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Category: Statistics

The general theory, methods, and philosophy of the Science of Guessing What Is.

November 24, 2017 | 10 Comments

Don’t Be A Conservative: Be a Reactionary

Blaire White is a man who pretends, or, worse, believes he is a woman. This sort of thing is not these days unusual.

The twist is that White says he is a “Transgender conservative commentator” (emphasis mine).

In line with what are often considered conservative views, White (according to Rational Wiki) says “‘transgenderism is a mental illness’ and that transitioning is ineffective for most people”, and that there can be a “cure for transgenderism”.

White insists there are “only two genders” and that forcing “transitioning” on children is abusive.

For these and other true remarks, White has been excoriated by the standard shrieking realityophobes.

On the other hand, White also insists that he should be called “she”.

Not too long ago, White was outside wearing a MAGA hat and was roughed up, he says, because of it. The details can be found here. Of the event, White tweeted,
“If you would have told me 2 years ago that it would be conservatives rallying behind me this week after woman called me a man on a show and I was assaulted on the street, I would NEVER have believed you.”

Some conservatives did rally to his support. These well-wishers recognized White was a conservative.

Our second anecdote is an article in the Washington Post in which Adam Falk, president of Williams College, argues the “real threat” to free speech on campus is not bloody-minded realityophobic stage-rushing violent progressives, but is instead “provocateurs”.

Falk writes that the Bell Curve’s Charles Murray is (among others) a “prominent conservative”. Among other liberal propositions, Murray supports the anti-reality position that two men can be married, going so far to lecture CPAC on the point. Murray’s cardinal sin is to deny Equality

One last anecdote. Do a search for the exact term “the conservative case for”, letting the search engine supply subject. On the first page alone, there is “the conservative case for SSM”, “universal health care”, etc., all articles written by pundits considered to be conservatives.

These representative stories starkly illustrate that the term conservative is dead.

As can be gleaned from examples like those above, not all, but a good many conservatives are persons who believe today what progressives believed yesterday. Conservatives of this stripe aren’t averse to following behind progressives in the Grand March forward, they only wish the pace wasn’t so quick.

The death of this word is why, if you believe Truth is a constant and cannot undergo revision, it is best to be a reactionary and not a conservative. If there is a better word for those who hold to and seek the timeless, I do not know it.

In a fascinating interview, well known historian John Lukacs answers a taken-aback progressive Bill Moyers:

JOHN LUKACS: I know. This is part of my very old-fashioned and reactionary sentiments.

BILL MOYERS: Reactionary? You’re not a reactionary.

JOHN LUKACS: Oh, I’m a reactionary, rather than a conservative. Yes.

BILL MOYERS: What’s the difference?

JOHN LUKACS: Well, especially now in this country, the conservatives are just extreme progressives, they really are not interested in conserving old liberties. They are interested in making the world or actually making the universe safe for democracy, their brand of democracy. And they are interested in development, Star Wars, they are saying they’re against big government but they’re very much in favor of big government and extreme application of the American military presence all around the world…

[Conservatives] believe that it is the destiny and the fate of the United States to impose its values and standards and to extend its interests over vast portions of the world.

BILL MOYERS: And what’s wrong with that?

JOHN LUKACS: Every nation has a particular destiny that is circumscribed by its history, by its geography, by its interests. This is not a cruel and realistic view. This involves a certain amount of humility, or at least a lack of presumption. As John Quincy Adams said, “We are friends of liberty all over the world, but we are not in search of monsters to destroy.”

BILL MOYERS: What’s your definition of a reactionary, which you call yourself?

JOHN LUKACS: A reactionary is somebody who thinks the clock has to be put back sometimes.

Alas, Adams’s position is in the grave next to conservative. The American State Department exists to seek out and destroy monsters.

November 22, 2017 | 2 Comments

Predictive Probability Resources, Why Frequentism Fails & Uncertainty

From the mailbag, reader I.W. writes:

Dear Professor,

I represent social science (but of a priori bent), and I recently got really hooked on frequentialism. After all, prof. Mises employed it as the only scientific idea of probability.

Then I saw your lecture on Youtube where you cast doubt on all this statistical method and I have to acknowledge I totally share your position.

