William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Book review (page 1 of 33)

Please email me at matt@wmbriggs.com before sending books to be reviewed.

Why I’m Unconvinced By Penrose’s Entropy/Anthropic Argument

There are a number of “constants” used in physics, such as the speed of light, the Planck constant, elementary charge and so forth. Some of these constants are bare, meaning they do not have a dependency on other constants, and some are derived from other constants, like vacuum permittivity (which is an exact formula of the speed of light and vacuum permeability, the latter being dependent on the definition of ampere).

Now these constants appear in certain formulas, and these formulas are derived by arguments, the lists of premises of which are very long and contain both observation and (ultimately) metaphysical premises. For instance, all use math, which is not observational. The constants “fall out” of these formulas, and are estimated via experiment. Their values are not deduced directly as, say, the value of π is in mathematics (there are many formulas for calculating the value of π, all based on argument).

If in any of these physics formulas a constant’s value can be derived, it is no long really a constant, but an assumed true (given the prior argument) value.

Though experiment can assist in estimating constants, conditional on the arguments which imply the constants’ existence, what follows is nobody knows why these constants take the values they do (nobody knows why π takes the value it does, either, though we can compute its value). Since constants are not derived, it could be that they are not real, in the sense they are not really part of the universe; it may be that they are estimating or summarizing groups of effects, that because the formulas which imply them might be incomplete, the constants are only parameterizations, in the same sense of probability models, or of encapsulating more fundamental processes as yet unknown. Or it could be they are real, in which case their values might be deduced. But it’s only “might” because it does not follow that we will ever know the right and true premises which lead to their deduction.

If the constants are only parameterizations, then arguments based on “choosing” constants, as is Penrose’s anthropic-like entropy argument, rely on false premises.

But, like most physicists do, I think the constants are real: they are the Way Things Are. And that means they were caused to be the way they are. They were made to take the values they did. The question then becomes why these values and not others.

It turns out, physicists like Penrose say, that assuming the arguments in which the constants appear are true, that if the certain values of these constants were to vary in only a minuscule way, the universe would look far different than it does now, even to the extent that life like us could not possibly exist. These non-life-universe arguments appear sound, remembering they are all conditional on assumed physical theory.

It turns out that only an exceedingly narrow range of the standard constants allow a universe anything like this one. Using an entropy argument well summarized in Robert Spitzer’s New Proofs for the Existence of God (pp 52-59; we’ll be going through this whole book), Penrose shows the creation of the constants had to have the “accuracy of one part in 1010123“, which is mighty precise! (In case your browser does not render that math, it’s 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power.)

This argument is not only premised on assumed physical theory, which is uncontroversial, but it also assumes there was a choice possible in the value of the constants.

There is no way to know or prove this choice existed, even for God. It could be, do not forget, that one or more of the values of the constants might be deducible, we just yet do not know how. We might some day discover how. In that case, we will have proven this constant had to have this particular value, with no choice about it. Penrose’s number would be reduced by some amount for each new deduction. If we could deduce all the constants, then it would appear the universe was inevitable, under Penrose’s interpretation.

But this is all doing it the hard way. That the universe exists at all, rather than nothing, is sufficient proof of the existence of God.

One possible line of escape, used by some and also summarized by Spitzer, is to assume all the “universes” which had the “allowable” values of constants really do or did exist; thus, they say, solving the choice problem. Or quantum mechanical arguments imply the constants are chosen “randomly”.

It should be obvious these are fallacies. The same unproven premise is there, that the constants could be different than they are, that a choice was possible. If a choice was possible, there had to be a chooser, or some simpler, more basic mechanism that led to the particular values.

But then what accounts for this constant chooser? It could be God directly, or other more fundamental still physical processes. If the latter, these had to come from somewhere: they could not have come from nothing.

Every path taken by these arguments leads to the same origin, which is Ultimate Chooser, the real true and sole reason the way things are are The Way Things Are. The nature of nature has to have an explanation, and that explanation can never, not ever, be nothing. The explanation has to be something outside nature, and the only candidate for that is God.

Incidentally, I do not agree with any probabilistic argument used to prove God’s existence, e.g. this one from Swineburn.

Reaction: Anthony Esolen’s ‘Out of the Ashes’ Reviewed

I want everybody to read Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes. Buy it if you can; at least borrow it. Libraries still exist in many places, and some of them still have books.

After you read it, follow its prescriptions. In a word, they are this: fight. This is a reactionary, and not conservative, formulary, and the medicine is delightful. Remember, nobody gets out of this alive.

