar with it. Why muddy yourself? And because academic philosophers are largely not familiar with it, they frequently stumble upon old arguments unaware that they have been refuted. They cherish these arguments to the extent they can be made to conform to egalitarianism.

Such is the case with academic philosophers Harry Brighouse and the inaptly named Adam Swift (as you will see, no relative of Jonathan). Seems these fellows “discovered” that parents raising their biological children confer advantages on these children, advantages in which children being raised in other ways cannot share. This is anti-egalitarian and thus “unfair” and a “disparity.”

Here it is from Swift himself: “I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity”. Equality of opportunity is the necessarily impossible goal of ensuring every person starts all undertakings equivalently disposed. It is necessarily impossible because all people are different (even identical twins) and not all people can be in the same place at the same time. Equality of opportunity in any real endeavor can be met controlling for only a limited number of variables. For example, runners in the 100-yard dash are started at the same time. But obviously, we cannot enforce the condition that all runners have led identical lives up the point of the race. Somebody must lose.

Swift’s next comment is proof that progressive philosophers routinely ignore the past: “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.” Any person with any contact with reality would not have had to do “work on social mobility” to know that families are different.

He continues:

One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.

The “social justice problem” is a theorem of egalitarianism which says that any equality is a social injustice. Notice that lack of equality is explicitly called “unfair.” Fairness is equality. Equality is level playing fields. Notice too that Swift, being generous, is not now advocating “abolishing” families.

Yet since he felt (and did not think) families should be abolished, he had to explain, given egalitarianism, why not. He and Brighouse were puzzled: “Why are families a good thing exactly?”

Swift, his eye set upon a distant future, was astonished to discover, “From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.” All we now know. Progressivism knows no past.

The tension between the innate natural knowledge that families are good and the internalized belief in egalitarian theory is resolved, for the moment, with this:

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods'; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

Egalitarianism must always lead to authoritarianism. Because people are different and cannot be other than different, an enforcement mechanism must necessarily be in place which restrains and controls these differences. If the restraints did not exist, the differences would persist, and that would lead to unequal opportunities and outcomes. Notice that Swift tacitly admits this when he twice says, “we wanted to allow parents”. Swift obviously puts himself in the authority as one who will allow. That the creation of this authority also creates inequality is always seen as a passing phase, something future progress will obviate.

Swift also tacitly admits that “elite private school[s]” produce better educated children than their opposite, non-elite, non-private, non-schools. Uniformity in education is an egalitarianism demand. (Incidentally, this uniformity is called “diversity.”) “Allowing” parents control over their biological children leads to unequal outcomes. The tension remains.

This tension is bound to result in distress. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates this than when Swift says that he would allow parents to read their children bedtime stories. He says, “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t”. You just knew bad statistics would come into it some how. Parents who invest more time with their children are more likely to read them stories, yes? And therefore probably care more about their education. No statistics needed.

The tension mounts when Swift says:

I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.

Egalitarianism is there: never lose sight of it. What you’re doing in reading to your child creates inequality. Feel badly about this. But rejoice in the loving relationship. Swift continues: “We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage”. Swift is willing to trade small amounts of inequality in exchange for “loving bonds” within families. But not too much. Indeed, given time, even these inequalities can be vanquished.

‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’

From this realisation arises another twist: two is not the only number.

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.

Swift forgets that the child can only be created by a mom and a dad, yet he is willing to leave science behind in the march of progress. Understand: everything Swift says, except for his allowing small freedoms, follows necessarily from egalitarianism. His only inconsistency is allowing any freedom, like bedtime stories.

Yet because egalitarianism is stupid and obviously false, making oneself believe it is always a painful process. One can just bring oneself to propose (or to swallow) modest increases in equality, like Swift has done, but one cannot make oneself believe in totalizing equality. Yet always (see this article about drift) today’s progressive is tomorrow’s “conservative”.

“We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,” he says. “If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.”

Indeed.

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Thanks to reader Mike Berry for alerting us to this article.


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