The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Arc »

Ben McGuire on the MAD Board wrote: For the first part, I believe that this is an inappropriate transfer. And for the second part, I believe that the comparison being made is more parallelomania than anything else. And based on these two conclusions, the statistics (and the math behind it) becomes irrelevant"

Ben McGuire is not the only one criticizing the Dales paper on the MAD board. Among the MAD Board critics, JarMan's arguments against the paper are especially effective. His call for the paper to be withdrawn is being allowed by the moderators. Worse still, the paper has no effective support among its advocates.
JarMan on the MAD Board instructing PacMan on the finer points of Bayesian analysis wrote: No. Neither option can be exhaustive on its own. If one option was exhaustive it would be true by default. The pair together has to be exhaustive, meaning that one or the other is certain to be true. "Divine or not" (as above) is exhaustive. One choice must be true. "Divine or Joseph guessed it" is not exhaustive. As I've mentioned, someone else could have made it up. The authors clearly didn't consider this in their analysis.

I would love the Book of Mormon to be an actual ancient record. I really would. As such, I thoroughly enjoy good, apologetic scholarship toward that end. But bad apologetics gives believers a false sense of security in their belief and casts a cloud over good scholarship. Apologists have done a lot of good work to help people believe when they have doubts. I'm happy for that. But I don't think it's ethical to use bad scholarship in apologetics. . . even if it helps people to believe. Ultimately that's why I believe this paper needs to be withdrawn. (Bolding mine.)

Severe criticisms of the paper, including several calls for it to be retracted, are now coming from all quarters; the Interpreter comments section, ldsphilospher.com, MormonDiscussions.com, reddit and even the MAD board.

It has been nearly two months now since the paper was posted and the criticism just keeps coming. It appears that if Bruce Dale doesn't want to spend the rest of his time on earth defending the paper, he should just take it down.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Physics Guy »

JarMan was on the ball about the Dales' paper right from the start.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Arc »

Physics Guy wrote:JarMan was on the ball about the Dales' paper right from the start.

Yes he was. Better than that, he has chosen a fatal and easily understood criticism of the Dales paper to justify his call for its withdrawal.

Even those who have no clue about the mathematics needed to make reasonable Bayesian conditional probability estimates can understand the need for the hypotheses being tested to be exhaustive and mutually exclusive. Despite claims to the contrary, the hypotheses supposedly being tested in the Dales paper, no matter how may times they are modified, clarified or contorted, are never stated as exhaustive and mutually exclusive.

There is just no defense against that fatal flaw, and JarMan has played it to near perfection.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

At one point, in responding to comments on his Interpreter paper, Bruce Dale states he is ready to go head to head with his critics using Bayesian statistics to test hypotheses that are exhaustive (e.g., either the Book of Mormon is a historical record or it is fiction). Bruce says that he has plenty of ammunition outside the Book of Mormon / Maya comparisons to defend his position.

This challenge sent me looking for the best smoking gun - the one that fires the silver bullets.

There is no shortage of falsifiable (and most would say falsified) claims in the Book of Mormon including the Jaredite transoceanic voyage in barges, and middle eastern Semite populations using steel weapons and horses in the pre-Columbian western hemisphere.

However, there are none so untenable as the building of a blue water ocean going vessel by a small band of refugees in an imaginary place called Bountiful along the southern coast of Oman.

As described several times on this board, there is unanimous agreement among mainstream scientists and engineers looking at the availability of timber needed to build a blue water ocean going vessel in all of Oman, or the UAE, or Yemen, that such materials do not now, and never have, existed in the region.

This well documented consensus, valid for any time in the natural history of the planet, is backed by data from archaeology, geology, botany, mining and petroleum engineering, and historical records. Scientists who have published peer reviewed papers to this effect include a respected LDS professor from BYU.

This undisputed data alone negates the tale of the Lehites - a central theme of the Book of Mormon narrative. Added to the utterly ridiculous story of the Jaredite crossing in barges, no amount of Bayesian probability manipulation could lead one conclude that the Book of Mormon is anything other than fiction. The two most obvious fictions in the Book of Mormon have to do with the claimed transoceanic voyages. If the old world bands of refugees described in the Book of Mormon could never have arrived in the new world, one need say nothing more.