Here’s Esolen’s battle plan.

Restore truth-telling. Never use the language of your enemy. Two men cannot marry each other. Don’t say they are married. A man who pretends to be a woman is a man. Say he, and say he is a man. Once you lose contact with language, you lose your grip on reality.

Esolen says we’re all happy with our liars, and only dislike the other guy’s liars. We expect our leaders to lie, and enjoy their lies when the untruths are in our service. Clear your mind of cant, says Esolen, and so say all the sages.

Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Restore a sense of beauty. Art is purposely ugly and “transgressive” of the truth. It is foisted upon us. Resist it. If you see a piece of ugly or hateful art, say, “This is ugly.” Resist drabness, says Esolen. This includes your clothing. This includes your churches.

I have seen crosses that look as if a modernist Jesus were flying with wings outspread, like a theological pterodactyl.

This includes music. God save us from guitars and happy-clappy Jesus-is-your-buddy Disney-like-tunes. Do not participate in these horrors.

Restore the school. Get rid of education—flush it away!—and restore teaching. All readers know what this means. Restore local control. Restore parental control. Parents are parents, not teachers, not social workers, not bureaucrats, not government.

This will mean homeschooling for most, with all the sacrifice that that entails. But you have to save your children from the deadening horrors of government-backed factories. Schools are dead, says Esolen.

A monstrous thing has taken its place—not just a parasite or a cancer feeding off the host, but a disease that has slowly transformed the host into itself, like an all-eating and all-digesting alien. The word school remains, but not the reality…

The public schools, with their vast and political bureaucratic machinery, are beyond reform…

The proper relationship [between parent and teacher] is reversed. We see this reversal quite clearly whenever a parent, who ought to be considered the teacher’s employer, or the one who delegates his authority to the teacher under certain conditions that he and his fellow parents stipulate, attempts to register a complaint about some nonsense or perversion or even attempts to set foot on the school grounds without permission.

Rebuilding the college. Esolen does not come to the view that colleges should be nuked from orbit, though that might be because he is unfamiliar with the effectiveness of these weapons.

He tells the story of a professor who was fired because he dared tell this truth: “that the most important work that most women will do will be to raise their children well.” A crapstorm of elites pretending to be offended erupted.

Restoring colleges “is not a matter of healing a gangrenous limb here or there, but of searching the field of battle after a devastating defeat, and finding the few people still breathing who can be saved.”

Do not donate any money to any school that has not remained faithful.

Repeat that last stricture.

Esolen tells of a program at a state school, the University of Kansas, which had students watch three professors in love with their material talk to each other. “The program was a tremendous success and soon attracted the envy and enmity of much of the faulty…many [students] converted to the faith and even even monasteries. Such a thing could not be permitted to continue.” So it wasn’t.

Restoring manhood. “As late as the 1970s, pornography was called dirty.” All pornography is a lie, and the worst kind of lie. To yourself. Never use it. “Christians must repudiate the whole sexual revolution. All of it. No keepsakes, no exceptions. Remember Lot’s wife.”

Women are not men, and can never become men. Equality is another lie, perhaps the biggest lie. We must let boys be boys, and girls be girls. If you allow your boy to be drugged so that he acts more like a girl, home school. Home school anyway.

Esolen does not treat the Boy Scouts well, nor should he. On their acceptance of those with same-sex attraction as scoutmasters, he says, “Traitors.”

Restoring womanhood. Women are not men. Reaching Equality and spending time creating, God help us, Powerpoint “decks” is not the epitome of femininity. Imagine how much power and control women ceded by moving into the “workplace.” “A woman may weep in a department meeting and get her way; I myself have witnessed it. If a man does that, he loses the respect of his fellows forever, nor does he get what he wants.” So much for “Equality.”

Is it a coincidence that the most awful century followed on the heals on women’s “liberation”?

It appears to me that our politics now reflects the worst of both sexes, not the best: the violent passions and ambitions of unscrupulous men and the shrillness and manipulative emotion-mongering of meddlesome women…

If we are to take as evidence women’s political shows, a woman is loud, vulgar, screeching, ignorant of history, morbidly touchy, vindictive, smug, voluble in slogans, impervious to the principles of any coherent political philosophy, and ready to see the world as the she-bear sees it when her cubs are restless and the food is scarce.

And never forget this: “The world hates the family. The state is the family’s enemy.”

Making good things again Don’t buy crap, don’t read crap, don’t watch crap, don’t listen to crap. Don’t listen to fools and fibbers. So much for TV!

