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Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

#143: Jan. - Mar. 2016 (Non-Fiction)
Tim Hendrix
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Once more you are simply ignoring what is actually in OHJ. As I already wrote: ~h is not simply "Jesus was a mythical person historicized", but rather "~h" is defined as the list of propositions in OHJ, p.53. By that definition "~h" is not the negation of h.
There is no ¬h on page 53. I don't know if you're pretending to be stupid in order to find "errors", or if you're really not getting it.
Well, if you turn the page you will come to page 55 where Carrier writes: "I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". Stupid me, I read that and thought that meant ~h was defined to be premise 1 to 5, however, I am sure you can explain how that is not the case :-).

JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: One question though: I assume you have/are taking classes at a university, was that the standard that you were made familiar with in your introductory math course?
It would definitely render a reduction in points, but since it does not affect the overall calculation in any way this reduction would be minor.
Once more you are changing what I am saying to suit your argument: I was not asking about a reduction in grade, I am was asking if using a mathematical operator different than how it was formally defined would be considered an error at your introductory mathematics course?
JohanRonnblom wrote: I'm not interested in debating spelling errors or bad layout or whatever (...)
the layouting issues are simply much more relevant since they actually make the book significantly harder to understand.
Curiously, it is you who are bringing up the layout issues. Anyway, I won't ask :-). I am sure your discussion of the layout issues is amongst the best in the business!
JohanRonnblom wrote: It seems to me that you are accusing Carrier of cheating because he has chosen sensible hypotheses to defend, thus making his case easier!
Well I am not. Carrier can define his hypothesis however he chooses assuming it makes sense logically and he takes his own definition into account. Once again you are simply ascribing an absurd standpoint to me which you can heroically knock over, and you have been doing this over and over during this thread. It is amusing you follow this up with accusations of poor reading comprehension and stupidity.

JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, you write the difference in nature yourself in that quote: We have data (i.e. replicated observations) and we have the ability to perform experiments and validate the model by observing how it fit future data, and finally "actual outcomes" that can be observed.
How is that a difference in nature? True, it is rare that we find a stash of new documents such as the Nag Hammadi scrolls, Dead Sea scrolls etc. But it happens. But we also get new data from other discoveries such as people finding errors in a translation, scholars reaching a (near) consensus on some previously hotly debated topic, or a new line of argument that has previously not been used.
What you are mentioning is that we can think up new interpretations of existing evidence or (hypothetically) hope to dig up a new set of early documents (however when was the last time new documents arose that had an impact on historical Jesus studies?). But obviously, that is different than trying to estimate the probability of the sex of newborns where new babies are, literally, born every day and the frequency of their sexes can be used to check our model.
A more pronounced difference, which you ignored, is that we have actual outcomes we can observe: We can in other words test if the predictions of a statistical model come to pass. For instance, if a model predicts there is a chance of 20% a given medicament will cure a disease, that can be compared against actual, observed outcomes by administering the medicament to a number of people and see what happens. We can then apply statistical tests (or compute credibility intervals) to quantitatively check the correctness of our predictions or alternatively, falsify our model.

Where are the actually observed outcome in the case of a historical Jesus? Without a time machine, we can't test the predictions of our model, making it effectively unfalsifiable in the usual quantitative sense. THAT is a difference in nature.
JohanRonnblom wrote:If you don't believe this, then you are basically saying that history is a useless subject because we can never hope to make any progress. You seem to be implying that hypotheses in the subject of history are not, by nature, falsifiable.
Did I ever write history was a useless subject? If I did not, how about stopping this endless and tiresome straw manning?
I am questioning the applicability of Carrier's method to history, specifically how trustworthy the outcome is. The conclusion of that can't be that history is worthless which is simply a failure of elementary logic on your part.

What I claim is that Carrier's use of BT differs dramatically in nature to how BT is otherwise applied and that is worth taking into account when interpreting the specific numerical values Carrier obtains. See my above comment.
JohanRonnblom wrote: The probability that kittens etc would be cute given that arsenic is healthy, and the probability that they would be cute given that it is not healthy. To use anything else than 1 for these probabilities, we need arguments. Just as we need arguments to not use 1 for the probabilities you're complaining about. Bring such arguments, or stop complaining.
Let me get this straight: You yourself just claimed a moment ago that the gospels could be argued to provide evidence in favor of mythicism. Now you are saying they bear no relationship to the existence of Jesus similar to how arsenic and kittens are unrelated? Can't you see you are having it both ways?

JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: You yourself believe that the upper and lower bounds disagree with respect to the gospels (i.e. your previous argument that the Gospels could be seen as providing evidence in favor of mythicism, "I also think that it is possible to conclude something using evidence from the Gospels..."). In conclusion, you are at the same time claiming that the upper and lower bounds agree and if I want to claim anything else I better damn well provide a bullet proof argument simultaneous asserting these limits disagree on your view. Now only is this shifting the burden of proof, it is a gigantic double standard.
You are the one claiming that Carrier's method is somehow seriously flawed.

Carrier's method is correct to not take arguments (such as mine) that he has no knowledge of into account. It could not possibly do that!
Well, to reiterate, I am claiming Carrier's method is sensitive to bias, as a simple numerical experiment will easily confirm (provided, of course, one defines bias as a perturbation to Carriers numbers and not simply to throw out all Carriers numbers and pull new ones out of the thin air).

I then point out to a reader that Carrier assumes that the Gospels even on the most optimistic (in terms of historicity) assumption provides no evidence in favor of history insofar as Carrier is aware. I also point out that goes against what many other experts believe.

If the reader, therefore, detects some bias in Carrier she can go to the first point and see for herself how that might affect the overall conclusion.

Or another reader (such as yourself) can conclude Carrier has absolutely no bias at all and his numbers are all reasonable (except the prior or whatever). In that case, a discussion of bias is, of course, irrelevant to him.

It is you who keeps wanting to reduce what I have to say into right/wrong. I am for the most part trying to point out hidden assumptions Carrier makes or implications of his argument. For instance, his numbers assume that conditional on the Gospels and background evidence alone there is about a 95% chance Jesus did not exist. I think that is worth pointing out. If someone think that agrees with his intuition I have actually provided reasons for him to TRUST Carrier as at least being consistent with his intuitions.

JohanRonnblom wrote: But please start by describing your method that will lead to correct conclusions based on incorrect arguments.
I am curious: Do you actually believe I think such a method exists, or do you not believe I think such a method exist? If you don't believe I think such a method exists, I can't see how you can ask that question in good faith.

JohanRonnblom wrote: Oh why, he could just copy your Bob and Sue graph and be done! Because your whole argument is to assume, without evidence, that all the evidence will be biased.
The section illustrates the effect of Bias and the assumptions we must make on the magnitude of bias for the computation to be valid. This is true regardless of whether we believe there is such bias. Again, you are simply failing to understand the basic nature of what is being argued and what is not being argued.
JohanRonnblom wrote: You have concluded that given the possibility that there could be massive bias,
I tried to illustrate how large that bias would have to be. It amazes me how you can't tell the different between such a statement and how you summarize it. It is equivalent to someone saying: "If the bridge is affected by winds of speed X then so-and-so will happen", and then summarize that as: "You just concluded that given the possibility of massive winds...". If you do not understand the difference I can't see why that is my fault.


Regarding your history-challenge. Before I go look: You want me to find a person with a Ph.D. or equivalent (a professor or other faculty member at a reputable university who is described as a historian will do I suppose?), who works with history and has published in history journals, who agrees with Ehrman Jesus existed?
Last edited by Tim Hendrix on Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, if you turn the page you will come to page 55 where Carrier writes: "I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". Stupid me, I read that and thought that meant ~h was defined to be premise 1 to 5, however, I am sure you can explain how that is not the case :-).
No, just actually read page 55. Here, Carrier explains exactly why he can use theory defined by his premises 1 through 5 for his ¬h. There is simply no problem on page 55. Again, if you disagree with his argument that other parts of the probability space can be ignored and that therefore his hypothesis of non-historicity cannot safely be assumed to equal ¬h, that is fine. You just have to make a case for this.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Carrier can define his hypothesis however he chooses assuming it makes sense logically and he takes his own definition into account.
Sure, and if you think it does not make sense logically or that he does not take it into account, you can make an argument for that. But, as usual, you never do this. Instead, you're just whispering that 'maybe' he could be wrong there, and because 'maybe' he could be wrong, apparently we should assume (without reason) that he actually is wrong.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Where are the actually observed outcome in the case of a historical Jesus? Without a time machine, we can't test the predictions of our model, making it effectively unfalsifiable in the usual quantitative sense. THAT is a difference in nature.
Ok, first you write this..
Tim Hendrix wrote: Did I ever write history was a useless subject?
And then this. How is it not a useless subject if it is unfalsifiable?
Tim Hendrix wrote: Let me get this straight: You yourself just claimed a moment ago that the gospels could be argued to provide evidence in favor of mythicism. Now you are saying they bear no relationship to the existence of Jesus similar to how arsenic and kittens are unrelated? Can't you see you are having it both ways?
Now you're saying that arsenic and kittens are unrelated. How do you know that there isn't someone on the internet who has an excellent argument for why they are in fact very much related?

