Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

The end as we may not know it

I came across an article at Ars Technica on the implications of the recent wave of newly discovered exoplanets that fall within the Goldilocks zone. The author proposes that the discovery of planets that are viable for civilization but uninhabited could be the result of a pattern of bottlenecks for intelligent life referred to as the Great Filter:

This apparent absence of thriving extraterrestrial civilizations suggests that at least one of the steps from humble planet to interstellar civilization is exceedingly unlikely. The absence could be because intelligent life is extremely rare, or because intelligent life has a tendency to go extinct. This bottleneck for the emergence of alien civilizations from any one of those billions of planets is referred to as the Great Filter.

In the discussion of the latter possibility the author links to this BBC item on research into extinction-level threats to humanity. Surprisingly from the Beeb, anthropogenic global warming is not listed as one of those threats.

The liberal view of tolerance

Shannon Gormley of the Citizen  provides us today with a particularly mendacious view of liberal tolerance: “Liberal tolerance means being intolerant of intolerance”.

The way she slips in the false arguments is quite breathtaking in its audacity. Getting to the heart of it, she writes:

Liberals aren’t being hypocritical by vehemently opposing prejudice in all its forms: on the contrary, opposition to prejudice is entirely consistent with the liberal belief that every individual’s human rights have to be treated with respect, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, age, race or religion.

and after saying liberals have a right to drown out intolerance, she adds:

Moreover, don’t be surprised if other peoples’ charges of prejudice “drown out” your opinions. That’s just what happens when people who voice hateful opinions are outnumbered by people who voice the opinion that hatefulness is hateful.

In short, all opinions having the tendency to cause one to be intolerant of something are “hateful”, and of course, hatefulness is wrong, and should be drowned out.

Now every cell in our bodies does not tolerate invasion by chemicals that do not belong there. Are they being intolerant? Every person does not tolerate unwanted intrusion into their living space. Is that intolerant? Yes of course it is.

We are intolerant of drivers going at high speed along residential streets, particularly where children may be playing. Is that intolerant? Of course it is.

So, Shannon Gormley, in the course of assuming what needs to be proven, that all intolerance is bad, and therefore hateful (another conflation of issues) manages to justify Brandeis University refusing to award Ayaan Hirsi Ali a doctorate because she proposes that Islam is at war with us, and that is intolerant, and therefore hateful, and deserving of being drowned out.

As Gormley writes:

The idea of “liberal intolerance” is being framed as a hatred of dissenting opinions. But for the most part, liberals aren’t taking issue with the fact that a hateful opinion is being voiced. They’re taking issue with the opinion itself. And they’re winning some of the arguments.

That is precisely what is not happening. They are taking issue with the possibility of even hearing reasoned discussion of things they do not like, such as that Islam is a menace to liberal society, and to liberals themselves.And they are not winning the arguments, they are preventing the discussion from happening, and they are not even denying it.

Shannon Gormley is recounting untruths and she ought to know it.





Canada is doing well

An article in the New York Times shows Canadian incomes have risen relative to those in the United States, such that average annual income is now equal, though whether this remains true after our recent devaluation of the Loonie is unclear.


Median per capita income was $18,700 in the United States in 2010 (which translates to about $75,000 for a family of four after taxes), up 20 percent since 1980 but virtually unchanged since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The same measure, by comparison, rose about 20 percent in Britain between 2000 and 2010 and 14 percent in the Netherlands. Median income also rose 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700.

The most recent year in the LIS analysis is 2010. But other income surveys, conducted by government agencies, suggest that since 2010 pay in Canada has risen faster than pay in the United States and is now most likely higher. Pay in several European countries has also risen faster since 2010 than it has in the United States.

The article cites as reasons for this relative middle class income stagnation:

  1. declining educational attainment in youth
  2. government policies that do not favour redistribution of income
  3. corporate policies that do not distribute more income to their salaried workers

The not-so-guilty pleasures of Brad Thor

Brad Thor writes action adventure stories, largely directed to men, in which our hero tosses Islamic terrorists out of cars, pummels them, kneecaps them, threatens their wives and children with torture to obtain timely information from their terrorist husbands, and generally behaves as we would like to Islamic terrorists, without scruple or diffidence. In short, well written “penny dreadfuls“.

Tiring of high-minded discussion of morality and evolution, fatigued by discussions of Edmund Burke versus Thomas Paine, bored by the evolutionary implications of religion, Brad Thor was a welcome diversion.