“Maybe we draw near to the mark here if we simply confess that we do not have beautiful things because we do not want them enough.” Truth. The musicale is vanished. Restore it. Learn to play an instrument. Play cards. Play 10,000. Be families.

“Part of our problem is that those twelve years of schooling are in large part an enormous waste of time, because very little of the true, the good, and the beautiful is learned there.” Why? Most of it is illegal now.

Esolen has a nice description of rent seeking, and how it is destroying the last vestiges of the Republic. Large corporations, like Apple and Google, work with Congress and the bureaucracy to write the laws and regulations—and choke the life out of us.

Bring play back to life Get the hell out of organized sports. Kick kids outside and say, as it was said to me and probably you, dear reader, “Don’t come back until dinner.”

We used to head into the woods and play war, shooting each other with BB and pellet guns. Or hunt. Or sled. Or play football. Or just play. Get the damned “devices” out of kids’ hands.

There is more: much, much more. I have done a lousy job summarizing it. Get the book and read it and follow it. Amen.

Don’t Be Uncertain: Buy Uncertainty!

The Restoration has begun! Participate by buying Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics. Money spent wisely

I do not say revolution, but Restoration. It is past time to return our understanding of uncertainty to the Old Ways. The revolution in probability, as all revolutions do, spread discord, error, and confusion.

People actually believed, and were encouraged to believe, probability was real, that it had being, that probability was decision and decision probability, that probability-as-decision told cause, that probability was causal, that no probability could be known until the end of time, that probability was always a number, that probability was whatever you wanted it to be!

Horrible, horrible. No, it is not some cruel April Fool’s joke, as you might suspect. It was all too real.

That’s revolution for you. Lost was the simple, even trivial, truth that probability is only the expression of uncertainty given whatever assumptions one might care to make.

A man asks, “Given I know X, what is the probability of Y?”

After the revolution, the answer was, “We can’t or won’t tell you. Instead, here are some facts about mathematical creations that have nothing to do with your question. Feel free to think that they are the answer to your question, though.”

Cruel answer!

The restorationist answers the question properly.

Now how and why all this is so is explicated and proven (as in proven) in Uncertainty. Get your copy today, before Springer runs out of paper.

New ‘Children’s’ Book Has Prince Charming Finding True Love With Farm Boy

Stream: New ‘Children’s’ Book Has Prince Charming Finding True Love With Farm Boy

Here is a short argument to keep in mind as you read about a new “children’s” book that promotes homosexual relationships:

If there is nothing morally wrong with same-sex relationships, then there is nothing wrong with exposing children to same-sex relationships.

After all, kids will see same-sex relationships around them in our culture, and some kids will themselves go on to form same-sex relationships, so why not, if there is nothing wrong with such relationships, show kids stories about men in love?

This was the implicit reasoning used by authors Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris who wrote Promised Land, a picture-book about how “a young Prince and a farm boy meet in the forest and their newfound friendship blossoms into love.”

The Prince’s mother is divorced and has taken up living with an evil man. The evil man covets Farm Boy’s land. The land sits, as expected, in an Enchanted forest.

The book ends with a lovely picture of the Prince and Farm Boy smacking each other on the lips over the words “They got married and started their own family.”

That is, of course, impossible. Two men cannot marry, a metaphysical impossibility, and two men certainly cannot start a family, a biological impossibility. These are not only theological truths, but scientific realities as well.

Well, nobody expects Reality in a children’s fantasy. Magic isn’t real either, but that didn’t slow sales of or enthusiasm for Harry Potter. We shouldn’t therefore be critical of fantastical elements. But can we say anything against positive portrayals of homosexual love?

We cannot. Not if we cannot also say, out loud and in public, that homosexual love is immoral. Now love between two men, or two males, need not be immoral. A father loves his son. A man loves his friend. But if homosexual love is different than the love of two friends, what is that difference? It is sexual desire. Yet that desire is objectively disordered. The desire if indulged in often leads to homosexual acts, which are immoral and sinful.

But if we cannot say that, then we cannot say that Promised Land should not be shown to children. And we cannot say that it should not be shown to children in schools. The only argument we can muster against it would be depressingly utilitarian. “We cannot show the book,” the utilitarian might argue, “Because we do not want to pay for it.” What happens when a generous soul then donates copies?

We have reached a point in our culture where we could teach in schools Promised Land, but we could not teach about the promised land! […]

Click here to read the rest. But not if any children are present.

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