These contrary data are absolute showstoppers - on the order of Jeffrey Holland's claim that, according to the Book of Ether, the Atlantic basin was formed within the last 10,000 years, separating the hemispheres and leaving the Americas devoid of human population until the first arrivals from the old world as described in the Book of Mormon.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Gadianton »

I've changed my mind. A couple of days ago I was convinced that it is very bad to multiply likelihood ratios together but boy, was I wrong. I now think not only is it okay to multiply them together, it's probably a really good idea to, and specifically for the reasons I had issues with before: in order for more generic pieces of evidence to overpower a "smoking gun". My impulse was that something has to be wrong with the assumptions that allows for victory by parallel-mania: here is a smoking gun in the case against the Book of Mormon, but then lo, here are six weak parallels that overcome it. several great points were made against that thinking and I got very close to conversion, but two additional points clicked into place when I went back to read about LRs yesterday.

Point 1: The wording of articles I'd read weeks ago using "sensitivity / specificity" language and then the Kass paper being abstract as it is, clouded the obvious that all these factors are, are literal "odds" calculations, so why wouldn't you multiply them? When I did a fresh Google yesterday, I got lucky: the article that came up was as simple as it could be put. A Bayes factor of 2.5 is a 2.5/1+2.5 = .71. So yeah, I feel kind of dumb about that but better to just come clean and start over. If I can do it, Dales, so can you.

Point 2: I targeted this one, given Physics Guy bringing up errors. Many of the introductory articles to medical test LRs either don't mention or gloss over statistical significance. So I hunted down articles with "likelihood ratio" and "confidence interval". Now it gets a little more interesting. Here's a good one:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8ae8/b ... b5203c.pdf

Words of caution about LRs:

Second, although test results at the extremes of the distribution provide the greatest diagnostic information, because they have the most extreme likelihood ratios, the estimates of likelihood ratios at these extreme val-ues are very imprecise (ie, they have wide confidence intervals) due to the sparse data at the extremes.12,13 Although the point estimate for the likelihood ratio for>40,000 WBCs is 25.0, the 95% confidence interval is 2.4 to 257.2 (Table 4).


A good calculator for those interested in LRs with sample sizes considered:

http://www.sample-size.net/sample-size- ... ood-ratio/

That was a paradigm shift to my thinking. Instead of thinking of strong evidence in terms of how much weak evidence would it take to beat the strong evidence, the real constraint is how deep can you go into the tail before your LR is statistically meaningless. Given sample sizes that I suppose are the norm in medical testing, it is what it is. Maybe sometimes you'll be lucky and have a 50 that's usable, but a couple of 10s with good confidence (if not a single 10) are generally going to be better.

So thinking about the Dale's own exemplar use case, medical testing, what does their project have in common? I'm trying to envision a medical example that works according to the Dale's numbers. In real medical testing, there seems to be an array of factors for a diagnosis, with precious few at the extremes. On the face of it, the Dale's have this weird case where they have several "smoking guns" on either side of the equation, blasting away at each other like in a Yosemite Sam cartoon and the guy who had one more bullet wins. Each piece of evidence tilts the balance to the 98th percentile, and two together brings it to three nines, and it's only getting started.

Well, first off, sure, nobody knows anything about the model and the Dales can say whatever they want. Perhaps it just so happens that this diagnosis does have several 50s. But then, given questionable confidence intervals, where does that leave their analysis? what happens if you multiply a mere 25 that could be anywhere between 2.5 and 250 (see above) by another 25 with the same problem? And then divide by the counter-evidence with a couple more ambiguous 25s?

A possibility is that the Book of Mormon is a "deep-tail" book, unlike cases in medical testing, due to an apologist's ability to imagine the model is whatever helps win an argument with a critic in that moment. Well, three nines in medical testing might be way out there, but in circuit board failures or something like that, perhaps you can go deep into a tail. But, supposing you can, expectations would be raised, and certainly, you'd raise the standard for strong evidence. If you can get a 150 with confidence then maybe that means a 10 is no longer very strong at all. And so best case scenario for the Dales, is that what they mean by "strong evidence" is really moderate evidence such that it still has a tight CI and we can feel good about multiplying together.

