Historical Methodology: A Few Thoughts

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Kishkumen
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Re: Historical Methodology: A Few Thoughts

Post by Kishkumen »

Analytics wrote:
Thu Jun 16, 2022 2:05 pm
Carrier has argued for both mysticism and for the validity and applicability of Bayesian analysis in historical questions. Just because he is wrong about one doesn't mean he's wrong about the other. If one appropriately uses Bayesian analysis to prove Jesus probably was historical, that's a win on the issue that Carrier thinks is more important.
So far I am unimpressed with what I have seen of the use of Bayesian analysis in historical questions. If it is supposed to provide more robust or accurate results, I have yet to see that happen. I have seen that the evidence and interpretations one starts with make all the difference. Bayesian analysis does not make good historical arguments better or bad historical arguments better, as far as I can tell. Maybe it makes arguments look better because people find equations and numbers so impressive these days.
Personally, I think confirmation bias is a better explanation for his continued obsession on this rather than cynically talking about historical Jesus in a plot to get rich off of it.
LOL!!! Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. :roll: Let me be clearer, and remind everyone of my opinion of Carrier. His first motivation is to feed his fragile but bloated ego. A distant second is the money. It is certainly a serious consideration, but the ego is the overriding consideration.
“Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” ~ Cornel West
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Physics Guy
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Re: Historical Methodology: A Few Thoughts

Post by Physics Guy »

Kishkumen wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:03 am
Bayesian analysis does not make good historical arguments better or bad historical arguments better, as far as I can tell. Maybe it makes arguments look better because people find equations and numbers so impressive these days.
I can't say that I've seen many applications of Bayesian inference in history, but I think this simply has to be true, given what Bayesian inference is. It is literally nothing—nothing at all—but simple logic. Bayes's theorem consists of two lines: an obvious statement of logic followed by a division.

If you have solidly quantitative data then Bayesian inference lets you express its logical implications in the quantitative terms that solidly quantitative data can actually support. It avoids wasting a lot of valuable quantitative information by crudely translating it into vague, qualitative terms before drawing conclusions from it. This is obviously great.

When all your probabilities are simply made up subjectively, though, then Bayesian inference cannot possibly provide anything that careful reasoning in ordinary language would not also provide—except perhaps a false confidence. And I'm afraid that crude efforts at counting sparse, incomplete, and incommensurable data points do not actually amount to anything more than making up probabilities subjectively.

Bayesian inference is an important methodology in statistics. History has sample size one.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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