Right-wing Christian “rats”?

Progressive Christian writer and activist John Shore just wrote a post I found really worrisome.

Do I smell a right-wing Christian rat behind Ohio State’s psych quiz “controversy”?

rat_phone

Yesterday I published Ohio State University teaches Christians are stupider than atheists. I came across the story on Google News, thought, “Here’s a bit of fluff I can have some quick fun with before I get back to writing my novel,”—and blip I wrote what I did.

The website that originally “broke” this story is Campus Reform. This morning, poking about the Campus Reform website, I found this on their Mission page:

As a watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, Campus Reform exposes bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses.

Our team of professional journalists works alongside student activists and student journalists to report on the conduct and misconduct of university administrators, faculty, and students.

Campus Reform holds itself to rigorous journalism standards and strives to present each story with accuracy, objectivity, and public accountability.

A few clicks later I learned that Campus Reform is owned and operated by the hyper-conservative The Leadership Institute. Here’s a bit about them:

The Leadership Institute identifies, organizes, and trains conservative college students to promote and defend their values on campus.

Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year. Conservatives learn how to:

· Form independent conservative student groups
· Manage grassroots-oriented campaigns
· Publish independent conservative school newspapers
· Communicate a conservative message using the media

Gee, I wonder why the complaining OSU “anonymous student” knew nothing about the Psych 1100 class that had so offended him or her (see below)—and why exactly they were quoted as having said:

I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question … . Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity.

I smell a rat. A lowdown, lying, cheating, right-wing Christian rat trying to drum up a little cheese for itself.

Ugh.

It pains me to have at all contributed, however cursorily, to the lie that there was any credibility whatsoever to the original story. Me, helping to further the agenda of hardcore right-wing Christians!

So sad. So wrong. So … what can totally happen when you’re trying to keep two blogs going and write a (major) first novel.

After reading my post yesterday my good friend Dan Wilkinson got interested in what the story behind that story might be. Dan getting interested in something is like a coke-detecting police dog getting interested in a suitcase. It’s kinda scary. But awesome to watch.

Courtesy of Dan “Sniffy” Wilkinson, here is what’s really going on with OSU’s Psychology 1100 classs:

First we have the class syllabus. As you’ll see, it’s a totally normal, duly formidable college class.

One of the tools used in the class are the online LearningCurve quizzes. As you may recall, the particular Learning Curve question that has caused such a stir is this one:

unnamed

Here are a few other LearningCurve quiz questions (which taken altogether comprise only 10% of the grade for the class):

salaries

smarts

liberal

Notably, all of the quiz question are pulled directly from Psychology, the textbook used in the class (which Dan managed to get hold of, and which is on Amazon here—for only $159.48!). Each includes exactly where in the book information informing that question can be found. So literally none of the quiz questions should be a surprise to any student in the class.

While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.

The authors of Psychology thoroughly explore the findings that certain groups consistently test higher or lower on intelligence tests, carefully considering the factors that contribute to that result:

Although the average difference between groups is considerably less than the average difference within groups, Terman was right when he suggested that some groups perform better than others on intelligence tests.

But do group differences in intelligence test scores reflect group differences in actual intelligence? …

Some groups outscore others on intelligence tests because (a) testing situations impair the performance of some groups more than others and (b) some groups live in less healthful and stimulating environments. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that between-group differences in intelligence are due to genetic differences.

Interestingly, intelligence test scores also seem to be fairly good predictors of a person’s political and religious attitudes: The more intelligent people are, the more likely they are to be liberal and atheistic (Deary, Batty, & Gale, 2008; Lynn, Harvey, & Nyborg, 2009; Reeve, Heggestad, & Lievens, 2009; Stankov, 2009). All in all, intelligence tests scores are excellent predictors of a remarkable range of important consequences. IQ clearly matters.

In short, there’s nothing whatever wrong or suspect about OSU’s Psychology 1100 class.

I wish I could say the same for the pathetic Leadership Institute.

