(The Worst) Quote of the Day (Ever): JohnM on Probability and Whatnot.

Holy cow. Get ready for this. I am not trying to be rhetorical here, but these are corkers, and none of them in a good way. The total lack of understanding is almost embarrassing. Should I waste my time dealing with these comments? Probably not. It gets frustrating when an argument goes like this:

JP: provide loads of positive evidence why X is not true.

JM: Provide no evidence that X is true whatsoever. Provide very weak negative evidence in an attempt to counter JP. Ignore substantive points. Assert. Claim victory.

It gets tiring.

Now, JohnM has been doing the above whilst trying to argue for a matrilineal genealogy in the Gospel of Luke in order to explain away the discrepancy between the two Gospel genealogies.

John claims that Matthew’s genealogy is paternal whilst Luke’s is maternal (MG). Let’s look to see whether this can be right. Now, in order for this hypothesis to be most probable these things must be the case:

1)      The MG must either have high prior probability (i.e. there is previous evidence for such so that it is usual or not uncommon)

2)      And/or the evidence in this case for this MG is high (enough to even overcome a low prior probability)

3)      It must be more probable than every other competing hypothesis

This is the basis of Bayesian probability.

I then provided a bucket-load of evidence to support my case, including (for the TL;DR types):

  1. Luke himself (Luke 1.27-28.) states Joseph is of the house of David, not Mary.
  2. Um, Mary’s name is absent from the genealogy!
  3. Luke claims that Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth, who he says was a descendant of Aaron the high priest (Luke 1:5), placing her in the tribe of Levi, not David’s tribe of Judah.
  4. In fact, nowhere in his gospel does Luke give any indication that Mary is of the Davidic line.
  5. There is no evidence for matrilineal genealogies anywhere else in the Bible.
  6. There is no evidence for matrilineal genealogies anywhere else in contemporaneous Jewish writing.
  7. Catholic tradition claims, if MG in Luke is supposedly right, different parents for Mary (Saints Joachim and Anne).
  8. Mary being the daughter of Heli/Eli as MG would have it contradicts writings of Talmud.
  9. Richard A. Hoyle, in a syntactical analysis of the Greek, states grammar evidence “strongly suggesting that this is Joseph’s lineage being listed”.
  10. There is a massive disparity between the two account with regards to the number of ancestors. Luke’s genealogy has many more. The MG hypothesis does nothing to answer this.
  11. In fact, it is worse than that, God commands bloodlines to be patrilineal, as Numbers 1:2-19 states.
  12. John, it seems, is getting confused, conflating ideas of MG with ideas of matrileneally derived ethnicity. This is a totally different thing.
  13. John has provided precisely no evidence of why it is an MG. His only argument is that it could be, and therefore it is. This is another example of the possibiliter ergo probabiliter fallacy.
  14. Christian scholars the world over think it is not an MG: Raymond E. Brown called it a “pious deduction” and said “Luke makes it clear that he is tracing Jesus’ descent through Joseph” and Joachim Gnilka “the desperation of embarrassment”. Eusebius, Julianus Africanus and others make clear claims of PG.
  15. My personal favourite: The problem for John is that the genealogy does not track a woman through a male line, it tracks a man, through a woman, through a male line. Thus the complete arbitrariness renders it utterly irrelevant whether men or women are in the genealogies. To go 42 generations, then switch to a woman, then back to a man again is random.

So on and so forth.

What did JohnM reply? Get ready:

Jonathan said : ”The MG must either have high prior probability (i.e. there is previous evidence for such so that it is usual or not uncommon)..”

Jonathan’s lack of knowledge when it comes to their culture and style of writing, does not make anything more or less likely. It’s quite possible for there to be no evidence what so ever, and it still being true. What you can prove, has nothing to do with what happened in the past. Lots of things happened in the past, that we have lost all evidence and recoded history off. [sic]

Rational people draw conclusions based on what evidence they DO HAVE about the past.

Only irrational people draw conclusions base on what evidence they LACK of the past.

Wow. So when I actually provide evidence from contemporaneous sources and other sources that talk of such, as amply evidenced in the original article, I have a lack of knowledge. But when he provides nothing, he is somehow right? Full of knowledge and wisdom? And then he implicitly concedes that he doesn’t have evidence by saying he doesn’t need it. So his claim is not rationally held at all. It is merely that it is philosophically possible, and therefore the most probable. As mentioned earlier, it’s another example of the possibiliter ergo probabiliter fallacy.

He also – even though I posted him the article – does not understand that absence of evidence can indeed be evidence of absence if the evidence is expected. More can be read on this here, with links to mathematical and Bayesian reasoning therein.

Jonathan said : ”This is the basis of Bayesian probability.”

Bullshit. It has nothing to do with Bayes’ theorem.

