A Mathematical Review of “Proving History” by Richard Carrier

It was interesting to find another mathematical perspective concerning Dr. Carrier’s book. However, unlike the author of this treatment, I have somewhat of a background in history and historical methods in addition to a mathematical background (or focus; at least of late). Apart from studying French, German, and Italian, my degree in classical languages required studying…well…classical languages (Ancient Greek and Latin). Anybody who has done this at the university level knows that one can’t actually study these languages without studying history. So the only thing I would add to the review of Dr. Carrier’s mathematical treatment of “Bayes’ Theorem” proffered by the blog repost below is that the historical treatment in the book is bereft of any historiographical value. Hopefully, this is because Dr. Carrier sought to be accessible to a wide audience. The sequel to Proving History may prove much more valuable.

Irreducible Complexity

Carrier, Richard. Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Prometheus Books, 2012.

This is a review of Carrier’s book from purely a mathematical perspective, the historical merit has been reviewed elsewhere. Given the primary audience of this blog, and the book, however, I will review the mathematics in fairly non-technical terms, though I will assume some knowledge of probability theory.

Proving History is the first book of a pair on the topic of whether there was a historical figure of Jesus, written by independent scholar Carrier (who describes himself as a historian and philosopher), funded philanthropically by members of an online atheist group. It sets up a thesis based on using probability theory to reason about historical evidence. In particular, Carrier focuses on what he calls Bayes’s Theorem as the fundamental underlying process of doing history.

I will be unable to deal with every…

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