For weeks, I am trying to discover the current status of good old frequentialism and how it relates to other concepts of probability.

My ultimate aim is to work out such an idea of probability that would tally finely with social science and accounts for the permetaing uncertainty there (as a side effect I would like to shed some light on the problem of risk and insurance, which Mises discusses too).

I do realize this letter is a bit chaotic but I was carried away by the lecture 🙂

Would you please refer me to the reading you mentioned at the end thereof?

I would most appreciate your help.

With kind regards,


Well to the side of Truth and Beauty, I.W.!

A reminder to all. Please visit the Uncertainty book page here. Also, be sure to buy a copy of Uncertainty, too. Surprisingly, some people who make a living doing machine learning, AI, probability, statistics, and scientific modeling do not yet own a copy! It is a great mystery why not.

On the book page are a collection of articles where many fundamentals are discussed. There are also some reviews of Uncertainty of interest.

Next is the Class — Applied Statistics category tag. This is a collection of practical posts, some of which have R code so you can follow along. I mean to continue these, and have even done the code—but haven’t yet written the articles. Writing takes vastly more time than mere lectures.

Now as to frequentism, it is philosophically wrong, but it’s also easy to see why it’s adopted. It is philosophically wrong because of its insistence on actual infinities of (only) observable “events”. Consider that no probability can be known until the End of Time. Frequentism is defined only at the limit. Before the limit is only darkness.

At first it seems odd that people so readily believe in frequentism, since no actual infinity of events has ever been observed, thus no probabilities are known. The appeal is explained by noticing no one remembers the actual mathematical definition and acts as if probability is epistemic (some might say “logical”). Which it is: epistemic, that is.

It is true that once one assumes, based on subjective whim, what a frequentist probability is, then one can do lots of calculations. Think for instance of a binomial. Assume the unobservable-in-finite-time probability p is some fixed value, and it’s off the slide rule!

You might assume that you can estimate the value of this mysterious p based on some data. No.

Problem #1: the empiricist bias. Under frequentism, the only probabilities that can (in potentia) exist are empirical. Imagine limiting logic (or metaphysics) to only empirical examples!

Problem #2: Either the point estimate is absolutely certain, which nobody claims, or the confidence interval is a reasonable guess of the uncertainty of the estimate, which is false. And known and designed to be false under the theory! The only the sole the lone the one interpretation of the confidence interval allowed under frequentist theory is that the parameter is in the interval or it isn’t.

So why are estimates and confidence intervals taken to be of some value? Because, again, in practice, people treat them as if they were epistemic. Which they are. They are more-and-less good approximations to the right answers, which are found thinking everything is epistemic from the beginning. Strict frequentist thinking never survives beyond textbooks.

Of course, actual frequencies are of great use. They are informative. But observations are not probabilities. Frequencies inform probabilities.

November 21, 2017 | 45 Comments

I Am A Climate Denier

Stream: I Am A Climate Denier

The latest meeting of the UN to discuss the redistribution of your money because of “climate change” has just concluded.

Here’s one headline generated by the event: “Pope Francis says those who deny climate change have ‘perverse attitudes’“.

The pontiff, during remarks made to negotiators at climate talks in Germany, called climate change “one of the most worrisome phenomena that humanity is facing.” He added efforts to combat climate change are held back by those who deny the science behind it, are indifferent or resigned to it, or think it can be solved by technical solutions.

“We must avoid falling into these four perverse attitudes, which certainly don’t help honest research and sincere, productive dialogue,” he said.

If the Pope’s real intent was to resurrect one of the most useful words in the English language,
pervert, piteously massacred in the Sexual Revolution, then I’m right there with him.

But if he meant to imply that there is such a thing as a “climate”, then God bless the man, but I have to disagree.

Admit the denial

I deny the climate. There is no such thing. I am a climate denier. Those who say there is are dupes, propaganda pawns of a worldwide conspiracy. Climate? What “climate”? Climate forsooth!

There has never been a “climate”. It is a lie. Those in the media and bureaucracy who say there is a climate are in the pay of foreign agents. We used to think these agents were Chinese, but it wasn’t until the day Pope Francis spoke that we knew it was Barzini all along. No, wait. I meant the Russians.

