The White House Brochures on Climate Change

You will find working links to them later in this post. Also, I have created a page to memorialize the links and the back story about the preparation of the ten brochures and the attempt to send them down the memory hole.

Here is the page, reproduced in its entirety:

Post by Dr. Roy W. Spencer at Roy Spencer, Ph.D. on January 8 2021:

White House Brochures on Climate (There is no climate crisis)

January 8th, 2021 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Late last year, several of us were asked by David Legates (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) to write short, easily understandable brochures that supported the general view that there is no climate crisis or climate emergency, and pointing out the widespread misinformation being promoted by alarmists through the media.

Below are the resulting 9 brochures, and an introduction by David. Mine is entitled, “The Faith-Based Nature of Human Caused Global Warming”.

David hopes to be able to get these posted on the White House website by January 20 (I presume so they will become a part of the outgoing Administration’s record) but there is no guarantee given recent events.

He said we are free to disseminate them widely. I list them in no particular order. We all thank David for taking on a difficult job in more hostile territory that you might imagine.

Introduction(Dr. David Legates)

The Sun Climate Connection(Drs. Michael Connolly, Ronan Connolly, Willie Soon)

Systematic Problems in the Four National Assessments of Climate Change Impacts on the US(Dr. Patrick Michaels)

Record Temperatures in the United States(Dr. John Christy)

Radiation Transfer(Dr. William Happer)

Is There a Climate Emergency(Dr. Ross McKitrick)

Hurricanes and Climate Change(Dr. Ryan Maue)

Climate, Climate Change, and the General Circulation(Dr. Anthony Lupo)

Can Computer Models Predict Climate(Dr. Christopher Essex)

The Faith-Based Nature of Human-Caused Global Warming(Dr. Roy Spencer)

Post by Dr. Roy W. Spencer at Roy Spencer, Ph.D. on January 12, 2021:

At the White House, the Purge of Skeptics Has Started

January 12th, 2021 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Dr. David Legates has been Fired by White House OSTP Director and Trump Science Advisor, Kelvin Droegemeier

[Image of the seal of the Executive Office of the President]

President Donald Trump has been sympathetic with the climate skeptics’ position, which is that there is no climate crisis, and that all currently proposed solutions to the “crisis” are economically harmful to the U.S. specifically, and to humanity in general.

Today I have learned that Dr. David Legates, who had been brought to the Office of Science and Technology Policy to represent the skeptical position in the Trump Administration, has been fired by OSTP Director and Trump Science Advisor, Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier.

The event that likely precipitated this is the invitation by Dr. Legates for about a dozen of us to write brochures that we all had hoped would become part of the official records of the Trump White House. We produced those brochures (no funding was involved), and they were formatted and published by OSTP, but not placed on the WH website. My understanding is that David Legates followed protocols during this process.

So What Happened?

What follows is my opinion. I believe that Droegemeier (like many in the administration with hopes of maintaining a bureaucratic career in the new Biden Administration) has turned against the President for political purposes and professional gain. If Kelvin Droegemeier wishes to dispute this, let him… and let’s see who the new Science Advisor/OSTP Director is in the new (Biden) Administration.

I would also like to know if President Trump approved of his decision to fire Legates.

In the meantime, we have been told to remove links to the brochures, which is the prerogative of the OSTP Director since they have the White House seal on them.

But their content will live on elsewhere, as will Dr. Droegemeier’s decision

I have saved the ten brochures in their original (.pdf) format. The following links to the files are listed in the order in which Dr. Spencer listed them in his post of January 8, 2021:

Introduction

The Sun Climate Connection

Systematic Problems in the Four National Assessments of Climate Change Impacts on the US

Record Temperatures in the United States

Radiation Transfer

Is There a Climate Emergency?

Hurricanes and Climate Change

Climate, Climate Change, and the General Circulation

Can Computer Models Predict Climate?

The Faith-Based Nature of Human-Caused Global Warming

How Are Americans Really Reacting to the Election?

Forget the Democrat-media propaganda about “no evidence” of election fraud. Forget the trumped up (pun) charges of incitement to riot. Forget the selective condemnation of the mostly white mob that stormed the Capitol, after years of failure to condemn mostly black mobs that looted and burned cities across the land.

Forget all of that and look at what likely voters think about the state of the union.

Likely voters (polled by Rasmussen Reports) have become much more pessimistic about the country’s direction since the election, that is, since Biden’s stolen victory. Following a steep decline in the mood of the country during the months of pandemic panic, the mood began to lift as Trump began to close the gap with Biden. The peak at week 197 of Trump’s presidency came a week before the election of 2020. The ensuing decline suggests that likely voters, despite the assurances of “establishment” Republicans and the Democrats’ media allies, know what’s coming at them — and it ain’t pretty.

Here We Go …

Down the tubes. It is almost certain that the Democrat candidates will be declared the winners of Georgia two Senate seats. The Senate will then be divided 50-50, and control will pass to the Democrats because VP Harris will cast deciding votes in the case of ties.

This won’t be the first time that Democrats have controlled Congress and the White House, but this Democrat Party isn’t your grandfather’s party, or your father’s party. It isn’t even the party that was led by Barack Obama, who was (and is) an ardent advocate of government control. Today’s party is filled with Obamas and politicians who make the Obamas seem moderate.

What, exactly, happens now (or as soon as Democrats get organized)? The follow list is borrowed from an earlier post. Not every item on the list will be adopted, but it wont’ be for want of trying.

1. Abolition of the Senate filibuster.

2. An increase of at least two seats on the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC), though there may be some vacancies to be filled.

3. Adoption of an interstate compact by states controlling a total of at least 270 electoral votes, committing each member state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who compiles the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of the outcome of the popular vote in each state that is a party to the compact. (This may seem unnecessary if Biden wins, but it will be a bit of insurance against the possibility of a Republican victor in a future election.)

4. Statehood for either the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico, or for both of them. (Each would then have two senators and a requisite number of representatives with full voting privileges in their respective bodies. All of them will be Democrats, of course.)

5. Empowerment of the executive branch to do at least three of the following things:

a. Regulate personal and business activity (in new ways) with the expressed aim of reducing CO2 emissions.

b. Commit at least $500 billion in new obligational authority for research into and/or funding of methods of reducing and mitigating CO2 emissions.

c. Issue new kinds of tax rebates and credits to persons/households and businesses that spend money on any item on a list of programs/technologies that are supposed to reduce CO2 emissions.

d. Impose tax penalties on persons/households and businesses for their failure to spend money on any item in the list mentioned above (shades of the Obamacare tax penalty).

e. Impose penalties on persons/households and businesses for failing to adhere to prescribed caps on CO2 emissions.

f. Establishment of a cap-and-trade program for CO2 emissions (to soften the blow of the previous item). (Needless to say, the overall effect of such initiatives would deal a devastating blow to economic activity – meaning massive job losses and lower real incomes for large swaths of the populace.)

6. Authorization for an agency or agencies of the federal government to define and penalize written or spoken utterances that the agency or agencies declare “unprotected” by the First Amendment, and to require media enforcement of bans on “unprotected” utterances and prosecution of violators (e.g., here). (This can be accomplished by cynically adopting the supportable position that the First Amendment protects only political speech. The purported aim would be to curb so-called hate speech, but when censorship is in full swing — which would take only a few years — it will be illegal to criticize or question, even by implication, such things as illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, anthropogenic global warming, the confiscation of firearms, or the policies of the federal government. Violations will be enforced by fines and prison sentences — the latter sometimes called “sensitivity training”, “citizenship education”, or some other euphemistic term. Candidates for public office will be prime targets of the enforcers, which will suppress open discussion of such matters.)

7. Imposition of requirements for organizations of all kinds — businesses, universities, charitable organizations, clubs, and even churches — to favor anyone who isn’t a straight, white male of European descent. (The “protections” will be enacted, upheld, and enforced vigorously by federal agencies, regardless of their adverse economic and social effects.)

8. Effective nullification of the Second Amendment through orders/regulations/legislation, to enable gun confiscation (though there will be exemptions for private security services used by favored elites).

9. Use of law-enforcement agencies to enforce “hate speech” bans, mandates for reverse discrimination, and gun-confiscation edicts. (These things will happen regardless of the consequences; e.g., a rising crime rate, greater violence against whites and Asians, and flight from the cities and near-in suburbs. The latter will be futile, anyway, because suburban and exurban police departments will also be co-opted.)

10. Criminalization of “sexual misconduct”, as it is defined by the alleged victim, de facto if not de jure. (Investigations and prosecutions will be selective, and aimed mainly at straight, white males of European descent and dissidents who openly criticize this and other measures listed here.)

11. Parallel treatment for the “crimes” of racism, anti-Islamism, nativism, and genderism. (This will be in addition to the measures discussed in #7.)

12. Centralization in the federal government of complete control of all health care and health-care related products and services, such as drug research, accompanied by “Medicare and Medicaid for All” mandates. (Private health care will be forbidden or strictly limited, though — Soviet-style — there will be exceptions for high officials and other favored persons. Drug research – and medical research, generally – will dwindle in quality and quantity. There will be fewer doctors and nurses who are willing to work in a regimented system. The resulting health-care catastrophe that befalls most of the populace will be shrugged off as necessary to ensure equality of treatment, while ignoring the special treatment accorded favored elites.)

13. Revitalization of the regulatory regime (which already imposes a deadweight loss of 10 percent of GDP). A quantitative measure of revitalization is an increase in the number of new rules published annually in the Federal Register by at least 10 percent above the average for 2017-2020.

14. Proposals for at least least two of the following tax-related initiatives:

a. Reversal of the tax-rate cuts enacted during Trump’s administration.

b. Increases in marginal tax rates for the top 2 or 3 income brackets.

c. Imposition of new taxes on wealth.

15. Dramatic enlargement of domestic welfare programs. Specifically, in addition to the creation of “Medicare and Medicaid for All” programs, there would be a “fix” for Social Security that mandates the payment of full benefits in the future, regardless of the status of the Social Security Trust Fund (which will probably be abolished). (Initiatives discussed in #5, #7, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, and #15 would suppress investment in business formation and expansion, and would disincentivize professional education and training, not to mention work itself. All of that would combine to push the real rate of economic growth toward a negative value.)

16. Reduction of the defense budget by at least 25 percent, in constant dollars, by 2031 or sooner. (Eventually, the armed forces will be maintained mainly for the purpose of suppressing domestic uprisings. Russia and China will emerge as superpowers, but won’t threaten the U.S. militarily as long as the U.S. government acquiesces in their increasing dominance and plays by their economic rules.)

17. Legalization of all immigration from south of the border, and the granting of citizenship to new immigrants and the illegals who came before them. (The right to vote, of course, is the right that Democrats most dearly want to bestow because most of the newly-minted citizens can be counted on to vote for Democrats. The permanent Democrat majority will ensure permanent Democrat control of the White House and both houses of Congress.)

*      *     *

The list is in keeping with the direction in which the country is headed and, in many cases, has been headed since the 1930s — despite Reagan and Trump, and with the connivance of Ike, Nixon, the Bushes, and (in some crucial cases) the USSC.