Here was my response:

Hello dear John.
While I’m myself a progressive Christian actively supporting the acceptance of Gay couples into the Christian Church, I realize I can no longer endorse your tone and rhetoric.

I’m also against the Christian Right and expose quite often their false priorities and distortion of the Gospel.

But in spite of everything, I view them as human beings created in God’s image and NOT as right-wing rats . As a German liberal theologian rightly pointed out: “Fundamentalisten sind auch Menschen” = “Fundamentalists are human too”.

Even if it might be a daily struggle, should it not be our duty to love our fundamentalist foes as ourselves? I’m not pretending to be a better person than you because I fall short in countless other respects.

But I think it’s really a pity if your laudable and praiseworthy defense of Gay people degenerates into self-righteous hatred.

So I really hope you’ll back away from your rhetoric and adopt a more constructive tone because you’re unlikely to change the hearts of fundies while using such words.

Otherwise, I also feel pretty irritated by the psychological Quiz. It is extraordinarily reductionist in that it defines “Christians”, “Atheists” and “Liberals” as homogeneous groups. This is very far from being the case, there are numerous conflicting groups, ideologies and movements within Christianity and atheism and merging them together has a very poor scientific value.

I’d be interested if such IQ comparisons were carried out between VERY specific groups (such as “Secular Conservatives” against “Evolutionary theists”) to see what come out of it.
What is more, it is far from being certain that there is such a thing as intelligence which can be fully grasped by a unique measure such as IQ. Its assessment also depends a lot on psychological factors such as motivation, impulsiveness and anxiety.

Anyway I wish you all the best and hope you’ll begin to see Conservatives as fellow humans.

Rick Santorum’s rise means the GOP must fight– and lose– the culture war

Lovely greetings.

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My criticism of militant atheism

On this page, I want to gather all materials I’ve published on anti-theism

This is meant as an index of contents and is not the appropriate place for posting any kind of comments.

In “On the difference between atheists, antitheists, Evangelicals and fundamentalists” I define what I mean by a militant atheist (or “New Atheist” or Antitheist) and think this fits rather well the way most New Atheists view themselves and are perceived by outsiders.

It is important to note that if you don’t fulfill my definition, many of my coming criticism won’t necessarily concern you.

In “The New Atheism as a hate group” I argue that the New Atheists are driven by the very same hatred which dominates the mind of political extremists.

In a more speculative post entitled “The link between religious fundamentalism and militant atheism” I argue that militant atheism is most often the legitimate child of religious fundamentalism and that many anti-theists have had terrible experiences with conservative religions in the past.

I think it is the case because (mostly American) anti-theists have kept a fundamentalistic mindset while evaluating the morality of Biblical books.

They ignore most of the time results from historical-critical scholarship and implicitly assert that if one finds atrocities at ONE page of the Bible, then the whole Bible is an evil book comparable to Mein Kampf.

Examples of this utterly irrational way of thinking can be found here:
A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality
Tribalism, love and God’s shameless ploy: a response to Cyngus and Valdobiade
How to rationally criticize a religion: the origin of misogyny

In “New Atheism, Child Abuse and Deception: a Response to Tildeb”,  I responded to the claim that ALL forms of religious education are abusive for children.

“On the delusion of Crude and Lotharson: a response to Tildeb” is a further refutation of the same person.

The New Atheists constantly pick and choose their weakest adversaries and deceitfully assert that religious faith (in general) means pretending to know things you don’t know.

In “Faith, Richard Dawkins and Peter Boghossian“, I debunk this claim and point out that only a minority of believers hold fast to that notion.

I interviewed sociologist David Marshall on this and other false claims of militant atheists:

The truth about the New Atheism: an interview with David Marshall
I also analyzed several anti-theistic pamphlets where some of the leaders call their followers to use emotional bullying and verbal violence against ALL religious believers.

Bullying in the name of Reason and Science
Selling one’s soul to the cult of Dawkins

Finally, I want to point out there are MANY tolerant atheists out there who don’t bully all religious believers, such as the Irish Atheist: “Tolerant progressive atheists.

