The bulk of the book discusses, in excruciating and verbose detail, the definition and process of Bayes' Theorem. Carrier admits that the book is about understanding Bayes relative to historical research and cautions that it is mathematical, but that he will review the theorem as it concerns the historian.
He then proceeds to I think the title of this work is misleading - in part. He then proceeds to inundate us with an avalanche of statistical procedure in the most repetitious manner. He also has this quirk of constantly interrupting his text with parenthetical notes on how what he is now discussing will be discussed in later chapters. In later chapters he tells us how he told us about this fact in an earlier chapter. In the beginning he suggests the reader go to either Wikipedia or to Eliezer Yudkowsky's website for the best explanations of Bayes' Theorem.
And he was right. You can stop reading this book - go to Yudkowsky and you will find a clear and understandable explanation. Carrier could lean a lot from him. His references to Jesus' historicity are spun around references from the New Testament and how they can be refuted by what they DON'T tell us, or how we can dismiss or accept the facts by virtue of other suppositions. Common sense tells us that historical witnesses need to be vetted and are only as reliable as the context and origin of the material being referenced. One does not need Bayes to question primary source material.
Personally - I think Carrier is full of himself and has a desperate need for others to recognize his illuminating intelligence. I'll take a pass on Volume II. Mar 09, Luke Ellison rated it really liked it. The first pages included a solid summary of Bayes theorem including how it can be applied to historical claims. Later Carrier gets into critiquing historical criteria many use in analysis of the historical Jesus.
He comes off as overly skeptical, seemingly assuming anything any author said about Jesus to be highly suspect and likely mythical. He dismisses the majority of historical criteria used by most scholars and tries to give reasons as to why.
Some were convincing, but most weren't. Tow The first pages included a solid summary of Bayes theorem including how it can be applied to historical claims. Towards the end of the book, the details increase and it takes more focus to absorb the information. I read only about half of the last chapter before putting it down. Dec 09, David rated it it was amazing. I found his logic devastating. He has a stated bias, as he is clear an atheist, but it would be hard to engage in a rational discussion with the author and not agree with his premise and its application to the quest for a historical Jesus.
I read this as an audiobook, and the author does a fine job of conveying the essentials, but, given my own learning style, I will pick up a eBook version to see the equations. The author is quite engaging despite the highly academic ideas he's trying to convey I found his logic devastating. The author is quite engaging despite the highly academic ideas he's trying to convey.
A splendid read! Jun 27, Stephen Griffiths rated it it was amazing. My eyes were opened. Dr Richard Carrier has identified the perfect model Bayes theorem for probabilistically proving history. He demonstrates an incredible command of reason, logic, statistics, and mathematics and demonstrates why all other methods for analyzing and proving history either reduce to Bayes theorem or are fallacious.
Jan 04, Daniel rated it liked it. Dec 19, Steven rated it really liked it. The book Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus gives an introduction to Bayesian statistical analysis and arguments for changing how historical truths are validated. Richard Carrier uses the book length exposition to argue that methods used to authenticate historical evidence should always contain Bayesian methods.
Carrier wants the reader to conclude by the end of the book that Bayesian approaches should always be used to resolve questions of historical accuracy The book Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus gives an introduction to Bayesian statistical analysis and arguments for changing how historical truths are validated. Carrier wants the reader to conclude by the end of the book that Bayesian approaches should always be used to resolve questions of historical accuracy for past events. Carrier has a steep hill to climb to prove his case.
He has taken on in this book to explain Bayesian analysis to non-Bayesian scholars, to explain how Bayesian methods can effectively replace all other historical authenticity methods, why Bayesian approaches are the same as frequentist approaches and how Bayesian approaches are useful for addressing questions about biblical historical accuracy. My view of the target audience for this book can be expressed in a form of interlocking Venn diagrams.
It would contain people who have been exposed to college level statistics The people should be interested in learning about Bayesian methods. They should be familiar with academic scholarship. They should be interested in learning about historical scholarship. They should have some exposure to Christian biblical information.
