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Author: Briggs

April 19, 2018 | 11 Comments

A Society Run By Atheist Scientists Would Be Horrible

Skeptic Michael Shermer is pleased the number of folks with no religious affiliation is growing, and will likely continue to grow.

One estimate is that “there are more than 64 million American atheists, a staggering number that no politician can afford to ignore.” There are about 358 million people in the USA, making about 18% who are effectively atheist. That’s on the low end. The same estimate suggests the number may be as high as 26%, or 93 million.

He says, “This shift away from the dominance of any one religion is good for a secular society whose government is structured to discourage catch basins of power from building up and spilling over into people’s private lives.”

This is not only not true, it is willfully blind. The catch basin of power known as the State has not only spilled over into people’s lives, but it is overtaking them. Each day the State discovers a new area which it can control, regulate, manipulate, “nudge”, or direct. Religion and the family were able to hold the State at bay, at least to some extent. Which is why it is not surprising these institutions are under attack by the State.

An Unreasonable Suggestion

Moreover, if these trends continue, we should be thinking about the deeper implications for how people will find meaning as the traditional source of it wanes in influence. And we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.

This is wrong. And also frightening. We cannot ground our morals on reason and science. Reason may assist but science is as silent as Hell is not on which morals and values a society should favor. Science is in the measurement and not the judgement business. It can tell us, say, how many heads are lopped off the world over, including those in would-be mothers’ wombs, but it cannot say whether lopping itself is good or bad. Reason should have told Shermer that.

Maybe it did but he wasn’t listening. The message isn’t one he’d like to hear. But it’s as simple dropping a piece of toast buttered side down.

The Silence of Science

Science cannot say if murder is right or wrong. That is a moral judgement and moral judgments are not scientific. Science can describe where and when murders take place, and under what circumstances, and it might even be able to predict with varying accuracy where murders are going to take place, or possibly even who might commit them.

These activities involve measurement, modeling, and prediction. That is what science does, and only what science does.

A scientist can say, “Click here to read the rest.

April 18, 2018 | 17 Comments

One Out Of Five Babies Are Killed In England & Wales

I received this request from Steve Blendell (slightly edited for spelling):


How are you friend? Take a look at Prof Cotter’s letter – he’s a physicist. Do the stats stand up?

The referendum is in May – our side have got off to a good strong start with posters.


The referendum is whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment which gives human beings a right to life. ‘No’ voters think killing the lives inside would-be mothers should be illegal, while ‘Yes’ voters want to draw their knives.

Ignore here the conceit, shared by all democracies, that such matters can be put to a (general) vote.

Cotter’s letter to the editor:

Sir, – Posters on my street for the No campaign state that the rate of terminations in England is either one in four (25 per cent) or one in five (20 per cent), depending on which poster I look at. It is also interesting to note that these data only refer to England. The reason for this is that if you include official 2016 statistics for Scotland and Wales, the overall rate drops to 14 per cent. Now 14 per cent is a long way from 25 per cent and doesn’t look good for the No campaign. So voters need to be aware of how statistics are being manipulated to encourage a no vote. – Yours, etc,

Co Cork.

Cotter apparently believes the (if true) slightly lower number of killings in England, Wales, and Scotland justify killing multitudes more in Ireland. Which is incoherent. Either the killing is moral and allowable, or it isn’t. If it is, what’s the difference if the entire population decides to kill itself off?

Since that argument goes nowhere, let’s look at the numbers instead. Here is more or less what I told Blendell.

Here are the official statistics: Link (pdf).

They put the abortion ‘rate’ in England and Wales this way: ‘The age-standardised abortion rate was 16.0 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44.’ That is calculated like this:

     number of abortions/number of women aged 15-44 (in thousands).

That’s one definition of ‘rate’, but not the best if I understand them correctly. The best is

     number of abortions/(number of births + number of abortions).

An equivalent way to put it is

     number of abortions/number of conceptions.

Call this the Real Abortion Rate, and contrast it to the official rate. The Real rate will be higher, and likely much higher, than the number they are touting, which includes all women, whether or not they were pregnant.

Suppose only 1 woman in that age group got pregnant and then killed her child. That’s a Real rate of 100%, but it would be a very small official rate. To find it, take that 1 and divide by all the women (in thousands) aged 15-44. It’s in the thousands of thousands (millions), anyway.

I could not find what the Real rate is for England and Wales, but according to one chart in 2013 there were about 53,900 thousand people (roughly 54 million) in England and 3,100 thousand (3.1 million) in Wales. If women aged 15-44 were, say, 20% of these totals, then the total is 11,400 thousands women aged 15-44, more or less, in 2016.

Now that same report said there were 190,406 abortions in 2016. So that would make my estimate of the official rate per 1,000 women at

190,406/11,400 = 16,

which is exactly what they got, meaning that 20% guess of number of women in that age bracket is pretty good.

But if only 1 women was pregnant and killed her child, the Real rate would be 100% but it would make the ‘official’ abortion rate 1/11,400 = 0.00008, which is mighty small! This is only used to show that the definition of ‘rate’ matters.

More than 1 woman got pregnant. Here’s the official stats for England and Wales: Link.

