Quiz Time

Who said the following?

Hume’s only defect was that he was unaware of Bayes’ Theorem

Was it

a. Wyle E. Coyote

b. Vizzini

c. Here

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2 Responses to Quiz Time

  1. Apollyon says:

    Ok, I typed in the phrase and this is a blog that I came up with…with all the usual atheist ‘truths’ (Christianity has contributed nothing positive to the world)…the post is relatively new (Jan 29, 2013)…thought you might find it of interest.


  2. Dhay says:

    On the forums one will occasionally come across the guy who is convinced that Einstein’s Special or General Theory of Relativity, and the consequences thereof, are outright wrong because of [insert dozy argument here]; despite some patient attempts by other forum members to apply reason and correction, there simply is no way to get through to them – not even when patience is replaced by condescension (which the patient explanations are likely assumed to already be) or even when replaced by outright sarcasm; in their own deluded minds they are so certainly and obviously right – and those better educated so obviously wrong – that there is no way, no kind and gentle way, no exasperated way, no brutal way, to tell them otherwise.

    But in the minds of these pontificators on subjects they have little or no education in and understanding of, it is always the other people who are ignorant and stupid, who are deliberately uninformative, and who are irrationally hostile.

    It’s not always Relativity that they obsess about: Geocentrism, Flat Earthism, KJV-Onlyism, Larry Olsen’s proposed violation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – a wide range of other subjects can take the place of Relativity.

    (For example, here’s a link to a certain Jerry Coyne, whose former tutor repeatedly denigrates him as philosophically clueless, who continues to claim that “But who caused God?” is a sensible question.


    But the subject of this thread is the historian Richard Carrier. He’s not a physicist, having not so much as a BSc in physics, yet he has a history of sounding off – like my clueless Relativity-Denial guy – on subjects he knows little about. Carrier’s first “Relativity” type denial was actually Big Bang denial:

    Dr. Carrier has in the past made a number of remarkable claims. For instance around 2001 he believed the evidence for the big bang was inconclusive and described himself as a “Big-Bang sceptic”.

    (From Section 7.3 of Tim Hendrix’s critique of Carrier’s use of Bayes’ Theorem to support his Jesus Mythicist claims – https://www.scribd.com/doc/305750452/Richard-Carrier-s-On-the-Historicity-of-Jesus#download)

    Also, see Carrier’s own account of his Big Bang Denial years, where he describes the reception of his ideas by the physics community as:

    “For years I argued that there might not have been a Big Bang, since the evidence for it was rather poor. I encountered as a result a sea of snobbery and condescension from physicists. I encountered bias and closed-mindedness … This kind of arrogance was appalling. … the cosmologist is not authorized to expect me to believe a theory that he cannot demonstrate to me as true, even if (indeed, even because) the evidence is such that “I cannot possibly understand.” … Despite the rude madness I received from the physics community …”” [My emboldening.]


    Ah yes, Carrier didn’t understand the Big Bang and the evidence and arguments for it; his ideas got the same dismissive reception my Relativity-Denial guy got, and probably for the same reason – his inability to understand the evidence and arguments, and his being an annoying pain in the arse – and boy did Carrier evidently hate that dismissal.


    Eventually Carrier gave up Big Bang Denial, but started out on a new course. Hendrix continues:

    In 2011 he claimed to have solved one of the greatest problems in contemporary physics by discovering a theory which explaining how quantum phenomena can be explained by general relativity alone.


    Unfortunately for Carrier, his doubtlessly well deserved Nobel Prize for unifying Quantum Mechanics and Relativity inexplicably still eludes him. Perhaps he has now dropped this avenue too.


    So has Carrier dropped his Relativity-Denial guy type antics yet? Probably not, for he seems to have taken up Fine Tuning Denial. Physicist and Fine Tuning argument expert Luke Barnes has questioned Carrier’s arguments against Fine Tuning, arguing that Carrier misunderstands and misuses Bayes’ Theorem, and the elements of the discussion have been summarised and linked to by Jeffrey Jay Lowder.

    Carrier seems to have given Barnes various unsatisfactory replies to his criticism, then when pressed for a better answer to have got huffy and personal and stopped interacting. Does that sound familiar – is the physics community still dismissing Carrier, and is Carrier still getting miffed at it?



    Anything else? Ah yes, Jesus Denial. And this, like Fine Tuning Denial, is based upon Carrier’s understanding and usage of Bayes’ Theorem, but as applied to history. Barnes found Carrier’s understanding and usage of Bayes’ Theorem very questionable and inadequate when applied to deny Fine Tuning, so should we expect better when Carrier applies that same level of understanding, and that same level of expertise in usage, to support Jesus Denial.

    Probably not: see the link above for Tim Hendrix’s extensive and detailed critique of Carrier’s misuse of Bayes’ Theorem to support his Jesus Mythicist claims; also Hendrix’s earlier review, which is also very critical.

    To convincingly make [the] case [that] Bayes theorem can advance history one needs lots and lots of worked-out examples. Unfortunately the book contains nearly none of these, and I would say the only time it tries to venture into the historical method –the case of the criteria of embarrassment– it does so in a fashion that is both distinctly non-Bayesian and without a way to encode something is actually embarrassing to the author.



    In physics, first Big Bang Denial, then his very own Grand Unified Theory, the Fine Tuning Denial; in history, Jesus Denial. In each, he was – or still is – way out on a limb proposing fringe views not endorsed or accepted by almost everybody in the community of relevant experts. Looks like Carrier has a long history of being like my Relativity-Denial guy.

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