William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Judgments About Fact And Fiction By Confused Researchers

miracl

Good news first. The peer-reviewed “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds” by Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris in Cognitive Science is so awful that it automatically enters the short list for the First Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award (to be announced each October). Congratulations!

The article opens, “Children often learn about people such as Cinderella, Tom Sawyer, George Washington, and Rosa Parks in the context of a narrative. However, these protagonists vary in their status.”

Bad Science of the First Kind re-packages commonsense as if were new and certifies it by official card-carrying researchers. Pace: “Five- and 6-year olds are able to use one important heuristic in assessing the status of story protagonists (Corriveau, Kim, Schwalen, & Harris, 2009). When hearing a story about an unfamiliar protagonist, they use the nature of the events in the narrative as a clue to the protagonist’s status.”

See what I mean?

Yet Bad Science of the First Kind is not harmless. It foster scientism and leads, all too often, to Bad Science of the Second Kind. This is malignancy, where what is not so, or is unknown, is said to be certain. Corriveau has done us a service by showing us the progression. Let’s watch.

“Woolley and Cox (2007) found that pre-schoolers increasingly claim that the miracles in religious (i.e., biblically based) story-books could have really occurred. Moreover, as compared to children from nonreligious families, children from Christian families were especially likely to regard such events as plausible” (p. 3).

Don’t see the problem because, obviously, miracles in religious “story-books” really for real could have happened, and that religiously educated children would more likely know this? Hint: She meant it negatively.

“The analysis offered by Corriveau et al. (2009) implies that, in the absence of a religious education, children will regard miracles as implausible because they involve ordinarily impossible outcomes. Accordingly, they should conclude that the protagonist in a story that includes a miracle is a fictional character rather than a real person” (p. 4).

The lack of philosophical training tells. Miracles are not “ordinarily impossible outcomes.” They are not impossible at all. If they were impossible, they could never happen, n’est ce pas? Anyway, here come the “experiments” on “religious”, by which she meant Christian (Jews were excluded), and non-Christian kids.

Kids were read stories like the following, and then shown a picture of the person and asked to put that picture into a “real [person]” or “pretend [person] box.”

Religious
This is Peter. One night he and the disciples were sailing a boat and got caught in a bad storm. Jesus walked on water to save them and Peter jumped out to walk toward him. Peter started to sink but Jesus caught him and they both jumped into the boat. The storm passed and everyone was safe.

Fantastical
This is Peter. One night he and his friends were sailing a boat and got caught in a bad storm. Peter fell into the water and started to sink. A fairy flew toward the boat to save them and used her powers to get him back onto the boat. The storm passed and everyone was safe.

Realistic
This is Peter. One night he and his friends were sailing a boat and got caught in a bad storm. Lightning flashed and Peter fell out of the boat. Peter started to sink, but his friends threw him a rope and pulled him back into the boat. The storm passed and everyone was safe.

Lo. “Religious children…were more likely than secular children…to categorize these characters as ‘real.'” The scare quotes are hers. By “Religious”, I must emphasize, she meant Christian—and not Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoist, Zoroastrian, Jew, etc.

What elevates this beyond Bad Science of the First Kind is not just that was accompanied by an unjustifiable and unverified quantification of the results, topped by an overly complex statistical model with wee p-values. No, sir. It was the extrapolations which followed.

“It is possible that religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal regularities” (p. 13).

Miracles, when they occur, are always caused. How could they not be? Which strongly suggests the question: Shouldn’t a person experimenting on children to plumb their understanding of causality understand causality herself? Or do Corriveau et alia take the dogmatic, against-all-evidence position that miracles are everywhere impossible?

Or was her purpose to make Christianity into a pathology? I’ll let Corriveau have the last word (from the conclusion).

“By contrast, secular children displayed little recognition of God’s special powers. When presented with religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events, they categorized the protagonists as pretend” (p. 21).

“[E]ven if children have no natural inclination to believe in divine or superhuman agency, religious instruction can readily lead them to do so”. And, “An alternative possibility is that children are disposed to credulity unless they are taught otherwise by their families” (p. 23).

——————————————————————-

Thanks to Nicholas Senz at Catholic Stand where we first learned of this, uh, study.

37 Comments

  1. If you are expecting secular researchers to properly investigate religious understanding then you do believe in miracles.