”I personally know of no evidence of Jonathan living in the UK. Therefore he is very unlikely to live in UK. Actually I see a lot of Americans post on his blog. Therefore it’s highly likely that he’s in the bible belt. And if nobody presents any evidence against that, its super duper highly likely”.

What kind of silly probability theory is that?

Let me help you out here. There are 2 options on the table. That means that when it comes to the base probability, it’s 50/50. Mkay?

Oh, dear Cosmos. This is just wrong. 1) it has everything to do with Bayes’s Theorem. It’s the whole basis t inductive reasoning, and saying something is more probable than something else, especially in history. And the analogy is weird because there is plenty of evidence I live in the UK. It’s just not a good example to use. A better one, in terms of probability, might be:

Jonathan lives on the moon. We have two addresses for him. One is in the UK, at X address. The other address is Y. This isn’t a contradiction because one is talking about his normal address, and the other is his address that he uses when he is pretending to be a platypus.

But no one has ever lived on the moon. There is a lack of evidence of people living on the moon, yes. But this acts as evidence against the thesis of people living on the moon because we would expect evidence if he did live on the moon. It’s pretty odd and you would expect evidence somewhere that people have lived on the moon at all, not least Jonathan.

And so on.

But this. Oh this. This is diamond:

Let me help you out here. There are 2 options on the table. That means that when it comes to the base probability, it’s 50/50. Mkay?

Well, you can shove your “Mkay?”…

THIS is where he needs to understand Bayesian Probability Theory. Two options do not mean 50/50, whatever he means by “base” probability. The thing is, we are not dealing with “base” probability. We are dealing with prior probability and consequent probability together in unison. JohnM is saying that the probability of me, if you know nothing about me, having Partial Triplication 15 – a mutation of his 15th chromosome – is 50/50. This affects only 19 people in the world. But according to JohnM, I have a 50/50 chance of having it because, you know, having it and not having it are two options on the table.

Utter nonsense.

And finally:

Jonathan said : ”Some apologists claim the lack of an article before Joseph in Luke 3:23 is somehow evidence for an MG. Richard A. Hoyle, in a syntactical analysis of the Greek, states, on the other hand..”

An argument from authority, also called an appeal to authority, or the argumentum ad verecundiam, is a form of defeasible argument in which a claimed authority’s support is used as evidence for an argument’s conclusion. It is well known as a fallacy..



Because both he and I are experts in Greek…

So if you post any academic citation in support of your argument, you are automatically fallacious? This is stupid. Very stupid. He is trying to sidetrack, to use a magician’s sleight of hand, by distracting in accusing me of a fallacy whilst not dealing in any way, shape or form with the content. It’s like arguing with a child.

I  could post more of his comment, but I must use my time more wisely.


On that same comment he actually provided the wealth of positive evidence in support of his thesis:

Jonathan said : ”So despite asking several times, John failed to produce anything approaching positive evidence for Luke’s genealogy being MG.”

Lies. Shame on you. As I said in the other thread:

Luke does not say ”Son of Joseph”. He says: the supposed son of Joseph. This is his way of dealing with the issue that Joseph did not father Jesus. He adopted Jesus as his son. And so Jesus IS the SON of, a direct descentant. But not in a blood sense, rather by adoption.

And when it comes to Joseph, he does not say ”Son of Heli” as is the propper way of saying it in their culture. He says ”OF Heli”. This means that Joseph was NOT a direct descenat of Heli. He was NOT the actual son of Heli. He was married to Mary, which made Heli the father in LAW of Joseph. That is why Luke only writes ”OF Heli” instead of ”SON of Heli”.

Matthew on the other hand… He’s writing the line backwards. He’s doing a completely different way of writing up a geneology. So he cannot use the ”Son OF” method. Instead he uses the alternative that is ”begat”. Eleazar Fathered Matthan. That is a direct descentant. It’s not a marriage.

And that is why we know, that these are not the same thing.

The supposed son of Joseph is irrelevant to the point. That is about explaining the virgin birth. That is not evidence of an MG.I have talked about the Heli point and this particular use of son-in-law in the original article.

It is worth noting that the Catholic Encyclopedia states of the translation (involving, or not, the “OF”):

First, the Greek text preferred by the textual critics reads, on ouios, hos enomizeto, Ioseph tou Heli, “being the son, as it was supposed, of Joseph, son of Heli“, so that the above parenthesis is rendered less probable.

Given that the nativity stories of both Gospels wildly differ and contradict (such as how Joseph gets to be in Bethlehem for the birth0, one would expect that the writers were not writing in unison, but independently, and this means we would expect other details like the genealogies to also differ.

For more information on skeptical arguments against the veracity and historicity of the Nativity, please grab my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination.


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