The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Gadianton »

Physic's Guy wrote:Then, once they had hammered out such a good list of questions for comparing societies in general, they could have applied it to the special case of the Book of Mormon society and the Mayans. If these authors had done this, then it seems to me that their Bayesian result would have been meaningful. Am I right about that, as being what it would take to do this analysis right?


I like your suggestion to really get specific and find flaws. It sounds like flaws abound from what everyone's saying, but it's all too easy to dismiss it on grounds that obviously the Book of Mormon is fiction, rather than honing on on where the mistakes occur. well, i haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I will and then come back to your post.
FARMS refuted:

"...supporters of Billy Meier still point to the very clear photos of Pleiadian beam ships flying over his farm. They argue that for the photos to be fakes, we have to believe that a one-armed man who had no knowledge of Photoshop or other digital photography programs could have made such realistic photos and films..." -- D. R. Prothero

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Meadowchik »

Symmachus wrote:Congratulations to the historicists! They've got a real win with this one, and we can now rest easy with the mathematically certain knowledge the Book of Mormon is historical, and all that follows from that proposition true.

Of course, Bayes's theorem, according to some of its fervent practitioners who are also historians, has shown that Jesus is not historical but rather a mythical figure like Hercules. So the problem these geniuses now have is: how to make sense of a mythical Jesus in a historical Book of Mormon. That's a tough one.


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The Columbia scholar who used Bayes to examine the probability of Jesus is who I asked about this, out of the blue. And he responded!

But it was short. He is not familiar enough with Mormonism to give an opinion.

And there we have it. Again and again. Unattached experts are very rarely interested in the unsubstantiated book of magic provenance. I'd guess that the MI article is not solid enough to capture interest.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by moksha »

While the article did not specifically touch on the following scenario, I will offer it for your consideration:
Start of the Cambrian Era

A pond of chemicals has formed on the Pre-Cambrian earth. Protein molecules form. Protein molecules combine. Enough protein molecules combine to form the Book of Mormon.

Scientists from the Interpreter laugh at the statistical probability of this occurring, thereby proving the Book of Mormon is true.
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Physics Guy »

Something that might be the most basic error in this paper was raised by JarMan at the other board. He pointed out that most of the features scored as "hit" common features to Maya and Book of Mormon societies are in fact common features of most ancient societies. This means that Smith might have gotten all his hits in one fell swoop by just deciding to make his Book of Mormon societies be like whatever he knew about other ancient societies. Even if he was not widely read in ancient history he would have known quite a bit about ancient societies from the Bible.

Because of this possibility it is wrong to multiply all those probabilities together as if every little feature of BofM/Mayan society would have been an independent guess on Smith's part. There might really only have been one guess, when Smith decided to make his BofM peoples live much the way people seemed to live in the Bible.

Most importantly, this is not just a minor technical issue that could never do much to change the paper's conclusion of incredibly low probability for a Joseph Smith guess. On the contrary this is a huge issue which really can demolish that low probability with a single blow, because it destroys the validity of multiplying many probabilities together. That's the problem with low Bayesian probabilities reached by multiplying many probabilities: the multiplication is the leverage that makes the probabilities come out so tiny, and so anything which invalidates the multiplication can destroy the seemingly unassailable result just as easily as it was created. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Physics Guy »

Another candidate for the basic problem is normalization. Bayes's theorem says that the probability of a hypothesis given the data is the probability of the data given the hypothesis, times the prior probability of the hypothesis ... and then divided by the prior probability of the data. Since there is often no easy way to determine the prior probability of the data, this factor is often given scant attention, but it is logically necessary.

In cases where one is comparing hypotheses that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (i.e. they cover all possible explanations for the data), one can compute the prior probability in a way that is at least self-consistent by simply summing the probabilities of the data under each hypothesis, weighted by the prior probabilities of the hypotheses. This amounts to using the prior data probability as a normalization factor to ensure that the probabilities of all the hypotheses sum to one.

Suppose I have two mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive hypotheses: (A) the Book of Mormon is historically accurate, or else (B) it is not. If we say that (B) implies similarities between Nephites and Mayans must be just lucky guesses, and I find 20 genuinely independent similar features that would each be a 50/50 guess, then I get to count a (1/2)^20 factor in P(B). That's a little under 1 in a million. If there are also two genuinely independent factors that are blatantly different, then that's exactly what you'd expect under (B), so I only get a factor of about 1^2, leaving me still at one in a million.

