William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

I Get Complaints

From reader R:

Hey!

I like your posts on statistics.

But your posts on marriage equality, gun violence, climate change, diversity etc. are incoherent rants. It sounds like you start with the conclusion and work backwards – and the conclusion *always* align with the same ideological bias (everything seems “pure” by right wing ideological standards). Too much agreement with a particular ideological strain makes it hard to take you seriously as an “independent” thinker. You know, like when all your data falls neatly along a line – hard to trust.

I can follow you on technical arguments (i.e. when you talk about statistics and probabilities) but you completely lost me on the rest. And this is coming from someone reading a variety of opinions, including my beloved professor **.

My immediate reply was “Well, you have to admit the price is right. Thanks for reading…and Merry Christmas!” I had to have a joke. Here is a more thoughtful response.

You cannot in 750 words develop a full theory beginning with the principle of non-contradiction and come to a conclusion that, for instance, affirmative-action-like programs will exacerbate the problems they seek to fix. Every complete argument-to-conclusion would require a book, or more. Assumptions are thus necessary; assumptions which, in many cases, do assume as true the conclusion.

All that can be done in the space provided is to show, as for instance was attempted in the linked zampolit article, the absurdity of some new twist on an old error. It’s true that readers inclined to like affirmative action would leave dissatisfied, seeing only the “bias.” It’s also true few who didn’t already believe the full argument against affirmative-action-like programs would come to the conclusion that these programs cause more problems than they fix.

But then this and many articles do not stand in isolation, at least on this site. I have written basic, start-from-scratch articles on, say, the evils and destructive nature of Equality, and one of the assumptions I must make is that these have been read and remembered. That way, the shorter pieces make sense and fit into a pattern.

Take so-called same-sex marriage, or “gay” marriage, a.k.a. government-marriage or gmarriage. I have expended thousands of words on the subject, arguing against the position from first principles and (I claim) proving the absurdity that two men can be married (to each other). This included a vigorous to-and-fro in the comment section, led (I thank God) by such people as Ye Olde Statistician.

It’s the same story, though. When new things arise on the subject, there isn’t time to repeat all the basics, which must be accepted as premises. Articles can seem arbitrary and biased.

Now on climatology, I am an expert and you are not. Even better, I am a certified expert, which is all the rage. I was a past Associate editor of a major atmospheric science journal. I was a past member of the American Meteorological Society’s Probability & Statistics Committee. I have published many professional peer-reviewed articles in the field, and I’ve reviewed these papers on the site. If you don’t follow the blog assiduously, you can easily miss these summaries. My opinion on the dismal state of the science is educated and, even better, my criticisms are correct.

But this must seem so much blah blah blah to you, yes? Your complaint is not going to go away so easily. How do I better point back to fundamental material on controversial topics?

I do have a Classic Posts page, in which I am woefully behind updating (well over a year now), which is very badly organized, and which could stand a better ratio of wheat to chaff. I could and should link to that more often. But I need to fix those other problems. Check it out now, though, to see how it stands. Let me know what you think.

I could also just shut up. But that approach has been tried—and it has failed. I told this story before: I was in, what, first grade and the teacher had to move me because I was talking to my friend and disrupting class and not paying attention. So she moved me away from my friend and put me next to somebody else. I talked to her. And so she put my right up front by her desk. But then I talked to her. So back I went to where I started. And here we are today.

19 Comments

  1. Conversions are rare unless God intervenes. You keep the converted converted and what could be more important? My guess is your approval rate (on this site) is over 90%.

    Merry Christmas, especially now, as we look optimistically towards the Trump Presidency and setting the liberal(pagan) agenda back a step or two. Over all, 2016 has been a very good year.

    Keep the converted converted.

  2. Trigger Warnings

    December 17, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Faith is a gift.

  3. Now on climatology, I am an expert and you are not. Even better, I am a certified expert, which is all the rage. …I was a past… I have published many professional peer-reviewed articles in the field, …. My opinion on the dismal state of the science is educated and, even better, my criticisms are correct.

    PAST! When was it? We all know that when we don’t keep up with current research, we would fall behind quickly and get stuck in the old same things.

    How do you know Reader R is not an expert in climatology? Do you have a PhD in climatology? What is your specific expertise in climatology? Yeah, why did you switch to Statistics? Never thought of this before. Hmmm… gotta find some answers via friends.

    Oh, come on, be manly and just admit that you often start with the conclusion and work backwards – and the conclusion *always* align with the same ideological bias. And that it is up to Reader R as to whether to continue ro read your posts that propagate the left wing media gossips, e.g., http://wmbriggs.com/post/20293/ or http://wmbriggs.com/post/5490/.