This list will be progressively updated as new posts come in.

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Von der Beweislast des Atheisten (also in ENGLISH)

English version: On the burden of proof of the atheist


Beweislast

Vor einigen Jahren hat Paul Copan einen großartigen Artikel geschrieben, wo er zeigt, dass sowohl Theisten als auch Atheisten eine Beweislast bezüglich ihrer Wahrheitsansprüche haben.

http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201303/201303_026_Athiests.cfm

Ich habe auf meinem Blog unter der Kategorie “Parsimonie” zusätzliche Gründe gegeben, so zu denken.
. https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/category/parsimony/

Wenn Sie mit einem Atheisten diskutieren, sollten Sie diesen Aspekt nicht vergessen.

 

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Persecuted persecutors?

Progressive Christian writer and missiologists Benjamin L. Corey wrote a very interesting post on the recent reactions of some Conservative Christians in America, to which I responded.

 

So Listen– It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate.

Earlier this week, the President signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In a supposed civilized society with a separation of church and state, such a measure should be welcomed by all because anti-discrimination policies protect the rights of everyone.

For me, anti-discrimination laws transcend theology and personal opinion. I acknowledge that while I am a Christian, I am also a Christian who lives and who does commerce in a culture that is diverse– making certain rules for playing necessary. For starters, I don’t want a potential employer to be able to fire me simply because I am a Christian. Being a Christian is completely irrelevant to my ability to do a specific job and to be disqualified from employment on that basis, would be completely unfair. Anti-discrimination laws protect my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by ensuring my religious orientation cannot be used as a way to shut me out from competing in the public sector.

Regardless of my theology on human sexuality, I see anti-discrimination policies for the LGBT community the same way I see them for myself– they too have a right to compete in the public sector and have the right to hold jobs they are qualified for without an aspect of their identity disqualify them from working. It’s a little something we call…. fair.

You can’t fire me because I’m an Anabaptist, and I can’t fire you because of the gender you’re attracted to.

Really simple stuff that we should all say “this is fair and good for society” regardless of our particular theology on any given subject.

However, the new anti-discrimination policy for government contractors isn’t exactly being celebrated in our Christian community. Instead, many are crying that the sky is falling, that our religious liberties are under attack– you know, more “help, help, I’m being oppressed!” Monty Python type stuff.

 Here’s what Michael Brown called the move by the White House:

“This was an outrageous act of discrimination against religion in the name of anti-discrimination—an act of bullying people of faith in the name of the prevention of bullying.”

So yeah, apparently we’re being “bullied” because in exchange for accepting government funds we have to agree not to fire people for being gay.

Poor us.

So listen– I think we as Christians need to set something straight before we go any further:

It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.

It’s not any of those things.

In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, and everyone else.

I’ve discussed the issue of the persecution complex here in the West, and nearly every time, some folks write to me and tell me how wrong I am– that yes, Christians are under attack and being persecuted. Whenever that happens and I ask for specific examples, I am almost always listed out examples of how we’re not allowed to persecute others.

But this isn’t persecution– it’s not even close.

I can’t help but think how self centered we’re going to look when we get to heaven and go through the awkward introductions in the persecuted section:

“Hi, my name is Peter. They crucified me on a cross upside down.”

“Hi, my name is Stephen. They smashed my head in with rocks.”

“Hi, my name is Polycarp. They tried to burn me at the stake but I didn’t catch on fire so they stabbed me to death”.

“Hi, my name is William Tyndale. They chocked me to death at the stake and then burned by body.”

“Hi, my name is Michael Brown. They told me that if I wanted my business to be able to accept government funds that I couldn’t fire people simply because of their sexual orientation.”

You see? It doesn’t actually line up with the experiences of the Christians who have come before us– Christians who actually were bullied and persecuted.