Think it looks bad for (B)? We're not finished. So far our P(B) is unnormalized, because we have not yet divided it by the prior probability of the data. To determine that normalization factor we have to work out P(A).

Those 20 hits are only what you'd expect under (A), so we just get a factor of 1^20 from them, which is still one. But it would be extremely bizarre for an accurate historical account to somehow screw up even one major feature of Mayan society. So each of those two discrepancies brings P(A) down by a factor of, say, one in a thousand. So now P(A) is also around one in a million.

If the prior probabilities of A and B are equal then the total unnormalized probability so far is 1 in a million for A plus 1 in a million for B, making 2 in a million in total. Normalizing them both into true probabilities by dividing them both by this total leaves the final probabilities of both A and B at one-in-a-million divided by two-in-a-million: in other words, 50%. Those two discrepancies have balanced out the twenty hits.

This example has used arbitrarily made-up numbers, but it shows the point. When the un-normalized probabilities of all hypotheses are low, normalization can push the probabilities back up by huge factors. This is once again not a minor technical quibble that can hardly affect the strong conclusion, but a crucial issue that can utterly destroy the paper's conclusion, in spite of the large number of "hits" it considers.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Gadianton »

PG wrote:Something that might be the most basic error in this paper was raised by JarMan at the other board. He pointed out that most of the features scored as "hit" common features to Maya and Book of Mormon societies are in fact common features of most ancient societies.


I think this is getting warmer, although Lemmie did mention "coincidences", but she needs to get used to talking to the rest of us rather than other stats experts (I don't mean to include *you* in *us* PG but I do mean to include me) who don't immediately see exactly what she means. That's the word she used that stuck in my head yesterday, though.

I had two points on my mind when I woke up. The first was the laughable suggestion of using "Manuscript story" as a "control". It's like 20 pages of real text. In fact, the length of it has been used by apologists to discredit it as a source for the Book of Mormon. What this argument really is, is that the longer the book is, the more likely it is to be ancient.

The other point is similar if not the same. Bayes is intuitive for really simple contrived problems that take stats experts to think of, not the every-man who is the protagonist in the Bayes example. For instance, the every-man sees a party going on down the street and rolls over. He remembers hearing his neighbor talk about going to the party, and so gives it a prior probability that his neighbor is there. He thinks: let me see if his car is there. Then he spots his neighbor's car, and updates the prior. Now what if he didn't see his car? Have they really accounted for that? They accounted for not seeing his neighbor's bike, had his question had been about the bike, but that's not the same thing.

Now imagine this: you wake up bound and gagged and you hear dark voices talking outside your door about the long airplane flight and you suddenly come to believe you've been taken hostage and are in another country. Now, this isn't so easy. It could be five minutes if you get to a street and see license plates. But you could spend days or weeks without enough information, yet plenty of false positives to multiply together.

What Brant Gardner said that always stuck with me is that he quit looking for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, and began looking for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon. To me what this says is he started looking where the opportunities for coincidences abound. To look for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, you need rigorous controls. And that's what these guys did, except with about 50 pages of text as their control. They can rather, begin with archive.org.
FARMS refuted:

"...supporters of Billy Meier still point to the very clear photos of Pleiadian beam ships flying over his farm. They argue that for the photos to be fakes, we have to believe that a one-armed man who had no knowledge of Photoshop or other digital photography programs could have made such realistic photos and films..." -- D. R. Prothero

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

Physics Guy,

Thanks for taking the time to describe specific methodological failures with the Dale & Dale paper. You found two significant problems in the application of Bayes Theorem to the subject matter of the paper in question.

Others have found many more problems with the paper and especially its conclusions. These include passages in the Book of Mormon itself that completely negate its truth claims in the light of scientific findings, but I digress.

You, on the other hand, went further and provided clear professorial explanations as to the effects that these failures would have on the claimed outcome.

The paper is a hot mess from start (including the title) to finish. However, in looking at some of the comments and the authors responses, Dale Sr. seems to be defending the faulty application of Bayes with denials and bald appeals to the authority of the claimed peer reviewers, including his son as co-author.