The Constitution’s horizontal and vertical separation of powers, system of checks and balances, and limitations on the power of the federal government have been eroded almost to the point of irrelevance. The next few years will put an end to the pretense (or false hope) of governance in accordance with the Constitution as it was written. The next few years will see the destruction of liberty, the bankruptcy of America, and the onset of obeisance to Russia and China.

Thinking about Thinking — and Other Things: Desiderata As Beliefs

This is the fifth post in a series. (The previous posts are here, here, here, and here.)This post, like its predecessors, will leave you hanging. But despair not, the series will come to a point — eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

How many things does a human being believe because he wants to believe them, and not because there is compelling evidence to support his beliefs? Here is a small sample of what must be an extremely long list:

There is a God. (1a)

There is no God. (1b)

There is a Heaven. (2a)

There is no Heaven. (2b)

Jesus Christ was the Son of God. (3a)

Jesus Christ, if he existed, was a mere mortal. (3b)

Marriage is the eternal union, blessed by God, of one man and one woman. (4a)

Marriage is a civil union, authorized by the state, of one or more consenting adults (or not) of any gender, as the participants in the marriage so define themselves to be. (4b)

All human beings should have equal rights under the law, and those rights should encompass not only negative rights (e.g., the right not to be murdered) but also positive rights (e.g., the right to a minimum wage). (5a)

Human beings are, at bottom, feral animals and cannot therefore be expected to abide always by artificial constructs, such as equal rights under the law. Accordingly, there will always be persons who use the law (or merely brute force) to set themselves above other persons. (5b)

The rise in global temperatures over the past 170 years has been caused primarily by a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which rise has been caused by human activity – and especially by the burning of fossil fuels. This rise, if it isn’t brought under control will make human existence far less bearable and prosperous than it has been in recent human history. (6a)

The rise in global temperatures over the past 170 years has not been uniform across the globe, and has not been in lockstep with the rise in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The temperatures of recent decades, and the rate at which they are supposed to have risen, are not unprecedented in the long view of Earth’s history, and may therefore be due to conditions that have not been given adequate consideration by believers in anthropogenic global warming (e.g., natural shifts in ocean currents that have different effects on various regions of Earth, the effects of cosmic radiation on cloud formation as influenced by solar activity and the position of the solar system and the galaxy with respect to other objects in the universe, the shifting of Earth’s magnetic field, and the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates and its molten core). In any event, the models of climate change have been falsified against measured temperatures (even when the temperature record has been adjusted to support the models). And predictions of catastrophe do not take into account the beneficial effects of warming (e.g., lower mortality rates, longer growing seasons), whatever causes it, or the ability of technology to compensate for undesirable effects at a much lower cost than the economic catastrophe that would result from preemptive reductions in the use of fossil fuels. (6b)

Not one of those assertions, even the ones that seem to be supported by facts, is true beyond a reasonable doubt. I happen to believe 1a (with some significant qualifications about the nature of God), 2b, 3b (given my qualified version of 1a), a modified version of 4a (monogamous, heterosexual marriage is socially and economically preferable, regardless of its divine blessing or lack thereof), 5a (but only with negative rights) and 5b, and 6b.  But I cannot “prove” that any of my beliefs is the correct one, nor should anyone believe that anyone can “prove” such things.

Take the belief that all persons are created equal. No one who has eyes, ears, and a minimally functioning brain believes that all persons are created equal. Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, didn’t believe it:

On September 18, 1858 at Charleston, Illinois, Lincoln told the assembled audience:

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality … I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman, or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men….

This was before Lincoln was elected president and before the outbreak of the Civil War, but Lincoln’s speeches, writings, and actions after these events continued to reflect this point of view about race and equality.

African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, for his part, remained very skeptical about Lincoln’s intentions and program, even after the p[resident issued a preliminary emancipation in September 1862.

Douglass had good reason to mistrust Lincoln. On December 1, 1862, one month before the scheduled issuing of an Emancipation Proclamation, the president offered the Confederacy another chance to return to the union and preserve slavery for the foreseeable future. In his annual message to congress, Lincoln recommended a constitutional amendment, which if it had passed, would have been the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The amendment proposed gradual emancipation that would not be completed for another thirty-seven years, taking slavery in the United States into the twentieth century; compensation, not for the enslaved, but for the slaveholder; and the expulsion, supposedly voluntary but essentially a new Trail of Tears, of formerly enslaved Africans to the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa….

Douglass’ suspicions about Lincoln’s motives and actions once again proved to be legitimate. On December 8, 1863, less than a month after the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln offered full pardons to Confederates in a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction that has come to be known as the 10 Percent Plan.

Self-rule in the South would be restored when 10 percent of the “qualified” voters according to “the election law of the state existing immediately before the so-called act of secession” pledged loyalty to the union. Since blacks could not vote in these states in 1860, this was not to be government of the people, by the people, for the people, as promised in the Gettysburg Address, but a return to white rule.

It is unnecessary, though satisfying, to read Charles Murray’s account in Human Diversity of the broad range of inherent differences in intelligence and other traits that are associated with the sexes, various genetic groups of geographic origin (sub-Saharan Africans, East Asians, etc.), and various ethnic groups (e.g., Ashkenazi Jews).

But even if all persons are not created equal, either mentally or physically, aren’t they equal under the law? If you believe that, you might just as well believe in the tooth fairy. As it says in 5b,

Human beings are, at bottom, feral animals and cannot therefore be expected to abide always by artificial constructs, such as equal rights under the law. Accordingly, there will always be persons who use the law (or merely brute force) to set themselves above other persons.

Yes, it’s only a hypothesis, but one for which there is ample evidence in the history of mankind. It is confirmed by every instance of theft, murder, armed aggression, scorched-earth warfare, mob violence as catharsis, bribery, election fraud, gratuitous cruelty, and so on into the night.

And yet, human beings (Americans especially) persist in believing tooth-fairy stories about the inevitable triumph of good over evil, self-correcting science, and the emergence of truth from the marketplace of ideas. Balderdash, all of it.

But desiderata become beliefs. And beliefs are what bind people – or make enemies of them.

Ho, Ho, Ho?

Despite the impending vaccination of most Americans, and the surcease from COVID-19 that should result from it, I am not eagerly anticipating 2021. It will see the installation of the Harris-Biden regime, which in fairly short order will disarm America in the face of growing threats from Russia and China, and impoverish it by tilting at the windmill of “climate change”. Perhaps, when Russia and China take over, that foolishness will come to an end.

The prospect of Russian-Chinese hegemony over the U.S. might have been dreadful (correct usage) as few as twelve years ago, before the advent of Barack Obama’s warm-up act for state socialism. Now, with Harris-Biden poised to complete what FDR, LBJ, and BHO started, and with wokeness in the saddle, Russian-Chinese hegemony may well seem like a logical continuation of the status quo. I take that back: Harvard will have to quit discriminating against Asians, if Harvard continues to exist.

On a brighter (?) note, I am in my 80th year* and rapidly approaching what used to be considered great old age. Which means that whatever happens with Harris-Biden, Russia, and China — or another plague — may not be mine to endure for too many years. Though I do rage — albeit silently — when I think of the lives that my children, grandchildren, and their progeny may be forced to lead.

That wasn’t a bright note, was it?

Here’s one: The flight of tech companies from California to Texas and financial companies from New York to Florida may hasten the bankruptcy of California and New York. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a large number of Blue States join Red ones in refusing to bail out California and New York. I hope I’m around to see it.

Happy New Year?
__________
* For the benefit of anyone who says things like 25-year anniversary, when 25th anniversary is correct, or — even worse — 25-year birthday, being in one’s xxth year means that one is approaching xx years of age, not that one has already reached one’s xxth birthday. I learned this as a lad, whilst listening to a Canadian radio station that broadcast from a city across the river from the one in Michigan where I was raised. In those days, Anglo-Canadians were more British than American in the way that they used English. Americans also used to know what being in one’s xxth year means, witness an obituary of Alexander Graham Bell from The New York Times of August 3, 1922:

SYDNEY, N. S., Aug. 2.–Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, died at 2 o’clock this morning at Beinn Breagh, his estate near Baddeck.

Although the inventor, who was in his seventy-sixth year, had been in failing health for several months, he had not been confined to bed, and the end was unexpected….

The inventor of the telephone was born in Edinburgh, on March 3, 1847.

A bit of arithmetic will tell you that Dr. Bell was 75 years old at the time of his death, having observed his 75th birthday on March 3, 1922. In other words, he had completed 75 years of life and was in his 76th year when he died.

Proof of Election Fraud or Statistical Hocus-Pocus?

There are many good reasons to believe that Biden’s almost-official election to the presidency was the result of electoral misfeasance, malfeasance, fraud, and judicial bias. But the statistical analysis reported at this link isn’t among them. The authors concocted a statistical model that, according to them,

explains 96% of county-level variance in Trump’s two-party vote share with four demographic variables (non-college white, college-educated white, black and hispanic) and one historical variable (the average of county-level GOP two-party presidential vote share, 2004-2016). All five variables are highly significant. This reinforces the conclusion that the model is generally a very strong predictor of vote shares, and so deviations from it should be considered surprising.

And

regression analysis shows Trump ought to have won AZ, GA, NV, PA, WI.

Are you convinced? I am not, because the authors (perhaps unwittingly) provide evidence that undermines their claim.

There is a table at the end of the article that gives Trump’s predicted share of the two-party vote for every State (except Alaska and Hawaii) and the District of Columbia. I compared the authors’ predictions with the State-level results compiled as of today at Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Elections. The absolute average of the prediction errors in 1.9 percentage points. The absolute errors for the six States listed above are as follows (in percentage points): AZ, 5.0; GA, 3.3; NV, 1.5; PA, 0.6; WI, 1.0; and MI, 1.1. So, as it turns out, the only outcomes (of the six) that the authors’ predictions might point to as fraudulent are the ones in George and Nevada.

Further, the authors don’t bother to highlight Trump’s significant underperformance (relative to their regression results) in many other States: CA, 4.3; DE, 3.5; ID, 2.4; IN, 2.0; KY, 3.0; ME, 2.5; MD, 3.3; NE, 2.1; NH, 2.2; NM, 2.1; OR, 4.9; TX, 3.6; UT, 6.3; VT, 4.3; and WA, 4.0. If their regression results for Georgia and Nevada are indicative of fraud, so are the results in California, Delaware, … , Vermont, and Washington. But I am unaware of any claims that the official outcomes in those States are bogus.

On top of that, Trump did significantly better than the authors predicted in DC (8.5 percentage points) and North Dakota (3.4 percentage points). Is anyone seriously suggesting that there was electoral fraud favoring Trump in DC, or that his campaign had to resort to fraud in deep-Red North Dakota?

The bottom line: The authors made some good predictions and a lot of very bad ones (20 of their 49 predictions exceed the average absolute error). But there’s nothing in the predictions to prove that Biden’s putative victories in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (or even Michigan) were obtained fraudulently. There is plenty of other evidence of misfeasance, malfeasance, and fraud in those States, but the authors’ statistical “proof” is nothing but a demonstration of the errors that abound in statistical analysis.

In this case, the errors resulted in the overprediction of Trump’s share of the vote in 39 States and D.C. — including, coincidentally, the six States that the authors claim to have shown were were stolen from Trump.

Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism, and America’s Present Condition

Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990), an English philosopher and political theorist, is remembered by Alberto Mingardi in a post at Econlib:

He was a self-confident thinker who did not search for others’ approval. He had an impressive career but somehow outside the mainstream, was remembered by friends (like Ken Minogue) as a splendid friend who cared about friendship deeply, eschewed honors, and was happy to retire in Dorset and lead a county life. In a beautiful article on Oakeshott, Gertrude Himmelfarb commented that he was “the political philosopher who has so modest a view of the task of political philosophy, the intellectual who is so reluctant a producer of intellectual goods, the master who does so little to acquire or cultivate disciples” and then all of these features perfectly fit in his character.

Oakeshott strongly influenced my view of conservatism, as you will see if you read any of the many posts in which I quote him or refer to his expositions of conservatism and critiques of rationalism. I drew heavily on Oakeshott’s analysis of rationalism in my prescient post of ten years ago about same-sex “marriage” and the destruction of civilizing social norms. Here is the post in its entirety, followed by my retrospective commentary (in italics):

Judge Vaughn Walker’s recent decision in Perry v. Schwarnenegger, which manufactures a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, smacks of Rationalism. Judge Walker distorts and sweeps aside millennia of history when he writes:

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Judge Walker thereby secures his place in the Rationalist tradition. A Rationalist, as Michael Oakeshott explains,

stands … for independence of mind on all occasions, for thought free from obligations to any authority save the authority of ‘reason’. His circumstances in the modern world have made him contentious; he is the enemy of authority, of prejudice, of the merely traditional, customary or habitual. His mental attitude is at once sceptical and optimistic: sceptical, because there is no opinion, no habit, no belief, nothing so firmly rooted or so widely held that he hesitates to question it and to judge it by what he calls his ‘reason’; optimistic, because the Rationalist never doubts the power of his ‘reason … to determine the worth of a thing, the truth of an opinion or the propriety of an action. Moreover, he is fortified by a belief in a ‘reason’ common to all mankind, a common power of rational consideration…. But besides this, which gives the Rationalist a touch of intellectual equalitarianism, he is something also of an individualist, finding it difficult to believe that anyone who can think honestly and clearly will think differently from himself….

…And having cut himself off from the traditional knowledge of his society, and denied the value of any education more extensive than a training in a technique of analysis, he is apt to attribute to mankind a necessary inexperience in all the critical moments of life, and if he were more self-critical he might begin to wonder how the race had ever succeeded in surviving. (“Rationalism in Politics,” pp. 5-7, as republished in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays)

At the heart of Rationalism is the view that “a problem” can be analyzed and “solved” as if it were separate and apart from the fabric of life.  On this point, I turn to John Kekes:

Traditions do not stand alone: they overlap, and the problems of one are often resolved in terms of another. Most traditions have legal, moral, political, aesthetic, stylistic, managerial, and multitude of other aspects. Furthermore, people participating in a tradition bring with them beliefs, values, and practices from other traditions in which they also participate. Changes in one tradition, therefore, are likely to produce changes in others; they are like waves that reverberate throughout the other traditions of a society. (“The Idea of Conservatism“)

Edward Feser puts it this way:

Tradition, being nothing other than the distillation of centuries of human experience, itself provides the surest guide to determining the most rational course of action. Far from being opposed to reason, reason is inseparable from tradition, and blind without it. The so-called enlightened mind thrusts tradition aside, hoping to find something more solid on which to make its stand, but there is nothing else, no alternative to the hard earth of human experience, and the enlightened thinker soon finds himself in mid-air…. But then, was it ever truly a love of reason that was in the driver’s seat in the first place? Or was it, rather, a hatred of tradition? Might the latter have been the cause of the former, rather than, as the enlightened pose would have it, the other way around?) (“Hayek and Tradition“)

Same-sex marriage will have consequences that most libertarians and “liberals” are unwilling to consider. Although it is true that traditional, heterosexual unions have their problems, those problems have been made worse, not better, by the intercession of the state. (The loosening of divorce laws, for example, signaled that marriage was to be taken less seriously, and so it has been.) Nevertheless, the state — pursuant to Judge Walker’s decision — may create new problems for society by legitimating same-sex marriage, thus signaling that traditional marriage is just another contractual arrangement in which any combination of persons may participate.

Heterosexual marriage — as Jennifer Roback Morse explains — is a primary and irreplicable civilizing force. The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state will undermine that civilizing force. The state will be saying, in effect, “Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer — above all — will “pick up the pieces.” And so it will go.

In Morse’s words:

The new idea about marriage claims that no structure should be privileged over any other. The supposedly libertarian subtext of this idea is that people should be as free as possible to make their personal choices. But the very nonlibertarian consequence of this new idea is that it creates a culture that obliterates the informal methods of enforcement. Parents can’t raise their eyebrows and expect children to conform to the socially accepted norms of behavior, because there are no socially accepted norms of behavior. Raised eyebrows and dirty looks no longer operate as sanctions on behavior slightly or even grossly outside the norm. The modern culture of sexual and parental tolerance ruthlessly enforces a code of silence, banishing anything remotely critical of personal choice. A parent, or even a peer, who tries to tell a young person that he or she is about to do something incredibly stupid runs into the brick wall of the non-judgmental social norm. (“Marriage and the Limits of Contract“)

The state’s signals are drowning out the signals that used to be transmitted primarily by voluntary social institutions: family, friendship, community, church, and club. Accordingly, I do not find it a coincidence that loud, loutish, crude, inconsiderate, rude, and foul behaviors have become increasingly prominent features of “social” life in America. Such behaviors have risen in parallel with the retreat of most authority figures in the face of organized violence by “protestors” and looters; with the rise of political correctness; with the perpetuation of the New Deal and its successor, the Great Society; with the erosion of swift and sure justice in favor of “rehabilitation” and “respect for life” (but not for potential victims of crime); and with the legal enshrinement of infanticide and buggery as acceptable (and even desirable) practices.

Thomas Sowell puts it this way:

One of the things intellectuals [his Rationalists] have been doing for a long time is loosening the bonds that hold a society together. They have sought to replace the groups into which people have sorted themselves with groupings created and imposed by the intelligentsia. Ties of family, religion, and patriotism, for example, have long been treated as suspect or detrimental by the intelligentsia, and new ties that intellectuals have created, such as class — and more recently “gender” — have been projected as either more real or more important….

Under the influence of the intelligentsia, we have become a society that rewards people with admiration for violating its own norms and for fragmenting that society into jarring segments. In addition to explicit denigrations of their own society for its history or current shortcomings, intellectuals often set up standards for their society which no society has ever met or is likely to meet.

Calling those standards “social justice” enables intellectuals to engage in endless complaints about the particular ways in which society fails to meet their arbitrary criteria, along with a parade of groups entitled to a sense of grievance, exemplified in the “race, class and gender” formula…. (Intellectuals and Society, pp. 303, 305)

And so it will go —  barring a sharp, conclusive reversal of Judge Walker and the movement he champions.

There was no sharp or conclusive reversal — quite the contrary, in fact. And the forces of rationalism have only grown stronger in the past decade. Witness the broadly supported movement to renounce America’s history for the sake of virtue-signaling, to blame “racism” for the government-inflicted and self-inflicted failings of blacks, to suppress religion, to undermine the economy in the name of a pseudo-science (“climate science”), and to destroy the social and economic lives of tens of millions of Americans by responding hysterically to the ever-changing and often unfounded findings of “science”.

Thinking about Thinking — and Other Things: Irrational Rationality

This is the fourth post in a series. (The previous posts are here, here, and here.)This post, like its predecessors, will leave you hanging. But despair not, the series will come to a point — eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

Type 2 thinking has two main branches: scientific and scientistic.

The scientific branch leads (often in roundabout ways) to improvements in the lot of mankind: better and more abundant food, better clothing, better shelter, faster and more comfortable means of transportation, better sanitation, a better understanding of diseases and more effective means of combatting them, and on and on. (You might protest that not all of those things, and perhaps only a minority of them, emanated from formal scientific endeavors conducted by holders of Ph.D. and M.D. degrees working out of pristine laboratories or with delicate equipment. But science is much more than that. Science includes learning by doing, which encompasses everything from the concoction of effective home remedies to the hybridization of crops to the invention and refinement of planes, trains, and automobiles – and, needless to say, to the creation and development of much of the electronic technology and related software with which we are “blessed” today.)

The scientific branch yields its fruits because it is based on facts about the so-called material universe. The underlying constituents of that universe may be unknown and unknowable, as discussed earlier, but they manifest themselves in observable and seemingly predictable ways.

The scientific branch, in sum, is inductive at its core. Observations of specific things lead to guesses about the causes of those things or the relationships between them. The guesses are codified as hypothesis, often in mathematical form. The hypotheses are tested against new observations of the same kinds of things. If the hypotheses are found wanting, they are either rejected outright or modified to take into account the new observations. Revised hypotheses are then tested against newer observations, and on into the night. (There is nothing scientific about testing a new hypothesis against the observations that led to it; that is a scientistic trick used by, among others, climate “scientists” who wish to align their models with historic climate data.)

If new observations are found to comport with a hypothesis (guess), the hypothesis is said to be confirmed. Confirmed doesn’t mean proven, it just means not proven to be wrong. Lay persons – and a lot of scientists, apparently – mistake confirmation, in the scientific sense, for proof. There is no such thing in science.

The scientistic branch of Type 2 thinking is deductive. It assumes truths and then generalizes from those assumptions; for example:

All Cretans are liars, according to Epimenides (a Cretan who lived ca. 600 BC).

Epimenides was a Cretan.

Therefore, Epimenides was a liar.

This syllogism exemplifies a self-referential paradox. If the major and minor premises are true, Epimenides was a liar. But if Epimenides was lying when he said that all Cretans are liars, Epimenides – Cretan — wasn’t necessarily a liar, though he might have been one because it is plausible that some Cretans are liars, at least some of the time.

What the syllogism really exemplifies is the fatuousness of deductive reasoning, that is, reasoning which proceeds from general statements that cannot be subjected to scientific examination.

Though deductive reasoning can be useful in contriving hypothesis, it cannot be used to “prove” anything. But there are persons who claim to be scientists, or who claim to “believe” science, who do reason deductively. It starts when a hypothesis that has been advanced by a scientist becomes an article of faith to that scientist, to a group of scientists, or to non-scientists who use their belief to justify political positions – which they purport to be “scientific” or “science-based”.

There is no more “science” in such positions as there is in the belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth or that all persons are created equal. The Sun may seem to revolve around the Earth if one’s perspective is limited to the relative motions of Sun and Earth and anchored in the implicit assumption that Earth’s position is fixed. All persons may be deemed equal in a narrow and arbitrary way – as in a legal doctrine of equal treatment under the law – but that hardly makes all persons equal in every respect; for example, in intelligence, physical strength, athletic ability, attractiveness to the opposite sex, work ethic, conditions of birth, or proneness to various ailments. (I will say more about equality as a non-scientific desideratum in the next post.)

