Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Data and Science

The irrepressible Justicar recently exposed a fraudulent study published in the Journal of American Medical Associates linking Australia’s 1996 gun-restriction legislation to decreases in mass shootings, in which “mass shootings” are bizarrely and uniquely defined as having 5+ fatalities, rather than the usual 4+ used by the FBI and virtually every other serious organization studying the issue. This allows the study authors to tap in a triumphal “0” in the 1997-2013 mass shootings list, and lends credibility to the juxtaposed 1979-1996 firearm homicide mean (0.56/100,000) and 1996-2013 firearm homicide mean (0.2/100,000).
Off the bat, the minute scale of the increased safety achieved should be noted, even if the data istaken at face value. This is like banning vending machines in order to save the 13 people killed per year in the United States, on average. At some point, even convenience is worth a few lives on scale. How much more important than vending machines are firearms? They are not merely a hobby, a source of personal protection, and provider of food, but are enshrined in our Constitution because they are a doomsday provision against a tyrannical government. (No, superior military technology does not make defense against the government moot, or else we would not still be fighting illiterate shepherds with Kalashnikovs in the hills of Afghanistan).
But the data shouldn’t be taken at face value. Let’s break the firearm homicide rate down slightly more honestly:
1979-1981 – 0.65/100,000
1982-1984 – 0.68/100,000
1985-1987 – 0.68/100,000
1988-1990 – 0.46/100,000
1991-1993  – 0.47/100,000
1994-1996 – 0.44/100,000
1997-1999 – 0.32/100,000
2000-2002 – 0.27/100,000
2003-2005 – 0.14/100,000
2006-2008 – 0.16/100,000
2009-2011 – 0.16/100,000
2012-20013 – 0.17/100,000
Wouldn’t you know it, there was a downward trend prior to the enacted legislation.
It is tempting to see the 0.0001% increase in the rate of the preexisting decline, which does appear to be possibly attributable to firearm restrictions. This would, of course, involve trusting the data itself, provided by these dishonest scholars. I’m using it above for convenience and demonstration but otherwise wouldn’t bet my life on its veracity. But this itself excludes the very important issue of non-firearm related homicides. If you’re interested, feel free to study the data for yourself. Suffice to say, firearm restrictions did not meaningfully reduce homicide generally, certainly not beneath the downward trend it was already on. Those too eager to jump from data correlation to causation with the immediate decline might also find themselves in the awkward position of trying to explain a suicide spike in 1997-1998, immediately after the 1996 gun bill. I’m not saying this is in any way related to the gun restriction bill, of course (unless you believe that the gun bill reduced rates of violence, in which case, stop hating depressed people, you murderous psycho). I am simply saying that when culture, pathology, violence, politics, income, and happiness are influenced by more factors than we can possibly account for, and when large, preexisting historical trends are already at work, it is very easy to manipulate statistics and “science” to fit one’s own position.
This is not an argument against science or statistics, for the record. On the contrary, I am in fact making an argument for science, and, a bit more begrudgingly, statistics. What I am arguing against, however, is the tendency for people to allude to other people’s conclusions allegedly based upon science or “hard data” instead of actually making an argument (these people are, almost without exception, never scientists or statisticians themselves). The argument is the essence of science. The reason that scientists follow the “scientific method” is not because God came down from the mountain and told Moses “thou shalt divide thine research subjects into two categories, and thine shalt name the first ‘control’…” The scientific method has evolved into its current form because the results are (ideally) very high quality clay with which a scientist can form a robust argument. The possession of the clay, however, does not in any way relieve the scientist or the ideological champion from the responsibility of actually making the argument. And once the argument is made, it is always open to criticism and rebuttal. The strength of an argument is its ability to withstand this inevitable and never ending scrutiny, and the moment a conclusion is held to be above challenge, it is to that degree not a scientific conclusion any more, but an ideological one.
This means that appeals to science and data are, ironically, unscientific. When an actual scientist is asked a question challenging his own beliefs within his field, what you will almost always see is an argument. He will offer an explanation that utilizes the data and research, of course, but he doesn’t just say “here’s the data” or “I can read a graph.” Those who appeal to science without bothering to make the argument don’t understand the nature of science, let alone the science to which they are referring.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Summary of Nietzsche's "Antichrist"

Source: The Imaginative Conservative

Summarizer's note: the following is my interpretation, and is neither a complete nor a pure summary of Nietzsche's position alone. If that's what you are looking for, it's a short read, so read it. Full text, translated by H.L. Mencken.


Nietzsche begins, as all philosophers ought to, with definitions.

Good: "Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man."
Evil: "Whatever springs from weakness."
Happiness: "The feeling of power increasing, and the overcoming of resistance."

He later goes on to define Corruption in an animal, species, or individual as when it "loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers, what is injurious to it."

To understand this odd definition of evil, we can look to previous works by Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, Genealogy of Morals) wherein he differentiates "master moralities" from "slave moralities." Masters--those who rule themselves--have no need for the term "evil." They have only "good and bad." "Evil," as a word differentiated from "bad," only makes sense as a philosophical hammer used by the weak against the strong.

The history of this concept of "evil," as opposed to "bad," begins with the Jews. The Jews are arguably the most interesting race in human history. They have been persecuted, hunted, and oppressed for longer and more vigorously than any other peoples, and have emerged more resilient for it. But the resilience has taken a peculiar form... they are not the strongest, the most skilled warriors, nor the toughest, but have instead developed an unprecedented verbal intelligence.

Nietzsche notes that the Jews, facing this historically difficult question "to be or not to be," decided that their answer would be "to be at any price." And the price they paid was high indeed; their soul as a nation, one could say.

Prior to Christianity, religions were matters of tribal ownership. Clans and cities and nations did not believe "only our gods exist" per se, but "our gods are our gods; we serve them, and they serve us." The religion was fundamentally a national, and not an ideological matter.

The Jews sacrificed this and made Jehova a god for everyone. In the face of Roman persecution and oppression, out arose a universal God which put to use all of the verbal intelligence--manipulative intelligence--which turned "bad" into "evil." This faith was Christianity.

For slaves, what is "bad" is "the master," and so the ultimate theological weapon would be a system of morality that makes "evil" (bad to God? it will do) what is "good" for the master--increase in power.

Christianity is, at root, a religion of pity. It is by pity that God saves us (a condescending "love" expressed in pity), and it is pity that God expects of us towards others. Jesus upon the cross, even, is a sight of pity. The beatitudes are an exaltation of the "virtues" of all that is pitiable, and it is by accepting the pity of God and of others that we are made "holy." Weakness is strength, and strength is weakness in the eyes of the Lord.

"A man loses power when he pities," says Nietzsche. It is a vicarious, empathetic opening of oneself to the contagion of weakness, and an uplifting of what is weak while condemning what is strong, vital, admirable, and pro-life. Pity, in short, a denial and a corruption of human life. The theological justification of this is an inversion of values; that which is real does not matter; it is the hereafter that truly counts. The illusion, Heaven, is real, and the reality--this temporal world--is an illusion. The very nature of God as a spirit, rather than as a sort of man living in the world, confirms this.

But the reason that increase in power is good for the master is the same reason that it is good for humanity. Within it lies all the noble virtues--and the genetics for them--of life, that inspire strength, joy, fertility, and the continuation of life in human kind. When the will to power declines, there is a physiological decline which accompanies it. A condemnation of the will to power in man is a condemnation of mankind to corruption, the perversion of the instinct against the joy, strength, and continuation of life. This is not merely in the culture, but in the very coding of man. It's manifestation is most pure in the priestly class: decrepit, weak, prone to illness, monotony and decay.

This tendency of corruption from Christianity not only corrupts the individual, but the will of nations, and not merely in sense of the embodied collection of individuals. "A nation that still believes in itself holds fast to its own God." It may follow that for those who no longer believe in their nation, the time has come to seek out new gods

The God of all and none is as antithetical to the will to power of nations as it is to the individual, and for the same reason: the desire for self-annihilation in the greater whole. In other words, corruption.

Buddhism is nihilistic like Christianity, but is interesting because it has the merit of being true. Moreover, it does what it claims to do, which is to provide happiness and that sense of ignorant bliss to its' proponents. It is superficially similar to Christianity, but remains in the land of the real, for instance, replacing a "struggle with sin" with a "struggle against suffering." Like Christianity, Buddhism is corrupt in its pursuit of escape from suffering, from life, but it is at least honest, and this comes from the fact that it does not come from slaves, but from the bored.

The general pursuit of the teachings of Jesus by himself make far more sense when viewed in light of Buddhism, as a pursuit of happiness in the here and now. "Think not of the morrow" refers not to heaven, which the power-seeking manipulator Paul clumsily adds to the doctrines of Jesus for all the reasons described, but to now. Dying on the cross makes more sense as a demonstration, that the "kingdom of heaven"--Nirvana, happiness, disconnection from suffering--can be had anywhere, than it does as a sacrifice by God, of God, to God, on behalf of people made in the very image of... God.

The cumulative result of this theological, ideological weapon is a weakening of man. It instills an aversion to what is real in favor of preference for what is "to come"--what is unreal. An instinctual hatred of reality. Guilt, pity, gullibility, weakness, poverty, illness, dishonesty, resentment, and death are the virtues of Christianity.

One need not believe this was a Jewish conspiracy, but merely a convergence of interests. This pattern has continued since, wherein Jews have collectively and prominently advocated for an end to tribalism for all but themselves; open borders for all but themselves; multiculturalism for all but themselves; Communism, for all but themselves. A weakening of everyone... everyone but themselves. One cannot fault them for taking advantage of the gifts that history and biology have given them--the gift of gab greater than the Irish ever dreamed of. If anything, it is cause for both admiration and emulation. But it is also reason enough to be wary of them, especially of their ideas, philosophies, and theologies, especially the ones they themselves do not emulate. Notice that the God of Israel is not merely tribal, but geographic and ethnic.

In short, Christianity is the product of slave-morality re-sentiment--resentment. It is a Greek Gift of the servant to the master, a slow poison destroying the soul and the body of those who drink it... slow enough to take generations to feel its' full effect. In this way, the spread of Christianity marks not the success of man via Christianity, but the success of Christianity via man, which is to say, the success of a runaway attitude originating in the desperation of slaves backed up against the wall of extinction. Think of the races that have taken up Christianity; there was success--political and military, yes--for they ran under the alliance of a universal God. But what happened to the people as that God of all and none took it's toll? What of the heroes and conquests of the men of old? What of those once great and glorious countries now? Greece? Rome? The "Holy Roman Empire?" What of Germany, England, and Spain? What of France, the nation once known as the home of the greatest warriors in the world, now--having internalized the inverted values of Christianity--a military joke? America is going the way of it's Etruscan predecessor. Who are the new rising nations? Russia and China, who have lived in horrendous pain, but without Christianity for nearly 70 years. Eastern Europe, the same.

This runaway attitude has taken a life of its' own in faith, and the sophistry of the Jews, born of dire need and circumstance, has taken on flesh in the form of an idea beyond their control. This idea, Christianity, perverts the natural values into their opposites, and is anti-truth, anti-health, anti-strength, anti-nation, and ultimately anti-life. Because it cuts off what is good, and replicates all that is properly evil, it is a corruption of mankind, a weakening of the spirit and of the flesh.

Christianity is, in the purest sense, evil.