Let’s be honest: I think we’re going to look a little silly in eternity if we keep up this persecution and “I’m being bullied” stuff. For those of us poised to lead the next generation of Jesus followers into a better cultural expression of Christianity, one of the first things we need to do is to stop pretending we’re victims. It’s not attractive. It’s not helping. It’s not even true.

One doesn’t become the victim of bullying when they’re told that they can’t make others the victim of bullying. That doesn’t even make sense.

Instead, let us embrace the fact that we actually do live in a country where we are both free to practice our religion but also where there are certain rules in the public sector that keep things fair for everyone, and that these foundational rules are actually good and right.

Here was my answer.

 

This was really a great post Ben!

On my blog I’ve dealt a lot with the topic of homosexuality, arguing it is not sinful, illustrating that its rejection is utterly groundless and calling up Conservative Christians to apply the Golden Rule towards Gay people. .

You’re entirely right it’s utterly wrong and disgusting to feel discriminated because you no longer have the right to socially or economically discriminate people on grounds of their sexual orientation. Actually I think that all Continental European Conservatives who oppose Gay marriage wholeheartedly agree with that very principle (and most of them are not particularly religious).

BUT I think that the liberal (or political correct) lobby runs off the rails when it starts using propaganda and political pressure for changing the mind of people concerning homosexuality.

This is what the French government attempted to do and instead of increasing the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians, it raised resentment against them.

Some of my Conservative readers called my attention to the fact that people are being fired JUST because they are morally opposed to homosexuality, and I find that extremely misguided, wrong and egregious for many reasons I have outlined here.

People who fell victims of such punishment are likely to develop a real HATRED towards homosexuals which wasn’t there as they still had their livelihood.

When looking at the American culture war, I realize I am very often much closer to Liberal than to Conservative positions, but I can’t completely side with the formers because they often act in an unjust and unproductive manner.
I think the situation would be much better if BOTH liberals and conservatives were to let go of their deep-seated moral indignation and realize their opponents might be neither crazy, ignorant nor evil.

 

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Evangelikalismus, intellektuelle Ehrlichkeit und akademische Freiheit (English too)

English version: Evangelicalism, intellectual honesty and academic freedom

 

Zuallererst ist es unerlässlich, einzusehen, dass es zwei Typen von Evangelikalen gibt:

1) Konservative Evangelikalen, die daran glauben, dass alle von den biblischen Schreibern beabsichtigten Aussagen wahr sind und dass die Bibel die einzige Offenbarung von Gott zu den Menschen ist.

2) Progressive Evangelikalen, die die kontra-intuitive Ansicht vertreten, dass biblische Autoren Fehler gemacht haben, aber dass alles was durch die gesamte Bibel vermittelt wird fehlerfrei ist und von Gott so beabsichtigt worden ist, dass die Bibel seine einzige Offenbarung zu den Menschen ist.

 

Es stellt sich heraus, dass eine erhebliche Anzahl von ID-Kreationisten (Anhängern von Intelligent Design) konservative Evangelikalen sind.

 

ExpelledNoIntelligenceAllowed_883476004990_500

Sie beklagten sich sehr laut über den vermeintlichen Mangel an akademischer Freiheit, ihren Lieblingskreationismus zu lehren, durch ihren Film  Expelled.

Dies wirft die offensichtliche Frage auf: wie wohl fühlt sich die akademische Freiheit in evangelikalen Universitäten, Seminaren und Kollegen?

Die Antwort ist: es ist weit davon entfernt, perfekt zu sein (welches vermutlich die Untertreibung des Jahres darstellt!).

Thom Stark erzählt uns den Fall von Dr. Rollston, der gefeuert wurde, weil er wahrheitsgemäss darüber berichtet hat, dass in den meisten Teilen der Bibel Frauen als Untermenschen dargestellt werden (genauso wie in all anderen Kulturen des alten Nahen Ostens).

Sogar noch verwirrender ist die Tatsache, dass Mike Licona auch entlassen wurde, obwohl er selbst ein konservativer Evangelikaler ist. In einem seiner Bücher über Jesus Auferstehung schrieb er, dass er glaubt, dass Matthäus am Ende seines Evangeliums nicht wirklich meinte, dass eine Armee von Zombies Jerusalem eroberte, sondern dass es als Allegorie beabsichtigt worden war.