One of the great things about Brad Thor books is that he writes what everyone knows or believes about Islam, and cannot say in more respectable venues:

  • Jihad is essential to Islam
  • moderate Muslims (in other words, sensible human beings) are failing in their religious duty to kill us
  • they are intent on colonizing us, not adapting to us
  • jihadists  consider non-Muslims sub-human chattel
  • any Muslim may decide to fulfil his religious duty to wage religious war at any time
  • There is no such thing as “radicalization”; it is only a matter of hearing the call “dawa” and off the young man goes to Syria, or London, to take up the cause of holy war against the infidels.

Observing this, my wife commented, “that is why in tyrannies they are as much concerned with fiction as with facts. They do not want literature to discuss feelings, thoughts, or perceptions that go against the official line.”

Thor is available in airports everywhere.

IQ matters

The 20th century saw some of the worst of ideas celebrated and obvious truths derided. One of the Large Stupid Ideas© that has prevailed has been the complete rejection of any component of heredity in the outcomes of human life. It suited social engineers of the Left to deny the reality of biological influences. Any relatively stable social outcome, such as social class, or racial disparities, could not be rapidly amended by more legislation, thought control, or exclusion from universities, if they were influenced by inherited factors.

I may be battling a folly which the younger generation has long since left behind them. It seems, to the contrary, that political corrrectness, or cultural Marxism, goes from strength to strength. The more the evidence adds up that the biological has some influence, the more it is denounced as sexist racist, differentist: in short, heretical

Thus it was with pleasure that I saw the admission in the normally liberal Slate Magazine a serious rebuttal to the notion that IQ does not matter.

But this argument is wrong. The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a “complex portrait” of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an “astonishing achievement.”) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert [critics of SAT] are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is.

And SAT scores  are not merely reflectors of social economic status; they measure intelligence quite directly.

What this all means is that the SAT measures something—some stable characteristic of high school students other than their parents’ income—that translates into success in college. And what could that characteristic be? General intelligence. The content of the SAT is practically indistinguishable from that of standardized intelligence tests that social scientists use to study individual differences, and that psychologists and psychiatrists use to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled—and even whether a person should be spared execution in states that have the death penalty. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on IQ tests—so highly that the Harvard education scholar Howard Gardner, known for his theory of multiple intelligences, once called the SAT and other scholastic measures “thinly disguised” intelligence tests.

The Son Also Rises – There is such a thing as social class and it matters

From Gregory Clark’s book The Son also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility,

Only when confronted with evidence of the persistence of status over five hundred years that was too glaring to ignore was I forced to abandon my cheery assurance that one of the joys of the capitalist economy was its pervasive and rapid social mobility. Having for years poured scorn on my colleagues in sociology for their obsessions with such illusory categories as class, I now had evidence that individuals’ life chances were predictable not just from the status of their parents but from that of their great-great-great grandparents. There seemed to be an inescapable inherited substrate, looking suspiciously like social class, that underlies the outcomes for all individuals.Only when confronted with evidence of the persistence of status over five hundred years that was too glaring to ignore was I forced to abandon my cheery assurance that one of the joys of the capitalist economy was its pervasive and rapid social mobility. Having for years poured scorn on my colleagues in sociology for their obsessions with such illusory categories as class, I now had evidence that individuals’ life chances were predictable not just from the status of their parents but from that of their great-great-great grandparents. There seemed to be an inescapable inherited substrate, looking suspiciously like social class, that underlies the outcomes for all individuals.

Contrary to what he had believed, social mobility in modern times is relatively rare, and the explanation for this is that social skill is largely inherited. Choose your wife or husband carefully, and most of the fates of your children will have been decided.

As one who has watched members of the same families dominate the tennis tournaments at the summer club for three or four generations, and as one of three students who won the same scholastic prizes every year for ten years of schooling, I can assure you that Professor Clark’s findings come as no surprize.

In the immortal words of Professor George Homans, responding to some fellow questioning the existence of an American upper class: “There is so an American upper class and I am a paht of it”!

Imitation still the sincerest form of plagiarism

Warren Kinsella informed us breathlessly on April 10, 2014 of a unique hand sign created by volunteers for Olivia Chow’s mayoral campaign:

Olivia Chow  Mayoral Gang Sign

On June 17, 2013 Yahoo Sports reported that current Real Madrid star and record transfer sale from Tottenham Hotspur Gareth Bale had successfully trademarked his widely seen goal celebration gesture:

Gareth Bale Goal Celebration

 And thus come together an over-exposed, over-privileged prat… and a European soccer player.