  2. Nice study. Too bad she failed to include non-religious children like some people I know who actually think if you believe hard enough, you can jump off a 20 story building and not get hurt or play in traffic and no car will hit you if you just believe. The researcher really needed to expand her study participants circle. Or read some interesting blogs—she could start with David Icke. Much of what he describes is “miraculous” in the sense that it defies physical law. Move over to psychic blogs. All claim to have mysterious powers that let them transcend the physical world. The researcher should have included:
    Peter was in a boat and it was sinking. He remembered a psychic told him this was going to happen and that he would be safe if he just stayed calm. Rescuers were on their way. Peter did as the psychic stated and sat quietly in the boat awaiting the rescuers. Was this a smart move on Peter’s part?

    Children (and adults) truly believe in miracles when they see one or read of one that fits all the criteria for miracles. Non-religious believe we just don’t have a scientific explanation yet. (Which is interesting, since wait and see is great for miracles but never allowed in global warming. Do I detect a bias here?)

  3. It used to be that Bible stories for children were not only for children of Christian parents. The doctor’s office that I used to visit as a child had an array of illustrated Bible stories for children, and it is very possible that children of non-religious parents were exposed to those stories. While I wouldn’t say that I was brought up to be particularly religious (we didn’t recount these stories at home) as children (classmates and neighborhood kids) we all knew stories about Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, Pharaoh’s dream, the wisdom of Solomon, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den etc. … and talked about them. (Jonah and the whale is particularly fascinating to a kid.) Not every one of us believed every story, and there was a good deal of skepticism, and a lot consideration of topics such as, “If you were Daniel, what would you do?” However, there was much more “religious instruction” in the cultural sense and there wasn’t an concerted effort to rip religious stories or symbolism from the public square. But this was a time well before Sponge-Bob Squarepants.

  4. If we assume religion false the study is still terrible because it’s basically looking to reward no imagination. The scenarios that “aren’t real” are extremely limiting and leave no room for possibility. Viruses are an example in the news recently that seem impossible: something that cannot be observed by the senses causes one to bleed through the ears before killing. Sounds impossible!

    Of course we can see the Ebola virus with microscopes, but before the technology existed we could not and if we use the heuristic in the study would classify the recounting of dying from the Ebola virus as “not possible” or “not real.”

  5. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 5, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Aargh! That’s not “begging the question”!

  6. “Begging the question” to mean “assuming the conclusion” has always struck me as a bad translation of petitio principii where “asking” would seem to be a better word. “Begging the question” raises the image of panhandlers on Pilosopher’s Row” accosting passersby for questions.

    “Begging the question” to mean “really want to ask the question” makes more sense.

  7. Sander van der Wal

    August 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

    What about this for a miracle. Type in some text on a computer screen, and you see an answer from somebody claiming to be human and to live on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

  8. Briggs

    August 5, 2014 at 10:47 am

    YOS, DAV,

    Which brings to mind a line from Witness For The Prosecution, “Sir Wilfrid arrived just in time to catch you out on a point of grammar.”

  9. Miracles are not “ordinarily impossible outcomes.” They are not impossible at all. If they were impossible, they could never happen, n’est ce pas?

    Isn’t that the point – miracles are impossible, they don’t happen. Accounts of people walking on water, raising the dead, feeding thousands of people (well) with minimum amounts of food are made up, untrue, fiction.

    The academic adds the caveat “ordinarily impossible” – isn’t that a fair flagging up of a presumption, something Prof Briggs would usually approve of.

    It is a concession that extra-ordinarily miracles can occur.

    P(miracle|ordinary circumstances) = 0
    P(miracle|deliberate intervention of deity) = 1

    If P(debliberate intervention of deity) = 0

    (Due to it being of the non-intervening sort, or non-existent – theists, please consider both these options when replying.)

    Then P(miracle) = 0

    There is a huge problem defining miracles – how is a deliberate intervention of a deity defined, how are ordinary circumstances defined.

    Isn’t it the case that if it is discovered that “ordinary circumstances” can explain an event – he was standing on a rock not walking on water etc, doesn’t the event loose its miraculous status.