Der anti-apologetische Atheist John Loftus berichtet über ähnliche Fälle auf seinem Blog.

 

Dieser ganze Schwachsinn führte der progressive evangelikale Theologe Peter Enns dazu, eine Post über den intellektuellen Suizid zu schreiben, den viele ehrliche Akademiker innerhalb evangelikalen Intuitionen begehen müssen, weil ihnen keine andere Wahl übrig gelassen wird, als enge Sichten einzunehmen.

 

Egal wie stark man mit dem progressiven Evangelikalismus verschiedener Meinung sein kann, es kann nicht verleugnet werden, dass ihre Einstellung keineswegs zu den intellektuellen Desasters führt, die man  in fundamentalistischen Kreisen sieht.

 

Bevor sie weinen wollen, weil ihnen nicht zugelassen wird, den ID-Kreationismus in öffentlichen Schulen zu lehren, sollten konservative Evangelikalen sich erstmals selber prüfen.

 

Lasst Jesus das Sagen haben:

 

3 Was siehst du aber den Splitter in deines Bruders Auge, und wirst nicht gewahr des Balkens in deinem Auge? 4 Oder wie darfst du sagen zu deinem Bruder: Halt, ich will dir den Splitter aus deinem Auge ziehen, und siehe, ein Balken ist in deinem Auge? 5 Du Heuchler, zieh am ersten den Balken aus deinem Auge; darnach siehe zu, wie du den Splitter aus deines Bruders Auge ziehst!

(Matthäus 7.3)

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The crazy bookmaker and the Cult of probability

A Critique of the Dutch Book Argument

 

Many neutral observers concur into thinking we are assisting to the formation of a new religion among hopelessly nerdy people.

The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy (Unabridged)

I’m thinking of course on what has been called hardcore Bayesianism, the epistemology according to which each proposition (“Tomorrow it’ll rain”, “String theory is the true description of the world”, “There is no god” etc.) has a probability which can and should be computed under almost every conceivable circumstance.

In a previous post I briefly explained the two main theories of probabilities, frequentism and Bayesianism. In another post, I laid out my own alternative view called “knowledge-dependent frequentism” which attempts at keeping the objectivity of frequentism while including the limited knowledge of the agent. An application to the Theory of Evolution can be found here.

It is not rare to hear Bayesians talk about their own view of probability as a life-saving truth you cannot live without, or a bit more modestly as THE “key to the universe“.

While trying to win new converts, they often put it as if it were all about accepting Bayes theorem whose truth is certain since it has been mathematically proven. This is a tactic I’ve seen Richard Carrier repeatedly employing.

http://www.utne.com/~/media/Images/UTR/Editorial/Articles/Online%20Articles/2012/07-01/Quest%20for%20the%20Historical%20Jesus/u-proving-history.jpg

 

I wrote this post as a reply for showing that frequentists accept Bayes theorem as well, and that the matter of the dispute isn’t about its mathematical demonstration but about whether or not one accepts that for every proposition, there exists a rational degree of belief behaving like a probability.

 

Establishing the necessity of probabilistic coherence

 

One very popular argument aiming at establishing this is the “Dutch Book Argument” (DBA). I think it is no exaggeration to state that many committed Bayesians venerate it with almost the same degree of devotion a Conservative Evangelical feels towards the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

FOBTs on Green Lanes

Put forward by Ramsey and De Finetti, it defines a very specific betting game whose participants are threatened by a sure loss (“being Dutch booked”) if the amounts of their odds do not fulfill the basic axioms of probabilities, the so-called Kolmogorov’s axioms (I hope my non-geeky readers will forgive me one day for becoming so shamelessly boring…):

1) the probability of an event is always a real positive number

2)  the probability of an event regrouping all possibilities is equal to 1

3) the probability of the sum of disjoint events is equal to the sum of the probability of each event

 

The betting game upon which the DBA lies is defined as follows: (You can skip this more technical green part whose comprehension isn’t necessary for following the basic thrust of my criticism of the DBA).

