The Never Sinking Ship: How Thunderf00t Sucks at Science (or Else He’s a Liar; Probably He’s Just a Liar)

Revised. Something really funny happened yesterday. And then something funny happened today. Thunderf00t tried to lie, and got caught. And embarrassed, he threw out a bunch of insults and blather, and ran away. The event was amusing. It was so easy to catch him out. And his response to having been caught was so pathetic and bizarre. And then after publishing this post today his fans caught me in a mistake! Which is amusing for a completely different reason. And I’ll be correcting that mistake below. But it all reminded me, not only would Thunderf00t make a lousy sailor (for reasons I’ll explain), but so much has happened since I last exposed him (not even just this), that it’s high time I aggregated the new material exposing him. So here is your complete update on the horror show that is Thunderf00t. [Read more…]

Atheistically Speaking: Does EvoPsych Suck?

Logo for the podcast Atheistically Speaking, showing an old time radio microphone on a white background next to a picture of Thomas Smith in thoughtful pose, and his name under the microphone, and above all of that the word Atheist in red inside a red box, with scrawled letters in black trailing after it completing the word Atheistically, and the typed word Speaking just below that.A good interview with me has gone up at Atheistically Speaking with Thomas Smith (“Taking a clear, rational look at atheism and surrounding issues!”). It’s episode 202, “Dr. Richard Carrier on EvoPsych.” The description:

Is 90% of all Evo Psych false? That’s the claim Dr. Richard Carrier makes in his mammoth article, which can be found here. While I’m hoping to have Richard on at a later date to discuss the topic he’s likely most known for – Jesus’s existence, this visit is all about Evolutionary Psychology and whether or not it is a pseudo science.

Smith was intrigued by the article I wrote, and asks me to discuss its claims, evidence, and basis, and why evolutionary scientists have deluded themselves into thinking they aren’t much more than astrologers carrying water for various social and political ideologies. Though on that last point we don’t get very far, for want of data. But the sneaking suspicion is addressed. As well as some of the dangers of their fallacious methodology.

Update: Part 1 is episode 202. Part 2 of our interview is episode 203.

Everything You Need to Know about Coincidences

A demotivational poster meme, showing a UN soldier standing next to a UN sign in Africa that says Involved in Africa, but the soldier in the camera frame is standing right next to the front of the word, and the color of the letters and helmet match the colors on the sign exactly, so the sign appears to read Uninvolved in Africa. The byline says: Coincidence. Because you couldn't have planned it any better. Signed by the author, VeryDemotivational.comHere is some handy linkage on coincidences. Thanks to a coincidence. I was reading the The #Skeptic’s Daily News and in it, by coincidence, were two separate papers on the subject of coincidence. Though only one was labeled such; the other, just happened by coincidence to be about the same thing.

I have written on coincidences before. How they mess with the heads of some epistemologists when they try to make sense of Gettier Problems (where coincidence can coincidentally cause you to believe a true statement for what is only technically a justifiable reason). And they have an epistemological and methodological role in Bayesian reasoning—for example, because effects “by coincidence” are less probable than “effects that are predictably caused,” and a lot of attempts to deny causation rely on pretending coincidences are more likely. So you have to be able to know when that’s not true.

Although, sometimes, coincidences are just as likely as causation, or near enough as to make no visible difference in our math, or even more likely the case. And thus we can’t rule them out. But sometimes we actually can. So you have to know when is which. Like when we look for evidence of meaningful literary emulation in ancient texts (Proving History, pp. 192-204). Or when some hucksters tried to claim we found the tomb of Jesus. Or when we look for evidence that the Jewish scholar Philo understood a character named Jesus in Zechariah 6 to be the same archangel Paul thinks his Jesus is, by noting that the alternative explanation requires so many coincidences to have occurred as to be extraordinarily improbable (On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 200-05), including the fact that Paul and Philo assign all the same unusual attributes to the same figure, and the fact that Philo said he made the connection because the archangel in question was already known to him as the Son of God and the High Priest, and the only person in the Zechariah passage he quotes who is identified as the Son of God and the High Priest, is Jesus. Or how coincidence actually better explains the conversion of the Apostle Paul than the Christian thesis that he “really saw Jesus.”

Coincidences are also an important hypothesis to test and understand when criticizing pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, paranormalism, “miracle claims,” and all sorts of things of interest to atheists and skeptics.