One wonders if they actually took some time to step back (way back) and consider the wider implications of their hyper-optimistic and wholly unwarranted conclusion before pressing the SEND button. One wonders if the paid any attention the word 'scholarship' in the Interpreter mission statement.

This is a request to at least consider submitting a condensed version of your two explanatory posts to the comments section for the Interpreter article. Everyone concerned could learn from your work on this. The fact that you are not LDS (or former LDS), and your academic credentials, would give your comments and explanations swing weight.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Dr Exiled »

I think DNA is the key as Dr. W said early on. The probability of historicity no matter how desirous one is to believe is zero when facing the mountain of DNA evidence. So, the probability the interpreter article is flawed has to be 100% and this is just another failure in attempting to use science to prove historicity.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Lemmie »

(Sorry for the brevity, it's a busy week, so I will expand on why I think the authors made this error in anoer post, plus additional math errors, but here is the bare bones analysis, which in my opinion renders their analysis completely meaningless. -L)

The biggest problem I see with the math regards the author's use of a likelihood ratio, which they define and calculate as follows:

This likelihood ratio is the strength of each individual statement of fact as a piece of evidence. It is calculated as the probability that the statement is true if whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing divided by the probability that the statement is true if instead the Book of Mormon is fact-based and essentially historical.


Therefore the ratio can be written as:

P(B|A) / P(B|~A),

Where A is defined in the paper as the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fictional; ~A is the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is not fictional.

First, the Bayes factor specifically accounts for the possibility that the evidence may have occurred under the other hypotheses. This is accomplished in the denominator of the Bayes factor.
No, it doesn't. Note that B is defined as the pieces of evidence, or, as the authors put it,
each individual statement of fact.


Note that the authors are asking if, under certain circumstances, about

...the probability that the statement is true...


But B is defined as a statement of fact, therefore

P(B) = 1,

by their own definition.

Therefore P(B|A) is also = 1, as is P(B|~A). This is because if B is true with a probability of 1, then it is true under all conditions, including whatever hypothesis under which it is being considered.

Therefore any likelihood ratio is 1/1, regardless of which piece of evidence is considered. Results of 2, 10, 50, .5, .1, and .02 are simply not possible.

1 to the power of 131 is still 1 (using their incorrectly applied definition of independent events), and thus the posterior odds, calculated as the likelihood ratio times the a priori odds, DO NOT CHANGE.

By their own calculations, the authors should therefore conclude that the incredibly overwhelming odds are still in favor of the Book of Mormon being fictional.

In the end, meaningless coincidences and parallels are not evidence that should change posterior odds. (This error seems to come from the authors seeing that likelihood ratios are used in medical testing, where there can be both false positives and false negatives, thus allowing the evidence to be "false," or untrue. The error was to translate that to a definition of evidence that they define as true, a priori.)
Last edited by Lemmie on Mon May 06, 2019 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

Lemmie,

Thanks. So many problems, so little time.

Your comment and explanation of the author's really fundamental misunderstanding of Bayes Theorem should also go to the Interpreter comments section, along with some indication of your background, expertise, and credentials.

Everyone here knew there was trouble coming when the authors cited Wikipedia as a source for Bayes Theorem.

Again, if they had just stopped and thought about what they had done, and perhaps asked themselves if this were such a sure thing, why no one else had come up with this kind of (apparently) ironclad demonstration before. A little critical thinking goes a long way in a faith-based environment.

In any case, well done, Lemmie, Physics Guy and Symmachus.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by MrStakhanovite »

Lemmie wrote:But B is defined as a statement of fact, therefore

P(B) = 1,

by their own definition.


All this amounts to is taking issue with the semantic content of the English word "fact" and insisting that it maps onto a value of 1.

That isn't an error in operation and would be a trivial fix.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Exiled wrote:I think DNA is the key as Dr. W said early on. The probability of historicity no matter how desirous one is to believe is zero when facing the mountain of DNA evidence. So, the probability the interpreter article is flawed has to be 100% and this is just another failure in attempting to use science to prove historicity.


A very well done NOVA documentary from 2016 entitled, "Great Human Odyssey:
How early humans migrated out of Africa and populated the world"
(including insights from historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and geneticists) is a science based narrative of human expansion out of Africa. It is well worth watching - especially because it rules out the possibility of blue water transoceanic crossings as a contributor of human genetic material in the New World.