The Russians are coming!

Why Vladimir Putin wants to deceive the West into believing there is such as thing as a “climate”, I do not know. Remember, they drink a lot of vodka in Russia.

It’s clear that Putin is behind the scheme, though. He and his minions put Trump into office because Trump blamed the climate hoax on the Chinese and not the Russians. Trump’s blame shifting took the eye off of his Russian masters.

I heard on CNN that Vlad was so grateful for this act of loyalty, that his agents poisoned the food at a spirit-cooking dinner attended by Hillary. The poison caused her to lose her balance, focus, and ultimately the Presidency.

Mad scientists

Just think about it. There can be no such thing as a “climate”. How could there be? Just because scientists say there is? Should we believe “scientists” just because they are scientists? What makes scientists so special? That guy in the Town Hall scene in the documentary Young Frankenstein had it right. “All those scientists, they’re all alike,” he said, “They say they’re working for us, but what they really want is to rule the world!”

Don’t listen to scientists! There is no climate. After all, didn’t these same scientists say back in 1970 that this mysterious “climate”—suspiciously a thing that only they can see—would turn against mankind and plunge temperatures everywhere colder and colder?


Don’t deny it. You want to click here and read the best parts.

November 13, 2017 | 4 Comments

Manipulating the Alpha Level Cannot Cure Significance Testing — Update: Paper Finally Live!

A new paper has been submitted to a well known journal, “Manipulating the Alpha Level Cannot Cure Significance Testing: Comments on ‘Redefine Statistical Significance'”, by David Trafimow, Valentin Amrhein, Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, and — count ’em! — fifty-one others, of which is included Yours Truly. The other authors kindly and graciously allowed me to add my Amen, for which I am most grateful.

The “comments” refer to the paper by DJ Benjamin, Jim Berger, and a slew of others, “Redefine statistical significance” in Nature Human Behavior 1, 0189. Our submission is to the same journal, obviously as rebuttal.

We looked at Benjamin before, in the post Eliminate The P-Value (and Bayes Factor) Altogether & Replace It With This. The replacement is predictive modeling, which I wrote about extensively in Uncertainty and briefly in the JASA paper The Substitute for P-Values.

From the new paper, the One sentence summary: “We argue that depending on p-values to reject null hypotheses, including a recent call for changing the canonical alpha level for statistical significance from .05 to .005, is deleterious for the finding of new discoveries and the progress of cumulative science.”

You may download the entire paper as a PDF preprint at Peer J Preprints.

Here (not set in blockquote to avoid the italics) is the entire Conclusion. Help spread the word! It’s time to kill off p-values and “null hypothesis” significance testing once and for all — and restore a great portion of Uncertainty that has falsely been killed off. (Yes, Uncertainty.)


It seems appropriate to conclude with the basic issue that has been with us from the beginning. Should p-values and p-value thresholds be used as the main criterion for making publication decisions? The mere fact that researchers are concerned with replication, however it is conceptualized, indicates an appreciation that single studies are rarely definitive and rarely justify a final decision. Thus, p-value criteria may not be very sensible. A counterargument might be that researchers often make decisions about what to believe, and using p-value criteria formalize what otherwise would be an informal process. But this counterargument is too simplistic. When evaluating the strength of the evidence, sophisticated researchers consider, in an admittedly subjective way, theoretical considerations such as scope, explanatory breadth, and predictive power; the worth of the auxiliary assumptions connecting nonobservational terms in theories to observational terms in empirical hypotheses; the strength of the experimental design; or implications for applications. To boil all this down to a binary decision based on a p-value threshold of .05, .01, .005, or anything else, is not acceptable.

UPDATE Peerj says “This manuscript has been submitted and is being checked by PeerJ staff.” I thought it would have already cleared by now. It hasn’t, so the link above won’t yet work, as John discovered. Once the paper clears, I’ll update again. Sorry for the confusion.

UPDATE Difficulty is that Peer J says all authors have to confirm authorship, which means 54 people have to sign up for an account, etc. etc. Stay tuned.

UPDATE Paper is finally live! Follow this link!