"/>

Jan 09 2013

# Bayesian Atheism Even Lowder

Yesterday’s post inspired someone to point me to another gem in the same category: the ongoing work of Jeffery Jay Lowder at The Secular Outpost on Bayesian Arguments for Atheism and theism. He has a long archive on that topic there and continues to post on debates in religion analyzing them in Bayesian terms. Though his posts are generally at a moderate and not beginner’s level of difficulty, nevertheless a lot of valuable insight is there, and many examples of how to test and frame arguments in religious debates using Bayesian reasoning. Even when he’s wrong, you can learn a lot by thinking about how to articulate what you think his mistake is using the same Bayesian concepts.

Lowder has even assembled a getting-started bibliography of his best posts on how to frame and improve evidential arguments for naturalism using Bayes’ Theorem in his Index of Evidential Arguments for Atheism. This and the ongoing entries he adds on Bayesian reasoning in atheism are definite must-haves on any bookmark list for Bayesian atheism. Enjoy!

1. 1
##### Thaumas Themelios

Hi Dr. Carrier: Here’s another suggestion: http://www.greenteapress.com/thinkbayes/

It’s a free online text aimed at statistics students, math students, and/or computer science students, and so I would probably put it at intermediate level (don’t think it would fit under advanced), but it involves a bit of Python code, so it might be a bit out of reach for the lay person or historian. Also, it largely focuses on the distribution-style Bayesian analysis rather than the simpler discrete-hypothesis-style.

However, despite these complications — and despite being a work in progress — it is nevertheless one of the easiest books on *actual* Bayesian investigation I’ve read. Lots of concrete examples and worked-out problems. The Python code is quite easy to follow, too, for anyone with a dabbling of programming or who can work with logic/math at a reasonable level. Took me only a couple of days to breeze through it, and it inspired a bunch of ideas I’m going to be playing around with for the next while.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who’s at the point: “Okay, I understand the basic examples, e.g. the disease screening test, etc., and can do the basic math, but where does it go from here? What’s the next level?”

2. 2
##### Andrew Schefe

What is the prior probability of coming up with such a brilliant pun for the title of this entry?

3. 3
##### David Olsen (@Tatarize)

When you get good at Bayesian thinking, you can come upon such arguments rather nicely. I remember hearing something about heaven the other day and realized “why the hell not?” was actually a good argument.

Why should people in heaven be prevented from talking to the living? Certainly your living grandmother telling you to accept Jesus because you’ll get to heaven is no more coercive than your dead grandmother telling you to accept Jesus because you’ll get to heaven, but very likely more effective. Mothers could tell their daughters to stay on the straight and narrow. You could hear the screams of those enduring hellfire. This seems like an arbitrary rule that goes against God’s interests. Whereas atheism gets a complete answer for free. They have the dead.

Switch to our mobile site