The Tomb Computation
The latest version of this is dated today, 4 March. Feuerverger's response confirms my concerns, earlier mentioned, about the assumptions that went into the statistical calculations. I was concerned especially about the way that "Mariamne Mara" and "Judas son of Jesus" were being dealt with. It seemed to be that "Mariamne Mara", far from being treated as a neutral or a non-match element, was actually being used as the "Ringo" piece of data, i.e. the really distinctive name that was clinching the identification, something that is highly problematic for reasons stated here and in other places on multiple occasions. And "Judas son of Jesus" was regarded simply as a neutral piece of data, not a non-match of such decisive importance that it should in fact have been radically detracting from the overall probability. In the light of these concerns, now note the following important elements in Feuerverger's response. He rightly makes clear that: "The results of any such computations are highly dependent on the assumptions that enter into it" and lists as one important assumption the following:
We assume that `Marianemou e Mara' is a singularly highly appropriate appellation for Mary Magdalene. Note that this important assumption is contentious and furthermore that statistically this assumption drives the outcome of the computations substantially.Note too:
We assume that the presence of Matya does not invalidate the find but we assign no evidentiary value to it (other than factoring in its combinatorial role). We also assume that the Yehuda son of Yeshua ossuary does not invalidate the find but we ignore it in the computations. This last assumption is contentious.Later, he also notes:
The apparent absence of `negatives' in the finding, i.e. of archeological details that would in and of themselves invalidate `the hypothesis' or that would appear to lessen its likelihood.Well, Judas son of Jesus is just the kind of "negative" which, I have argued, should have seriously detracted from the alleged plausibility. The fact that it was not factored into the assumptions governing the calculations remains highly problematic.
As I see it, the problem with all of this goes back to the difficulty of Jacobovici mediating the discussion between archaeologists, biblical scholars and statisticians. The data that Feuerverger is working with is data that already has a particular spin on it, data that is cherry picked and manipulated. This is an unacceptable basis for a strong statistical analsysis.