Brian Blais: Bayes vs Apologetics

Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Philosophy, Podcast, Thought Experiments
Brian Blais
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My guest this week is Brian Blais, professor at Bryant University and IBNS, Brown University. He is the author of A Measure of Faith – Probability in Religious Thought and Statistical Inference For Everyone. Brian is an expert in Bayes’ Theorem and how it applies to philosophy, theology and apologetics.

I am a Scientist, Skeptic, and Professor at Bryant University and the IBNS, Brown University. My goal is to make technical subject matters widely accessible and to use my analytical and computational skills to assist anyone with their science-related problems.

In this episode, I take the restraints off myself and express the reasons why I think apologetics is faulty. Brian is the perfect guest for this. We bounce ideas off one another to articulate good epistemology. We discuss how mathematics and Bayes can be abused by injecting unstated information which changes the probabilities and ultimately the conclusions one comes to.

We also discuss how beliefs have consequences. The current rash of conspiracy theories have had real-world effects. Brian explains how decision theory can be used to make difficult choices.

Links

Brian’s website
https://bblais.github.io/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/bblais

Statistical Inference For Everyone (Free Version)
https://bblais.github.io/posts/2019/Jan/14/stats-for-everyone/
Amazon Version
https://amzn.to/2O2onzQ

A Measure of Faith: Probability in Religious Thought
https://amzn.to/37QzEKt

Bayes’ Theorem
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem

The Monty Hall Problem
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

Very Bad Wizards episode with Agnes Callard
https://www.verybadwizards.com/203

David Deutsch

Interact

Deconversion How To
https://gracefulatheist.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.com/critique-of-apologetics/

Apologetics Epistemology and Moving On
https://gracefulatheist.com/2017/10/02/apologetics-epistemology-and-moving-on/

Previous episodes referred to in this episode
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/10/04/randal-rauser-conversation-with-my-inner-atheist/
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/11/01/ian-mills-new-testament-review/
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/11/15/barrett-evans-the-contemplative-skeptic/

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Attribution

John Monson and the Brothers Galaxy: Dawg Biscuits on the Moon

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

3 thoughts on “Brian Blais: Bayes vs Apologetics

  1. This was the best podcast I heard from you yet. (Although, I haven’t listened to that many) Brian’s explanation of the Monty Hall problem was excellent and worth a listen just for that reason alone.

    I was also very happy to hear him say critical thinkers should look at what the other side says. It seems you advocate against that, believing you already heard it all and assume apologetics is all trickery and a lack of honesty. I think you should at least consider Brian’s advice.

    In a different one you said apologetics never concede anything against their position. But I consider myself to do apologetics to some extent. And I often explain how I reject certain arguments Christians make. One time the entire blog I wrote was a rejection of an argument by William Lane Craig made:
    https://trueandreasonable.co/2014/07/02/euthyphro-dilemma-and-william-lane-craigs-response/

    Finally I do not think you or your guest were less graceful in this episode as any other. I think your guest was fine and just expressed his views. I think you were the same as always. I think you are by an large fine. But you do keep suggesting that people who do not agree with your conclusion that atheism is the rational view must lack honesty. I think that is uncharitable. I guess you should keep saying that if you really think it is true, but that is hardly a view that will help bridge any divides. I think atheists are mistaken about whether they should believe in God but I certainly would never suggest they are all being dishonest.

    Like

  2. I also noticed he addressed some pragmatic concerns and decision theory. I found it interesting that he said he was glad he found out the clock was correct because this added one more true belief to his noetic structure. I sort of challenge that view here:

    https://trueandreasonable.co/2014/06/30/practical-versus-theoretical-rationality/

    I say “sort of” because sure all things being equal it is good to add another true belief. But some beliefs are much more important and theoretical rationality is not able to account for that. I would be interested in his or other peoples thoughts on these topics. Or even if he is aware of other resources addressing the issues raised.

    Here are a couple of other blogs that deal with how this may come into play.

    https://trueandreasonable.co/2019/04/10/answering-the-many-gods-problem/

    https://trueandreasonable.co/2019/12/06/two-aspects-of-rational-belief/

    Like

  3. Really enjoyed this show, David! And great job, Brian, you’ve been great on every show I’ve heard you on. I’d love to get you on Skeptics and Seekers.

    And fwiw, I didn’t find this episode overly polemical, but that may be because of how graceful your default is 🙂

    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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