That's the point. Carrier cannot take arguments into account that he is not aware of. Neither can you, or anyone. A good scholar should of course take care to all the arguments that have been published by other researchers in the field. But it is impossible to account for unknown arguments.

I would add that of course I'm not so sure of my argument to say that it is definitely valid or would change anything much. I'm just a layperson with an idea that I find interesting, but I have not seen any experts weigh in on it.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, to reiterate, I am claiming Carrier's method is sensitive to bias, as a simple numerical experiment will easily confirm (provided, of course, one defines bias as a perturbation to Carriers numbers and not simply to throw out all Carriers numbers and pull new ones out of the thin air).
Well, it's easy enough to put Carrier's numbers into the simulation. Of course, the resulting graph is very similar to the other graphs I made. Here I added a bias of 0.1 for historicity and subtracted 0.1 against myth (but never going above 100% of course). Now, I don't think it is particularly useful to use Carrier's numbers, because he is so certain of his conclusion that it woud take an enormous bias to change it around, assuming that he is correct. So I think my original, more even-handed examples were more illuminating. But, you asked for it.
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Tim Hendrix wrote: I then point out to a reader that Carrier assumes that the Gospels even on the most optimistic (in terms of historicity) assumption provides no evidence in favor of history insofar as Carrier is aware. I also point out that goes against what many other experts believe. If the reader, therefore, detects some bias in Carrier she can go to the first point and see for herself how that might affect the overall conclusion.
Disagreement is not bias. And you still have not provided any argument against Carrier. It's just an appeal to authority, some not-yet-named experts are supposed to have good arguments, but if you do not even bring those arguments up, why should we believe that they have any merit or that Carrier has not answered them in full?
Tim Hendrix wrote: For instance, his numbers assume that conditional on the Gospels and background evidence alone there is about a 95% chance Jesus did not exist. I think that is worth pointing out. If someone think that agrees with his intuition I have actually provided reasons for him to TRUST Carrier as at least being consistent with his intuitions.
Whether you agree or disagree with him, yes it is a major point in favour of Carrier that he is explicit about how he is judging the evidence. Sadly, few if any of those arguing for historicity provide as much clarity about their reasons for their conclusion.
Tim Hendrix wrote: I am curious: Do you actually believe I think such a method exists, or do you not believe I think such a method exist? If you don't believe I think such a method exists, I can't see how you can ask that question in good faith.
I do not. Therefore, when you say Carrier's method is bad because it does not deliver this, you are being disingenuous. It's not bad because it does not deliver the impossible. As shown in the graph above for instance, the method has clear advantages. If you think some other method works better, please tell. But really, you need to compare it with something else that exists, rather than with an impossible standard.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Regarding your history-challenge. Before I go look: You want me to find a person with a Ph.D. or equivalent (a professor or other faculty member at a reputable university who is described as a historian will do I suppose?), who works with history and has published in history journals, who agrees with Ehrman Jesus existed?
No, I want you to find such a person (who may not satisfy all three criteria, but at least one) who has published something on the matter. I don't care for what someone may have told you privately in an email.

I'm sure that there are many, many historians who have absolutely no expert knowledge at all on this particular subject but nevertheless assume that Jesus was historical, because that is what they were taught in Sunday school and they have never spent any time researching it. That is irrelevant. When an historian publishes something, however, they are putting their professional reputation on the line.
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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I am beginning to suspect this conversation is a bit of a waste of my time since you are just going over the same points again and again.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, if you turn the page you will come to page 55 where Carrier writes: "I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". Stupid me, I read that and thought that meant ~h was defined to be premise 1 to 5, however, I am sure you can explain how that is not the case :-).
No, just actually read page 55. Here, Carrier explains exactly why he can use theory defined by his premises 1 through 5 for his ¬h. There is simply no problem on page 55.
Firstly, you are moving the goalpost: That quote actually does confirm what I said was true: that ~h is defined as premise 1 to 5.
Secondly, that's just an assertion rather than an argument. Thirdly, the argument can't be right: Unless the list (premise 1 to 5) which carrier defines as "~h" can be actually shown to be logically equivalent to the negation of h there is a formal error. Any argument about probabilities, such as that on p.55, is irrelevant since the probabilities are defined on top of the Boolean algebra of propositions.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Carrier can define his hypothesis however he chooses assuming it makes sense logically and he takes his own definition into account.
Sure, and if you think it does not make sense logically or that he does not take it into account, you can make an argument for that.
...which I did and wrote about at length. However, I think it is obvious it will be a waste of time to re-iterate those points here.

JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Where are the actually observed outcome in the case of a historical Jesus? Without a time machine, we can't test the predictions of our model, making it effectively unfalsifiable in the usual quantitative sense. THAT is a difference in nature.
Ok, first you write this..
Tim Hendrix wrote: Did I ever write history was a useless subject?
And then this. How is it not a useless subject if it is unfalsifiable?
My first points relate to your claim Carriers use of BT does not differ significantly in nature from other applications of BT which it does. This has nothing to do with the utility of history. I am suspecting this quote-mining and ascribing opinions to me I have never said is deliberate and quite frankly, I have lost interest in correcting this endless sequence of strawmans.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Let me get this straight: You yourself just claimed a moment ago that the gospels could be argued to provide evidence in favor of mythicism. Now you are saying they bear no relationship to the existence of Jesus similar to how arsenic and kittens are unrelated? Can't you see you are having it both ways?
Now you're saying that arsenic and kittens are unrelated. How do you know that there isn't someone on the internet who has an excellent argument for why they are in fact very much related?
I don't think this is worth my time. One thing is that you can't figure out who bears the burden of proof, another is that you keep shifting it around using your own hypothetical situations as it suits your argument. Let me simply answer your question: I don't know if someone on the internet thinks those two things are related. What does that prove?
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, to reiterate, I am claiming Carrier's method is sensitive to bias, as a simple numerical experiment will easily confirm (provided, of course, one defines bias as a perturbation to Carriers numbers and not simply to throw out all Carriers numbers and pull new ones out of the thin air).
Well, it's easy enough to put Carrier's numbers into the simulation. Of course, the resulting graph is very similar to the other graphs I made. Here I added a bias of 0.1 for historicity and subtracted 0.1 against myth (but never going above 100% of course).
1) I wonder if it is incompetence or convenience at this point, however, I will simply point out you still changed the numerical example from the one I considered since your unbiased estimate does not give the 34% figure.
2) Since Carrier only gives ratios of probabilities and not their absolute value the statement "but never going above 100% of course" suggests some basic error on your part.

(I will skip a few strawmen for brevity)
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: I am curious: Do you actually believe I think such a method exists, or do you not believe I think such a method exist? If you don't believe I think such a method exists, I can't see how you can ask that question in good faith.
I do not. Therefore, when you say Carrier's method is bad because it does not deliver this, you are being disingenuous. It's not bad because it does not deliver the impossible.
I guess I stopped too soon: I never said Carrier's method was bad for that reason.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Regarding your history-challenge. Before I go look: You want me to find a person with a Ph.D. or equivalent (a professor or other faculty member at a reputable university who is described as a historian will do I suppose?), who works with history and has published in history journals, who agrees with Ehrman Jesus existed?
No, I want you to find such a person (who may not satisfy all three criteria, but at least one) who has published something on the matter. I don't care for what someone may have told you privately in an email.
Well, that's interesting. So it seems that your challenge is now shifting from historians who agree with Ehrman that Jesus existed to historians who publish [where?] defenses of Jesus existence?
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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Tim Hendrix wrote: Firstly, you are moving the goalpost: That quote actually does confirm what I said was true: that ~h is defined as premise 1 to 5.
Secondly, that's just an assertion rather than an argument. Thirdly, the argument can't be right: Unless the list (premise 1 to 5) which carrier defines as "~h" can be actually shown to be logically equivalent to the negation of h there is a formal error.
There is an argument, but it does not matter if it was just an assertion. Given this argument or assertion, what Carrier does is logically valid. I think you really know better, but you're behaving like an undergrad student who just learned to copy the textbook examples, and gets all confused when someone applies mathematics and the examples don't look exactly like in the textbook anymore. I've repeated this enough times already, but:

1. Carrier's hypothesis of non-historicity does not have to be logically equivalent to ¬h, it only has to be numerically equivalent.
2. Carrier is very clearly accounting for the (logical) part of ¬h which does not fit within his hypothesis of non-historicity.
2b. In other words, he does not claim that ¬h is logically defined as his premises 1 to 5, but rather that plus a term that he claims can be ignored.
3. If you have any objections to this, you need to motivate why you believe the remainder cannot be ignored, and if you do not, there is simply no problem.
Tim Hendrix wrote: I am suspecting this quote-mining and ascribing opinions to me I have never said is deliberate and quite frankly, I have lost interest in correcting this endless sequence of strawmans.
I am suspecting that your vagueness and constant changing around of your own opinions is deliberate. I don't think you're trying to convince anyone that you have an argument. I think you're just trying to befuddle people who do not understand what you're writing, so that they will start to believe that you have some sort of argument, even though they cannot understand it.
Tim Hendrix wrote: I don't know if someone on the internet thinks those two things are related. What does that prove?
That you then cannot blame Carrier for not knowing if someone on the internet (ie, me) thinks there is an argument to be made from the Gospels.
Tim Hendrix wrote: 1) I wonder if it is incompetence or convenience at this point, however, I will simply point out you still changed the numerical example from the one I considered since your unbiased estimate does not give the 34% figure.
Why should I use your numbers? You complained that I wasn't using Carrier's numbers. So I did. His numbers are not 34%. They are 0.008% (OHJ, p. 600):
"≈ 0.008%
In other words, in my estimation the odds Jesus existed are less than 1 in 12,000."

Where you got 34% from I have no clue, maybe you tried to read 32% from age 599 (which is not what Carrier believes) and failed at doing even that.
Tim Hendrix wrote: 2) Since Carrier only gives ratios of probabilities and not their absolute value the statement "but never going above 100% of course" suggests some basic error on your part.
If you don't know how to convert odds to probabilities, I'm happy to give you the formula. But if you don't even know that this is possible, you really need to find a new job.

We could discuss the various ways of modelling 'bias', but I wanted to add or subtract a fixed number (in this case 0.1 or 10%) because I think that is closer to how it actually works. For instance, if the correct estimates of two probabilities on historicity are 10% and 60%, a reasonable way to model pro-historicity bias would be to increase both to 20% and 70% respectively. We could of course make the bias proportional instead, for instance increase them by a factor of 1.2 to 12% and 72%, but then if we just switch the hypotheses around we would instead modify 90% to 75% and 40% to 33.3%, getting a completely different effect of the bias when it really should be symmetrical.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, that's interesting. So it seems that your challenge is now shifting from historians who agree with Ehrman that Jesus existed to historians who publish [where?] defenses of Jesus existence?
Never changed at all, you tried to wiggle out of it and I wouldn't let you. This is what I wrote (emphasis added), I think i makes you quite foolish to deny it:
JohanRonnblom wrote: I would be very interested in reading any article or monograph written by such a scholar on this topic. Something peer-reviewed would be preferable, but really anything satisfying minimal standards of publication would do.
JohanRonnblom wrote: So feel free to list people who satisfy either of these criteria and have published any scholarly opinion on the historicity of Jesus whether in a peer reviewed article or monograph, or even just a published book. Even a somewhat reputable journal for popular history would be of interest. Or anything else that you might think should qualify. I'm not too picky, but if someone writes one thing in the bulletin of the local evangelical church and never seems to engage in the same debate when facing other reputable historians, I would consider that somewhat suspect.
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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JohanRonnblom wrote: he does not claim that ¬h is logically defined as his premises 1 to 5, but rather that plus a term that he claims can be ignored.
Interesting. I can only quote OHJ: "if I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5".
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: I don't know if someone on the internet thinks those two things are related. What does that prove?
That you then cannot blame Carrier for not knowing if someone on the internet (ie, me) thinks there is an argument to be made from the Gospels.
I agree, I can't (and don't) blame Carrier for that. Is there a point?

JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: 1) I wonder if it is incompetence or convenience at this point, however, I will simply point out you still changed the numerical example from the one I considered since your unbiased estimate does not give the 34% figure.
Why should I use your numbers? You complained that I wasn't using Carrier's numbers. So I did. His numbers are not 34%. They are 0.008% (OHJ, p. 600):
"≈ 0.008%
In other words, in my estimation the odds Jesus existed are less than 1 in 12,000."
If you don't understand why you have to use the same numbers as me (which are from OHJ) in order to overturn or criticize an argument based on those numbers I can't really help you :-).
I agree that a 5% bias won't overturn Carriers upper bound on mythicism. But that is simply saying that starting out from a position where the conclusion is very clear, limited bias will be magnified so as to weaken it but not fully overturn it: Bias is still magnified in both cases.*
JohanRonnblom wrote: Where you got 34% from I have no clue, maybe you tried to read 32% from age 599 (which is not what Carrier believes) and failed at doing even that.
You are right: Carrier writes 32% rather than 34% as I incorrectly remembered. Congratulations, you showed me wrong! Notice how I don't change my argument to claim that 34 is really equal to 32 or something similar.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: 2) Since Carrier only gives ratios of probabilities and not their absolute value the statement "but never going above 100% of course" suggests some basic error on your part.
If you don't know how to convert odds to probabilities, I'm happy to give you the formula. But if you don't even know that this is possible, you really need to find a new job.
It sounds like I should find a new job! Please give me the general formula which gives the numerical value of two probabilities from their ratio. Let us make it concrete. Suppose I tell you that:

P(A)/P(B) = 1.07

Please tell me what value P(A) and P(B) originally had. I am waiting with baited breath ;-).
JohanRonnblom wrote: Never changed at all, you tried to wiggle out of it and I wouldn't let you.
Sigh. I believe (and still do) historians agree with Ehrman Jesus existed and it will be easy to find historians who in their writings clearly indicate so much. I don't think I can find literature of historians who sets out to defend the existence of Jesus since his non-existence is considered too fringe. That's similar to how you can't find scientists who publish in journals about their belief in atoms; the alternative is considered too fringe to warrant serious exploration.


* Assuming we use a reasonable measure of bias such as the KL divergence.
Last edited by Tim Hendrix on Fri Nov 25, 2016 11:43 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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Tim Hendrix wrote: Interesting. I can only quote OHJ: "if I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5".
Hmm. Let's continue the quote:
On the historicity of Jesus, p. 55 wrote: if I assign ¬h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5, I can safely assume that h entails historicity (given my minimal definition of historicity as a hypothesis in Chapter 2) and that these exhaust all relevant possibilities, and therefore I have a proper binary test, h and ¬h, just two hypotheses to compare against each other, such that if one is false, the other is true.
Certainly, when framed like this, technically ¬h (non-historicity) must also include all Jesus myth theories not defined by Premises 1 through 5 (that is, all theories of the evidence for Jesus that entail historicity is false and at least one of Premises 1 through 5 is false), but since their prior probability (even collectively) is surely less than a tenth of one percent (as I just reasoned) and their posterior probability not sufficiently high to make enough of a difference (especially in relation to minimal historicity), these theories share such a small portion of the probability-space occupied by ¬h that they can simply be ignored.
I can only assume that your copy of the book has suffered some terrible accident damaging page 55, because surely it must be above you to provide a misleading quote on purpose.
Tim Hendrix wrote: If you don't understand why you have to use the same numbers as me (which are from OHJ) in order to overturn or criticize an argument based on those numbers I can't really help you :-).
It's not my fault that you use the wrong numbers. No one - not Carrier, not me, not you - considers those numbers to be correct and unbiased. So why do you insist on using them?
Tim Hendrix wrote: I agree that a 5% bias won't overturn Carriers upper bound on mythicism. But that is simply saying that starting out from a position where the conclusion is very clear, limited bias will be magnified so as to weaken it but not fully overturn it: Bias is still magnified in both cases.*
If it is 'magnified', it must be magnified in relation to something else. What would this be?

Really, what you have done is just to take a case where the available evidence is almost exactly balanced in favour of two hypotheses. Only the prior here gives a slight edge to non-historicity. Now, you complain that the calculation is not 'stable'. But what can we expect in such a case? We do not need to use any math to realize that if the evidence is completely 50/50, the slightest amount of bias, or even differing perspectives, will cause different referees to slightly favour different positions. This is not a flaw in the calculation. Really - if it was 'stable', it would be wrong. When you model an unstable system - and this is such a system - your model should also be 'unstable' in the relevant range.

Now, can I just recommend that you read a little from the book. You don't need to open it this time, just the cover.
"On the Historicity of Jesus
Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt"

Notice the subtitle. It is not 'Jesus almost certainly never existed'. Even though that is Carrier's conclusion given his own best judgement of the facts. He is, indeed, humble enough to recognize that other reasonable people may come to different conclusions, and may have valid counter-arguments to his arguments. He is judging the evidence as best as he can - but also inviting others to offer differing opinions.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Please give me the general formula which gives the numerical value of two probabilities from their ratio. Let us make it concrete. Suppose I tell you that:

