Bayes’ Theorem: Lust for Glory!

My talk at Skepticon IV on the importance of Bayes’ Theorem to skepticism is now available on YouTube (Bayes’ Theorem: Lust for Glory!). (My slides in that on the UFO case don’t show the whole text because I had to use Darrel Ray’s computer at the last minute [thx D!] which didn’t have the right font; but I speak most of it out, so you don’t miss anything. There were some other font goofs, but that’s the only one you’ll notice. Oh, and the slide near the end that everyone laughs at but you can’t see on the video, says “Ockham’s razor will cut a bitch.” Oh yeah she will!)

Dr. Carrier at Skepticon IVFor a handy web page on using and understanding Bayes’ Theorem (which I’ll soon be improving with an even more versatile applet) see my Bayesian Calculator. And besides my book  Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus which has since become available (and is now the first place you should go to learn about Bayes’ Theorem and Bayesian reasoning), the other books I recommend in the video are: Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos (I also recommend his Beyond Numeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper); Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife; The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne; Math Doesn’t Suck by Danica McKellar (this is the only one of her series that you need, and everyone should buy, but if you want to gift her higher grade math books to a teen you know, she also has Kiss My Math and Hot X: Algebra Exposed!, and more to come; I didn’t have time to also mention another woman who advocates for wider math literacy, so I will here, although it’s less useful than McKellar’s, since it doesn’t teach math but only why you might like learning it more than you thought: The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse by Jennifer Ouellette); and The Mathematical Palette by Ronald Staszkow and Robert Bradshaw (get a used one, since new copies are priced at “textbook robbery” levels; you might get stuck with an old edition when buying used, but they’re all good) and 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Math by Marc Zev, Kevin Segal and Nathan Levy.

The Christian Delusion (ed. John Loftus)In addition to Proving History, which is now my most comprehensive treatment of Bayesian reasoning for laymen, the books in which I also discuss and apply Bayes’ Theorem are The Christian Delusion (TCD) and The End of Christianity (TEC), both edited by John Loftus. In TCD, in my chapter “Why the Resurrection Is Unbelievable,” I only mention Bayes (and show the math) in the endnotes, but you can see how those translate what I otherwise say in that chapter in plain English, and thus see an application of Bayes’ Theorem in action. That chapter refutes previous attempts to use Bayesian reasoning to prove the miraculous resurrection of Jesus (by Swinburne and the McGrews, for example), by showing the correct way to do it, and how using the correct facts changes everything. (TCD also has my chapter explaining why Christianity isn’t responsible for modern science, contrary to a popular claim of late, but I don’t translate my argument there into Bayes, though I could.)

The End of Christianity (ed. John Loftus)In TEC I have two chapters deploying Bayes’ Theorem, and both explicitly discuss and use it from the get go. One proves the entire Christian religion false just from considering how it began, and that gives you a good look at how Bayesian reasoning opens your eyes to things you might have overlooked before, or confirms what you intuitively knew but couldn’t articulate the logic of. The other uses Bayes to prove every design argument false, including creationism, divine biogenesis, and the fine tuning argument (among some others). In fact, I show how the fine tuning of the physical constants actually proves God doesn’t exist. Quite conclusively in fact. And in saying that I’m just explaining in ordinary language what two independent teams of expert mathematicians already proved (I cite their work in the chapter). (TEC also has my most controversial chapter, peer reviewed by several professors of philosophy, proving my theory of godless morality correct, and Christian morality defective, but I didn’t translate that into Bayes, though again I could have.)

Although I might punt a lot to Proving History, this is the place to ask questions about my Skepticon talk or my use of Bayes’ Theorem in TCD, TEC, or elsewhere. Feel free to query me on any of that here.Skepticon IV