Obviously, that means there is stronger evidence artificially blocked off, and it does matter, as maybe there is a 74.8 out there with a pretty good CI. But I think there are a couple other points. First of all, Billy Shears helpfully did some LRs, here is just the denominator for city of Laman:

Let’s assume that this strong tendency is 10%. In other words, there is a 10% probability that the consonants of cities from Book of Mormon times would survive the way the city Laman did. If that is the case, what is the probability that only one Lehite city (Laman) exhibited this “strong tendency”? If there are 100 named Book of Mormon cities and the probability of a name sticking is 10%, then we would expect that 10 Mayan cities would have names that could be traced back to their true Book of Mormon historical roots. The probability that only 1 does is about 0.13% (this was calculated by approximating the binomial distribution with a normal distribution).

So, dividing the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is true by the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is false is the likelihood ratio, which for this point of evidence is .22/.0013 = 170


To get a 170, you got to go pretty deep into that tail. And sure enough, in this case, it doesn't look like the deep-tail hypothesis can be raised as we're talking about a single city with the D- result, which is going to make for a bad CI. If only the Nephites had 10,000 cities, then if 1% of those preserved ***, we could say that by falling short of 1000 -- 10% of them, that the resulting 170 in favor of a fictional Book of Mormon means something. Supposing this LR isn't a complete outlier, then I think we'll find that all the very strong evidence comes with a big question mark, and multiplying it out -- I can scarcely imagine that being valid, even if they are independent, but that's just a guess as unfortunately, the papers I've come across don't deal with weird hypothetical examples. But we do have stats people on board who might have an opinion...; )
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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DrW wrote:At one point in the Interpreter comments section, Bruce Dale states he is ready to go head to head with his critics using Bayesian statistics to test hypotheses that are exhaustive (e.g., either the Book of Mormon is a historical record or it is fiction). Bruce says that he has plenty of ammunition outside the Book of Mormon / Maya comparisons to defend his position.

This challenge sent me looking for the best smoking gun - the one that fires the silver bullets.

There is no shortage of falsifiable (and most would say falsified) claims in the Book of Mormon including the Jaredite transoceanic voyage in barges, and middle eastern Semite populations using steel weapons and horses in the pre-Columbian western hemisphere.

However, there are none so untenable as the building of a blue water ocean going vessel by a small band of refugees in an imaginary place called Bountiful along the southern coast of Oman.

As described several times on this board, there is unanimous agreement among mainstream scientists and engineers looking at the availability of timber needed to build a blue water ocean going vessel in all of Oman, or the UAE, or Yemen, that such materials do not now, and never have, existed in the region.

This well documented consensus, valid for any time in the natural history of the planet, is backed by data from archaeology, geology, botany, mining and petroleum engineering, and historical records. Scientists who have published peer reviewed papers to this effect include a respected LDS professor from BYU.

This undisputed data alone negates the tale of the Lehites - a central theme of the Book of Mormon narrative. Added to the utterly ridiculous story of the Jaredite crossing in barges, no amount of Bayesian probability manipulation could lead one conclude that the Book of Mormon is anything other than fiction. The two most obvious fictions in the Book of Mormon have to do with the claimed transoceanic voyages. If the old world bands of refugees described in the Book of Mormon could never have arrived in the new world, one need say nothing more.

These contrary data are absolute showstoppers - on the order of Jeffrey Holland's claim that, according to the Book of Ether, the Atlantic basin was formed within the last 10,000 years, separating the hemispheres and leaving the Americas devoid of human population until the first arrivals from the old world as described in the Book of Mormon.


This! Great points! Unfortunately, feelings trump data and logic with some of my close relatives and friends. They have a feeling and no amount of logic will change their group determined conclusions.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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I don't know how common it is to have multiple strong pieces of evidence pointing in opposite directions, blasting away at each other through clouds of gunsmoke like the Battle of Trafalgar. I do think it must be common in medicine to have no really strong evidence one way or another, because no set of numbers however decisive-looking can be stronger than the wobbly methods of measurement that produced them. In physics one can usually run experiments millions of times if one wants; the ultimate reason why CERN gave birth to the World Wide Web is that CERN was pushing a lot of computing envelopes generally just to handle all its vast amounts of data. The sad news is that Bayesian inference is seldom used in physics. With that much well-controlled data everything just looks Gaussian and you can use blue-collar statistics. Much as I admire the Bayesian approach, I suspect that the gap between being overpowered and being underpowered may be narrow for Bayesian inference. As soon as you have clear enough data for Bayes to be practically reliable, you no longer need Bayes.

