The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by aussieguy55 »

Gunnar wrote:
Dr.W wrote:In the Book of Ether, the Book of Mormon states very clearly that the western hemisphere had been washed clean of human habitation during the great flood and prior to the first Book of Mormon transoceanic migrations.

The Book of Ether alone is absolutely fatal to the credibility of the Book of Mormon, with or without the damning, contrary DNA evidence. It is a slam dunk certainty that there could not ever have been a world wide flood that wiped out every single land species of fauna on earth, including humans, that were not on a single, large wooden boat, or that all mankind spoke a single language until the time the Tower of Babel was supposed to have occurred. The evidence against that myth is at least as strong as the DNA evidence.



That means Mormons cannot accept a local Noah flood as many scholars now do otherwise Jared and co would have run into "others" on the American hemisphere.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Meadowchik »

MrStakhanovite wrote:
Philo Sofee wrote: Checkmate critics!!! Peterson wins.


By Daniel's own admission he cannot approve of any Bayesian arguments on principle alone.


Of course, because if science can prove gospel beliefs, then there's no point to the church, according to him.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Meadowchik »

Wait a minute, here.

As a control, we have also analyzed two other books dealing with ancient American Indians: View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. We compare both books with The Maya using the same statistical methodology and demonstrate that this methodology [Page 78]leads to rational conclusions about whether or not such books describe peoples and places similar to those described in The Maya.


Why use other fictions as a control? Why not use known historical fictions instead or additionally, as reference points? Works like the Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, or The Grapes of Wrath? Then we can compare how the Bayesian analysis pans out for knowing historical fictions versus the known historical events. That's my first thought after starting the Interpretor article. Controls are used to compare results of a hypothesis applied to known variables, to see the difference between those results and the results of applying the hypothesis to unknown variables, right?

Anyways, Richard Carrier wrote a book targeted to non-mathematicians about using the Bayes Theorem to explore historical probabilities: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Proving-Histor ... 1616145595

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Philo Sofee »

All of these replies are truly interesting! Thanks for everyone chiming in. I think one thing that is interesting to me personally, now..... is the theme that Teryl Givens was given so much hype about being published by academic presses on his Mormon themes was a quite big deal to the apologists when it occurred. Academic presses giving a pro Mormon view the light of day?! Unheard of, and therefore all the more sweet! It was a sort of confirmation as it were. Now, with this kind of attempt at academic rigor with the Book of Mormon correlated to a real historical people and place, why publish it in an almost literally unknown publication that is not actually peer reviewed by academics outside the box? Why not get it published in the Harvard Theological Review or the Catholic Quarterly for instance? In my opinion, it is quite suspicious that The Interpreter is where it was published if the authors truly believed they have the goods-n-gold.

Was Coe consulted and shown the manuscript so he could agree that he was being represented accurately? I mean if we are going to have a valid academic confirmation, why not make sure the academics are involved? On such a singular important topic, you would think Mormon apologists would go way out of their way to make sure the world sees that the Book of Mormon is no joke, but actual history, and this kind of validating would be critical and crucial to that ends of showing the world that Jesus is the Christ, and Nephites are actual.

This just appears to me to be rather weak sauce. In the future I wonder if there is going to be any attempts at academic inclusivity. It is true Dr. Peterson has stepped out of the box in some ways in his debate with Michael Shermer, feeble as the debate ended up. But why not get well known Bayesians in on this kind fo study? Just musing out loud is all.
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 Philo Sofee »

Simon Southerton wrote:I posted this response at Interpreter. It was deleted within 20 min.

Let me see if I have this right. The level of overall support for the Book of Mormon is calculated by multiplying Bayesian values for each piece of evidence. The authors have 131 positive pieces of evidence (in favour of the Book of Mormon) and 18 negative pieces of evidence. If you multiply 131 numbers together OF COURSE you are going to get a FAR more significant value for support than you will get for negative evidence by multiply 18 values together! This is just mathematizing parallelomania. The whole analysis is flawed.