This isn’t to say that some scientific hypotheses – and their implications – can’t be relied upon. If they couldn’t be, humans wouldn’t have benefited from better and more abundant food, the many other things mentioned above, and much more. But they can be relied upon because they are based on observed phenomena, tested in the acid of use, and – most important – employed with ample safeguards, which still may be inadequate to real-world conditions. Airplanes crash, bridges collapse, and so on, because there is never enough knowledge to foresee all of the conditions that may arise in the real world.

An honest person would admit that an airplane crash falsifies the “science” of aircraft design and operation because it shows, irrefutably, that the “science” was incomplete in some crucial way. The same goes for collapsed bridges, collapsed buildings, and so on.

That isn’t to say that human beings would be better off without science. Far from it. Science and its practical applications have made us far better off than we would be without them. But neither scientists nor those who apply the (tentative) findings of science are infallible.

Thinking about Thinking — and Other Things: Survival and Thinking

This is the third post in a series. (The first post is here; the second post is here.)This post, like its predecessors, will leave you hanging. But despair not, the series will come to a point — eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

It’s true that instinctive (or impulsive) actions can be foolish, dangerous, and deadly ones. But they can also be beneficial. If, in your peripheral vision, you see an object hurtling toward you at high speed, you don’t deliberately compute its trajectory and decide whether to move out of its path. No, your brain does that for you without your having to “think” about it, and you move out of the object’s path before you have had time to “think” about doing it.

In sum, you (your brain) engaged in Type 1 thinking about the problem at hand and resolved it quickly. If you had engaged in deliberate, Type 2, thinking you might have been killed by the impact of the object that was hurtling toward you.

The distinction that I’m making here is one that Daniel Kahneman labors over in Thinking Fast and Slow. But I won’t bore you with the details of that boring book. Life is too short, and certainly shorter for me than for most of you. Let’s just say that there’s nothing especially meritorious about Type 2 thinking, and that it can lead to actions that are as foolish, dangerous, and deadly as those that result from “instinct”.

I will go further and say that Type 2 thinking has brought Americans to the brink of bankruptcy, serfdom, and civil war. But to understand why I say that, you will have to follow this series to the bitter end.

*     *     *

If the need to survive ever had anything to do with the advancement of human intelligence and knowledge, that day is long past for most human beings in much of the world.

Type 1 thinking is restricted mainly to combat, competitive sports, operating motorized equipment, playing video games, and reacting to photos of Donald Trump. It is the key to survival in a narrow range of activities aside from combat, such as driving on a busy highway, ducking when a lethal projectile is headed your way, and instinctively avoiding persons whose actions or appearance seem menacing. The erosion of the avoidance instinct is due in part to the cosseted lives that most Westerners lead, and in part to the barrage of propaganda that denies differences in the behavior of various classes, races, and ethnic groups. (Thus, for example, disruptive black children aren’t to be ejected from classrooms unless an equal proportion of white children, disruptive or not, is likewise ejected.)

Type 2 thinking of the kind that might advance useful knowledge and its beneficial application is a specialty of the educated, intermarrying elite – a class that dominates academia and the applied sciences (e.g., medicine, medical research, and the various fields of engineering). The same class also dominates the media (including so-called entertainment), “technology” companies (most of which don’t really produce technology), the upper echelons of major corporations, and the upper echelons of government.

But, aside from academicians and professionals whose work advances practical knowledge (how to build a better mousetrap, a more earthquake-resistant building, a less collapsible bridge, or an effective vaccine), the members of aforementioned class have nothing on the yeomen who become skilled in sundry trades (construction, plumbing, electrical work) by the heuristic method – learning and improving by doing. That, too, is Type 2 thinking. But it accumulates over years and is tested in the acid of use, unlike the Type 2 thinking that produces, for example, intricate and even elegant climate models whose designers believe in and defend because they are emotional human beings, like all of us.

Type 2 thinking, despite the stereotype that it is deliberate and dispassionate, is riddled with emotion. Emotion isn’t just rage, lust, and the like. Those are superficial manifestations of the thing that drives us all: egoism.

No matter how you slice it, everything that a person does deliberately – including type 2 thinking – is done to bolster his own sense of well-being. Altruism is merely the act of doing good for others so that one may feel better about oneself. You cannot be another person, and actually feel what another person is experiencing. You can only be a person whose sense of self is invested in loving another person or being thought of as loving mankind – whatever that means.

Type 2 thinking – the Enlightenment’s exalted “reason” – is both an aid to survival and a hindrance to it. It is an aid in ways such as those mentioned above, that is, in the advancement of practical knowledge to defeat disease, move people faster and more safely, build dwellings that will stand up against the elements, and so on.

It is a hindrance when, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”. Type 1 thinking causes us to smite an attacker. Type 2 thinking causes us to believe, quite wrongly, that by sparing him we somehow become a law-abiding exemplar whose forbearance diminishes the level of violence in the world and the likelihood that violence will be visited upon us in the future.

Harry S Truman emulated Type 1 thinking when he loosed the atomic bombs on Japan, ended World War II, saved at least a million lives, and made Japan a peaceful nation for at least the next 75 years. In the vernacular, Truman followed his “gut”.

Neville Chamberlain exemplified Type 2 thinking when he settled for Hitler’s empty promise of peace instead of gearing up to fight an inevitable war. Lyndon Baines Johnson exemplified Type 2 thinking in his vacillating prosecution of the war in Vietnam, where he was more concerned with “world opinion” (whatever that is) and public opinion (i.e., the bleating of pundits and protestors) than he was with the real job of the commander-in-chief, which it to fight and win or don’t fight at all. George H.W. Bush exemplified Type 2 thinking when he declined to depose Saddam Hussein in 1991. Barack Hussein Obama exemplified Type 2 thinking when he made a costly deal with Iran’s ayatollahs that profited them greatly for an easily betrayed promise to refrain from the development of nuclear weapons. Type 2 thinking of the kind exemplified by Chamberlain, Bush, and Obama is egoistic and delusional: It reflects and justifies the thinker’s inner view of the world as he wants it to be, not the world as it is.

Type 2 thinking is valuable to the survival of humanity when it passes the acid test of use. It is a danger to the survival of humanity when it arises from a worldview that excludes the facts of life. One of those facts of life is that predators exist and can only be eliminated – one at a time – by killing them. This is as true of murderous thugs as it is of murderous dictators.

There’s much more to be said about the dangerous delusions fostered by Type 2 thinking.

Thinking about Thinking — and Other Things: Evolution

This is the second post in a series. (The first post is here.) This post, like its predecessor, will leave you hanging. But despair not, the series will come to a point — eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

Evolution is simply change in organic (living) objects. Evolution, as a subject of scientific inquiry, is an attempt to explain how humans (and other animals) came to be what they are today.

Evolution (as a discipline) is a much scientism as it is science. Scientism, according to thefreedictionary.com is “the uncritical application of scientific or quasi-scientific methods to inappropriate fields of study or investigation.” When scientists proclaim truths instead of propounding hypotheses they are guilty of practicing scientism. Two notable scientistic scientists are Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer. It is unsurprising that Dawkins and Singer are practitioners of scientism. Both are strident atheists, and strident atheists merely practice a “religion” of their own. They have neither logic nor science nor evidence on their side.

Dawkins, Singer, and many other scientistic atheists share an especially “religious” view of evolution. In brief, they seem to believe that evolution rules out God. Evolution rules out nothing. Evolution may be true in outline but it does not bear close inspection. On that point, I turn to David Gelertner’s “Giving Up Darwin” (Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2019):

Darwin himself had reservations about his theory, shared by some of the most important biologists of his time. And the problems that worried him have only grown more substantial over the decades. In the famous “Cambrian explosion” of around half a billion years ago, a striking variety of new organisms—including the first-ever animals—pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years. This great outburst followed many hundreds of millions of years of slow growth and scanty fossils, mainly of single-celled organisms, dating back to the origins of life roughly three and half billion years ago.

Darwin’s theory predicts that new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life. Those brave new Cambrian creatures must therefore have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated. They could not have all blown out suddenly, like a bunch of geysers. Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors: Darwinian evolution is gradual, step-by-step. All those predecessors must have come together, further back, into a series of branches leading down to the (long ago) trunk.

But those predecessors of the Cambrian creatures are missing. Darwin himself was disturbed by their absence from the fossil record. He believed they would turn up eventually. Some of his contemporaries (such as the eminent Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz) held that the fossil record was clear enough already, and showed that Darwin’s theory was wrong. Perhaps only a few sites had been searched for fossils, but they had been searched straight down. The Cambrian explosion had been unearthed, and beneath those Cambrian creatures their Precambrian predecessors should have been waiting—and weren’t. In fact, the fossil record as a whole lacked the upward-branching structure Darwin predicted.

The trunk was supposed to branch into many different species, each species giving rise to many genera, and towards the top of the tree you would find so much diversity that you could distinguish separate phyla—the large divisions (sponges, mosses, mollusks, chordates, and so on) that comprise the kingdoms of animals, plants, and several others—take your pick. But, as [David] Berlinski points out, the fossil record shows the opposite: “representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes.” In general, “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” The incremental development of new species is largely not there. Those missing pre-Cambrian organisms have still not turned up. (Although fossils are subject to interpretation, and some biologists place pre-Cambrian life-forms closer than others to the new-fangled Cambrian creatures.)

Some researchers have guessed that those missing Precambrian precursors were too small or too soft-bodied to have made good fossils. Meyer notes that fossil traces of ancient bacteria and single-celled algae have been discovered: smallness per se doesn’t mean that an organism can’t leave fossil traces—although the existence of fossils depends on the surroundings in which the organism lived, and the history of the relevant rock during the ages since it died. The story is similar for soft-bodied organisms. Hard-bodied forms are more likely to be fossilized than soft-bodied ones, but many fossils of soft-bodied organisms and body parts do exist. Precambrian fossil deposits have been discovered in which tiny, soft-bodied embryo sponges are preserved—but no predecessors to the celebrity organisms of the Cambrian explosion.

This sort of negative evidence can’t ever be conclusive. But the ever-expanding fossil archives don’t look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified—according to many reputable paleontologists, anyway. When does the clock run out on those predictions? Never. But any thoughtful person must ask himself whether scientists today are looking for evidence that bears on Darwin, or looking to explain away evidence that contradicts him. There are some of each. Scientists are only human, and their thinking (like everyone else’s) is colored by emotion.

Yes, emotion, the thing that colors thought. Emotion is something that humans and other animals have. If Darwin and his successors are correct, emotion must be a facility that improves the survival and reproductive fitness of a species.

But that can’t be true because emotion is the spark that lights murder, genocide, and war. World War II, alone, is said to have occasioned the deaths of more than one-hundred million humans. Prominently among those killed were six million Ashkenzi Jews, members of a distinctive branch of humanity whose members (on average) are significantly more intelligent than other branches, and who have contributed beneficially to science, literature, and the arts (especially music).

The evil by-products of emotion – such as the near-extermination of peoples (Ashkenazi Jews among them) – should cause one to doubt that the persistence of a trait in the human population means that the trait is beneficial to survival and reproduction.

David Berlinski, in The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, addresses the lack of evidence for evolution before striking down the notion that persistent traits are necessarily beneficial:

At the very beginning of his treatise Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, Robert Carroll observes quite correctly that “most of the fossil record does not support a strictly gradualistic account” of evolution. A “strictly gradualistic” account is precisely what Darwin’s theory demands: It is the heart and soul of the theory….