The basic issue of whether you should multiply likelihood ratios is a tip of an iceberg, I think. If the ratios are really independent then multiplication is just logic, but how many issues are really independent? Things can be non-independent in surprising ways, and one quickly slips from the simple logical framework of conditional probabilities into the general problem of combining information, which crops up in a lot of fields. In political science and jurisprudence it's known as judgement aggregation, and the topic focuses on things like voting paradoxes. My favorite among these is one called the Discursive Dilemma.

The defining example of the Discursive Dilemma is a judicial panel of three judges who separately rule on three issues: 1) Did the accused technically commit the alleged act? 2) Was the alleged act illegal under the circumstances? 3) Is the accused guilty? Each judge is honest and rational, and therefore agrees that the accused is guilty if, and only if, the act was both committed and illegal. The three judges all answer the three questions differently, however. Judge A rules Yes, Yes, Yes; Judge B rules Yes, No, No; and Judge C rules No, Yes, No. The Dilemma is how to combine these three rulings into one final judgement.

If we just let the panel vote on the final issue of guilt, then by a 2:1 majority the defendant is innocent. But it would seem that it should also make sense to let the expert panel vote separately on the crucial legal questions 1) and 2), and then apply the logic about which everyone agrees in order to settle 3). In this case the panel votes by 2:1 majorities that the accused did commit the act and it was illegal, leading to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty. So what should we do with the defendant? Guilty or innocent? It's really not clear.

I formulated a somewhat similar epistemological problem in combining information that I call the Crow Paradox; it may well be better known under some other title. In a world where all crows are black birds and all black birds are crows, a nature photographer and an ornithologist both see an animal in a tree, and both agree that it is probably not a crow. Based on those two concurring expert opinions we should agree that this is probably not a crow, one might think. If we question the experts more closely, however, we learn that the photographer is absolutely sure that the creature is black, but not so sure it's a bird, while the ornithologist is completely sure it's a bird, but not convinced that it's black. Suddenly the chance that this is a crow seems much higher. And the general problem is that practically every piece of information we could ever obtain is itself some kind of aggregate judgement, like the two experts' conclusions about the crow. So it's hard to rule out that our aggregate judgement would change if we just dug into our information more deeply. Combination is tricky.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Physics Guy wrote:I don't know how common it is to have multiple strong pieces of evidence pointing in opposite directions, blasting away at each other through clouds of gunsmoke like the Battle of Trafalgar.


I think it’s pretty rare. In the real world, the stronger the evidence for A, the weaker the evidence for ~A. The value I see in Bayes is that it can help one understand the relative strength of different pieces of evidence.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Res Ipsa wrote:In the real world, the stronger the evidence for A, the weaker the evidence for ~A.

Yeah, I think that must normally be true. It's common to have no strong evidence one way or another but it must be pretty rare to have strong evidence on both sides of a question.

One exception that occurs to me, though, is deliberate fraud. Strong evidence that the fraud is a fraud may well be available, because even the best con artist can't usually cover up everything. But there may well also be strong evidence that the fraud is true, because good con artists are in the business of arranging such evidence.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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It's been about a week since Bruce Dale fired off the volley of comments, including accusing Billy, a poster named Jared and myself of avoiding the devastating evidence in his latest correspondence on the descriptions of fortresses in the Book of Mormon compared to, well, let's say the Maya for now. All three of us responded with different versions of essentially the same point: The Dales only stay within the lines demarcated by the Book of Mormon and The Maya when it suited them and this correspondence is a very good example of bad form when a) the approach doesn't represent a mutually exclusive set of hypotheses, b) one makes a report from Cortez the centerpiece of the correspondence and then complaining when others point out the mound builder myth is a better fit for explaining the Book of Mormon than the Maya, and c) there are many, many other examples from history around the world that also fit that same description so what makes the correspondence actually a "million to one"* hit for the Book of Mormon and the Maya?