131 multiplied numbers vs 18 multiplied numbers. Of course 131 wins



So they are really not interested in a conversation, but of simply declaring victory without analysis of people who do not hold their assumptions for what they interpret as the truth. No surprise really. Someone needs to get a Bayesian scholar involved in this exactly as robert Ritner did with the Book of Abraham. If we pester the Bayesians enough as Ritner was pestered, perhaps they will step up to the plate and put an end to this nonsense.... I'm just sayin'.......
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 Stocks »

Two corollaries to this paper:

1. the Book of Mormon people were the Mayans, with a confidence of a billion google billion to one
2. every human being is a cat, if we narrow the criteria appropriately, with similar absolute certainty. Criteria for examination: evaluate only things which humans and cats share in common.

This paper applies the same logic by ignoring all historical references not related to Mayan culture. Since the cultural underpinning of the Book of Mormon was based on over 200 years of observations about Indian cultures, by definition they should substantially agree. Since the paper also ignores every Book of Mormon cultural reference which is not explicitly commented on by a Mayan expert, all of the most significant differences can be swept aside.
Last edited by Stocks on Sun May 05, 2019 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Philo Sofee »

Stocks wrote:Two corollaries to this paper:

1. every human being is a cat, if we narrow the criteria appropriately, with a certainty of a billion google billion to one.
2. the Book of Mormon people were the Mayans, with a similar degree of absolute certainty.

Criteria for examination: look only at things that humans and cats share in common.

This paper applies the same logic by ignoring all historical references not related to Mayan culture. Since the cultural underpinning of the Book of Mormon was based on over 200 years of observations about Indian cultures, by definition they should substantially agree. Since the paper also ignores every Book of Mormon cultural reference which is not explicitly commented on by a Mayan expert, all of the most significant differences can be swept aside.


Very interesting points here. Thanks for mentioning these. I kind of get the gist now of why the paper was so enthusiastic. I honestly know of no actual Mormon scholar who agrees that the Nephites were Mayans, so doesn't it appear rather odd that they really build up the parallels between the two? Why not the Olmecs, or others in the ancient Americas? It's quite interesting.......
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 SteelHead »

This is just putting bad math to parallelmania. Some of their correlation are just wrong. They correlate the clouds of darkness from 3 Nephi to a volcano eruption in Central America. Problem is - the Book of Mormon does not mention a volcano. Cherry picks and ignors the majority of the negative correlations: DNA, anachronisms, horses, metallurgy etc. Again it is a overdone fluff piece useful for convincing believers, but that falls apart on its face when subjected to real examination.
Last edited by SteelHead on Sun May 05, 2019 3:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Meadowchik »

Philo Sofee wrote:
So they are really not interested in a conversation, but of simply declaring victory without analysis of people who do not hold their assumptions for what they interpret as the truth. No surprise really. Someone needs to get a Bayesian scholar involved in this exactly as robert Ritner did with the Book of Abraham. If we pester the Bayesians enough as Ritner was pestered, perhaps they will step up to the plate and put an end to this nonsense.... I'm just sayin''.......


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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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DCP:

Are you guys lying for the Lord again? Lies, damn lies, and the Interpreter's abuse of statistics ....
"Religion is about providing human community in the guise of solving problems that don’t exist or failing to solve problems that do and seeking to reconcile these contradictions and conceal the failures in bogus explanations otherwise known as theology." - Kishkumen 

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Everybody Wang Chung »

Exiled wrote:DCP:

Are you guys lying for the Lord again? Lies, damn lies, and the Interpreter's abuse of statistics ....



Exiled,

I don't know if you were emailed the Memo yet, but DCP is now to be referred to as "Priestcraft Peter$on."

It's a much more accurate title.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Dr Exiled »

Everybody Wang Chung wrote:
Exiled wrote:DCP:

Are you guys lying for the Lord again? Lies, damn lies, and the Interpreter's abuse of statistics ....



Exiled,

I don't know if you were emailed the Memo yet, but DCP is now to be referred to as "Priestcraft Peter$on."

It's a much more accurate title.


Love it.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

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This paper is nonsense, turns Bayes on its head. I'm sure the math is sound. From my very quick review the level of math they're getting into is nothing more than introductory level. It's a classic case of garbage in, garbage out. They are misapplying the science. Math can be applied to anything. We can count the number of Klingons in Star Trek and generate some stats. Doesn't mean anything.