    The definition of a miracle as far as I understanding is an event whose only explanation is the direct intervention of a deity, inexplicable under any other “usual/normal/materialistic” circumstances, but what does normal mean, if you live in a universe with a crude interfering God, who seems to use regularities of nature for 99.99999% of the time and magic for the other 0.00001%.

    “[Miracles] are not impossible at all” says Professor Briggs.

    How does he know?

    We have accounts of miracles, certainly, but that is a very different beast than the thing itself.

  10. Briggs

    August 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Chinahand,

    Nope. It is not the point, and your analysis is flawed. See this and this.

  11. Prof Briggs,

    Thanks for the links.

    After reading them, I’d like to understand, is claiming that anything (non-mathematical) is impossible unscientific?

  12. After another reading another query:

    religious teaching … leads … to acceptance that … [miracles] can happen in defiance of ordinary causal regularities” (p. 13).

    Miracles, when they occur, are always caused.

    Well, accepting arguendo that Miracles, when the occur, are always caused, that isn’t really the issue Corriveau et al are raising is it … the issue is can something be a miracle if it is caused by ordinary causal regularities.

    We may never know if something has been caused by ordinary causal regularities or divine intervention into “the normally operating secondary causes” and so applying or refusing the moniker “miracle” has to be an act of faith, but that epistemological uncertainty, doesn’t change the ontological fact.

    Ontologically, can something be a miracle without a divine intervention?

    Is everything a miracle, nothing, or just somethings? And how are they defined ontologically.

    I think I agree with Prof Briggs epistemologically there will be confusion over an events status, but does that confusion preclude an ontological definition of the miraculous?

    Surely if we use the word it has to mean something, different from “ordinary causal regularities”

  13. RE: “Miracles are not “ordinarily impossible outcomes.””

    WHAT??? Put another way the statement can be said as, “ordinarily possible outcomes are miraculous” — What makes a “miracle” a “miracle” is that the miraculous outcome is ordinarily impossible.

    Something seems to have got lost in the editing–presumably the intended meaning in the above essay was something along the lines of “miracles are not impossible and do happen, sometimes,” or something like that.

  14. The study can be found & read here: http://www.bu.edu/learninglab/files/2012/05/Corriveau-Chen-Harris-in-press.pdf

    I just don’t see what the fuss is about. Children, with developmentally immature/limited capacity to analyze much of anything will naturally interpret things in context of what they’ve been taught (regardless if what they’ve been taught, and as a result believe, is true or not).

    If they’re taught that magic is real they’ll be much more likely to believe as real a false story involving magic. If their teachers/parents happen to be magicians (illusionists) they’d know pretty much all “magic” is sleight of hand, distraction & showmanship–entertaining illusions that are never real…and they’d naturally disbelieve any story in which magic is presented as anything other than trickery.

    That’s hardly controversial & almost nobody would find those findings surprising (though most of us would wonder why anybody would need to bother to actually study such results).

    But…substitute what amounts to ‘religious indoctrination’ for ‘magic’ and all sorts of emotional baggage pops up to find cause for concern. Consider from the end of Brigg’s essay:

    “Or was her purpose to make Christianity into a pathology? I’ll let Corriveau have the last word (from the conclusion).”

    Some quotes follow.

    As for religion & what’s real vs. pretend–consider what Christians believe (as Briggs notes: “Anyway, here come the “experiments” on “religious”, by which she meant Christian (Jews were excluded), and non-Christian kids.”):

    – Adam & Eve & the Garden of Eden were real characters in a real place
    – The whole Adam & Eve story is a allegorical morality tale akin with Aesop’s Fables.

    – Noah’s flood happened exactly as the O.T. story says
    – Nope, just another allegorical tale built around a real, but less dramatic, flood

    – Language difference arise from the Tower of Babel
    – Language difference arise from social migrations, etc.

    And such a list could go on & on & on.

    Christians believe in literal interpretations of Biblical events–that they are literally real.

    And Christians believe the same events are pretend stories made to teach a valid lesson.

    R. Catholics, per official church doctrine, fall in the latter group, which makes Briggs highly emotional reaction all the more puzzling — especially considering how tentative the official Church is on matters of miracles, very hesitant to accept or confirm they’ve occurred until formal investigation, and very routinely rejecting them. Church-confirmed Miracles are very rare.

    One thing of interest from this study is how religious education induces uncritical credulity (gullibility) in kids to accepting miracles as real when the official Church is far more skeptical–in actual practice.