P(A)/P(B) = 1.07

Please tell me what value P(A) and P(B) originally had. I am waiting with baited breath ;-).
There are of course an infinite number of possible values so I choose the ones where the larger value is 100%, in this case P(A). Therefore, P(B) is 1/1.07 or about 93.5%. See, it was not that hard. For the general case, if the odds are below 1 it will be P(B) that is 1 and P(A) will be equal to the odds value. Now you will no doubt complain that I made a hidden assumption to use the largest possible values and that it is possible that the original values were something different, but of course I never claimed to have done anything else. For the purpose of adding bias I want those probabilities that are scaled to a relative maximum, so as to make the bias term more uniform. If you had just asked nicely instead of immediately assuming I made an error, you would not have had as much egg on your face momentarily.
Tim Hendrix wrote: I believe (and still do) historians agree with Ehrman Jesus existed and it will be easy to find historians who in their writings clearly indicate so much. I don't think I can find literature of historians who sets out to defend the existence of Jesus since his non-existence is considered too fringe.
They don't have to defend historicity as such, they just need to have published something about the historical Jesus. Now, I think it is pretty obvious that if we made a poll of who was the most important human being in history, Jesus would come out very near the top, most probably as number 1.

But I guess your next move is to say that of course no historian would ever want to research such an obscure subject as the most important person in history..
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Interesting. I can only quote OHJ: "if I assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5".
Hmm. Let's continue the quote:
On the historicity of Jesus, p. 55 wrote: if I assign ¬h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5, I can safely assume that h entails historicity (given my minimal definition of historicity as a hypothesis in Chapter 2) and that these exhaust all relevant possibilities, and therefore I have a proper binary test, h and ¬h, just two hypotheses to compare against each other, such that if one is false, the other is true.
Certainly, when framed like this, technically ¬h (non-historicity) must also include all Jesus myth theories not defined by Premises 1 through 5 (that is, all theories of the evidence for Jesus that entail historicity is false and at least one of Premises 1 through 5 is false), but since their prior probability (even collectively) is surely less than a tenth of one percent (as I just reasoned) and their posterior probability not sufficiently high to make enough of a difference (especially in relation to minimal historicity), these theories share such a small portion of the probability-space occupied by ¬h that they can simply be ignored.
I can only assume that your copy of the book has suffered some terrible accident damaging page 55, because surely it must be above you to provide a misleading quote on purpose.
Well, all I can say is that the quote does not alter the fact that Carrier "assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". What else is ~h assigned to? Carrier even acknowledges this is not technically correct in the very quote you cite, but provides an argument as to why he believes it does not matter from a pragmatic perspective. That does not make it technically correct though.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: If you don't understand why you have to use the same numbers as me (which are from OHJ) in order to overturn or criticize an argument based on those numbers I can't really help you :-).
It's not my fault that you use the wrong numbers. No one - not Carrier, not me, not you - considers those numbers to be correct and unbiased. So why do you insist on using them?
The numbers are from OHJ; I use them because it is easier for a reader to relate to about 1/3 than about 1/12000.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: I agree that a 5% bias won't overturn Carriers upper bound on mythicism. But that is simply saying that starting out from a position where the conclusion is very clear, limited bias will be magnified so as to weaken it but not fully overturn it: Bias is still magnified in both cases.*
If it is 'magnified', it must be magnified in relation to something else. What would this be?
...the unbiased value, i.e. the value in OHJ. This is not difficult, I included the relevant graph a few pages ago.
JohanRonnblom wrote: Now, you complain that the calculation is not 'stable'. But what can we expect in such a case? We do not need to use any math to realize that if the evidence is completely 50/50, the slightest amount of bias, or even differing perspectives, will cause different referees to slightly favour different positions. This is not a flaw in the calculation. Really - if it was 'stable', it would be wrong. When you model an unstable system - and this is such a system - your model should also be 'unstable' in the relevant range.
Wow, that sure sounds like you are acknowledging that the calculation is affected by bias. I guess in 10 more pages or so you might acknowledge the basic fact from error analysis that that bias will tend to be increased by the multiplication of many terms...
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Please give me the general formula which gives the numerical value of two probabilities from their ratio. Let us make it concrete. Suppose I tell you that:

P(A)/P(B) = 1.07

Please tell me what value P(A) and P(B) originally had. I am waiting with baited breath ;-).
There are of course an infinite number of possible values so I choose the ones where the larger value is 100%, in this case P(A). Therefore, P(B) is 1/1.07 or about 93.5%.
Hm. It seems like there was no general formula to get the probabilities from a ratio after all so I guess I get to keep my dayjob? ;-).
So to bring that into context of my previous point: When you assign one probability to be 100%, you are both doing something which is unreasonable considering the situation (it is for instance not reasonable to assign a probability of 100% to the Gospels because surely, it is not a given that the four gospels with their specific stories would have a 100% chance being produced in their present form), but it is also affecting your analysis of bias because your arbitrary choice of 100% then induces a cutoff. But I guess you will now explain why that is all wrong using the word "complain" a lot ;-).
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, all I can say is that the quote does not alter the fact that Carrier "assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". What else is ~h assigned to? Carrier even acknowledges this is not technically correct in the very quote you cite, but provides an argument as to why he believes it does not matter from a pragmatic perspective. That does not make it technically correct though.
No, he explains how to make it technically correct and makes it technically correct. I'm sorry that you refuse to understand this. Maybe if you considered what it would take to make it technically correct, you would realize that this is exactly what Carrier does. But probably not, I've given up. You're not susceptible to reason.
Tim Hendrix wrote:
JohanRonnblom wrote: If it is 'magnified', it must be magnified in relation to something else. What would this be?
...the unbiased value, i.e. the value in OHJ. This is not difficult, I included the relevant graph a few pages ago.
We don't have the unbiased value. So this is like complaining because Usain Bolt didn't run 100 m in 5 seconds. Do it better yourself first, then we can talk.

Moreover, this is completely technically incorrect. The unbiased value - by definition - has no bias. Therefore, magnifying the bias of the unbiased value will produce something that also has no bias. This is a fairly fundamental property of multiplication.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Wow, that sure sounds like you are acknowledging that the calculation is affected by bias.
The world is affected by bias. It's not a problem of the calculation. If you create a calculation that is not affected by real-world bias, your calculation will be wrong.
Tim Hendrix wrote: Hm. It seems like there was no general formula to get the probabilities from a ratio after all so I guess I get to keep my dayjob? ;-).
If it was up to me, no way. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about, dressing up your lack of relevant knowledge in fancy terms you don't really grasp in the hope that no one else will either.

I'm done with you.

But, if anyone knows of an historian who has published anything about Jesus in a somewhat scholarly context, I'm genuinely interested in knowing, so I would appreciate a post in this thread. While the apparent lack of historians publishing about Jesus evidently does not prove that Jesus was not historical, it should in my opinion at least provide a strong reason for doubt. It is something of a definition of being historical that you're someone historians write about - at least if you're important. And I doubt many historicists would claim that Jesus is unimportant.
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Re: Ch. 6: The Prior Probability (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)

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JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Well, all I can say is that the quote does not alter the fact that Carrier "assign ~h to be the theory defined by Premises 1 through 5". What else is ~h assigned to? Carrier even acknowledges this is not technically correct in the very quote you cite, but provides an argument as to why he believes it does not matter from a pragmatic perspective. That does not make it technically correct though.
No, he explains how to make it technically correct and makes it technically correct.
I don't think this can persuade me from what I think the passage plainly says. I think it is best to simply agree to disagree.
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote:
JohanRonnblom wrote: If it is 'magnified', it must be magnified in relation to something else. What would this be?
...the unbiased value, i.e. the value in OHJ. This is not difficult, I included the relevant graph a few pages ago.
We don't have the unbiased value. So this is like complaining because Usain Bolt didn't run 100 m in 5 seconds. Do it better yourself first, then we can talk.
Well, all I can do is to go back to the basics of error analysis: When you analyze the stability of an equation, you examine what the equation does when the inputs are perturbed: Is the perturbation increased in magnitude or decreased (and by which order). This analysis is independent of whether you believe you have the correct input values in some platonic sense as the conclusion is simply: Over a reasonable range of input values this is what the equation actually does.

That you have another interpretation of what error analysis is is very interesting and all, but I can't see why I can't include an example which shows what the equation does when the inputs are biased. Once more, I feel this very basic material...
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Wow, that sure sounds like you are acknowledging that the calculation is affected by bias.
The world is affected by bias. It's not a problem of the calculation. If you create a calculation that is not affected by real-world bias, your calculation will be wrong.
Well, I agree. It almost seems like the next natural step is to examine how the equation is affected by bias, i.e. if the bias is increased or decreased. How might one do this... I guess the simplest way would be to perturb the input values and see how that affected the result of the computation in a graph...
JohanRonnblom wrote:
Tim Hendrix wrote: Hm. It seems like there was no general formula to get the probabilities from a ratio after all so I guess I get to keep my dayjob? ;-).
If it was up to me, no way. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about, dressing up your lack of relevant knowledge in fancy terms you don't really grasp in the hope that no one else will either.
Then all I can do is hope you are not my PI :-).
I find it interesting that you feel this discussion has to include so many insults and ascribing an emotional response to the person you are arguing with, but I guess it simplifies things.
Last edited by Tim Hendrix on Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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