In a research survey published in 2001, and widely ignored thereafter, the evolutionary biologist Joel Kingsolver reported that in sample sizes of more than one thousand individuals, there was virtually no correlation between specific biological traits and either reproductive success or survival. “Important issues about selection,” he remarked with some understatement, “remain unresolved.”

Of those important issues, I would mention prominently the question whether natural selection exists at all.

Computer simulations of Darwinian evolution fail when they are honest and succeed only when they are not. Thomas Ray has for years been conducting computer experiments in an artificial environment that he has designated Tierra. Within this world, a shifting population of computer organisms meet, mate, mutate, and reproduce.

Sandra Blakeslee, writing for The New York Times, reported the results under the headline “Computer ‘Life Form’ Mutates in an Evolution Experiment: Natural Selection Is Found at Work in a Digital World.”

Natural selection found at work? I suppose so, for as Blakeslee observes with solemn incomprehension, “the creatures mutated but showed only modest increases in complexity.” Which is to say, they showed nothing of interest at all. This is natural selection at work, but it is hardly work that has worked to intended effect.

What these computer experiments do reveal is a principle far more penetrating than any that Darwin ever offered: There is a sucker born every minute….

“Contemporary biology,” [Daniel Dennett] writes, “has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that natural selection— the process in which reproducing entities must compete for finite resources and thereby engage in a tournament of blind trial and error from which improvements automatically emerge— has the power to generate breathtakingly ingenious designs” (italics added).

These remarks are typical in their self-enchanted self-confidence. Nothing in the physical sciences, it goes without saying— right?— has been demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt. The phrase belongs to a court of law. The thesis that improvements in life appear automatically represents nothing more than Dennett’s conviction that living systems are like elevators: If their buttons are pushed, they go up. Or down, as the case may be. Although Darwin’s theory is very often compared favorably to the great theories of mathematical physics on the grounds that evolution is as well established as gravity, very few physicists have been heard observing that gravity is as well established as evolution. They know better and they are not stupid….

The greater part of the debate over Darwin’s theory is not in service to the facts. Nor to the theory. The facts are what they have always been: They are unforthcoming. And the theory is what it always was: It is unpersuasive. Among evolutionary biologists, these matters are well known. In the privacy of the Susan B. Anthony faculty lounge, they often tell one another with relief that it is a very good thing the public has no idea what the research literature really suggests.

“Darwin?” a Nobel laureate in biology once remarked to me over his bifocals. “That’s just the party line.”

In the summer of 2007, Eugene Koonin, of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health, published a paper entitled “The Biological Big Bang Model for the Major Transitions in Evolution.”

The paper is refreshing in its candor; it is alarming in its consequences. “Major transitions in biological evolution,” Koonin writes, “show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity” (italics added). Major transitions in biological evolution? These are precisely the transitions that Darwin’s theory was intended to explain. If those “major transitions” represent a “sudden emergence of new forms,” the obvious conclusion to draw is not that nature is perverse but that Darwin was wrong….

Koonin is hardly finished. He has just started to warm up. “In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history,” he goes on to say, “the principal ‘types’ seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate ‘grades’ or intermediate forms between different types are detectable.”…

[H[is views are simply part of a much more serious pattern of intellectual discontent with Darwinian doctrine. Writing in the 1960s and 1970s, the Japanese mathematical biologist Motoo Kimura argued that on the genetic level— the place where mutations take place— most changes are selectively neutral. They do nothing to help an organism survive; they may even be deleterious…. Kimura was perfectly aware that he was advancing a powerful argument against Darwin’s theory of natural selection. “The neutral theory asserts,” he wrote in the introduction to his masterpiece, The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution, “that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level, as revealed by comparative studies of protein and DNA sequences, are caused not by Darwinian selection but by random drift of selectively neutral or nearly neutral mutations” (italics added)….

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch observed that “Dawkins’s agenda has been to spread the word on the awesome power of natural selection.” The view that results, Lynch remarks, is incomplete and therefore “profoundly misleading.” Lest there be any question about Lynch’s critique, he makes the point explicitly: “What is in question is whether natural selection is a necessary or sufficient force to explain the emergence of the genomic and cellular features central to the building of complex organisms.”

Survival and reproduction depend on many traits. A particular trait, considered in isolation, may seem to be helpful to the survival and reproduction of a group. But that trait may not be among the particular collection of traits that is most conducive to the group’s survival and reproduction. If that is the case, the trait will become less prevalent.

Alternatively, if the trait is an essential member of the collection that is conducive to survival and reproduction, it will survive. But its survival depends on the other traits. The fact that X is a “good trait” does not, in itself, ensure the proliferation of X. And X will become less prevalent if other traits become more important to survival and reproduction.

In any event, it is my view that genetic fitness for survival has become almost irrelevant in places like the United States. The rise of technology and the “social safety net” (state-enforced pseudo-empathy) have enabled the survival and reproduction of traits that would have dwindled in times past.

In fact, there is a supportable hypothesis that humans in cosseted realms (i.e., the West) are, on average, becoming less intelligent. But, first, it is necessary to explain why it seemed for a while that humans were becoming more intelligent.

David Robson is on the case:

When the researcher James Flynn looked at [IQ] scores over the past century, he discovered a steady increase – the equivalent of around three points a decade. Today, that has amounted to 30 points in some countries.

Although the cause of the Flynn effect is still a matter of debate, it must be due to multiple environmental factors rather than a genetic shift.

Perhaps the best comparison is our change in height: we are 11cm (around 5 inches) taller today than in the 19th Century, for instance – but that doesn’t mean our genes have changed; it just means our overall health has changed.

Indeed, some of the same factors may underlie both shifts. Improved medicine, reducing the prevalence of childhood infections, and more nutritious diets, should have helped our bodies to grow taller and our brains to grow smarter, for instance. Some have posited that the increase in IQ might also be due to a reduction of the lead in petrol, which may have stunted cognitive development in the past. The cleaner our fuels, the smarter we became.

This is unlikely to be the complete picture, however, since our societies have also seen enormous shifts in our intellectual environment, which may now train abstract thinking and reasoning from a young age. In education, for instance, most children are taught to think in terms of abstract categories (whether animals are mammals or reptiles, for instance). We also lean on increasingly abstract thinking to cope with modern technology. Just think about a computer and all the symbols you have to recognise and manipulate to do even the simplest task. Growing up immersed in this kind of thinking should allow everyone [hyperbole alert] to cultivate the skills needed to perform well in an IQ test….

[Psychologist Robert Sternberg] is not alone in questioning whether the Flynn effect really represented a profound improvement in our intellectual capacity, however. James Flynn himself has argued that it is probably confined to some specific reasoning skills. In the same way that different physical exercises may build different muscles – without increasing overall “fitness” – we have been exercising certain kinds of abstract thinking, but that hasn’t necessarily improved all cognitive skills equally. And some of those other, less well-cultivated, abilities could be essential for improving the world in the future.

Here comes the best part:

You might assume that the more intelligent you are, the more rational you are, but it’s not quite this simple. While a higher IQ correlates with skills such as numeracy, which is essential to understanding probabilities and weighing up risks, there are still many elements of rational decision making that cannot be accounted for by a lack of intelligence.

Consider the abundant literature on our cognitive biases. Something that is presented as “95% fat-free” sounds healthier than “5% fat”, for instance – a phenomenon known as the framing bias. It is now clear that a high IQ does little to help you avoid this kind of flaw, meaning that even the smartest people can be swayed by misleading messages.

People with high IQs are also just as susceptible to the confirmation bias – our tendency to only consider the information that supports our pre-existing opinions, while ignoring facts that might contradict our views. That’s a serious issue when we start talking about things like politics.

Nor can a high IQ protect you from the sunk cost bias – the tendency to throw more resources into a failing project, even if it would be better to cut your losses – a serious issue in any business. (This was, famously, the bias that led the British and French governments to continue funding Concorde planes, despite increasing evidence that it would be a commercial disaster.)

Highly intelligent people are also not much better at tests of “temporal discounting”, which require you to forgo short-term gains for greater long-term benefits. That’s essential, if you want to ensure your comfort for the future.

Besides a resistance to these kinds of biases, there are also more general critical thinking skills – such as the capacity to challenge your assumptions, identify missing information, and look for alternative explanations for events before drawing conclusions. These are crucial to good thinking, but they do not correlate very strongly with IQ, and do not necessarily come with higher education. One study in the USA found almost no improvement in critical thinking throughout many people’s degrees.

Given these looser correlations, it would make sense that the rise in IQs has not been accompanied by a similarly miraculous improvement in all kinds of decision making.

So much for the bright people who promote and pledge allegiance to socialism and its various manifestations (e.g., the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All). So much for the bright people who suppress speech with which they disagree because it threatens the groupthink that binds them.

Robson also discusses evidence of dysgenic effects in IQ:

Whatever the cause of the Flynn effect, there is evidence that we may have already reached the end of this era – with the rise in IQs stalling and even reversing. If you look at Finland, Norway and Denmark, for instance, the turning point appears to have occurred in the mid-90s, after which average IQs dropped by around 0.2 points a year. That would amount to a seven-point difference between generations.

Psychologist (and intelligence specialist) James Thompson has addressed dysgenic effects at his blog on the website of The Unz Review. In particular, he had a lot to say about the work of an intelligence researcher named Michael Woodley. Here’s a sample from a post by Thompson:

We keep hearing that people are getting brighter, at least as measured by IQ tests. This improvement, called the Flynn Effect, suggests that each generation is brighter than the previous one. This might be due to improved living standards as reflected in better food, better health services, better schools and perhaps, according to some, because of the influence of the internet and computer games. In fact, these improvements in intelligence seem to have been going on for almost a century, and even extend to babies not in school. If this apparent improvement in intelligence is real we should all be much, much brighter than the Victorians.

Although IQ tests are good at picking out the brightest, they are not so good at providing a benchmark of performance. They can show you how you perform relative to people of your age, but because of cultural changes relating to the sorts of problems we have to solve, they are not designed to compare you across different decades with say, your grandparents.

Is there no way to measure changes in intelligence over time on some absolute scale using an instrument that does not change its properties? In the Special Issue on the Flynn Effect of the journal Intelligence Drs Michael Woodley (UK), Jan te Nijenhuis (the Netherlands) and Raegan Murphy (Ireland) have taken a novel approach in answering this question. It has long been known that simple reaction time is faster in brighter people. Reaction times are a reasonable predictor of general intelligence. These researchers have looked back at average reaction times since 1889 and their findings, based on a meta-analysis of 14 studies, are very sobering.

It seems that, far from speeding up, we are slowing down. We now take longer to solve this very simple reaction time “problem”.  This straightforward benchmark suggests that we are getting duller, not brighter. The loss is equivalent to about 14 IQ points since Victorian times.

So, we are duller than the Victorians on this unchanging measure of intelligence. Although our living standards have improved, our minds apparently have not. What has gone wrong?