    Seems to me that there’s a good takeaway from the study: Make sure kids aren’t being led astray from religious education by becoming too gullible for whatever tripe some quack wants to present as credible that might in reality be designed to mislead.

    It’s one thing to get kids to believe…it’s quite another to go about it in a way that they’ll be more inclined to believe anything.

  15. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    What makes a “miracle” a “miracle” is that the miraculous outcome is ordinarily impossible.

    “Impossible”.
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — Inigo Montoya

  16. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 5, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    A man named George Washington threw a dollar all the way across the Potomac River. Real person or pretend person?

  17. A man named George Washington threw a dollar

    Maybe he didn’t like his image.

    If he did do that he was likely here and probably was paying back for his cherry tree fiasco.

  18. A man named George Washington threw a dollar

    Which would make him the first Presidential Wanna-be or Gonna-Be to throw money away.

  19. YOS,

    Maybe you mean the Rappahannock River, but it is good to see you admit that not all stories told of historical figures are correct. I do see a bind that you and Briggs have put atheists in. If they criticize religious beliefs in let’s say a young earth they are accused of being literalists no different than fundamentalists and not attune to Catholic interpretation but when they criticise New Testament miracles there is a somewhat different problem. What is this latter exactly? I do agree that the study on which Briggs’ column is based is foolish.

  20. Mike in KC, MO

    August 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    “Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies.”
    – G. K. Chesterton

  21. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    If they criticize religious beliefs in let’s say a young earth they are accused of being literalists no different than fundamentalists and not attune to Catholic interpretation

    That’s because the Catholic and Orthodox churches do not get their faith from the Bible; rather, they get the Bible from their faith. (In fact, the Orthodox Church doesn’t have a Bible, per se. They have Gospels and Lectionaries and Psalm books and so on.)

    IOW, the Faith is prior to the Bible and the meanings of Biblical texts were what believers read into them from the get-go. There were four ways of reading any given text, and as Augustine pointed out, the moral meaning comes first. Later, we may ask if it is also intended literally.

    In all the sacred books, we should consider the eternal truths that are taught, the facts that are narrated, the future events that are predicted, and the precepts or counsels that are given. In the case of a narrative of events, the question arises as to whether everything must be taken according to the figurative sense only, or whether it must be expounded and defended also as a faithful record of what happened. No Christian will dare say that the narrative must not be taken in a figurative sense. … If, then, Scripture is to be explained under both aspects, what meaning other than the allegorical have the words: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth?”
    — De genesi ad literam

    There is a pretty good primer found here:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1202.htm
    that includes tips for when meanings are literal or not. But he also says that one should not hold a particular meaning so strongly that it cannot be abandoned if it is later shown incorrect. He was quite aware of the perils of translation from Hebrew to Greek to Latin, the use of figures of speech, the two kinds of literal meaning, and the distinction between an eternal truth and something particular to a time and place.
    The Magisterium of the Latin Church and the Holy Traditions of the Greek serve as a context for the meaning of scripture.¹ These include the writings Fathers of the sub-Apostolic age, the findings of the ecumenical councils, authoritative pronouncements by the Pope (in the Roman tradition) and other such matters. The whole thing is like having, you know, a “Supreme Court” in addition to a “Constitution.”
    Just as there is no probability without a model, there is no scriptural meaning without a context of belief.
    ¹ context, lit. “with-the-text,” is nicely contextualized by Brandon Watson, who wrote:

    It matters to the interpretation of Nietzsche that in works off the beaten path he showed contempt for anti-Semites. If we’re interpreting Augustine on the treatment of heretics, it matters that he came to the position that heretic should be punished under law only after a long string of violent attacks and assassination attempts by Donatists, and that even then what he was arguing is just that Christians could appeal to the law for punishments already provided by law. If we’re interpreting Aristotle on slavery, it matters that the kind of slavery Aristotle accepts in his written works is more restricted than slavery as typically practiced by the Greeks. It matters, if we are to understand what Plato is doing in his arguments that women should have the same education as men, that Greek society was highly, highly misogynistic. And with Heidegger, it matters both that he was a Nazi and what kind he was…
    — “Heidegger and Naziism”
    http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2014/07/heidegger-and-nazism-again.html

  22. Thanks YOS, but as for “That’s because the Catholic and Orthodox churches do not get their faith from the Bible; rather, they get the Bible from their faith.” this is a little too zen for me.

