Many years ago, I almost fell into bad company. I frequented a philosophy channel on IRC that
included a small, but very vocal band of what I like to call Randians –
primarily because they didn’t like being called Randians. These Randians preferred to be called

*objectivists*and apparently their greatest love in life was sticking it to subjectivists. Boy, did they hate subjectivism!
(Why Randians?
Because they were devotees of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of "objectivism". I have, since that time, had an abiding
distaste for Ayn Rand and anyone who adores her. I do understand that in some instances a
thoroughly reviled person like Ayn Rand may be misunderstood, or misjudged, and
there is the possibility that, despite appearances, such a person does in fact
have redeeming features. For example,
they might like puppies and kittens. Ayn
Rand, however, delighted in ripping the legs off puppies and kittens and
throwing them at small children that she had cast into a deep well at the
bottom of her garden.

If I were given the choice of spending eternity with Ayn
Rand or

*William Lane Craig*, I would choose laughing boy, despite being aware that the notion of spending eternity with**would indicate that he was right about the whole god thing and he would undoubtably spend some excruciating proportion of that eternity crowing about how he was right and I was wrong. But at least we would both be in hell.)***anyone*
The odd thing was that, at the time, when I searched for
these subjectivists, they didn't seem to exist.
The Randians appear to have constructed an army of straw men to attack
in their objectivistic fervour. Sure,
anyone who crossed them would get labelled as a subjectivist, but this term
appeared to be more pejorative than accurate.

A similar sort of one-sided battle appears to be underway
between

*Bayesians and frequentists*. Now perhaps the baying of the Bayesians is a little more accurate than that of those objectivists, perhaps there**people out there carrying the torch for frequentism, but I've not seen any evidence of it. It seems to me that in some instances a frequentist interpretation of probability is appropriate and in other instances a Bayesian interpretation is appropriate. See the second last page of***are**this*– note however, that the author is a statistician, the sort of person who uses probability**. In other instances, such as the on-going cat fight between Luke Barnes and Richard Carrier, the participants of a recent probability-centred spat are***all the time***statisticians – they are a cosmologist and a historian.***not*
What truly boggles the mind is the fact that

*Barnes has recently devoted an entire post*to lambasting Carrier on what started out as a response to short statement from Jeff Lowder in support of a criticism from Barnes, all predicated on one word. Carrier wrote (in his essay in "The End of Christianity"), my emphasis:
Bayes’ theorem is an

**in formal logic that derives the probability that a claim is true from certain other probabilities about that theory and the evidence.***argument*
To say that Bayes' theorem is an argument is possibly a bit
of an awkward way of putting it. It
could, possibly, be written as an argument in formal logic, in much the same
way as

*1+1=2*was by*Russell and Whitehead*, whose work Carrier references, but that's not really how Bayes' theorem is thought of. So, Carrier's claim is not worded particularly well. No big deal. Barnes however leapt gleefully onto that fact, spending some considerable time in savaging it and Lowder later concurred that Carrier's wording wasn't completely accurate.
Sadly, rather than 'fess up to having (at least) one
sentence in his essay that was a tiny bit stilted and moving on, Carrier gracefully
conceded that Bayes' theorem might not be an argument per se, but then went on
to claim it is the

**of an argument (after having claimed, apparently off the cuff, that one simple derivation of Bayes' theorem is***form***derivation of Bayes' theorem rather than***the***derivation). He subsequently went on to point out that the issue is not so much the validity of Bayes' theorem (which no-one appears to be contesting) or the formulation of Bayes' theorem (which, again, no-one appears to be contesting), but rather the issue is what may be input to the equation that is the expression of Bayes' theorem.***a*
In effect this was saying "any argument about Bayes'
theorem, the derivation of Bayes' theorem or the description of Bayes' theorem
is moot, because the argument isn't about Bayes' theorem itself but rather
about what we bring to Bayes' theorem".

So, did Barnes pick up on this
implied appeal to stick to what is relevant and not get bogged down in
irrelevant detail? Of course not. His latest (and perhaps last)

*attack on Carrier*is focussed, laser sharp, on Carrier's use of "the" rather than "a". In the conclusion, Barnes challenges Carrier to release a new variant of probability or, in effect, choose a side: "Bayesian" or "frequentist".
What I find even more absurd is
Barnes' statement in the comments:

(Carrier)’s not
a frequentist. Frequentists don’t believe that prior probabilities exist, but
Carrier does.

What? Are alternate
interpretations of probability now to be considered as competing ideologies? Here Barnes appears to either have forgotten
what he wrote in his piece

*10 Nice things about Bayes' Theorem*or he is accusing these mythical frequentists of being complete morons.*Prior probability*is a defined term. It's not something like climate change, free will or the Loch Ness Monster – it's not something that you can really question the existence of (complete morons aside). Perhaps it's a term that you can, under certain circumstances, question the utility of – like the term "European" (do you mean people who have some combination of the

*SLC24A5*,

*SLC45A2*and

*HERC2/OCA2*genes or people who currently reside on the continent of Europe, or people who define themselves as members of the European Union, or something else?) – but you'd be crazy to deny that prior probabilities ever exist.

It seems completely bizarre to me that there
are these mad keen Bayesians, apparently snug in their foxholes, taking the
occasional pot-shots at their enemies, the dastardly frequentists, totally
oblivious to the fact that – in the right circumstances – these
"frequentists" would be more than happy to utilise a Bayesian
interpretation. It reminds me somewhat
of those theists who become defensive at the mere mention of even the mildest
expressions of atheism, as if the lack of belief on the part of one were
necessarily a full-scale, frontal attack on the other. (Note that this is a position which only
encourages some of the more mildly oriented atheists to move towards the
militant position. It basically becomes
a question of self-defence.)

Oh, hang on.
These people, the manic Bayesian defenders and the aggressively
defensive apologists,

*they seem to be one and the same*. What was the likelihood of that!
Anyway, Barnes has stated that he might no
longer be attacking Carrier. I don't
know if that will be the case though. I
think I identified a misplaced comma in one of Carrier's latest sentences and
that could be strung out into a couple of a rants. Don't you think so, Dr Barnes?

(Yes, I do appreciate the irony in that final comment,
since I have written numerous articles sniping at Barnes, spinning dross from
essentially nothing. But I am small fry,
a mere gnat, a bit-part player while Barnes and Carrier are more substantial
actors. That's not to say that my
inconsequentiality renders my criticisms invalid though, even if Barnes may
well choose to ignore them.

And, again, yes, I do realise that I have a
sample size of one here, regarding the correlation between Bayesian defenders
[or at least attackers of frequentism] and apologists. I just provided an example, that was not
intended to be conclusive evidence in support of my case. It happens to be a nice coincidence that the
anti-frequentism argument is provided here in the context of a defence of
fine-tuning as an argument for god.)

## No comments:

## Post a Comment

Feel free to comment, but play nicely!

Sadly, the unremitting attention of a spambot means you may have to verify your humanity.