For example, the probability values assigned to "events" is arbitrary. Take the first event in their list.

Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state
Coe’s standard: “Sylvanus Morley had thought that there was once a single great political entity, which he called the ‘Old Empire,’ but once the full significance of Emblem Glyphs had been recognized, it was clear that there had never been any such thing. In its stead, Mayanists proposed a more Balkanized model, in which each ‘city state’ was essentially independent of all the others; the political power of even large entities like Tikal would have been confined to a relatively small area, the distance from the capital to the polity’s borders seldom exceeding a day’s march” (p. 274).

Book of Mormon correspondence: Throughout the Book of Mormon itself there is never a reference to “Nephite nation” or to a “Lamanite nation.” Interestingly, the word nation is used in reference to the Jaredites (Ether 1:43), a very different people culturally than the Lehites. The Book of Mormon uses this phrase: “nations, kindreds, tongues and people.” The Nephites and Lamanites were clearly kindreds. In contrast, the word nation is used frequently in terms of the “nations of the Gentiles.” The noncanonical Guide to the Scriptures has eight references to “Nephite nation,” showing how deeply engrained this idea of nationhood is in modern readers. But the Book of Mormon never puts those two words together for Nephite/Lamanite societies. The nation-state is not a political structure found anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Instead, the Book of Mormon peoples were organized politically in city-states. Often one city-state would dominate a group of other city-states. This dominance is the subject of the next correspondence

Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. There is not a single reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to “Nephite nation” or “Lamanite nation.” It is also unusual. Joseph Smith was growing up in the new nation of America, with a great deal of pride and self-identity as an independent nation. How did he avoid identifying the Lamanite or Nephite peoples as “nations”? But he did avoid it. What a lucky “guess” — over and over again during the course of the Book of Mormon history.

Likelihood = 0.02


Seriously, what the hell are they talking about? How did they come up with 2%? What does this value represent? It's completely made up. They are arbitrarily asserting that because the Book of Mormon doesn't use the word "nation" that there is a 2% chance Joseph Smith could have by-chance been right about a decentralized tribal system? How do they calculate this 2%?

This is not how Bayes works. Whatever logic is applied to a hypothesis has to be equally applied against it, which is to say you have to test an indefinite number of other hypothesis in exactly the same manner and then compare and contrast and see how things shake out, if there are "more likely" or "similarly likely" events.

Taking this example of the political organization. What are all the possible explanations for why the word "nation" doesn't appear in reference to the Lamanites/Nephites? On what basis should we expect to see the word nation, yet it's auspiciously absent? How would we go about determining this? I'm not sure. Because there are simply too many variables to account for. Essentially what we'd need is a sample of a thousand or so men from the early 19th century. Have them all sit down and write a short story on a fictitious ancient American civilizations. How many of those people, based on common knowledge of the day, would have described them as "nations" or otherwise described a political structure that is at odds with current understanding? Since we can't really do that, what's the next best thing? I suppose someone would have to drum up a list of anything written about indians/ancient americans in the early 19th century. Classify it as centralized or decentralized. But even that wouldn't tell us the "likelihood" of Joseph doing it the way he did it, or the likelihood of his description not "matching" with the Mayans or some other ancient american civilization. But at least it would tell us if Joseph was an outlier compared to his peers. My understanding is he wasn't an outlier at all... everybody regarded the indians as tribal??

We could come up with all sorts of conjecture accounting for why Joseph didn't use the word "nation," none of which leads to the conclusion that Joseph only had a 2% chance of doing it the way he did it, absent honest to god inspiration.

There's a lot more that could be said about all this. Another example, you cannot compound probabilities for independent events. Every time you roll the dice, you are starting from scratch. As the article starts out by pointing out, there is a (1/6)^2=~2.8% chance of rolling a snake eyes. But that's NOT the same thing as rolling a dice once, and then rolling it a second time. It doesn't matter if you rolled a 1 on your last turn. On this new turn, you are starting from scratch, and you have a 1/6=~16% chance of rolling a 1. There is no mystical woo woo hidden in the ether somewhere connecting the results of your first turn with your second turn. And yet, that's exactly what this paper does. It links "events" which have no connection whatsoever in order to arrive at compounded probabilities of their occurrence.