It spends plenty of time on the genetic and archeological evidence regarding the first migration of homo sapiens into the Americas via Beringia. The acquisition of genetic markers absolutely unique to Amerindians gained on this particular odyssey, during the hold-up period, are explained.

If interested, you should be able to enter the title with the word NOVA into your local PBS TV station website and some kind of link for streaming.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Lemmie »

MrStakhanovite wrote:
Lemmie wrote:But B is defined as a statement of fact, therefore

P(B) = 1,

by their own definition.


All this amounts to is taking issue with the semantic content of the English word "fact" and insisting that it maps onto a value of 1.

That isn't an error in operation and would be a trivial fix.


One would think so, right?!! But the authors are very clear, the only things they are willing to admit into evidence and consider are the "facts" actually in the book, The Maya, that they can compare to items in the Book of Mormon:
Note: only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis;on statements of fact where one or the other book is silent, we cannot factually assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so.


Even though elsewhere they deplore others who limit evidence like this:
It is a common error (deliberate or otherwise) to consider only a few pieces of evidence when examining the truth or falsity of a given hypothesis. In the extreme, this practice is called cherry-picking. In cherry-picking, evidence against one’s existing hypothesis is deliberately excluded from consideration. This practice is, of course, dishonest....

These practices of cherry-picking... cannot be allowed in scientific enquiry. They are neither rational nor honest. We must consider all relevant evidence if we hope to make honest, rational decisions.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Lemmie »

Regarding Mr Stak's point about re-stating how to map the information without limiting it to being a fact; even with that fix, another large problem arises.

Suppose B is now just a statement, possible factual, but not required to be. In that case, the probability of the evidence being factual and matching a fact in The Maya given the Book of Mormon is NOT fiction but is factual, is, defined as:

P(B|~A)

Note that the probability that an element B from the Book of Mormon, assuming that the Book of Mormon is not fiction, that matches a fact in The Mayan, is 1 Meaning yes, if the Book of Mormon is true, then statements from it that match facts from the Mayan are, with certainty, facts.

This means that the denominator of the likelihood ratio is 1.

The authors allow for ratios of 2, 10, and 50, to show support for the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fictional. However, with a denominator of 1, the numerator would have to be greater than 1, which is not possible, since the numerator is also a probability, ranging from 0 to 1, inclusive.

This means that there is no way that this model, even with the correction in terminology that B may or may not be a fact, can give any weight greater than one to a guess in the Book of Mormon that matches a fact in the other book, meaning it is not possible for the model to produce any likelihood ratios that support the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

If the element B is not a fact, then the following probability is meaningless:

P(B|~A)

At best it is equal to zero, meaning likelihood ratios cannot be calculated because the ratio is undefined (due to being divided by zero). If the probability is anything greater than zero, not only would it require finding a non-fact in the Maya book (which the authors ruled out), but it also implies that the Book of Mormon introduced a non-fact, in other words, fiction, which collapses the hypothesis back to A, the Book of Mormon is fictional.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Ok, I’ve now read the whole paper, and I have a very basic question: does it actually use Bayesian analysis at all? I don’t see the authors ever use Bayes’ theorem in examining any of their pieces of data. When they describe the use of BayesIan analysis in medicine, they fail to even mention the most significant aspect of it’s use: taking account of the fake positives and negatives of the test. That indicates to me that the author’s don’t even understand how to properly use Bayes’ Theorem to evaluate evidence. They act as if all there is to Bayes is the use of prior probability. They don’t do the heavy lifting of working through the equation to rigorously determine the actual strength of each piece of evidence.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Lemmie »

Res Ipsa wrote:Ok, I’ve now read the whole paper, and I have a very basic question: does it actually use Bayesian analysis at all? I don’t see the authors ever use Bayes’ theorem in examining any of their pieces of data. When they describe the use of BayesIan analysis in medicine, they fail to even mention the most significant aspect of it’s use: taking account of the fake positives and negatives of the test. That indicates to me that the author’s don’t even understand how to properly use Bayes’ Theorem to evaluate evidence. They act as if all there is to Bayes is the use of prior probability. They don’t do the heavy lifting of working through the equation to rigorously determine the actual strength of each piece of evidence.