From a later post by Thompson:

The Flynn Effect co-exists with the Woodley Effect. Since roughly 1870 the Flynn Effect has been stronger, at an apparent 3 points per decade. The Woodley effect is weaker, at very roughly 1 point per decade. Think of Flynn as the soil fertilizer effect and Woodley as the plant genetics effect. The fertilizer effect seems to be fading away in rich countries, while continuing in poor countries, though not as fast as one would desire. The genetic effect seems to show a persistent gradual fall in underlying ability.

Woodley’s claim is based on a set of papers written since 2013, which have been recently reviewed by [Matthew] Sarraf.

The review is unusual, to say the least. It is rare to read so positive a judgment on a young researcher’s work, and it is extraordinary that one researcher has changed the debate about ability levels across generations, and all this in a few years since starting publishing in psychology.

The table in that review which summarizes the main findings is shown below. As you can see, the range of effects is very variable, so my rough estimate of 1 point per decade is a stab at calculating a median. It is certainly less than the Flynn Effect in the 20th Century, though it may now be part of the reason for the falling of that effect, now often referred to as a “negative Flynn effect”….

Here are the findings which I have arranged by generational decline (taken as 25 years).

  • Colour acuity, over 20 years (0.8 generation) 3.5 drop/decade.
  • 3D rotation ability, over 37 years (1.5 generations) 4.8 drop/decade.
  • Reaction times, females only, over 40 years (1.6 generations) 1.8 drop/decade.
  • Working memory, over 85 years (3.4 generations) 0.16 drop/decade.
  • Reaction times, over 120 years (4.8 generations) 0.57-1.21 drop/decade.
  • Fluctuating asymmetry, over 160 years (6.4 generations) 0.16 drop/decade.

Either the measures are considerably different, and do not tap the same underlying loss of mental ability, or the drop is unlikely to be caused by dysgenic decrements from one generation to another. Bar massive dying out of populations, changes do not come about so fast from one generation to the next. The drops in ability are real, but the reason for the falls are less clear. Gathering more data sets would probably clarify the picture, and there is certainly cause to argue that on various real measures there have been drops in ability. Whether this is dysgenics or some other insidious cause is not yet clear to me.…

My view is that whereas formerly the debate was only about the apparent rise in ability, discussions are now about the co-occurrence of two trends: the slowing down of the environmental gains and the apparent loss of genetic quality. In the way that James Flynn identified an environmental/cultural effect, Michael Woodley has identified a possible genetic effect, and certainly shown that on some measures we are doing less well than our ancestors.

How will they be reconciled? Time will tell, but here is a prediction. I think that the Flynn effect will fade in wealthy countries, persist with fading effect in poor countries, and that the Woodley effect will continue, though I do not know the cause of it.

Here’s my hypothesis: The less-intelligent portions of the populace are breeding faster than the more-intelligent portions. As I said earlier, the rise of technology and the “social safety net” (state-enforced pseudo-empathy) have enabled the survival and reproduction of traits that would have dwindled in times past.

Is Jill Biden a “Doctor”?

Eugene Volokh parses that question at length. He concludes in the negative. He alludes to the real reason for his conclusion, but doesn’t come right out and say it: An Ed.D. degree is a joke.

Jill Biden is the holder of an Ed.D. degree. It would therefore be possible to construct a syllogism which concludes that Jill Biden is a joke. But a more apt syllogism would conclude that Joe Biden is a joke (albeit a dangerous one), who is being foisted on America by a tacit collaboration of politically corrupt Democrats and spineless Republicans and Supreme Court justices.

For another perspective on “Doctor” Jill Biden, see Derek Hunter’s “Jill Biden Is Not a Doctor, Probably Isn’t a Good Person, Either” (Townhall.com, December 14, 2020).

Texas v. Pennsylvania — The Supremes Cut and Run

UPDATED 12/14/20

I was right about the Supreme Court, though the scenario played out differently than I had expected it to. As it turns out, there wasn’t a single justice with the guts to admit that Texas attorney general Ken Paxton had it right:

[T]he 2020 election suffered from significant and unconstitutional irregularities in the Defendant States [Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin]:

Non-legislative actors’ purported amendments to States’ duly enacted election laws, in violation of the Electors Clause’s vesting State legislatures with plenary authority regarding the appointment of presidential electors.

Intrastate differences in the treatment of voters, with more favorable allotted to voters–whether lawful or unlawful–in areas administered by local government under Democrat control and with populations with higher ratios of Democrat voters than other areas of Defendant States.

The appearance of voting irregularities in the Defendant States that would be consistent with the unconstitutional relaxation of ballot-integrity protections in those States’ election laws.All these flaws–even the violations of state election law–violate one or more of the federal requirements for elections (i.e., equal protection, due process, and the Electors Clause) and thus arise under federal law. See Bush v Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 113 (2000)(“significant departure from the legislative scheme for appointing Presidential electors presents a federal constitutional question”) (Rehnquist, C.J., concurring). Plaintiff State respectfully submits that the foregoing types of electoral irregularities exceed the hanging-chad saga of the 2000 election in their degree of departure from both state and federal law.Moreover, these flaws cumulatively preclude knowing who legitimately won the 2020 election and threaten to cloud all future elections.Taken together, these flaws affect an outcome-determinative numbers of popular votes in a group of States that cast outcome-determinative numbers of electoral votes.

In sum, the citizens of States that were won by Trump were denied equal protection of the laws: Their votes were nullified because Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin flouted their own election laws. (To say nothing of massive instances of fraud, of which there is ample evidence, Democrats and media enablers to the contrary notwithstanding.)

William Rehnquist, who presided over Bush v. Gore twenty years ago, must be spinning in his grave.

This may have been a (futile) attempt by Roberts et al. to forestall court-packing, which surely will happen as soon as the Democrats garner a working majority in the Senate. Which is one reason among many to hope that the January 5 runoff elections in Georgia result in victories by the two Republican candidates.

Update:

An esteemed reader and correspondent sent me a link to a piece in which Alan Dershowitz is quoted at length. Here’s some of it:

Dershowitz agreed with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who indicated that Texas did have standing, saying they ”get the better of the argument,” but that the court just didn’t want to deal with what may be perceived as political.

”This Supreme Court decision sends a message,” Dershowitz said. ”The majority included the three justices appointed by President [Donald] Trump, and they all said, ‘We’re not going to hear the Texas case. We’re not going to get involved in this election.’

”I think this sends a message. It’s not a legal message, but it’s a practical message: the Supreme Court is out of this game.”

Elsewhere, Mollie Hemingway weighs in:

[H]ow can the state of Texas not have a judicially cognizable interest in her sister states living up to the compact they entered when they entered the Union?

Texas attempted in its briefs to crystalize the harm by stressing its interest in who serves as vice president, given the vice president’s tie-breaking status in the Senate and senators’ role as the representatives of the states. But a simpler and stronger argument came in a brief submitted by would-be amicus curiae [in] Citizen’s United:

When one state allows the Manner in which Presidential Electors be chosen to be determined by anyone other than the state legislature, that state acts in breach of the presuppositions on which the Union is based. Each state is not isolated from the rest—rather, all states are interdependent. Our nation’s operational principle is E pluribus unum. Each state has a duty to other states to abide by this and other reciprocal obligations built into Constitution. While defendant states may view this suit as an infringement of its sovereignty, it is not, as the defendant states surrendered their sovereignty when they agreed to abide by Article II, § 1. Each state depends on other states to adhere to minimum constitutional standards in areas where it ceded its sovereignty to the union—and if those standards are not met, then the responsibility to enforce those standards falls to this Court.

On Friday, the Supreme Court voted not to enforce those standards.

Maybe there is a good reason. Maybe Rehnquist’s view was wrong. Maybe the court found the alleged violations not “significant” enough to reach the level of a constitutional violation. (How “significant” would a violation have to be?) Maybe the court viewed a violation of the compact on which our country was founded as beyond its purview.

There might be a satisfactory answer, but Americans have yet to hear it. And that was wrong, both for the court and the country.

As the old saying goes, “we wuz robbed” by a cabal of crooked umpires.

Thinking about Thinking … and Other Things: Time, Existence, and Science

This is the first post in a series. It will leave you hanging. But despair not, the series will come to a point — eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

Before we can consider time and existence, we must consider whether they are illusions.

Regarding time, there’s a reasonable view that nothing exists but the present — the now — or, rather, an infinite number of nows. In the conventional view, one now succeeds another, which creates the illusion of the passage of time. In the view of some physicists, however, all nows exist at once, and we merely perceive sequential slice of the all nows. Inasmuch as there seems to be general agreement as to the contents of the slice, the only evidence that many nows exist in parallel are claims about such phenomena as clairvoyance, visions, and co-location. I won’t wander into that thicket.

A problem with the conventional view of time is that not everyone perceives the same now at the same time. Well, not according to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, at least. A problem with the view that all nows exist at once (known as the many-worlds view), is that it’s purely a mathematical concoction. Unless you’re a clairvoyant, visionary, or the like.

Oh, wait, the special theory of relativity is also a mathematical concoction. Further it doesn’t really show that not everyone perceives the same now at the same time. The key to special relativity – the Lorentz transformation — enables one to reconcile the various nows; that is, to be a kind of omniscient observer. So, in effect, there really is a now.

This leads to the question of what distinguishes one now from another now. The answer is change. If things didn’t change, there would be only a now, not an infinite series of them. More precisely, if things didn’t seem to change, time would seem to stand still. This is another way of saying that a succession of nows creates the illusion of the passage of time.

What happens between one now and the next now? Change, not the passage of time. What we think of as the passage of time is really an artifact of change.

Time is really nothing more than the counting of events that supposedly occur at set intervals — the “ticking” of an atomic clock, for example. I say supposedly because there’s no absolute measure of time against which one can calibrate the “ticking” of an atomic clock, or any other kind of clock.

In summary: Clocks don’t measure time. Clocks merely change (“tick”) at supposedly regular intervals, and those intervals are used in the representation of other things, such as the speed of an automobile or the duration of a 100-yard dash.

Time is an illusion. Or, if that conclusion bothers you, let’s just say that time is an ephemeral quality that depends on change.

Change is real. But change in what — of what does reality consist?

There are two basic views of reality. One of them, posited by Bishop Berkeley and his followers, is that the only reality is that which goes on in one’s own mind. But that’s just another way of saying that humans don’t perceive the external world directly. Rather, it is perceived second-hand, through the senses that detect external phenomena and transmit signals to the brain, which is where “reality” is formed.

There is an extreme version of the Berkeleyan view: Everything perceived is only a kind of dream or illusion. But even a dream or illusion is something, not nothing, so there is some kind of existence.

The sensible view, held by most humans (even most scientists), is that there is an objective reality out there, beyond the confines one’s mind. How can so many people agree about the existence of certain things (e.g., Cleveland) unless there’s something out there?

Over the ages, scientists have been able to describe objective reality in ever-minute detail. But what is it? What is the stuff of which it consists? No one knows or is likely ever to know. All we know is that stuff changes, and those changes give rise to what we call time.

The big question is how things came to exist. This has been debated for millennia. There are two schools of thought:

Things just exist and have always existed.

Things can’t come into existence on their own, so some non-thing must have caused things to exist.

The second option leaves open the question of how the non-thing came into existence, and can be interpreted as a variant of the first option; that is, some non-thing just exists and has always existed.

How can the big question be resolved? It can’t be resolved by facts or logic. If it could be, there would be wide agreement about the answer. (Not perfect agreement because a lot of human beings are impervious to facts and logic.) But there isn’t and never will be wide agreement.

Why is that? Can’t scientists someday trace the existence of things – call it the universe – back to a source? Isn’t that what the Big Bang Theory is all about? No and no. If the universe has always existed, there’s no source to be tracked down. And if the universe was created by a non-thing, how can scientists detect the non-thing if they’re only equipped to deal with things?

The Big Bang Theory posits a definite beginning, at a more or less definite point in time. But even if the theory is correct, it doesn’t tell us how that beginning began. Did things start from scratch, and if they did, what caused them to do so? And maybe they didn’t; maybe the Big Bang was just the result of the collapse of a previous universe, which was the result of a previous one, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Some scientists who think about such things (most of them, I suspect) don’t believe that the universe was created by a non-thing. But they don’t believe it because they don’t want to believe it. The much smaller number of similar scientists who believe that the universe was created by a non-thing hold that belief because they want to hold it.

That’s life in the world of science, just as it is in the world of non-science, where believers, non-believers, and those who can’t make up their minds find all kinds of ways in which to rationalize what they believe (or don’t believe), even though they know less than scientists do about the universe.

Let’s just accept that and move on to another big question: What is it that exists?  It’s not “stuff” as we usually think of it – like mud or sand or water droplets. It’s not even atoms and their constituent particles. Those are just convenient abstractions for what seem to be various manifestations of electromagnetic forces, or emanations thereof, such as light.

But what are electromagnetic forces? And what does their behavior (to be anthropomorphic about it) have to do with the way that the things like planets, stars, and galaxies move in relation to one another? There are lots of theories, but none of them has as yet gained wide acceptance by scientists. And even if one theory does gain wide acceptance, there’s no telling how long before it’s supplanted by a new theory.

That’s the thing about science: It’s a process, not a particular result. Human understanding of the universe offers a good example. Here’s a short list of beliefs about the universe that were considered true by scientists, and then rejected:

Thales (c. 620 – c. 530 BC): The Earth rests on water.

Aneximenes (c. 540 – c. 475 BC): Everything is made of air.

Heraclitus (c. 540 – c. 450 BC): All is fire.

Empodecles (c. 493 – c. 435 BC): There are four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC): Atoms (basic elements of nature) come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes.

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC): Heavy objects must fall faster than light ones. The universe is a series of crystalline spheres that carry the sun, moon, planets, and stars around Earth.

Ptolemey (90 – 168 AD): Ditto the Earth-centric universe,  with a mathematical description.

Copernicus (1473 – 1543): The planets revolve around the sun in perfectly circular orbits.

Brahe (1546 – 1601): The planets revolve around the sun, but the sun and moon revolve around Earth.

Kepler (1573 – 1630): The planets revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits, and their trajectory is governed by magnetism.

Newton (1642 – 1727): The course of the planets around the sun is determined by gravity, which is a force that acts at a distance. Light consists of corpuscles; ordinary matter is made of larger corpuscles. Space and time are absolute and uniform.

Rutherford (1871 – 1937), Bohr (1885 – 1962), and others: The atom has a center (nucleus), which consists of two elemental particles, the neutron and proton.

Einstein (1879 – 1955): The universe is neither expanding nor shrinking.

That’s just a small fraction of the mistaken and incomplete theories that have held sway in the field of physics. There are many more such mistakes and lacunae in the other natural sciences: biology, chemistry, and earth science — each of which, like physics, has many branches. And in all of the branches there are many unresolved questions. For example, the Standard Model of particle physics, despite its complexity, is known to be incomplete. And it is thought (by some) to be unduly complex; that is, there may be a simpler underlying structure waiting to be discovered.

Given all of this, it is grossly presumptuous to claim that climate science – to take a salient example — is “settled” when the phenomena that it encompasses are so varied, complex, often poorly understood, and often given short shrift (e.g., the effects of solar radiation on the intensity of cosmic radiation reaching Earth, which affects low-level cloud formation, which affects atmospheric temperature and precipitation).

Anyone who says that any aspect of science is “settled” is either ignorant, stupid, or a freighted with a political agenda. Anyone who says that “science is real” is merely parroting an empty slogan.

Matt Ridley (quoted by Judith Curry) explains:

In a lecture at Cornell University in 1964, the physicist Richard Feynman defined the scientific method. First, you guess, he said, to a ripple of laughter. Then you compute the consequences of your guess. Then you compare those consequences with the evidence from observations or experiments. “If [your guess] disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make a difference how beautiful the guess is, how smart you are, who made the guess or what his name is…it’s wrong….

In general, science is much better at telling you about the past and the present than the future. As Philip Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania and others have shown, forecasting economic, meteorological or epidemiological events more than a short time ahead continues to prove frustratingly hard, and experts are sometimes worse at it than amateurs, because they overemphasize their pet causal theories….

Peer review is supposed to be the device that guides us away from unreliable heretics. Investigations show that peer review is often perfunctory rather than thorough; often exploited by chums to help each other; and frequently used by gatekeepers to exclude and extinguish legitimate minority scientific opinions in a field.

Herbert Ayres, an expert in operations research, summarized the problem well several decades ago: “As a referee of a paper that threatens to disrupt his life, [a professor] is in a conflict-of-interest position, pure and simple. Unless we’re convinced that he, we, and all our friends who referee have integrity in the upper fifth percentile of those who have so far qualified for sainthood, it is beyond naive to believe that censorship does not occur.” Rosalyn Yalow, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, was fond of displaying the letter she received in 1955 from the Journal of Clinical Investigation noting that the reviewers were “particularly emphatic in rejecting” her paper.

The health of science depends on tolerating, even encouraging, at least some disagreement. In practice, science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto.

As I said, there is no such thing as “settled science”. Real science is a vast realm of unsettled uncertainty. Newton put it thus:

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Certainty is the last refuge of a person whose mind is closed to new facts and new ways of looking at old facts.

How uncertain is the real world, especially the world of events yet to come? Consider a simple, three-parameter model in which event C depends on the occurrence of event B, which depends on the occurrence of event A; in which the value of the outcome is the summation of the values of the events that occur; and in which value of each event is binary – a value of 1 if it happens, 0 if it doesn’t happen. Even in a simple model like that, there is a wide range of possible outcomes; thus:

A doesn’t occur (B and C therefore don’t occur) = 0.

A occurs but B fails to occur (and C therefore doesn’t occur) = 1.

A occurs, B occurs, but C fails to occur = 2.

A occurs, B occurs, and C occurs = 3.

Even when A occurs, subsequent events (or non-events) will yield final outcomes ranging in value from 1 to 3 times 1. A factor of 3 is a big deal. It’s why .300 hitters make millions of dollars a year and .100 hitters sell used cars.

Let’s leave it at that and move on.

Election 2020: Lost or Stolen?

RE-POSTED FROM 11/15/20, TO NOTE THE ADDITION OF DOZENS OF LINKS TO THE PAGE “ELECTION 2020: LOST OR STOLEN?” (LINK IN FIRST SENTENCE)

I have created a page with that title. It consists of links to posts from various sources about the evidence that Biden’s apparent victory is fraudulent. I will continue to add links as long as the issue remains unresolved — which may be a long time from now. (See also “Election 2020 and Occam’s Razor“.)

CO2 Fail

Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? catches the U.N. in a moment of candor:

From a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) press release titled “Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown,” comes this statement about the effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions during the COVID-19 lockdown:

“Preliminary estimates indicate a reduction in the annual global emission between 4.2% and 7.5%. At the global scale, an emissions reduction this scale will not cause atmospheric CO2 to go down. CO2 will continue to go up, though at a slightly reduced pace (0.08-0.23 ppm per year lower). This falls well within the 1 ppm natural inter-annual variability. This means that on the short-term the impact [of CO2 reduction] of the COVID-19 confinements cannot be distinguished from natural variability…”

Let this sink in: The WMO admits reduce carbon dioxide emissions are having no effect on climate that is distinguishable from natural variability.

The WMO acknowledges that after our global economic lockdown, where CO2 emissions from travel, industry, and power generation were all curtailed, there wasn’t any measurable difference in global atmospheric CO2 levels. Zero, zilch, none, nada.

Of course, we already knew this and wrote about it on Climate at a Glance: Coronavirus Impact on CO2 Levels. An analysis by climate scientist Dr. Roy Spencer showed that despite crashing economies and large cutbacks in travel, industry, and energy generation, climate scientists have yet to find any hint of a drop in atmospheric CO2 levels.

The graph in Watts’s post depicts CO2 readings only for Mauna Loa, and only through April 2020. The following graph covers CO2 readings for Mauna Loa (through October 2020) and for a global average of marine surface sites (through August 2020):

The bottom line remains the same: There’s nothing to see here, folks, just an uninterrupted pattern of seasonal variations.

Climate-change fanatics will have to look elsewhere than human activity for the rise in atmospheric CO2.


Data definitions and source:

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/mlo.html

ftp://aftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/products/trends/co2/co2_mm_mlo.txt

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

ftp://aftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/products/trends/co2/co2_mm_gl.txt

“Libertarians Suck”

That’s the title of an amusing and insightful piece by Michael Warren Davis at The Spectator (U.S. edition). I agree with every word of the title, not just because I’m a reformed libertarian (i.e., Burkean conservative or libertarian conservative) but also because I agree with Davis’s central point:

According to the latest figures, the Libertarian candidate for president, Jo Jorgensen (pronounced Yo Your-gun-sin), has spoiled the election. The number of votes Yo-Yo received in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania exceeds Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in all those states. In other words, had the libertarians in each of those states voted for Mr Trump, he would have been reelected handily.

Thus do “big L” libertarians vote against their own interests by helping to elect Democrats, who are diametrically opposed to almost everything that libertarians claim to stand for.

I have made Davis’s point at least three times (here, here, and here). The third time I quoted a portion of a blog post by the late Bill Niskanen, who served as chairman of Cato Institute for many years. It is now appropriate to reproduce Niskanen’s post in full:

A Case for a Different Libertarian Party

All of this blogtalk about which major party is likely to be more receptive to libertarian policy positions, I suggest, is a waste of time unless the winning candidate of either party is dependent on the votes of libertarians.

Increased outrage about the state of American politics and the prospect for a larger number of close elections increases the potential effectiveness of a different libertarian party — one that sometimes endorses one or the other major party candidate but does not run a party candidate for that position.

The Libertarian Party’s efforts to promote their policy positions by running Libertarian candidates is counter-productive when they reduce the vote for their favored major party candidates. A disciplined group that is prepared to endorse one or the other major party candidate in a close election, however, can have a substantial effect on the issue positions of both major party candidates. The following conditions must be met to achieve this effectiveness:

  1. The party cannot run a separate candidate.
  2. The size of the party must be larger than the expected vote difference between the major party candidates.
  3. After the major party candidates are selected, the party leadership must have the opportunity to bargain with both major party candidates on the issue positions of highest priority for the party.
  4. The party, as much as possible, must act in concert to support the major party candidate who is chosen by the members of the party in that district.