* Bruce noted that if he hadn't been constrained by the LRs, he would have given this one a million to one odds it could have been a guess on Joseph's part because of how exactly Cortez's description matched the book of Alma's description. Never mind that Billy pointed out The Maya limits it's descriptions to a period which would be a time of universal peace according to the Book of Mormon (200-400CE), or that I provided both a poem from 1832 describing the "redskins" overrunning the fortresses of a civilized mound builder race as well as illustrative plans and cross-sections from a British fort in North Carolina from before the revolution that is essentially what the Book of Mormon describes as well. I've been curious how he'll respond to that but so far, silence.

That all said, it seems the real breakdown for the Dales occurred due to the way they attempted to translate the accumulated evidences Bruce has built up over the years for claiming the Book of Mormon is describing the Maya into something that could be shoehorned into a probability calculation of some kind.

The issues with interdependency, the scaling of the LRs, the general lack of supporting documentation for how the details in the Maya were defined and then compared to the Book of Mormon really seem to be due to the Dales not actually having set out to follow a statistically defensible process they defined and then worked towards. Rather, it seems like they came up with the idea of trying to turn a bunch of "plausible" correspondences at least Bruce Dale believed showed the Book of Mormon was historical and was describing the Mayan people into something statistically defensible and then cobbled the approach together from there. Had they actually done what they claimed they did, I think the results would be far different, but they would also probably look more like an actual, defensible process, too.

I've thought more about how the Dales have been wishy washy regarding the intent of the paper. Is it intended to just show Dr. Coe was incorrect in stating the Book of Mormon has nothing whatsoever to do with the Maya? Or to prove the Book of Mormon is historical? Dr. Bruce Dale seems to think these are one and the same thing which is probably a large part of the issue. I mean, if hypotheses a is "The Book of Mormon has nothing to do with the Maya", how does one appropriately frame the opposite hypothesis to make them exclusive AND exhaustive in a way that can be tested? "The Book of Mormon has something to do with the Maya" just seems like a grade school comeback. "The Book of Mormon has plausible correspondences with the Maya" isn't the opposite of the original hypothesis because it may have plausible correspondences but still in reality have nothing to do with the Maya. But you know what? I think that's what we're dealing with. Dr. Bruce wrote a paper over 100 pages in length to show that the multiple Book of Mormon "bulls eyes" he's been accumulating over the years as evidenced by his blog are plausible correspondences with the Maya if one defines plausible very, very loosely and dresses it up with maths.
Last edited by honorentheos on Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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The fraud example is really interesting, especially in this context. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by evidence on both sides, my thought though was it shows just how little superhuman examples of mimicry mean when weighted against provenance. Those UFO photos that stumped the best studios to explain suddenly mean nothing when the photographer drops his suitcase one day in public and a hubcap rolls out.

I mean, really, unfortunately for the apologists, the manner in which the Book of Mormon was produced outweighs pretty much any conceivable textual evidence for it.
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"...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

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honorentheos wrote:My personal favorite post in the entire original thread about the Late War, and most memorable to me, was made by EAllusion regarding the fairy photo hoaxes from the early 1900s. I went back and tracked it down to be quoted below. Of course it was towards the end of a 76 page thread:

EAllusion wrote:Is everyone here familiar with the Cottingley Fairies photos? It was a series of 5 photos taken in 1917 in England.

This is the most famous one:

Image

It has influenced depictions of fairies even to this day.

Quaint as it might seem now, there was a great deal of controversy over them with many people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, taking them as evidence of spiritual beings. There were experts in photography who declared them as legitimate.

Interestingly, I once saw a show on the Cottingley Fairies filmed in the 1970's that covered this as a controversy over the existence of spirit beings. Skeptics were brought on to offer a variety of theories for how the photographs were produced. All of them involved some relatively sophisticated photographic techniques for girls in 1917 to be using or remarkable coincidences. The show, being fundamentally interested in portraying this as a supernatural controversy, rightly cast doubt on accepting any of those theories as correct. No one explanation seemed in particular likely.

Then something marvelous happened. In the 1980's, the girls who produced the photos admitted it was a hoax. They also described how they did it. It turns out they cut out pictures of fairies from a book, stuck them to hatpins, and took pictures of them. That's it. That's what they did. So much for acid etched engravings and complicated exposures.