Global Warming: The new cholesterol

I have been saying this for at least two years. Now. as usual, others are catching up to me. This is from Paul Mulshine at


the consensus was that the amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet are related to the levels of cholesterol in the blood and “that reducing the one will lower the other,” the Post wrote.

That seemed to be the case at the time. But there were dissenters who claimed carbohydrates, particularly refined ones, were the more likely triggers for obesity and heart disease. That led the mainstream authorities to hold a “Consensus Conference” in 1984. The result was a national policy emphasizing low-fat diets as a means of combating obesity and heart disease.

Soon the market was inundated with low-fat foods. But they weren’t having the desired effect. By 2002, the cracks in the consensus were so evident that the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy and well-researched article by noted science writer Gary Taubes headlined “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?”

“It used to be that even considering the possibility of the alternative hypothesis, let alone researching it, was tantamount to quackery by association,” Taubes wrote. “Now a small but growing minority of establishment researchers have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet doctors have been saying all along.”

Last month, the prior consensus was turned on its head by a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A meta-analysis of 76 studies and clinical trials showed no link between fat, even saturated fat, and increased heart-disease risk.

There was a consensus for the elements being earth-air-fire-water; there was a consensus for a geocentric universe; there was a consensus for burning being the absence of something called “phlogiston”; there was a consensus for the immutability of species; there was a consensus for a 4,400 year-old earth; there was consensus that  the transmutation of lead into gold was possible; there was a consensus in the 19th century that we were missing a planet in our solar system; there was a consensus the man was heating the atmosphere by the emission of carbon dioxide.

Consensus is just the agreed-upon state of our ignorance.

- Dalwhinnie’s aphorism for the day



enth (or non

Near Death

Mario Beauregard, a research scientist at the University of Montreal, writes an interesting article on near death experiences in Salon Magazine.

NDE= near death experience

OBE = out-of-body experience

Although the details differ, NDEs are characterized by a number of core features. Perhaps the most vivid is the OBE: the sense of having left one’s body and of watching events going on around one’s body or, occasionally, at some distant physical location. During OBEs, near-death experiencers (NDErs) are often astonished to discover that they have retained consciousness, perception, lucid thinking, memory, emotions, and their sense of personal identity. If anything, these processes are heightened: Thinking is vivid; hearing is sharp; and vision can extend to 360 degrees. NDErs claim that without physical bodies, they are able to penetrate through walls and doors and project themselves wherever they want. They frequently report the ability to read people’s thoughts.

The effects of NDEs on the experience are intense, overwhelming, and real. A number of studies conducted in United States, Western European countries, and Australia have shown that most NDErs are profoundly and positively transformed by the experience. One woman says, “I was completely altered after the accident. I was another person, according to those who lived near me. I was happy, laughing, appreciated little things, joked, smiled a lot, became friends with everyone … so completely different than I was before!”

Of course, nothing will persuade the materialist that all mental events  derive from the brain and no mental event happens outside the brain, and all mental events are brain events. It reminds me of Mussolini’s dictum: ” all within the state, nothing outside the sate, nothing against the state”

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

Hmmn…materialism as a form of brain fascism.

Materialism – the doctrine that everything in the universe is of one substance: matter and its motions, and nothing else – is the dominant world view of this century and the last. It has precisely zero chance of lasting another fifty years, except as a relic, like fascism or communism. It is so twentieth century.

Anyway, for  the interested, here are a few books worth your attention on the subject of mind, awareness, and consciousness,  and why consciousness is primary:

Out of our Heads, by Alva Noë (2010) The author is a philosopher.

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, by Tor Nørretranders (1999) The author is a science writer.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes 1976. The author was a classicist [Jaynes was almost certainly wrong in part but absolutely brilliant]

The Purpose-Guided Universe, by Bernard Haisch (2010) The author is a physicist

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, by Stephen M, Barr
(2003) The author is a physicist.

The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGillchrist (2011) The author is a psychiatrist.

Biocentrism, by Robert Lanza (2009) Lanza is a medical doctor, whose book is a more popular rendition of the ideas and arguments found in Bernard Haisch and Stephen Barr.

Brain Wars, by Mario Beauregard (2012). Beauregard is a brain researcher at the UdeM. Also by him:
The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul