Thursday, 20 September 2007

Global Warmism

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Robert Royal.


It always cracks me up when someone says that Americans should emulate Europeans. Americans have nothing whatsoever to learn from Europeans, who are so messed up in so many ways that a good rule of thumb is to do the opposite of what they do. Americans are exceptional people. We always have been; we always will be. See here for the latest thing we do not want to emulate.


Here is the latest about American cyclist Floyd Landis. My predominant emotion is sadness. I can’t feel indignation toward Landis because I’m not sure he cheated. He says he didn’t cheat, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Nor can I be outraged by the proceedings because I’m not sure how reliable they were. Was there a presumption of innocence, with clearly stated rules of evidence? All I know is that the sport I love is in trouble, and that makes me sad. If I could snap my fingers and ensure that every rider in every subsequent Tour de France is clean, I would, even if it meant filling the ranks with amateurs. The quality of racing would eventually improve. As it is, I find it hard to be enthusiastic. This year’s Tour, for example, was disappointing, even disgusting. With rumors swirling about Alberto Contador, how can I think well of him? How can I admire his accomplishment when I’m not sure it’s legitimate? How can I be inspired by him? I do know this: If it ever comes out that Lance Armstrong cheated, I’m done with the sport (the spectating part, that is).


Do you think the French will take to this capitalism thing?

Careful with That Onion, Eugene

See here. (Apologies to Pink Floyd.)

Deduction and Induction

When one argues deductively, one asserts (among other things) that the set consisting of the premises and the denial of the conclusion is inconsistent. In other words, one asserts that it’s necessary that at least one member of the set be false. “What else does one assert when arguing deductively?” you ask. One asserts the premises. Suppose I argue as follows:

1. All dogs are mammals.
2. All mammals are animals.
3. All dogs are animals.

I’m making four assertions. First, I’m asserting that all dogs are mammals. Second, I’m asserting that all mammals are animals. Third, I’m asserting that it’s impossible for 1 and 2 to be true while 3 is false. Fourth, I’m asserting that all dogs are animals. The fourth assertion is based on the other three.

When one argues inductively, one concedes that the set consisting of the premises and the denial of the conclusion is consistent, but insists that it’s unlikely that all of its members are true. In other words, one asserts that it’s probable that at least one member of the set is false. “What else does one assert when arguing inductively?” you ask. The same as before: One asserts the premises. Suppose I argue as follows:

1. Most college professors are progressives.
2. Leslie is a college professor.
3. Leslie is a progressive.

I’m making four assertions. First, I’m asserting that most college professors are progressives. Second, I’m asserting that Leslie is a college professor. Third, I’m asserting that it’s improbable (i.e., unlikely) that 1 and 2 are true while 3 is false. Fourth, I’m asserting that Leslie is a progressive. As before, the fourth assertion is based on the other three.

How does one criticize an argument? In general, one criticizes an argument by denying at least one of the arguer’s assertions. In the case of the second argument, I may deny either that most college professors are progressives or that Leslie is a college professor. (The arguer may be mistaken about Leslie’s occupation.) I may also deny the assertion that it’s unlikely that all the members of the set consisting of the premises and the denial of the conclusion are true. In other words, I may deny that the truth of the premises makes the truth of the conclusion probable. Probability, unlike necessity, is a matter of degree, so the most that can be said about any inductive argument is that it’s strong. Here is a (comparatively) strong inductive argument:

1. 99.9% of college professors are progressives.
2. Leslie is a college professor.
3. Leslie is a progressive.

Note that it’s possible for 1 and 2 to be true while 3 is false. Here is a weaker inductive argument:

1. 75% of college professors are progressives.
2. Leslie is a college professor.
3. Leslie is a progressive.

Note the tradeoff. One strengthens the argument by increasing the percentage of college professors who are progressives, but at the cost of making the premise false. In general, one should say as much as one truthfully can.

Best of the Web Today



Cowboy up! Here are the current standings in Major League Baseball. Please make the following predictions: (1) the winners of the six divisions and (2) the wild-card teams. Don’t make postseason predictions. We’ll do that later, after the regular season ends. I will give you the truth (in prospect) later this evening, as an addendum to this post.

Addendum: One more thing. Predict the team with the best record in each league.

Addendum 2: I made the following predictions before any comments were posted:

AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central: Cleveland Indians (best record)
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: San Diego Padres (best record)
NL Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

Actually, I misspoke. Other people make predictions. I have precognition.

Addendum 3: Ouch.

A. P. Martinich on Leviathan (1651)

All or almost all of the central points of Leviathan had been made by Hobbes in early books and manuscripts. The materialism, mechanism, and absolutism are all there in The Elements of Law, Anti-White, and De Cive. Still, it is Leviathan that deserves to be called ‘A Bible for Modern Man’ because no other work of his or any of his contemporaries presents such a forceful, eloquent, and comprehensive statement of the doctrine that expresses the spirit of modern thought. It adumbrates a physics, physiology, psychology, morality, politics, and critical theology.

(A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 225)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Calling the Folks About Campus Drinking” (On Education column, Sept. 12):

Samuel G. Freedman notes that since the start of the University of Wisconsin’s parent notification program, student detox admissions have increased by 65 percent. Why? Because more than half of our 28,000 undergraduates engage in dangerous drinking at least once every two weeks, and they constitute a reservoir that continues to feed the pipeline to detox.

A concerning ripple effect is that many students return to their communities and reinforce a culture that generates disturbing statistics: Wisconsin leads the nation in binge and heavy drinking, which, along with the far less common use of illicit drugs, are the fourth most common cause of death and hospitalization in this state.

We need a much broader prevention effort. It is time for university, local and state officials to buck the prevailing culture and implement evidence-based prevention strategies. These include universal screening and intervention, restrictions on the density of alcohol outlets, higher taxes on alcohol, and many other approaches. Beneficiaries would not just be students and their families. Nearby residents and businesses and taxpayers everywhere bear the consequences of dangerous drinking.

Richard L. Brown, M.D.
Madison, Wis., Sept. 13, 2007
The writer is an associate professor in the department of family medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Note from KBJ: What are we to expect from a state the Major League Baseball team of which is known as the Brewers? And seriously, what is there to do in Wisconsin besides get drunk? (This is payback for all of Will’s taunts.)


I finally agree with Paul Krugman* about something! Journalism is a mess. Perhaps I agree with Krugman because we grew up at about the same time. (Krugman was born in 1953; I was born in 1957.) When we came of age (before Watergate), journalists weren’t cynical (or as cynical, since cynicism is a matter of degree). They reported the news without sneering, without questioning the motives of those they covered, and without trying to influence the attitudes of their readers, viewers, or listeners. Just the facts, ma’am. Ours is a cynical age, one in which nothing anyone says is to be taken at face value. (Only naive people believe what others say, especially if those others have different beliefs or values. Sophisticated people know that self-interest [which includes class-interest] is the operative motive in human affairs, and that duplicity, disingenuousness, and self-deception rule the day.) I wish it weren’t this way. Evidently, so does Krugman. Perhaps, working together, Krugman and I can change this execrable culture of cynicism.

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).


For the love of God, Newt, get in the race or shut up about running.


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then I’m a tarantula‘s father-in-law.

A Year Ago