There is no reason for this libertarian party to be active in any district for which the party does not meet all four of the above conditions. (For most libertarians, the most difficult of these conditions to meet, I suspect, is condition 4.) In addition, the party should not emphasize the same issues in every district, because the choice of these issues should depend on those for which the major party candidates are willing to bargain.

This is a strategy to increase the approval of libertarian policy positions rather than the usually counter-productive effort to increase the number of votes for Libertarian candidates. Maybe it is better to term the organization that I have described as a libertarian political action group, not a libertarian party.

Bill was a wise man, as his argument amply illustrates. I take his seeming neutrality between the major parties to be a rhetorical device. He was, as he described himself a private conversation with me, a “libertarian of conservative mien”. As a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration he was one of the architects of Reagan’s economic policy, about which he wrote in Reaganomics.

The Great Breakup (I Hope)

In the wake of the most fraudulent election in America’s history, the result of which will be further diminution of America’s liberty and prosperity, the country’s deep and seemingly unbridgeable divisions have become accentuated.

Victor Davis Hanson captures some of the divisions in a dissection of the rural-urban dichotomy:

Ideological differences are now being recalibrated as rural-urban on issues from guns and abortion to taxes and foreign policy. Red/conservative is often synonymous with small-town and rural. Blue/progressive is equivalent to urban/suburban….

The cities since antiquity been considered cosmopolitan and progressive; the countryside, traditional and conservative. In the positive appraisal, Western literature always thematically emphasized the sophistication and energy of cities, balanced by the purity and autonomy of the country….

That fact of the rural/urban dichotomy is underappreciated, but it remains at the heart of the Constitution — to the continuing chagrin of our globalist coastal elite who wish to wipe it out. The Electoral College and the quite antithetical makeup of the Senate and the House keep a Montana, Utah, or Wyoming from being politically neutered by California and New York. The idea, deemed outrageously “unfair” by academics and the media, is that a Wyoming rancher might have as much of a say in the direction of the country as thousands of more redundant city dwellers. Yet the classical idea of federal republicanism was to save democracy by not allowing 51 percent (of an increasingly urban population) to create laws on any given day at any given hour….

So much of the absurdity of the modern world relates to a culture entirely divorced from the commonsense audits of 2,500 years of rural pragmatism. Antifa is the ultimate expression of tens of thousands of urban youth, many deeply in college debt, many with degrees but little learning — and oblivious of how they are completely dependent on what they despise, from the police to those who truck in their food and take out their waste, to those who make and sell them their riot appurtenances and communications gadgetry.

… The current fear is not just that America is becoming an urbanized and suburbanized nation — in the manner that many of the Founders feared would make our nation a European replicant. Rather, what is strange is that so many who are not rural are becoming fearful of their cannibalistic own, and what they have in store for the suburbs and cities — and thus are becoming desperate either to graft the values of the countryside onto the urban sprawl or leave the latter altogether.

Unless the courts — and the Supreme Court in particular — are roused in time to salvage the election and declare Trump the winner, along with at least one GOP senatorial candidate who was robbed, Trump’s large and vocal base will not go quietly into the night. That is because the base is united not so much by its allegiance to Trump, but by a sense that it is the remnant of what was once a great nation. (I will nevertheless refer to this mass of Americans as “Trump’s base”, for the sake of convenience.)

Trump’s base, in addition to being rural is also (but not exclusively) working class, white, religious, and anti-cosmopolitan. There are many members of Trump’s base, including this writer, who do not conform wholly to that profile. But my working-class, religious upbringing is deeply ingrained in me, as it must be in many others who don’t conform to the stereotype of a Trump supporter.

I am also a person with the credentials and tastes of a cosmopolitan who is deeply anti-cosmopolitan. My anti-cosmopolitanism derives from long, direct exposure to the smug, over-educated elites who who deign to rule the unwashed by edict, censorship, and ostracism. Those members of the base who lack direct exposure to such elites are nevertheless aware of the elites’ superiority complex and dictatorial bent.

Trump’s base is weary of being told what to think, what not to say, what to do, how to do it, and for whom to do it by cosmopolitan (i.e., anti-American) elites and their surrogates. The elites and their surrogates populate and dominate government and corporate bureaucracies, academia, the “news” and “entertainment” media,, Big Tech, and (most insidiously) public “education”.

The sense of entitlement that propels the elites and their surrogates carries over into the impunity with which their protegees have been allowed to loot, riot, and attack Trump supporters (physically and verbally).

This sense of entitlement carries over into electoral fraud, which has long known to be an almost-exclusive practice of Democrats. (“We are supposed to win, so win we shall, by any means.”) Having been unprepared in 2016, because Hillary was a “sure thing”, the masters of electoral fraud took no chances in 2020, with the result that the election was stolen from Trump, blatantly and massively.

But our masters are confident in their success. Their media mouthpieces keep saying that there is no evidence of fraud when there is plenty of evidence (e.g., this). It’s just that the evidence may not result in reversal of the election. And so the fraud will go down the memory hole.

Trump’s base will seethe, grow more bitter, and abandon the electoral field in droves — allowing the elites to tighten further their grip on the legal, economic, and information levers of the nation. This will be done directly through the central government, through the control of information by the media and Big Tech, and by granting amnesty to of tens of millions of prospective new (and mostly Democrat) voters.

There will be much hollow talk about unity. But unity, to the left, means submission. And Trump’s base knows it.

The nation is almost certainly broken, and broken irrevocably. That leaves the question of what is to be done about it. I have offered options in the past. The only one that can deliver (a lot of us) from the evil that bears down is a concerted secession effort by many States, perhaps leading to a negotiated partition of the country. The choice is stark: either a breakup or a complete takeover by America’s domestic enemies.


Related reading:

Theodore Dalrymple, “The Age of Cant“, City Journal, Autumn 2020

Theodore Dalrymple, “The Decline of Cultural Understanding“, Taki’s Magazine, November 27, 2020

“Tyler Durden”, “The Great Relocation: Americans Are Relocating By The Millions Because They Can Feel What Is Coming“, ZeroHedge, November 23, 2020

Mike LaChance, “After Four Years of Democrat Attack on Trump Supporters, Biden Can’t ‘Unify’ the Nation“, Legal Insurrection, November 25, 2020

Francis Menton, “Will Biden Denounce Efforts to Silence Dissent?” [No!], Manhattan Contrarian, November 23, 2020

J. Robert Smith, “This Is War“, American Thinker, November 24, 2020

A virtual symposium at The American Mind, November 30, 2020:

Matthew J. Peterson, “A House Dividing?

Gregory M. Vaughan, “Madison Wins, Factions Lose

Rebecca, “The Separation

Tom Trenchard, “2020: A Retrospective from 2025

Further Thoughts about COVID-19

UPDATED AS NOTED BELOW.

It seems that the economy — and with it the livelihoods of millions of Americans — has been severely damaged for no good reason. Not only are face masks useless, or worse than that, but lockdowns are ineffective in halting the spread of COVID-19. If the reports that I’ve linked to are correct, COVID-19 is essentially unstoppable until an effective vaccine is produced and administered in vast quantities.

In the early going, there was a lot written about misdiagnosis and wrongful attribution of deaths. I haven’t seen much of that lately, but that doesn’t mean that those things aren’t still happening. Regarding misdiagnosis, consider what has happened this year to the official tally of flu cases, as against the tallies of the preceding five years:

This year, the cumulative number of flu cases was on track to set a new record, surpassing the totals of 2018 and 2019 (source). Then, just as word of COVID-19 was beginning to seep into the “news” media, the number of recorded cases suddenly stopped growing. How can that be? Did COVID-19 kill the all of the flu germs that were floating in the air and lurking on surfaces? Hah! I wonder what other conditions are being misdiagnosed as COVID-19.

UPDATE 11/27/20: Well I wonder no more. Because it seems that a lot of deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 when they should have been attributed to other causes. (See this and this.) In fact, for the period studied, the rise in COVID-19 deaths was almost exactly offset by the decline in deaths due to other causes.

UPDATE 11/28/20: For a detailed discussion of the meaning of “cause of death”, see this. It should reinforce your skepticism about the validity of official tallies of COVID-19 deaths.

If you were to believe the media — and I’m sure you don’t– COVID-19 is the worst scourge since the Black Plague. Well, it’s not even close:

As of yesterday, about 1 in 100 COVID-19 diagnoses becomes a death statistic. And the rate seems to be dropping. Which can mean that the number of cases is overstated; the most vulnerable persons have already been killed by COVID-19; or that both statements are true and the vast, healthy majority of the populace is being penalized out of political fear — fomented mainly by leftists, of course.

Finally, let’s put COVID-19 in perspective:

Enough said, for today.


Related reading: Kip Hansen, “Survey Results: Where Are All the Sick People?“, Watts Up With That?, November 21, 2020 (see especially the discussion of the number of flu cases)

Election 2020: Is It Done and Dusted? Has the Fat Lady Sung?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/09/20; UPDATED 11/27/20, TO REFLECT THE MOUNTING EVIDENCE OF FRAUD.

Possibly, despite considerable evidence of fraud. In any event, Barring a smoking cannon or two, the Supreme Court probably won’t salvage the election for Trump. However, based on Gorsuch’s recent smackdown of Robert in the religious liberty case, I hold out some hope for a rescue by the Supremes, if a case that flips the outcome gets that far.

A post by Trump supporter Anatoly Karlin — though I don’t agree with all of it — makes some good points. The vote counts are incomplete in several States, but the results to date support Karlin’s central thesis, which is that Trump lost just enough ground in key States (or Biden gained just enough ground in those States) to cause them to flip from Red to Blue.

If fraud isn’t at the bottom of Biden’s tentative victory, what might be? A degree of revulsion for Trump that blinded many voters to the dire consequences of a Biden win, especially if accompanied by Democrat control of Congress. Nothing else, that I can see.

Here’s the table that shows Trump’s (almost) across-the-board slippage, where the light-blue fill indicates States that flipped from Red to Blue: This table shows, in light-blue shading, the States whose votes were manipulated to tilt the election toward Biden:

Despite my faint hope for a reversal of the apparent outcome, I will carry on:

I will continue to update the list of links to allegations of election fraud (here) … just in case.

When all of the votes have been tallied and certified, I will update the graph that describes the statistical relationship between GOP candidates’ shares of electoral votes and shares of popular votes. (See this post for a preliminary update.)

And I will write about the likely consequences of a Biden-Harris presidency (you read that right), with a GOP-controlled Senate, which are dire but not quite as dire as the outlook implied in this post.

GDP Update

The Bureau of Economic Analysis yesterday released its revised (second) estimate of GDP for the third quarter of 2020 (2020Q3). The recovery from the recession that was induced by COVID-19 lockdown orders continues, but there’s still a lot of lost ground to make up. And the lost ground to be made up isn’t just from the pre-COVID-19 rate of output, but from the post-Great Recession slump that persisted despite Trump’s deregulatory efforts.

Here’s the big picture:

This graph zooms in on the declining rate of growth in real GDP:

This graph highlights the declining rate of growth from business cycle to business cycle:

The unnecessarily draconian response to COVID-19 made a bad situation even worse.