And additionally they should be interested in assessments of Christian biblical evidence. My opinion is, that with the target action that matches the overlapped Venn diagrams, that Carrier does a fairly good job making his arguments. He adequately explains Bayes techniques for people comfortable with statistical ideas and conditional probability. He makes strong arguments for adopting his approach to historical research. I was not completely able to accept his complete argument on historical evidence.
I intuitively felt he might be correct, but I was not able to follow his argument enough to be persuaded by the presentation. He uses the entire book to attack the credibility of evidence in the Bible. So I think people who fit the target audience could enjoy the book, but I would not recommend the book for people outside of the target audience. I would be more interested in a different goal for a future similar scholarly effort.
I would like to see a Bayesian approach to why the history of Christianity led to the most successful mythic construct in human history. The value of statistical analysis is comparing human constructs and producing numerical results that represent how normal or unusual are event occurrences. A review of the statistical accuracy employed in the book is at: Review of Proving History Jun 05, Fred Kohn rated it liked it Shelves: christian-nonfiction. What [Sir Peter Brian] Medawar complained about was the charade the science world has engaged in over the ages in pretending that science is conducted with robotic processes that are not contaminated by the irrationalities of human thought and bias.
The inherent philosophy of a scientific paper is the assumption that science is conducted through the process of deduction— that the scientist blindly goes about gathering information on all aspects of a subject and then eventually sits down and, thr What [Sir Peter Brian] Medawar complained about was the charade the science world has engaged in over the ages in pretending that science is conducted with robotic processes that are not contaminated by the irrationalities of human thought and bias.
The inherent philosophy of a scientific paper is the assumption that science is conducted through the process of deduction— that the scientist blindly goes about gathering information on all aspects of a subject and then eventually sits down and, through the process of deduction, puts the information together to create a picture of what's going on. And this is where Medawar says the scientific paper is a fraud. The scientist tells himself that he is writing up "just the facts," but there have been huge numbers of biases from the beginning of the project's conception.
I couldn't help sensing behind this yet another atheist with a huge chip on his shoulder, quite sure that his logical abilities and scientific mindedness must be superior to those non-atheist colleagues who have yet to see the light of reason. Although Carrier berates those other illogical Jesus scholars for telling Just So stories and bootstrapping probabilities representing the probability that their hypothesis as being correct as higher than it actually is , I didn't see any evidence in this book that he is less prone to doing the exact same thing.
To be fair, I have to withhold final judgement on this last point until I read the sequel to this book. Honestly, I wasn't even going to bother reading it until I got to the last chapter of this book, which was a truly excellent explanation of how Bayes' Theorem works and how it can be applied to historical questions.
This made me truly interested in how he will apply it to the Jesus question. It also caused me to boost the rating of the book by a star. The book was running a solid two stars up until p. A sensible approach to evaluating the probability of assertions about history.
Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard C. Carrier
While I would rate the main thesis and content of the book as 5 stars, overall readability is perhaps more like 3 stars. Hence my rating of 4 stars. The first difficulty Carrier faces is that of trying to explain mathematical concepts of probabili A sensible approach to evaluating the probability of assertions about history. I have 3 degrees in mathematics, so I mind this and don't view this as adversely affecting readability directly, but it does mean that he does face a difficult problem as an author. There were three main problems with readability that I noted.
For example, missing parentheses in formulae, numerical errors in cross-references in explanations, and the introduction of mathematical techniques in notes specifically Laplace's Rule of Succession that are not explained in the book itself. As a reader with considerable mathematical training, I find this simply to be annoying noise.
I can only conjecture that the effect on a nontechnical reader is not likely to be good. I think it marks a lapse in the author's awareness of the needs of his target audience. In Carrier's analysis of historicity criteria the presentation of the analytical reasoning tends to be too diffuse. In presenting his analysis he also presents and refutes all common counterarguments as he goes along. This sometimes makes it comically difficult to follow the overarching thread of analytical reasoning over the course of 80 pages say, when a dozen or more examples of counterarguments are brought up and refuted in the course of the explanation.
It would be much easier to follow the reasoning if it were first succinctly outlined an argued in 10 to 20 pages. Then examine the examples after the argument is completed and in the reader's mind to exhibit their fallacies. Sep 21, Eric Wojciechowski rated it really liked it.