News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 7, 2011 in News

A post I wrote for Less Wrong: The Neglected Virtue of Scholarship.

Steve Maitzen and Randal Rauser debate the implications of the demographics of theism: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Norton, “Challenges to Bayesian Confirmation Theory.”

Alonzo Fyfe and I are still researching and writing the second season of Morality in the Real World. Patience, people! :)

Science News: Most scientific findings may be wrong because scientists are doing statistics wrong. They’re computing p-values instead of using Bayes.

James McGrath comments on my latest interview with Richard Carrier.

From Twitter:

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Taranu January 7, 2011 at 5:42 am

Man there are many challenges to Bayesian Confirmation Theory!


snafu January 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

If we’re talking Bayes and Richard Carrier, there’s other news: an irked response from the McGrew camp regarding the Blackwell article. See recent posts on Dangerous Idea and Lydia McGrew’s blog for more.

They actually have a point about use of Bayes factors – imho a couple of RC’s comments were awry.


Silver Bullet January 7, 2011 at 7:16 am

Randal Rauser announced that he “defeated” Stephen Maitzen. I’m keen to hear what others think…


Reginald Selkirk January 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

Having read a few of Rauser’s columns, I am not keen to waste any of my time seeing him debate anyone.


cl January 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm

A post I wrote for Less Wrong: The Neglected Virtue of Scholarship.

Perfect timing. Hopefully this has discernible impact on your newfound tendencies towards name-calling and other irrational, non-scholarly forms of argumentation.


Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm




Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm


You mistake my name-calling for argumentation. I do not use name-calling for argumentation. I use it for condemnation. Scholarly argument and moral condemnation can be used simultaneously, to different ends.


bram January 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Have you completely converted to Bayesianism?

In my humble opinion (having a PhD in econometrics where I used both Bayesian and classical statistics in my dissertation) it is not true that classical statistics is wrong and Bayesian is right, nor the other way around. You just have to acknowledge that both should be interpreted differently.

I really like Bayes, but in the end we can only say that sometimes it makes life easier and sometimes it makes life harder compared tot classical statistics.


woodchuck64 January 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Silver Bullet,

Randal Rauser announced that he “defeated” Stephen Maitzen. I’m keen to hear what others think…

I think Rauser “wins” by twisting Christian theology so much that belief isn’t important and an atheist Ghandi can go to heaven. He doesn’t seem to be very interested in explaining how his view can be considered mainstream yet still distinct from Universalism (which wouldn’t be an issue for divine hiddenness in the first place).


Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm


Yes, sometimes Bayes is harder, but it is always more correct, like Einstein over Newton. See Jaynes, 2003.


cl January 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm


I do not use name-calling for argumentation.

I know. You use it as a cheap substitute for argumentation, just as you use the oft-repeated “I don’t have time” excuse. You don’t have time to respond to serious questions, yet, you — somehow — find time to call names and whine about your lack of time.

Like I said — although it would be nice — I couldn’t care less whether you follow through or not. I just wonder what it is that makes you get all high-and-mighty, to the point where you’re willing to label as a “troll” someone who — in your own words — is more concerned with actual arguments.

Whatever though. Do what thou wilt. Just keep an open ear, because not everybody is buying it.


cl January 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm

BTW, if you’re willing to answer the questions I allude to, and retract the “troll” accusation, I’m more than willing to squash this at any time. I think you ought to at least seriously consider this approach, as other commenters frequently echo my objections and express interest in hearing you answer them.

Again, it’s whatever to me. The choice is yours. You’re the one with a reputation to worry about. Not me.


Landon Hedrick January 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

They’ve been discussing error after error in Carrier’s work with Bayes Theorem here:

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. I wonder if maybe Carrier needs to finally tone down the arrogance a bit. That, and the insult to the McGrews, might ensure that Carrier will have some tough critics looking over his shoulder.


Jacopo January 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I did laugh just a little when I saw how quickly the discussion on your Less Wrong article got sidelined into whether Hitchens was being silly or not against Craig.

Shame really, because I think that’s actually a really good example to illustrate your point …


Jake de Backer January 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Christ, where the fuck have I been that I missed this adorable little quarrel between cl and Luke Skyblogger? What post did this start on?



A Prophet January 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Somewhere in 2011 I see Luke finally banning “cl” to the delight of many.

Thus spake A Prophet.