  4. Of course you start with the conclusion and work backwards! That’s the point of commentary pieces. Why would readers hang around for 700 words only to find what they thought was the topic turned out to be something else in the last 50 words? You’re telling a story not of the shaggy dog variety so long-wind and diversion are not germane. To paraphrase Thoreau, commentary “is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify.” And it’s purpose isn’t proof, but rather a launching point for further exploration by the reader.

  5. That’s the trouble with liberals, and/or those who consider themselves liberated from the dark ages of religion and morality: they start with the conclusion and either go nowhere, or forward into la-la land. Invariably, la-la land (or should we call it “lie-lie land”?) turns out to be socialist tyranny, or fascist tyranny (closely related), as well as the satanism of the John Podestas of the world. Malachi Martin’s Windswept House makes the connection between the globalist socialists and the forces of hell.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, WMB, and thanks for this wonderful blog!

  6. Now that was a refreshingly sharp response. Like a brisk slap in the puss first thing in the morn.

  7. Oh Briggs, I would recommend that you fix Chapter 10 of your book before your so-called classic posts.

  8. I never complain. I appreciate your posts, and often refer people to your blog for a back-to-the-basics education on “how to learn how to reason and think and form your own genuine opinions” as well as “How To Understand and Decifer Statistics and Data”. In addition, your blog has been linked from my sidebar for years.

    Please don’t shut up. Thank you for all you do. We appreciate it.

    God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

  9. Briggs, of course are you entitled to your own opinion on your own blog. But please don’t make more of it than what it actually is: just another opinion of a blogger on the internet.

    Keep up the good spirit!

  10. Uh..uh.. Doc?

    In general people who do not accept an essayist’s viewpoint and believe themselves to have majority support in their community will demand that everything you reference, directly or indirectly, have a prior proof approved of in their own community. This locks out contrary opinion; gives rise to the reality that old theories don’t die until their proponents retire; and justifies my recipe for thesis writing (91 pages on what others have said, a paragraph on your new idea, and nine pages of apologies for it.)

    It is also exactly what you do in this essay: claiming that what you say can be read as making sense because you have the right credentials and have provided the “missing” supporting reference and/or arguments elsewhere restricts the reference community to one but is otherwise no different.

    In my opinion, of course, you are generally closer to right than most – but that’s an opinion, and neither an argument nor a fact so the best anyone can reasonably say is that your critics are doing what you do, but from the other side of the blinkered divide.

  11. Mr Briggs,
    Of course you get complaints! “my dear, what did you expect?” To quote Higgins’ mum, the wisest philosopher in the world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpGPCfVhP6A

  12. Briggs you are a breath of fresh air in an internet filled with noise.

    Never shut up!

  13. I am a new subscriber to your blog and find your views smart and wise. I have learned much (also, occasionally from opponents) and continue to learn. Thank you.

  14. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Your posts on marriage equality, gun violence, climate change, diversity etc. are incoherent rants. It sounds like you start with the conclusion and work backwards – and the conclusion *always* align with the same ideological bias (everything seems “pure” by right wing ideological standards).

    Of course, alternatively, this may mean that the Other’s point of view is more coherent and less ad hoc. The findings of physics will also nearly always align with the same ideological bias. [As the neo-left sees these things, there is no absolute truth, only power relationships.]

    For example, people who talk about “marriage equality” who had ten years ago spoken more cogently of “marriage equivalence” have simply not given great thought as to what exactly marriage is. (cf. https://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/families-as-the-principle-of-harmony-for-the-dual-ends-of-sexuality/ )

    Too much agreement with a particular ideological strain makes it hard to take you seriously as an “independent” thinker.

    Whereas being all over the map means what?

  15. Consider this a “thumb’s up.”

  16. I, OTOH, am in complete agreement. Well done! KUTGW and Merry Xmas.

  17. Matt, if you ever decide to shut up, except for natural causes, I swear I am coming over to “kick start” you. And in advance I cannot guarantee to which word of the two I would partial.

  18. This person started with the conclusion that Mr Briggs doesn’t know what he’s talking about and wrote a complaint letter around that starting point.

  19. I have tried to explain to skeptics why I disagree with the “consensus”. It is a fascinating romp of name calling. People who just last week gave lectures on the fallacies, will lead with Ad Hominem and inverted Argument from Authority. The don’t even pause for a second to ponder the question.

    “Have you looked at Dick Rutan’s discussion of the data behind the climate debate!”

    the answer:

    “He is a personal friend of mine and is the biggest conspiracy theorist in the universe!”

    “What is enthalpy?”

    answer:

    “Who are you to question the experts!? ”

    Is there a line of discussion one can use to try and direct the folks who know they are correct to revisit the basics?

    I have to revisit the definition of 1 regularly. It bites me in the ass way to often. The people who know never have it bite them.

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