 

 

A not very wise wager

 

Let us consider an event E upon which it must be wagered.

The bookmaker determines a sum of money S (say 100 €) that a person R  (Receiver) will get from a person G (Giver) if E comes true. But the person R  has to give p*S to the person G beforehand.

The bookmaker determines himself who is going to be R and who is going to be G.

 

Holding fast to these rules, it’s possible to demonstrate that a clever bookmaker can set up things in such a way that any better not choosing p respecting the laws of probabilities will lose money regardless of the outcome of the event.

Let us consider for example that a better wagers upon the propositions 

1) “Tomorrow it will snow” with P1 = 0.65  and upon

2) “Tomorrow it will not snow” with P2 = 0.70.

P1 and P2 violate the laws of probability because the sum of the probabilities of these two mutually exclusive events should be 1 instead of 1.35

In this case, the bookmaker would choose to be G and first get P1*S + P2*S = 100*(1.135) = 135 €  from his better R. Afterwards, he wins in the two cases:

– It snows. He must give 100 € to R because of 1).  The bookmaker’s gain is  135 € – 100 = 35 €

– It doesn’t snow. He must give 100 € to R because of 2).  The bookmaker’s gain is also 135 € – 100 = 35 €

 

Let us consider the same example where this time the better comes up with P1 = 0.20 and P2 = 0.3 whose sum is largely inferior to 1.

The Bookmaker would choose to be R giving 0.20*100 = 20 € about the snow and 0.3*100 = 30 € about the absence of snow. Again, he wins in both cases:

– It snows. The better must give 100 € to R (the bookmaker) because of 1).  The bookmaker’s gain is -30 – 20 +100 = 50 €

– It does not snows. The better must give 100 € to R (the bookmaker) because of 2).  The bookmaker’s gain is  -30 – 20 +100 = 50 €

 

In both cases, P1 and P2 having fulfilled the probability axioms would have been BOTH a necessary and sufficient condition for keeping the sure loss from happening.

The same demonstration can be generalized to all other basic axioms of probabilities.

 

The thrust of the argument and its shortcomings

https://i1.wp.com/i-love-my-life.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Irrational.jpg

 

The Dutch Book Argument can be formulated as follows:

1) It is irrational to be involved in a bet where you’re bound to lose

2) One can make up a betting game such that for every proposition, you’re doomed to lose if the sums you set do not satisfy the rules of probabilities. In the contrary case you’re safe.

3) Thus you’d be irrational if the amounts you set broke the rules of probabilities.

4) The amounts you set are identical to your psychological degrees of belief

5) Hence you’d be irrational if your psychological degrees of beliefs do not behave like probabilities

 

Now I could bet any amount you wish there are demonstrably countless flaws in this reasoning.

 

I’m not wagering

One unmentioned premise of this purely pragmatic argument is that the agent is willing to wager in the first place. In the large majority of situations where there will be no opportunity for him to do so, he wouldn’t be irrational if his degrees of beliefs were non-probabilistic because there would be no monetary stakes whatsoever.

Moreover, a great number of human beings always refuse to bet by principle and would of course undergo no such threat of “sure loss”.

Since it is a thought experiment, one could of course modify it in such a way that:

“If you don’t agree to participate, I’ll bring you to Guatemala where you’ll be water-boarded until you’ve given up”. 

But to my eyes and that of many observers, this would make the argument look incredibly silly and convoluted.

 

I don’t care about money

Premise 1) is far from being airtight.

Let us suppose you’re a billionaire who happens to enjoy betting moderate amounts of money for various psychological reasons. Let us further assume your sums do not respect the axioms of probabilities and as a consequence you lose 300 €, that is 0.00003% of your wealth while enjoying the whole game. One must use an extraordinarily question-begging notion of rationality for calling you “irrational” in such a situation.