    “The whole thing is like having, you know, a “Supreme Court” in addition to a “Constitution.””: I hope that it works better than this. 😉

  23. “Bad Science of the First Kind re-packages commonsense as if were new and certifies it by official card-carrying researchers.”

    I see this sort of thing all the time in antismoking research. There’s a particular scam run by some of them that involves simply assigning a technical name (PM 2.5) to something completely ordinary (smoke particulates, i.e. visible elements of smoke, or, i.e. simply “smoke.”) then taking a little sniffer device into a few bars and restaurants and comparing the amount of “air pollution” (as they then switch over to calling it) in places that allow smoking vs. places that don’t.

    The amazing discovery?

    There is up to 75%, no, 87%, no, 93% more smoke in the air of a bar where people are allowed to smoke than in one where they are not! Then, as a bonus, they compare the smoke in a smoky bar to the outdoor air that everyone has to breathe all day long and apply the EPA’s “Air Quality Standards” to show how the bar air is nasty.

    Now why would they do this? Heh, well, first of all, they can charge up to $75,000 to the taxpayers every time they play this little skit out in Podunkville, and second of all, it makes for dandy headlines when smoking ban debates are coming up for a vote.

    William, I just spent a delightful hour or two going back over a whole BUNCH o’ blogs you’ve written on statistical scams of various sorts here. VERY nicely done!!!

    🙂
    MJM

  24. Dav, a correction: You wrote about GW and his dollar, “Which would make him the first Presidential Wanna-be or Gonna-Be to throw money away.”

    You forgot to say “his own” in front of the word “money.”

    – MJM

  25. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks YOS, but as for “That’s because the Catholic and Orthodox churches do not get their faith from the Bible; rather, they get the Bible from their faith.” this is a little too zen for me.

    Nah. It’s just that a cause is not prior to its effect. There was a Church before there was a Bible. In fact, they spent about a century or so deciding on what was needed and what was not.

  26. I find most miracles possible, all it take is a being whom can control energy directly or with the use of technology, Walk on water humans do all the time, it only has to be frozen, to someone in the tropics froze lake would have been a miracle 2000 years ago. If I could control energy directly yes I could walk on water either by changing it to a solid were I stepped or manipulated gravity so I would suspend myself over the water. Of course we know of no technology at this time that could do such a thing it does not mean that it impossible, Back in Jesus time no living thing moved faster than 200 miles and hour and stayed living! As for the other miracles if you could control enough energy much is possible , ditto for changing water to wine, ditto for make much food out of little. As to raising the dead that would require both the manipulation of energy and time of course there is always the case that the so called dead was not only in a greatly slowed state of living showing no noticeable life signs in the time of Jesus. We present can revive children whom have drown cold water up to and hour from when they fell in, is that a miracle not hardly but the first time it was done it was miraculous Now to manipulation time is a whole different mater since that does violate the laws of physic as we understand the at this time. Yes I believe in miracles but my belief is not from faith but from logic and and understand of what is required to pull them off. If you watch Star Trek and think someday humans will be able to do that you might be partly right, but a good chunk of it at this time would be a miracle because again faster than light and time travel are present against the laws of physics, Transporters and replicator not so much they would only require the ability to generate a huge amount of energy, if generating that much energy is possible only time will tell. If our belief in God is correct all of this would be child’s play to him since he lives outside of our space and time yet is in it always.

  27. You forgot to say “his own” in front of the word “money.”

    Yeah. Prehistoric times. OPM technology was primitive and languished until the invention of the 16th amendment. Now look how well it’s doing.

  28. Briggs,

    I stumbled across this same study in my own meanderings a week or so ago. I thought to send it to you, thinking it had your name on it. Then I realized it would be more fun to see how long it took for it to find its way to you by other means, figuring it wouldn’t be very long at all.

    For the record, I think it’s a poorly executed paper. I can’t remember all the reasons why I objected to it, but Sheri captured some of my exact thoughts on its poor design. Too bad, really; I’d like to see one that is much better done for comparison of results … and also to see how you’d critique it.