Extrapolating would make about 900,000 conceptions in 2016, maybe slightly higher, maybe lower. They do not account for multiple births per woman, nor are miscarriages counted. But 900,000 is in the ballpark. That would makes the Real abortion rate about

190,406/900,000 = 21%.

That 21% is NOT per 1,000 women like the 16 above is, so be very careful making comparisons. This says (roughly) 1 out of EVERY 5 ‘conceptions’ are killed. Which is huge. That varies by age group, with (as the official report says) the highest rates around 22, i.e. the most fecund years.

Therefore this is how I would do the posters:


Maybe accounting for uncertainties it’s 0.5 out of 5, or 1.5 out of 5. But 1 is a reasonable guess. I didn’t do Scotland, but you get the idea.

The numbers will all be meaningless. Statistics are (almost) useless. Those who want to kill do not care how many are killed. They just want to kill. Polls and bookies are predicting bloodlust wins, incidentally.

Image grabbed from here. Notice the hilariously inept ‘Trust us.’

Post corrected of my innumeracy. Bonus pic.

April 17, 2018 | 13 Comments

Penn Professor Amy Wax Under Fire For Speaking Hate Facts Receives Academic Courage Award

Penn Law Professor Amy Wax has been charged with spreading hate facts. Few modern crimes are more detestable to our elites, which is why a swift and predictable reaction against Wax has begun.

In August 2017 Wax published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she spoke forbidden truths. Many of our culture’s “maladies” are caused by “the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture,” she said. We could “significantly reduce society’s pathologies” if we embraced traditional values.

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These hateful words were noticed at Penn, which forced a spokesperson to issue a statement. “The views expressed in the article are those of the individual authors. They are not a statement of Penn Law’s values or institutional policies.”

The spokesperson did not say what Penn Law’s values were.

Somebody’s Knocking at the Door

Wax might have got away with her crime if she had stopped there. She did not. She went on to hate-notice that with respect to immigration “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”

The Black Law Student Association sprang into action. They discovered an interview in which Wax said

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the [Penn Law School] class and rarely, rarely in the top half,” Wax said of her belief of the downside of affirmative action in universities. “I can think of one or two students who’ve graduated in the top half of my required first year course.”

“Outrage”, that ubiquitous emotion, was the reaction. A petition said Wax’s figures were “false and deeply offensive.”

Brave Cowardice

Wax’s serial hate facts were obvious to even the meanest intelligence, which included the intelligence of Ted Ruger, the Dean of the Law School. He decided punishment was in order. He charged that Wax “transgress[ed] the policy that student grades are confidential” and that Wax used “her access to those Penn Law students who are required to be in her class to further her scholarly ends without students’ permission.”

Ruger then forbade Wax from teaching her first-year course.

Wax did not reveal any student’s grade, nor did she use her access without permission to “further her scholarly ends”. No official figures to rebut Wax’s claim were then or ever produced. But hate facts are hate facts and their use cannot go unpunished lest others are encouraged to speak them.

Ruger probably hoped his punitive acts would silence Wax. He was wrong.

She later wrote that you should click here to read the rest.

April 16, 2018 | 4 Comments

Chicken Chicken Chicken Chik-Fil-A

Sanity took a hit to the gizzard when the New Yorker posted an article by an atheist presumably addicted to Chick-fil-A sandwiches and ashamed of his obsession.

The article is “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” The writer is Dan Piepenbring from Brooklyn, whose Twitter bio reads in part “I want to watch TV in a different time zone. I want to visit strange, exotic malls.”

The benefit of modest goals is that it is east to meet them. And then we remember it is at malls where Chick-fil-A restaurants are often found. It appears Piepenbring went to one too many.

The black truth is that once an addict starts on a bag of waffle fries there is no stopping him until he reaches the salty end. He enters a strange, exotic mall and is not able to overcome the irresistible force driving him to the food court. He will feel that he is outside himself, that it is another person altogether, who for the fourth time that day orders a chicken biscuit. With cheese.

He will hate himself after. And he will hate his obsession. If he is too far gone, he might even hate God.

A Slave to Taste Buds

What else can account for Piepenbring calling the opening of a new Chick-fil-A branch an “infiltration”? Why else would he cry against the chain’s “pervasive Christian traditionalism”?

We feel the man’s searing anger when he writes, “[Chick-fil-A’s] headquarters, in Atlanta, is adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet.”

But at last the reason for his lashing out becomes shockingly clear when he cries, “Its stores close on Sundays.”

The man has it, and he has it bad.

Now it all makes sense. Now we can see his frustration over the company’s stated purpose “to glorify God.” Now we understand the fixation on cows.


Moo Cow

Piepenbring says “It’s impossible to overstate the role of the Cows.”

Chick-fil-A, if you didn’t know, has a series of amusing ads which portray cows saying “Eat Mor Chikin.” Cows are notorious spellers. One stunt had life-sized cows scaling a water tower on which was painted the slogan, one cow dangling from a rope held by another.

Cows are not chickens. It takes chickens to make Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Chicken sandwiches, therefore, are not hamburgers. Evidently the thought of hamburgers must set poor Piepenbring off.

He says cows are the chain’s “ultimate evangelists.” Evangelist, as in “a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching.” In this case, not the Christian faith, but the worship of the chicken nuggets combo deal.

Incensed with the company’s ads, he clicked here to read the rest.