This story has long stuck with me for two reasons. First, whenever I see complicated and remote explanations for unusual phenomena and potential hoaxes, I'm always reminded that the reality can be devastatingly more simple. Second, while everyone was right to reject those complicated theories for how the photographs were produced, it's always fascinated me that people lost sight of the fact that even though those theories were unlikely, the explanation that entailed the photos were of actual fairies was vastly, vastly more unlikely than that. You can't prove extraordinary supernatural claims simply by attacking somewhat unlikely natural explanations.

This story does inform what I see in Book of Mormon debates. I personally am skeptical of theories of authorship that do not involve Smith. Elaborate plagiarism hypotheses have always struck me as strained. And while I find myself on the same side as believers when seeing this, I also see them as having a huge blind-spot for not appreciating just how much more implausible the supernatural tall-tale version of events is than the authorship theories they are finding without sufficient basis.

What I've highlighted in blue is one of those fundamental points that transcends the topic of any thread.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by honorentheos »

Physics Guy wrote:
Res Ipsa wrote:In the real world, the stronger the evidence for A, the weaker the evidence for ~A.

Yeah, I think that must normally be true. It's common to have no strong evidence one way or another but it must be pretty rare to have strong evidence on both sides of a question.

One exception that occurs to me, though, is deliberate fraud. Strong evidence that the fraud is a fraud may well be available, because even the best con artist can't usually cover up everything. But there may well also be strong evidence that the fraud is true, because good con artists are in the business of arranging such evidence.

This got me thinking about if there is more to the issue in most instances than just weighing evidence that can be considered strong or weak equally? I can think of many examples of positions people hold to quite adamantly that are opposed where each side considers the evidence for their position to be quite strong. It seems to me that framing of issues is both incredibly important as well as more subjective in many cases than our own security in our position being right allows. Right now the abortion debate is front page, polemic, and certainly consequential. The question of how to frame the issue is fundamental, controversial, and defines the evidence. Yet when one looks at it from one's own position the so-called controversy seems to be due to the disingenuous approach of those who disagree. Ones own position seems practically self evident and irrefutable. So. Is it murdering babies or not? Or at what point does it become murdering babies? It comes down to a lot of definitions which are reflective of a position in many ways themselves.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by aussieguy55 »

This issue will be a major report of Scratch when he does a summary of events in Mopologetics.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Philo Sofee »

This is most definitely one of the singular MOST significant events in Mopologetics this year, without question!
Is Midgely serious? Peterson's blog is a patty-cake, surface only, all too frequently plagiarized bit of ephemeral nonsense. Why would anyone suppose avatars must be real? Midgley has lost his tiny little mind. Maybe he can go over to never-neverland and harass Peter Pan for not really knowing how to fly. -Lemmie-

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Physics Guy »

I remember the Cottingley fairies revelations, after the story had already been a famous episode for decades largely because of Conan Doyle. It seems to me that the only real reason the fairy photos ever seemed impressive is that the fairy pictures in that book had been painted so well that the cut-outs looked surprisingly realistic. They looked too good for children to fake—and somehow no-one considered that children could cut pictures out of a book.

EAllusion's point bolded in blue above is a really good one. Shooting down the details of any particular skeptical theory does not establish that a paranormal phenomenon is genuine. Neither is it a solid objection to accuse skeptics of not being able to provide a convincing naturalistic explanation for weird events. On the contrary, history seems to suggest that "It was faked somehow" is a perfectly reasonable position.

The fakers always have the initiative. They were not set the task of figuring out how to achieve a particular effect. Instead they found a clever trick and once they got it working well, they performed it. The real reason why they had this particular effect to show is just that it was the thing they happened to have learned how to do, but after doing it, the fakers successfully framed it as being precisely the miracle that everyone should have been expecting. It's a form of Texas Sharpshooting.

Asking a skeptic to discover the specific trick that was actually used for a specific fraud is like the Sharpshooter asking a visitor to hit his barn-side bullseye. In principle it can be done, but it's hard. It wasn't nearly as hard for the Sharpshooter because they didn't do it that way. It wasn't as hard for the faker, either. They had the initiative. They didn't have to figure out a particular trick.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by honorentheos »

I thought Lemmie would get a kick out of Bruce's latest post.