 

Degrees of belief and actions

It is absolutely not true that our betting amounts HAVE to be identical or even closely related to our psychological degree of beliefs.

Let us say that a lunatic bookie threatens to kill my children if I don’t accept to engage in a series of bets concerning insignificant political events in some Chinese provinces I had never heard of previously.

Being in a situation of total ignorance, my psychological degree of beliefs are undefined and keep fluctuating in my brain. But since I want to avoid a sure loss, I make up amounts behaving like probabilities which will prevent me from getting “Dutch-booked”, i.e. amounts having nothing to do with my psychology.

So I avoid sure loss even if my psychological states didn’t behave like probabilities at any moment.

 

Propositions whose truth we’ll never discover

There are countless things we will never know (at least assuming atheism is true, as do most Bayesians.)

Let us consider the proposition: “There exists an unreachable parallel universe which is fundamentally governed by a rotation between string-theory and loop-quantum gravity and many related assertions.

Let us suppose I ask to a Bayesian friend: “Why am I irrational if my corresponding degrees of belief in my brain do not fulfill the basic rules of probability?”

The best thing he could answer me (based on the DBA) would be:

“Imagine we NOW had to set odds about each of these propositions. It is true we’ll never know anything about that during our earthly life. But imagine my atheism was wrong: there is a hell, we are both stuck in it, and the devil DEMANDS us to abide by the sums we had set at that time.

You’re irrational because the non-probabilistic degrees of belief you’re having right now means you’ll get dutch-booked by me in hell in front of the malevolent laughters of fiery demons.”

Now I have no doubt this might be a good joke for impressing a geeky girl being not too picky (which is truly an extraordinarily unlikely combination).

But it is incredibly hard to take this as a serious philosophical argument, to say the least.

 

 

A more modest Bayesianism is probably required

 

To their credits, many more moderate Bayesians have started backing away from the alleged strength and scope of the DBA and state instead that:

“First of all, pretty much no serious Bayesian that I know of uses the Dutch book argument to justify probability. Things like the Savage axioms are much more popular, and much more realistic. Therefore, the scheme does not in any way rest on whether or not you find the Dutch book scenario reasonable. These days you should think of it as an easily digestible demonstration that simple operational decision making principles can lead to the axioms of probability rather than thinking of it as the final story. It is certainly easier to understand than Savage, and an important part of it, namely the “sure thing principle”, does survive in more sophisticated approaches.”

 

Given that Savage axioms rely heavily on risk assessment, they’re bound to be related to events very well treatable through my own knowledge-dependent frequentism, and I don’t see how they could justify the existence and probabilistic nature of degree of beliefs having no connection with our current concerns (such as the evolutionary path through which a small sub-species of dinosaurs evolved countless years ago).

 

To conclude, I think there is a gigantic gap between:

– the fragility of the arguments for radical Bayesianism, its serious problems such as magically turning utter ignorance into specific knowledge.

and

– the boldness, self-righteousness and terrible arrogance of its most ardent defenders.

 

I am myself not a typical old-school frequentist and do find valuable elements in Bayesian epistemology but I find it extremely unpleasant to discuss with disagreeable folks who are much more interested in winning an argument than in humbly improving human epistemology.

 

 

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Did Jesus leave his grave behind? An interview with Mike Licona.

There can be little doubt that the Christian faith stands and falls with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who claimed this would be the Way His heavenly father would defeat evil forever.

He is Risen

For many people having grown up in post-Christian Europe, this alleged event is nothing more than one of the numerous legends the ancient world was littered with.

SanktClausIn what follows, I had the immense privilege of interviewing Mike Licona, an amazing Biblical scholar and historian who thinks that an intellectual honest man of the twenty-first century can and even should believe that the Son of Man truly rose from the dead.

mike-licona-for-web

In our conversation we touched upon many topics and also wondered if it’s really the case that materialism (the worldview according to which everything is material) is almost certainly true.

 

 

 

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