One of my favorite H.L. Mencken quotes is the following: “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” I find this as accurate now as it was when Mencken first wrote it, and I imagine it won’t only be the cynics in the audience agreeing with me. But is the reverse also true? Is the urge to rule humanity ever a false front for the urge to save it? The Bayesian Conspiracy would like to think so, but then that’s exactly what a group dedicated to ruling humanity would say.
But first: Thomas Bayes is behind all this. Thomas Bayes, born in 1702 to a reverend Joshua Bayes, was a fellow of the Royal Society and was “one of the first non-conformist ministers to be publicly ordained in England.” His Philosophical Transactions became the basis of a statistical technique, now called Bayesian Estimation, for calculating the probability of the validity of a proposition on the basis of a prior estimate of its probability and new relevant evidence.… Read the rest