Bruce E. Dale on June 24, 2019 at 6:28 pm said:
Jared, Honorentheos, Billy et al,

As you know, Brian and I have taken quite a bit of flak about our Bayesian probability/likelihood analysis. I have responded to those criticisms elsewhere in this series of posts and will summarize our response to the critics in a later post.

But what I want to point out now is that, whether you know it or not, the three of you are already doing a probability analysis. Our Bayesian likelihood analysis is open and the assumptions are clear. Your probability analysis is not open and the assumptions are not made clear.

I am going to try to correct those errors now.

Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.

We cannot reasonably conclude that because someone might have known something, he actually did know it. But that is your underlying assumption, and it has not been made clear. I am making it clear now. Because of my educational resources, I might know a good deal about Thai history. In fact, I know nothing about it.

It is common among contemporary Book of Mormon critics to assume that because (they think) Joseph Smith could (might) have known something, he actually did know it. Those are not the same thing at all. For this assumption to be true would require Joseph Smith to have a first-rate research library—and to know things about the Maya area that Dr. Coe says no one could know in 1830.

It is very interesting that this wonderful research library owned by Joseph Smith has remained hidden all these years. None of the early Book of Mormon critics knew anything about the fabulous library at the Smith home. (At least such a library would account for the near-poverty of Joseph’s family…every spare penny must have gone into feeding Joseph’s book habit.)

In fact, no such library existed. That is simply silly.

Well, back to my point.

Critics of the Book of Mormon are often doing an unacknowledged, naïve probability analysis, as are the three of you. Knowingly or not, they/you are making two big, unwarranted assumptions.

First, they/you are assuming that the probability that Joseph Smith actually knew something that he might have known is 100%. How naïve is that?

Second, they/you are assuming, with 100% likelihood, that because Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, that he would also correctly include it in the Book of Mormon. Again, how naïve is that?

In both cases, your assumptions are also hidden from view…they are not made explicitly and openly.

Well, both assumptions are wrong. Such critics are performing a naïve, unacknowledged probability analysis. They are assuming two consecutive likelihoods, each rated at 100% probability, multiplied by each other to give 100% probability overall.

Nonsense.

Neither one of these assumptions rates a probability of 100%. Do you remember 100% of the facts from the last book you read? Would you know what facts to include in a book about Thailand based on your reading of books about India and Vietnam?

No, you would not.

Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. Rate the probability of both steps at 99% and calculate the product of these two probabilities (it is 98%). Raise that product to the 131st power. That gives us an incredibly optimistic, but at least explicit and open, value of 7% likelihood or 7 in 100.

Let’s try another explicit, open analysis, using very optimistic probabilities of both steps, this time 95% for each step: 1) Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew, and 2) he knew he should include that fact in the Book of Mormon. (To be clear, I think the probability that Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew was actually very, very small…not 95%)

Calculate 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.90. Raise 0.90 to the 131st power equals about 1 in a million.

Take comfort…at least it is not one in a hundred billion billion or so.


Turns out all of their work is on the table, transparently provided for all to see. Where as all the work Billy put into making his LR estimates? Completely hidden from view. Yup, sounds like what I've come to expect from Dr. Bruce Dale.
Last edited by honorentheos on Wed Jun 26, 2019 8:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by honorentheos »

And of course Billy answers in devastating fashion.

Hi Bruce,

You said, “Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.”

I agree that they are two different things, however they both have one important thing in common: both questions are irrelevant to the ‘Book of Mormon is fiction’ hypothesis..

The broadest, most likely “Book of Mormon is fiction” hypothesis is that it is fiction written by Joseph Smith and/or one of his contemporaries, who were riffing off of the speculation that the American Indians were a remnant of a great civilization of mound builders, who in turn were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. According to this hypothesis, the only source he needed was the Bible.

You said, “Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. “

Okay. Starting from the introduction of Coe’s book, Coe says, “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the new world: hieroglyphic writing, books of fig-bark paper or deerskin that were folded like screens, complex calendar, knowledge of the movements of the plants (especially Venus) against the dynamic background of the stars, a game played with a rubber ball in a special court, highly specialized markets, human sacrifice by head or heart removal, an emphasis upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, and a highly complex, pantheistic religion which included nature as well as deities emblematic of royal descent.”