Silas January 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Talking about being a vegetarian:


Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm


Excellent link; I’ve now tweeted it. I think Carrier is absolutely right about historical method needing to be done with Bayes, but he himself admits he is rather new to Bayes’ Theorem and so I worry about the execution. I would be overjoyed to see him team up with a formal epistemologist to re-work the book a bit. Also, I wish he’d take Jesus out of the first book entirely, but as of the last update he mentions Jesus in the subtitle!


Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm


Over there, though, nobody denied that infinite regress was just as much a problem for science as for theism. Instead, they tried to say that Hitchens’ argument wasn’t about infinite regress, but about something else. Which is too bad, since Hitchens only and explicitly argued against theism from the problem of infinite regress, which is bogus.


Bill Maher January 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm
Adito January 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I’m trying to watch the “Make me a Christian” series but apparently it’s only available in the UK and Ireland. Do you know if it’s hosted by anyone local? I looked around a bit but I couldn’t find anything.


bossmanham January 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Namesake of bad comedian,

If we’re now throwing around youtube videos:


Zeb January 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Luke, the Carrier interview was the first one where I read the transcript rather than listening to it, and it was the first time that I had the impression you were completely agreeing with and affirming all of the guest’s statements. I still haven’t listened to it, but all of the “yeahs,” “rights,” and especially the transcribed laughter gave me the impression you were joining Carrier in shaking you head and rolling your eyes at those dumb McGrew’s. So maybe the tone problem pointed out in the McGrew’s comments section has more to do with how it looks in print than your actual tone.


Bill Maher January 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Namesake of one of my favorite wrestlers when I was 8,

well put.


Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 10:43 pm


Huh. Interesting.


cl January 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Jake de Backer,

Christ, where the fuck have I been that I missed this adorable little quarrel between cl and Luke Skyblogger? What post did this start on?

While I do find it mildly entertaining at times, I’d much prefer that Luke tackle objections and tough questions head-on. Nonetheless, I’d say it technically started in Creationism, Evil, and the Crocoduck when I called Luke out for committing the Bigot’s Fallacy. He resisted, but later, in another thread – the Sam Harris book review, I believe – Luke conceded that “exceptions exist.” The quarrel intensified throughout the discussion on desirism, coming to a head when Luke resorted to name-calling in The Science of Morality: No Gods Required. Personally, I don’t believe that two wrongs make a right, so, I try to avoid the whole name-calling thing and instead focus on bringing attention to it. I’ve heard from more than one person who thinks Luke was in the wrong to take that strategy with me. In that I find some reassurance.

I realize this is all unrelated meta, but, you asked, so I answered.

A Prophet,

Somewhere in 2011 I see Luke finally banning “cl” to the delight of many. Thus spake A Prophet.

I’m not claiming it because I don’t know, but, two bits of evidence lead me to believe this might actually be Ebonmuse:

1) When it suits his purposes, Ebonmuse supports censorship of intelligent dissent;

2) When he banned me from his own blog, Ebonmuse addressed me as “cl” — in quotes — and as far as I know, he’s the only person who’s ever done so. I suppose I could always put on my black hat and check, but, that’s a no-no.

Nonetheless, prohibiting free speech can only delight those with no respect for freethought. It’s not an act that a person with good desires would do.


Jeff H January 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I enjoy these articles on the pitfalls of science and probability calculations. I think that Bayesian calculations are probably the way to go (other than the fact that the journals will suddenly be flooded with arguments about where the priors should be set, etc.). But a lot of what is said in these critiques is essentially, “Scientists should stop doing bad science.” They talk about how probabilities are misused or misunderstood, which is exactly right, but it isn’t a condemnation of science or of probability. It’s just a plea for doing science properly.

In other words, they’re making two separate points: One for doing proper calculations, and one for completely reforming the basis on which most modern science is done. Although I agree on both fronts, their arguments for the first are great, but their arguments for the second are incomplete at best.


bram January 9, 2011 at 2:10 am

bram,Yes, sometimes Bayes is harder, but it is always more correct, like Einstein over Newton. See Jaynes, 2003.  

There is disagreement within the statistics community about classical versus Bayesian statistics. There is a minority that thinks that Bayesian is always better. Personally I’d say that both should be interpreted a differently, which means that both methodologies can tell you different things. Though the difference is usually pretty subtle.


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