There really isn't anything worth talking about here. The paper is idiotic.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by DrW »

On another thread, I described what I saw as intellectual dishonesty in the approach of certain LDS scientist I had worked with to the problem of compartmentalizing science and religion (specifically Mormonism). The problem comes in holding that science and religion are "non-overlapping magisteria" and not being concerned about the fact that their respective truth claims are incompatible, and in many cases, diametrically opposed.

At least one Board contributor, commenting on that post, wondered if the term "intellectual dishonesty" really applied the situation I described.

Bro. Bruce E. Dale, Ph.D. and Bro. Brian Dale, Ph.D. have just provided an outstanding written example of this kind of personal intellectual dishonesty - about as stark as anyone could imagine.

In their linked biosketches, Dale senior is described as a widely recognized University professor (at Michigan State) who is engaged in biofuels (biomass to ethanol) research.

Brain Dale's biosketch describes him as a Ph.D. engineer - in a division of Siemens, no less. Dale Jr.'s linked biosketch reads, in part:
Brian Dale's Biosketch wrote: . In Brian’s research activities he is frequently involved in using Bayesian methods and other standard statistical methods to analyze medical imaging data for accuracy and image quality.

If I saw that one of our employees had written and published nonsense like this Interpreter paper, and had claimed that his qualifications and credentials to do so had been developed in, or were practiced in, the course of his work for our company, this individual would be writing a formal retraction, and an apology, or he would be gone.

Either these two individuals are intellectually dishonest in the extreme, or they don't know any better. Considering what they have wrought, it is probably a great deal of both. In either case, their Interpreter article should be a huge embarrassment to them in both their religious and scientific endeavors.

It's hard to see how using ones academic and science professional credentials in an attempt to lend credibility to such an obvious piece of religious and junk science nonsense could be a well thought out career move.
______________________
ETA:

DCP,
You should seriously consider pulling this odorous, steaming pile before it does even more damage to the already dodgy reputation of the Interpreter and the Mormon Church (or the LDS Church - or Church of Jesus Christ, or whatever the Q15 are calling it now).
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 »

In principle Bayesian inference is a good way to assess things like whether the Book of Mormon was made up or historical, yet the way these guys have used it makes it seem like an amazing magic trick which can turn a dubious proposition into a certainty. So evidently they've made a spectacularly huge mistake.

They've done so, moreover, with nothing more technically complicated than multiplication; and Bayes's theorem itself is just two lines of logic. So this huge mistake must also be a simple one that could be simply explained.

Can the whole problem here really be something that simple? Yes, because the very thing that gets a lot of people excited about Bayesian inference is the wonderful way it lets you reach very small probabilities by multiplying together a bunch of modestly small ones. It appears to magnify weak arguments into overwhelming ones by mere combination. As several people here have pointed out, though, it's garbage in, garbage out. Multiplication can legitimately reveal how a lot of pieces of weak evidence can add up to strong evidence if the weak pieces are both completely solid as far as they go and also completely independent of each other. But multiplication can also just as easily amplify small mistakes into complete nonsense. So yes, a seemingly slight mistake could be the simple but deadly flaw that makes this whole paper worthless.

This ought to be a teachable moment. Can we pin down precisely what the simple but deadly mistake is? I think we should identify it specifically and avoid confusing it with any other issues. The claim that the Book of Mormon is historical is problematic in many ways, but we know that already.

Perhaps a good way to begin would be to identify what these guys should have done, if they wanted to take a Bayesian approach to their problem correctly. My instinct is that they should have started with a fixed set of questions by which two pictures of a society could be compared in general. Without any reference to either the Book of Mormon or Mayans, they should have justified their list of questions as all being genuinely independent issues that were of roughly equal importance in assessing how similar or different two societies could be. They should have established, for example, that there were not ten questions that were all really asking the same thing. They should also have made sure that none of the questions were inherently biased questions that were bound to have only one answer regardless of the society involved.

Ideally, I suppose, they would have calibrated their list of questions by collecting answers to them for many different human societies in global history and determining that the answers to different questions were uncorrelated with each other, and that each question was answered Yes about as often as it was answered No.

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?

If so, then we can start to look at how these authors' actual procedure has fallen short of that ideal procedure—and maybe identify a single basic flaw in their method that naturally leads to spuriously very low probabilities. My guess at this point is that the flaw might be basically Texas Sharpshooter. Instead of a set of standard questions defined in advance, they constructed their list of questions by collecting a whole bunch of similarities between the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya, plus a handful of dissimilarities. If you do that kind of thing, you can probably make any two societies seem either extremely similar or utterly different, just as you please.

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Philo Sofee »

Physics Guy
My guess at this point is that the flaw might be basically Texas Sharpshooter. Instead of a set of standard questions defined in advance, they constructed their list of questions by collecting a whole bunch of similarities between the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya, plus a handful of dissimilarities. If you do that kind of thing, you can probably make any two societies seem either extremely similar or utterly different, just as you please.


THis methodology was provided by Hugh Nibley in his Jaredites studies as epic literature. This is the method he used to attempt to demonstrate the historicity of the Jaredites in antiquity. It really never did catch on in academia however.
His assumption was, and he called his study this "There Were Jaredites." and from that point, he found parallels in ancient epic and therefore concluded there were Jaredites. No one in academia apparently ever noticed, or if they did, it didn't impress them all that much. Of course publishing in the Improvement Era instead of Harvard Theological Review could have played a small part in its obscurity. :wink:
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 Simon Southerton »

SteelHead wrote:This is just putting bad math to parallelmania.


Exactly!

This is Sorenson parallelomania in Bayesian drag.

Everything in the paper is built on 131 positive evidences FOR and 18 negative evidences AGAINST the truth claims of the Book of Mormon. These are all decided BEFORE the statistics starts. The math is a smokescreen.

The number of positive evidences is SEVEN times the number of negative evidences.

Lets look at the scenario where all 131 positive evidences are the weakest the authors allow (0.5) and all the negative evidences are the strongest the authors allow (50).

0.5 to power of 131 = 3.7 x 10 -40 (10 to power of -40)
50 to power of 18 = 3.8 x 10 +30 (10 to power of 30)

If we multiply these two numbers we get the odds of the Book of Mormon being fiction.

3.7 x 10-40 x 3.8 x 10+30 = 1.4 x 10-9

So in the absolute worse case scenario for the apologists, given 131 weakly positive and 18 strongly negative evidences, the odds that it is fictitious are almost 1 in a billion.

They simply cannot lose. It all boils down to the evidences selected before they hit the calculators.
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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Symmachus »

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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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Philo Sofee »

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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Oh my God! I do believe I see a checkmate here! EXCELLENT observation!!! LOL! I'm SERIOUS, this is the rebuttal!!!! If they holler against Bayes against Jesus, what do they do for Bayes for Jesus in the Book of Mormon?! Dude you are pure genius.
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 canpakes »

Water Dog wrote:My understanding is he wasn't an outlier at all... everybody regarded the indians as tribal??

This.

I wonder why the authors of this paper went out of their way to ignore the more obvious reason for Smith’s word choice?

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Re: The Interpreter; Bayes Theorem; Nephites and Mayans

Post by Gadianton »

Lemmie wrote:Now back to basketball


But that you just get to observer, here you get to bring down the glass. I might have to ferry points made from the article over here and pretend I'm impressed, just provoke you into responding.

Meadowchick wrote:Controls are used to compare results of a hypothesis applied to known variables, to see the difference between those results and the results of applying the hypothesis to unknown variables, right?


I can't remember. It's been several long days of building tools to analyze the contents of a database, in between cleaning out my landscape rocks. I'm exhausted. But, I liked this quote, because it reminds me of what I've been doing these last few days, and I'm sure there's a lesson here. The biggest problem with a job like that is there's no explicit target, and so finding ways to calibrate the tools is really important.
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