I think the probability that the author of the Book of Mormon knew each of these nine particular facts was about 0%, and 0%^9 is still 0%.

So what? The fact that the book doesn’t mention any of the traits that “all the Mesoamerican Indians shared“ is totally consistent with the hypothesis that he made it up without having any references or specialized knowledge about anything specific about Mesoamerica.

Your list of 131 alleged hits is weak. Most of them don’t match in the details. None of them are things that are really unusual, such as the things Dr. Coe mentioned in the above list. Any one legitimate hit from that list would be more impressive than your 131 quasi-hits put together.

Remember, according to your methodology we are accepting that the statements in fact in The Maya are essentially true. Of course you are going to try and fall back on your claim that “only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis,” as if we could pretend that like all other Mesoamerican Indians, the ancient Nephites practiced human sacrifice by head or heart removal and emphasized upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, but they didn’t happen to mention these details in their record for whatever reason.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by honorentheos »

My minor contribution, to the post directed to me regarding the 19th C. authorship theory being something I claim without making a case, and going outside the bounds of the study:

Dr. Dale,

You went outside of the Maya. I pointed out there are better examples outside of the Maya that match Alma. Billy pointed out The Maya limit the descriptions of the fortresses you cited in Alma to a period centuries later. Jared pointed out there are many similar descriptions of fortifications in other periods of human history and other geogrpahies. You seem to feel that the Cortez reference should be treated as included in The Maya. We’re all working outside the sources you claimed to have bound the study. Mine has the advantage of being contemporary to Joseph Smith in time and geography. I appreciate your concern that I’m not playing by your rules, but really, who is?

...

Honorentheos
on June 25, 2019 at 7:45 pm said:
I want to add to this. The theory the Book of Mormon is a product of the 19th Century was presented with evidence that there was a wide spread belief the people who built the mounds/fortifications in North America were a civilized race that was wiped out by the savage “redskins”. If I were to compare the Maya to this claim, the Maya refutes it, as does modern archeology as a whole. If we compare the Book of Mormon to this claim, it is not only included but is the central narrative of the Book of Mormon. It’s a perfect match.

Now, you find the physical description of fortresses by Cortez 1000 years after the Book of Mormon timeframe to be compelling, yet struggle to make a similar match in the Maya in terms of time and place as Billy has shown. I’d point out you note in the correspondence on Gold/silver that the Book of Mormon isn’t claimed to describe the lowlands Maya yet your off timeline examples are lowland examples. On the other hand, fortresses in the America’s built by the British IN AMERICA for defense from the French and native americans is another match to the Book of Mormon. That’s a correspondence with the 19th C. setting Smith lived in and drew from. You want to assign a likelihood ratio how probable Smith, who lived with an uncle in Massachusetts as a boy recovering from his leg surgery during the War of 1812 would describe a fort as having a moat, berm, controlled ingress/egress and towers? Well, the info is in his environment, he lived during a war, and it’s been shown what such forts looked like and they align with the description in Alma. So, seems pretty likely. Specific? Sure. Detailed, yeah in the sense it was describing the features of an earthen fort. Unusual? No, because it’s describing a fort design repeated pretty much everywhere where projectile weapons were used. Like Cortez describes. So your scale for that is 10 to 1 in favor of Smith having not guessed this. Recognizing you weren’t able to fit this into the Maya in the time frame of Alma, that’s a miss (Smith described something that wasn’t consistent with The Maya) or The Maya was silent. Either way, point for the 19th C. authorship theory.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

Bruce E. Dale wrote:Take comfort…at least it is not one in a hundred billion billion or so.

My first thought when I saw this last evening - 'Could it be, finally, that Dr. Dale Sr. is tacitly acknowledging how ridiculous his originally stated hundred billion billion:1 probability estimate in favor of Book of Mormon historicity actually was?'

(Didn't take much comfort though.)
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 honorentheos »

Given the other evidence I've seen for self-awareness on the part of Dr. Dale, I'd say your lack of comfort is justified. :)
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