Thursday, October 29, 2009

Talpiot Tomb and Statistics Again: Lutgen Response

Jerry Lutgen published an article The Talpiot Tomb: What are the odds? on Monday on the Bible and Interpretation site. I responded here in Talpiot Tomb and Statistics Again. The author of the article has now sent over his response to my comments, which I am happy to post here:
I read your comments on my paper - "The Talpiot Tomb - What are the Odds? - with great interest. I would like to comment on two points:

1. It is true that initially either Feuerverger himself or the folks he was working with used some careless language that mistated what was being concluded from his first set of calculations - the ones he did for the Discovery Channel. In this restatement, which you published, he did not reduce the strength of his conclusions, but what he did do was restate his conclusion using more precise statistical language. However, for his March 2008 article he actually published a second set of calculations which answers a different question, albeit probably relying on the same background material as he used for the Discovery Channel calculations. To the non-statistician, it might not have been apparent, but that's what happened. So, the odds calculations to which I referred in my article are not the calculations quoted in the Discovery Channel feature, I am using the second set of calculations. The manner in which these two calculations differ is somewhat subtle but important. Essentially, the first set of calculations have to do with how likely it would be to see a given set of names arise from a paticular tomb, while the later publication attempts to etimate the odds that the Talpiot Tomb is the family tomb of Jesus, given a set of names from the tomb.

2. Regarding the point about the views of the attendees at the Jerusalem conference, I actually agree that a signficant majority of the attendees do not accept that the Talpiot Tomb is the family tomb of Jesus. My point(perhaps clumsily made) was that even though that was the case, there are still many experts who think it is worth the effort to engage in additional study and discovery on this subject - which is what I intend to do.

Toward that end I have just committed to bringing up a new website at I expect to have it up around mid-November. The editorial position of the site is that we simply do not know with certainty whether or not the Talpiot Tomb is the family tomb of Jesus and that further study and discovery should be encouraged. The site will be intended for non-specialists who want some additional background material on the tomb and want to be guided through the various arguments for and against the proposition that this is the family tomb of Jesus. I will function as the editor, but I will try to create as little new material as possible. Rather I will attempt to guide readers to a balanced set of source material offered by experts on the subject.

P.S. It occurs to me that you may be curious who I am. You can read my bio at www.appliedhealthworks/consulting.htm

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