    Scotian,

    “The whole thing is like having, you know, a “Supreme Court” in addition to a “Constitution.”: I hope that it works better than this.

    It’s called Mosaic law for good reason; that’s exactly the purpose those writings served when they were contemporary. In some sense, it probably worked much better back then than our constitutional republic does today. Liberal democracies are messy by virtue of us being messy, especially in large numbers.

    Small bands of people ruled by even smaller numbers of very powerful men who invoked the authority of an omnipotent and vengeful Being probably got petty squabbles sorted out about as quickly as it took to draw a sword from its sheath. Ok, a little longer if the opposition came in large numbers and similarly armed. But hey, at least the winners didn’t have to listen to the incessant whining of the losing side … it’s kind of hard to carp about the present state of affairs when one has been hacked to bits and converted back into the dust from whence one sprang.

    I’m sure I’d find plenty of things to complain about living under such rulers, but effective gummint would pretty much be the last item on my list.

    YOS,

    

    There was a Church before there was a Bible. In fact, they spent about a century or so deciding on what was needed and what was not.

    I have two completely different initial replies to this:

    1) Funny, one would think that God would decide what was needed and what was not. Or more to the point, that God didn’t waste anyone’s time by inspiring any unnecessary things to be written.

    2) Maybe the point of the whole thing is for us to all collectively figure this thing out by talking amongst ourselves, and God isn’t terribly picky about what’s important and what isn’t.

    Based on the evidence at hand; if God, I’ll go with option (2) as the more plausible explanation. But who knows … some say that no one knows the thoughts of God. Curious how so many people appear to completely ignore that.

  29. @Brandon,

    “Funny, one would think that God would decide what was needed and what was not. Or more to the point, that God didn’t waste anyone’s time by inspiring any unnecessary things to be written.”

    Arguably God didn’t wast time by inspiring any unnecessary things to be written.

    In the first few centuries of the Church, the various texts that became the Bible were published and used separately and were loosely refered to as a bible. However, the early church did not see a point in creating one official list of what constituted the “Bible”. However, at some point a number of groups started pushing texts that the bulk of the church leadership considered fraudulent / heretical. For this reason they were forced to created an official “Bible” and it began to be published as a single book.

    The bulk of the centuries that YOS referred to was spent simply getting to the point where the church leadership agreed that an official Bible was even needed.

    Once that point was reached, it only took a few years to reach a consensus on what was GOD inspired witness and therefore included and what to exclude as either fake or non-inspired historical / biographical accounts.

  30. I laugh at the folks who think religion is evil. I laugh at the devout who believe their bible is inerrant. I laugh internally. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Somehow the “idiots” following religions of various flavors managed to stay alive despite thumbing their noses at physics. Equally mystifying are the non believers not being struck down by lightning or swallowed by gigantic storm clouds of wrath.

  31. “I laugh at the devout who believe their bible is inerrant.”

    I believe that the Bible is inerrant. On the other hand, I know that my understanding of it is not inerrant.

  32. “… There was a Church before there was a Bible. In fact, they spent about a century or so … ” rewriting things and destroying the originals. There, fixed it for you.

    There are numerous cases where early church fathers and historians make reference to documents that are strangely different to the ones we have today. There’s a reason the Orthodox Church considers the Roman Church to be the beast and the Pope the anti-Christ. A tad harsh if you ask me.

  33. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    “… There was a Church before there was a Bible. In fact, they spent about a century or so … ” rewriting things and destroying the originals. There, fixed it for you.

    Makes no sense. If they had rewritten it, they would have tried to make it less off-putting to the Greeks and Jews.

    There’s a reason the Orthodox Church considers the Roman Church to be the beast and the Pope the anti-Christ.

    You claim the Orthodox Church rewrote things and destroyed the originals? The empirical evidence for that must be stunning.

  34. William

    I suggest that the study you mentionned is not only true but tautologically true.
    If I had a grant (about 1M$ would do), I could do a study showing that children who have been educated in worship of wee p values tend to consider stories featuring wee p values as enlightening, significant and real.
    On the contrary children educated in an environment where wee p values are laughed at, would consider the same stories as ridiculous, non significant and made up.
    Obviously the good lady belongs to the former category so that what she showed was just a tautology, namely that she belongs to the former category indeed.
    .

