July 19, 2005

Just like flipping coins

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at July 19, 2005 4:03 PM

This is the dumbest thing I've read in a while:

Mathematics proves Christ was resurrected by God

Tuesday, 19 July , 2005, 14:57

Melbourne: An Oxford University professor has on the basis of logic and mathematics claimed that Jesus Christ was resurrected by God.

Professor Richard Swinburne has said that it was 97 percent certain that God had raised Christ from the dead.

Swinburne, while giving a public lecture at the Australian Catholic University said that probability calculus showed a probability of 97 percent that Christ was resurrected.

He said that the conclusion was arrived at after a series of complex calculations, which began with the probability of God's existence as one in two, that is either God existed or did not, adding that it was also one in two that God became incarnate.

Also, I will either win the lottery today or I won't. So the probability is one in two! GAH. You may be wondering, as I did at this point, what he is a professor of—it's certainly not math. The article informs us that he is a "leading philosopher of religion". Usually I expect better from philosophers, but he is from Oxford. (Yeah, I'm wearing my Cambridge shirt today, I guess we all have our irrational biases.)


Paul Erdos (and George Polya... and numerous others who actually knew something about probability) are turning over in their graves. If I were dead, I would be too.

Of course (and I would think a philosopher of all people would know this), as you point out, the original assumption of a 1 in 2 chance of existence already has no grounding. (I shudder to think of the steps he followed after that. Even ignoring that, I can prove lots of bs with 100% valid steps if I start off with a faulty assumption.)


Posted by: Mason | July 19, 2005 10:30 PM

I have a feeling that it takes a simple search-and-replace to apply his argument not just to the Gospels but to the Book of Mormon, the Koran, etc...

Also, I think he should account for the problem of evil by considering every instance of gratuitous suffering to be a Bayesian disconfirmation of the existence of God... might bring his numbers down a bit.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | July 20, 2005 11:41 AM

"Have you ever heard of a Presbyterian Holy War?"

from Heaven is for Presbyterians, The Frantics

Did you ever take that Philosophy of Probability class from Hajek? That was a cool course. I can just imagine him going off on this story.

Posted by: Mason | July 20, 2005 8:12 PM

I did! I totally thought of that class when I read this article. Maybe I should forward it to him.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | July 20, 2005 9:11 PM

Well, I thought of the class too. :)

But his reaction would be far more amusing in person than by e-mail...

The address is ahajek@caltech.edu

I should drop by and say 'hi' to him now that I'm here again. He remembered me immediately when seeing me on campus one time something like 4--5 years after I graduated. (I heard a 'hi Mason' and turned around to see who it was.)

Posted by: Mason | July 21, 2005 6:21 PM
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