They are taking a shortcut and using the idea of a Bayesian factor called a likelihood ratio, such that posterior odds = likeliehood ratio x prior odds.

It's a technique that doesn't fit their model at all, and they don't seem to understand its mathematical limitations. Not to mention their very, very wrong use of the concept of independent events.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Lemmie »

A comment from Sic et Non:
Allen Wyatt wrote:Oh, and speaking of the peer-reviewed pages of Interpreter, I find it incredibly convenient that Lemmie (in that same thread) can dismiss, out of hand, my assurance that the pages are, indeed, peer-reviewed.

I know they are because as editor of the journal I personally look at each and every review and monitor the entire process. Critics are quick to disparage our peer review simply because they don't believe that anything we publish could reasonably pass peer review.

Therefore, there must not be meaningful peer review. (Seems like a variant of the ergo propter hoc fallacy.)

http://disq.us/p/21mkbt0


Actually, I have been very specific about why I don't think the Interpreter articles are peer-reviewed. (Assuming a standard definition of peer-review.)

Every paper I have read from the Interpreter that uses math or statistics has had extreme errors in use of techniques, testing methods, interpretation, etc. Not that peer-review would fix everything, but the errors I've observed would not get beyond an ordinary, typical, statistically-oriented peer review in an academic journal.

Allen Wyatt is very quick to make assumptions about my reasoning that are not true and that show he has not actually read my objections, but rather assumes all critics think the same way. There must be a name for that....

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Analytics »

Lemmie wrote:(Sorry for the brevity, it's a busy week, so I will expand on why I think the authors made this error in anoer post, plus additional math errors, but here is the bare bones analysis, which in my opinion renders their analysis completely meaningless. -L)

The biggest problem I see with the math regards the author's use of a likelihood ratio, which they define and calculate as follows:

This likelihood ratio is the strength of each individual statement of fact as a piece of evidence. It is calculated as the probability that the statement is true if whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing divided by the probability that the statement is true if instead the Book of Mormon is fact-based and essentially historical.


Therefore the ratio can be written as:

P(B|A) / P(B|~A),

Where A is defined in the paper as the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fictional; ~A is the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is not fictional.

First, the Bayes factor specifically accounts for the possibility that the evidence may have occurred under the other hypotheses. This is accomplished in the denominator of the Bayes factor.
No, it doesn't. Note that B is defined as the pieces of evidence, or, as the authors put it,
each individual statement of fact.


Note that the authors are asking if, under certain circumstances, about

...the probability that the statement is true...


But B is defined as a statement of fact, therefore

P(B) = 1,

by their own definition.

Therefore P(B|A) is also = 1, as is P(B|~A). This is because if B is true with a probability of 1, then it is true under all conditions, including whatever hypothesis under which it is being considered....


I'm not following you here at all.

If we give these authors the benefit of the doubt that they understand the basic math, "B" means the basket of evidence that we actually have. Thus, P(B|A) means, "What is the probability we'd see this basket of evidence if the book is historical?" Likewise, P(B|~A) means, "What is the probability we'd see this basket of evidence if the book isn't historical?"

What the authors are trying to do is look at each piece of evidence and compare the likelihood that a true book would happen to mention something in the book versus the likelihood that a false book would happen to mention something in the book. Picking up their points at random, point of evidence 1.9 is "some rulers live in luxury." The Book of Mormon mentions this. A hit! Their analysis is that a true book is twice as likely as a false book to mention that some of the rulers live in luxury. Therefore, the likelihood ratio is 0.5. Then, they go on to point of evidence 1.10, "elaborate thrones." The Book of Mormon mentions this. Another hit! They conclude that a true book is 10 times more likely than a false book to mention elaborate thrones. Therefore, the likelihood ratio is 0.1. Skipping down to point 2.19, "Cities and lands named after founder." The Book of Mormon does this. Another hit! A true book is twice as likely as a false book to name cities after a founder, so the likelihood is 0.5.

Five points:

1- Artificially limiting the ratios to between 100 and 0.1 is ludicrous. The probability of, say, the Isaiah chapters being an accurate translation of an authentic 600 B.C. manuscript are closer to 1 in a billion than to 1 in 100. Yet their methodology limits this to 1 in 100.

2- The evidence they select is arbitrary and incomplete: they didn't mention the Isaiah problem, for example, so they didn't even score 100 points on that to the critics--even though the point deserves way more than that.