    Regarding miracles. Here the good lady shows that she has no grasp on real physical theories and especially on Quantum Mechanics.
    QM being a probabilistic theory, it allows to compute the probability of ANY observable event.
    And it shows beyond any reasonable doubt that the probability of any “standard” miracle is non zero.
    For instance you may compute the (non zero) probability that a marble spontaneously flies up in the sky what for a dumb person would defy any ordinary causal regularity.
    .
    The probability may indeed be extremely small in some cases but there doesn’t exist a magical line saying “on the right you have the impossible that can happen in defiance of ordinary causal regularities and on the left you have the possible that always happens according to ordinary causal regularities”.
    What you heave instead is only a continuum of possibilities that are realized with varying frequencies (probabilities) that a very mundane tool (QM) allows to compute.

    Obviously confounding impossible and improbable is a sin that is for me infinitely more damning than just wasting tax payers’ money and trees by trivial tautologies.

  35. Would it be proper to ask folks here to take a look at a study that I suspect is somewhat suspect? :> If not, feel free to delete this and/or redirect me to a place where the question would fit better.

    Basically, it’s a new study in the BMJ that looks at “smoking-related diseases” in prisons. It seems to be examining a whole plethora of mixed up stuff all at once, sometimes using numbers generated by a SAMMEC computer model, sometimes using actual numbers from the CDC and/or prison populations. The study can be viewed in full at: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4542 and my suspicions come at least partly from having analyzed *many* studies that support smoking bans in the past and having found them… shall we say … questionable.

    My own background in statistics is passable … but VERY far from strong, and this plate of spaghetti is just too tangled for me to get a real handle on it. Here are a few things that I *did* note:

    Much of the data involved computer modeling via SAMMEC as opposed to direct count of deaths but the two seemed hard to separate, and the analysis seemed to be missing an important graph/table that would have shown the change in death plotted against years since ban implementations.

    The graph of deaths/100k seems to show that prisons with a total ban (i.e. those listed as outdoors — which includes indoors) in the year 2001 had just under 140d/100k while those with no ban had just under 120d/100k, but the following year prisons with a total ban dropped from that 140d down to 100d while those with no ban increased from 118d to 122d (all #s estimated from graph lines)

    The reliability of the numbers seems to be pretty questionable in that graph when one looks at some of the random changes from year to year. Between 2008 and 2010 prisons with no ban saw a drop from 150d to 115d, with a surge from 115d back up to 150d the following year (2011). Meanwhile, while prisons with no ban saw that huge drop, prisons with ANY bans saw a mild increase, prisons with just indoor bans stayed level, and prisons with outdoor (i.e. total indoor AND outdoor I believe) bans saw a mild decrease. I do not see how, mathematically, a “no change” combined with a “mild decrease” can produce a “mild increase.” And then there’s the unexplained moderate to large jumps up and down in the year 2011.

    And finally, the study notes that prison populations in general have double or more percentage smokers than the general population. But if you look at the general population graph, the smoking-related death rates for that general pop pool over the whole ten years are generally about 150d/100k, versus about 130d/100k for the much heavier smoking prison populations with NO bans! And this is despite the fact that the general population numbers seem to be from a younger age pool (25y to 64) than the prisoners’ age range (35y to 65+).

    My suspicion is that the study was performed with the intent of showing that prison bans were good things, that smoking bans in general were good things, and that a significant part of the “benefit” comes from the massive reduction in secondary smoke exposure. I am particularly suspicious about claims in that last category, as they are the very questionable sort that I’ve seen made and have disputed in the past.

    Any insights/thoughts on this?

    🙂
    MJM

  36. Briggs

    August 7, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Michael J. McFadden,

    Spot on about the PM2.5 etc. Have to run.

  37. A bit late to the party here, but this brings to mind a curious observation I’ve made about the demographics of the math department I work in: every person I’ve met so far in the department, regardless of their current religious beliefs, seems to have come from a religious upbringing. In contrast to Corriveau et al.’s claims, I must wonder whether children who are brought up in non-religious homes, who are taught to instinctively deny anything which seems implausible, tend to struggle later in life when encountering abstract, axiomatic reasoning and theorems which contradict their common sense; when you’re brought up accepting the account of Jesus feeding the 5000, the Banach-Tarski paradox seems substantially less mindwarping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 2016 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