WND column

Understanding the Numbers

“The American economy appears to be in a cyclical recovery that is gaining strength. Firms have begun to hire and consumer spending seems to be accelerating. That is what usually happens after particularly sharp recessions, so it is surprising that many commentators, whether economists or politicians, seem to doubt that such a thing could possibly be happening. … Why is good news being received with such doubt? Why is “new normal” the currently popular economic phrase, signifying that growth will be subpar for an extended period, and that the old normal is no longer something to be expected?
– “Why So Glum? Numbers Point to a Recovery,” the New York Times, April 8, 2010

There are three kinds of statistics. First, there are objective and verifiable statistics which are extremely difficult to fake due to the ease with which they can be independently measured and confirmed. These are most typically seen in sports. It would be very difficult for the Minnesota Vikings to falsely claim that Adrian Peterson ran for 3,000 yards in 2009 due to the NFL game logs and thousands of recorded videos of the 16 games in which he played. Second, there are objective and unverifiable statistics which are more easily faked due to the difficulty involved in measuring them. A movie’s box office take, for example, is not something that a third party can reasonably confirm without sending thousands of people to all of the various movie theaters and counting how many people entered the relevant screen rooms.

UPDATE: The National Bureau of Economic Research appears to be skeptical of the recovery too, considering its refusal to declare the recession over:

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met at the organization’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 8, 2010. The committee reviewed the most recent data for all indicators relevant to the determination of a possible date of the trough in economic activity marking the end of the recession that began in December 2007. The trough date would identify the end of contraction and the beginning of expansion. Although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date on the basis of current data would be premature.

UPDATE II: Did BoA, Citi, and JP Morgan/Chase just bail out Greece? Who borrowed $428 billion last week? I tend to doubt it was the American consumer.

Social autism strikes again

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens once more demonstrate that while it isn’t necessary to be a consummate horse’s ass in order to be an atheist, it certainly doesn’t hurt:

RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

Being a nondenominational Christian with Southern Baptist ties, I am not inclined to be a defender of popery. And being a casual student of medieval history, I am fully cognizant of the various crimes that have been committed in Rome, Ravenna, and Avignon by men who claimed St. Peter’s throne. I also see a clear distinction between Christianity and Catholicism; although many Catholics are Christians, many are not by any reasonable Bible-based definition of the latter term. While I respect the organization and the historical contributions of the institution, I do not confuse it with my religious faith. Nor do I approve of the sexual abuse of children; I would have absolutely no problem with every priest, schoolteacher, and sports coach confirmed to be guilty of preying upon the children in their care being taken out and shot, were it not for my opposition to granting the government a hunting license on its citizens.

Since, ironically enough, it is Richard Dawkins who has openly minimized the damage to children from sexual abuse, it is obviously the Pope’s Catholicism that he wishes to prosecute, not the Pope’s suboptimal human resources management 25 years ago. The fact that Dawkins is targeting the Pope, who is not even accused of committing any abuse, rather than the hundreds of English school teachers – including one of his own teachers – who have actually done so is conclusive evidence that this is nothing more than the world’s most famous atheist demonstrating the Argument from Social Autism. It’s a remarkably stupid PR stunt, even by the low standards of the Clowns of Reason

“Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, as horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing up the child Catholic in the first place…”
– Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 317

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church is the direct result of allowing homosexuals to enter the priesthood. Unless and until the Pope addresses that ludicrous decision of his predecessors, more predatory abuses will occur. But the Pope is no more personally responsible for those crimes than the Minister of Education is responsible for the same crimes taking place in the English schools.

“The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America.”
– Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 316

It would appear that Mr. Dawkins isn’t quite as opposed to unfair demonization as he used to be.