3- How can you possibly conclude that a true book mentioning "excellent workmanship" (point 6.18) is 50 times more likely than a false book mentioning it? This is totally made up.

4- Their arbitrary approach to selecting and weighing evidence has no resemblance to Carrier's analysis.

5- Reading this whole thing would be a colossal waste of time. I can't even imagine somebody taking the time to write it.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Gadianton »

Not to get off the main topic; I've finally got a break I can pay a little more attention, and I've opened my infamous Baye's spreadsheet, that helps me remember concepts -- for some reason, it only gets opened in the context of Mopologetics...other than that and Christian apologists calculating the odds of the empty tomb, I just don't see anyone use it.

Anyway, Dr W. "Again, if they had just stopped and thought about what they had done, and perhaps asked themselves if this were such a sure thing, why no one else had come up with this kind of (apparently) ironclad demonstration"

I was going to say the same thing. Nobody stopped and thought -- doesn't this seem a little too easy? Heck, Wyatt knows this board is going to eat his Journal alive over it, he had to have been thinking "well, here goes nothing!" when he pushed the button to put in online. The poor authors probably had no idea what they were walking into. Did Wyatt really press the mathematician reviewers? "Hey guys, thanks for the glowering feedback as always, but seriously, can you just make sure there aren't basic errors that are going to come back and bite us on this one? Normally we don't publish stuff that's falsifiable, but this paper depends on some pretty clear-cut technical material that could be easily shown to be wrong if incorrect."

They do realize the point of critical feedback is to help themselves, not anyone else, right? Or maybe they just don't care. Maybe Lou Midgley being the first to respond, falling over himself in ignorant praise, is all that they're looking for?
FARMS refuted:

"...supporters of Billy Meier still point to the very clear photos of Pleiadian beam ships flying over his farm. They argue that for the photos to be fakes, we have to believe that a one-armed man who had no knowledge of Photoshop or other digital photography programs could have made such realistic photos and films..." -- D. R. Prothero

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

Just noticed that someone identified as "Mr. Blanco" copied my initial post on this thread and, with a few changes to the text, posted it over in the Interpreter comments section. This was done without my knowledge and certainly without permission.

Whoever did that obviously reads this board. To that individual, I would just say that we strongly condemn plagiarism on this board for good reason. (DCP, was that you?).

To anyone who might think that I am also "Mr. Blanco", I would invite you to read my initial post on this thread and compare it to the one posted by "Mr. Blanco" over in the interpreter comments. You will see that the changes (deletions) that were made certainly took the edge off. I suppose this was done to prevent it from being taken down.

If the individual who did this feels that I am being a bit too sensitive about the plagiarism, anonymous as it may be, you are invited to PM me and we can talk about it in private.

(And yes, even you, Dr. Dan)
David Hume: "---Mistakes in philosophy are merely ridiculous, those in religion are dangerous."

DrW: "Mistakes in science are learning opportunities and are eventually corrected."

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Physics Guy »

I have to clarify: I have not actually read this article. I have only been raising general issues that could be problems with an article like this, in the hope that someone else would do the grunt work of reading the paper and seeing what problems are actually there.

If these guys have been talking about likelihood ratios, then my second potential problem of normalization is not relevant. The normalization factor will be the same for both P(A) and P(B), so it will cancel out in the likelihood ratio. So if the paper is all about ratios, then my second potential problem is really completely irrelevant. It should not be considered as another weight on the scale against this paper. It should instead be completely discounted.

There may remain a serious issue related to it, if the probability that a genuine historical record should screw up a basic fact of Mayan society was artificially limited in this paper to no lower than 2%. If these guys have done that kind of thing, then that is a real problem. As my discussion of normalization mentioned, the probability of basic screw-ups like that should be way lower than 2%. Even the 0.1% that I assumed arbitrarily for the sake of example was generous. I mean, how likely is it that a contemporary American historian should describe the presidency as a hereditary office? How likely is it that an American state would make its governorship hereditary and have the anomaly persist for several generations? That's the sort of scenario we'd be considering, I think, if were to suppose that some of the discrepancies between Mayan society and the Book of Mormon were nonetheless compatible with historical authenticity. Assigning a probability of 2% to such errors is way too lenient.

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