So the two papers that have come up lately will interest you, if you are interested in any of those things! [Read more…]

Is 90% of All EvoPsych False?

Graphic from a pseudoscientific website using EvoPsych to argue nonsense about the thermodynamics of human marriage bonding, showing a pretty girl in a short skirt in flirtatious pose, with ratio lines showing the perfect ratios of her body parts, with the words Perfect Body, Perfect Genes. From Psychology is the study of how attributes of human psychology evolved biologically by natural selection. I and others have averred many times that it is mostly a pseudoscience. EvoPsych proponents balk and take offense. We cite numerous papers by experts in evolution and psychology who agree with us. They claim they’ve been refuted. We ask where. They suddenly stop talking to us.

That’s a common sequence of events. I’m going to here collect all the information backing our claim. Any and all rebuttals to what I here argue, that you think are worth reading, I want to have collected in comments, so though my comments threads always close after six days, any links to rebuttals you email me after that time, I will post below myself.

Also be aware that this article is as long as it is because EvoPsych proponents employ whack-a-mole apologetics (“But you didn’t address x,” and it’s always a different x the moment you do address x). Consequently, I am covering all the bases. [Read more…]

Speaking for Columbus Rationality Next Month!

Cover of Richard Carrier's book Proving History. Illuminated stained glass Jesus in darkened room as peered at through a cross cut-out in an iron cathedral door. Title and author name below.I will be speaking on Bayesian history and epistemology for Columbus Rationality and the Secular Student Alliance at OSU in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, November 16th, at 7:30pm in Lazenby Hall (room 021) on the OSU campus. Details here.

I Will duscuss Bayesian reasoning and its application and status in the field of historical research; and how the analysis of the methods actually used by historians today reveals it is all Bayesian, and can be improved and better understood by recognizing this. I will also discuss the role and contents of my book Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (available in print, kindle, and audible); and likewise of supporting books by Aviezer Tucker, David Hackett Fischer, and C. Behan McCullagh.

I’ll have copies of Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus on hand.

Defining the Supernatural vs. Logical Positivism

In working slowly through a gigantic backlog of blog comments, I met with one that goes back to an old school question, about my project to demarcate the natural and the supernatural. The comment by Enlightenment Liberal is here. He is asking questions about the conclusion I argued here and in print here (with a followup here). The first, Defining the Supernatural, supports the others, Defining Naturalism I and II. His perspective can be summarized as “If we grant your definitions of ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, I think that all hypotheses of the form ‘X is supernatural’ entail absolutely zero observable predictions about the world,” in particular because “I think that I have absolutely no basis to conclude that there is any relation or correlation at all between the fundamental nature of things and the observable nature of things,” in accordance with Logical Positivism.

So, is he right? Let’s explore… [Read more…]

Everyone Is a Bayesian

Greg Mayer posted at Jerry Coyne’s blog on “Why I am not a Bayesian.” In his explanation, he goes wrong at three key points. And they are illustrative of common mistakes people make in trying to understand or apply Bayesian reasoning. In reality, Mayer is a Bayesian. He just doesn’t understand why. Here is the breakdown. [Read more…]

Peter Boghossian on Gay Pride and Hobnobbing with an Online Misogynist

Yesterday I posted an enhanced edition of my Ohio speech on feminism. Today I am posting key material from my Portland speech that extends the same argument to a broader application, focusing on some of the recent public statements of Peter Boghossian… [Read more…]

Live, This Sunday, on Atheist Analysis!

Advert for the episode of Atheist Analysis, graphically representing the basic info in the post, plus a picture of Richard Carrier editied to have him holding Bayes' Theorem in his hand.The vidcast Atheist Analysis, which streams live at 10pm Eastern this Sunday (Feb. 22) and takes questions from the audience during the show, will be interviewing me. The topic: why Bayes’ Theorem is awesome. (Also, of course, what Bayes’ Theorem is, how non-mathematicians can understand and use it, and especially how it models reasoning about claims in history.) After me they are interviewing FtB founder Ed Brayton, to talk about his comedy, and efforts to make the atheism movement more inclusive and ethical. And then up is Michigan activist Mitch Kale (I think they mean Mitch Kahle) and (I presume) his local fights for church state separation. So it sounds like a pretty good show to catch!

Tune in!