Comments on “Klueless Massimo”s Account (Massimo Pigliucci) of the Mary Beard (Twitter) debate

A philosopher of science, Massimo Pigliucci tried to jump in on the Mary Beard debate from twitter comments, not seeing the argument, writing the highest ratio of BS commentary over original text (only a few tweets). Had he understood anything about statistics he would have worried about the high noise signal ratio.

My point is here. His …

I got angry with him because a philosopher should not engage in strawman arguments. It would be bullshitting [clearly in the Franfurt sense of the word]. Yet he did it. My issue with Beard was representativeness: you do don’t mess with people’s perception of the past. He went off about scientism, something I spent my life fighting using probability limits.

But it seems that to him statistics and probability is something out of STAT101. Here is my response. I glanced randomly, every time finding an error.

Core of the Debate

Klueless Massimo wrote all this crap not realizing the core of my argument

Time Series Exist

I spent my life working with historical data. Quants do that. There is a branch of probability and statistics that Klueless Massimo knows nothing about.

Quantitative Historiography

Klueless Massimo didn’t realize you can use a Brownian Bridge: conditional on X finishing here, where could it have been in past? Then think rigorously about it.

Repeating my Black Swan Argument

I wrote a whole book The Black Swan, around N=1. He doesn’t realize that probability tells you something about what probability should not tell you. See Silent Risk (my technical work backing up The Black Swan)


Of course we can use genetics as information. Not the whole story but some points are probabilistically potent: absence of SOME haplogroups/subclades. Why is it we have some subclades (like mine) as Roman army genes in the UK and not others? He may have started as a geneticist but doesn’t know probabilistic methods exist to extract statement.

The fact that we find no Norman genes should lead to the uncomfortable conclusion that there a high probability they were not numerous, as we are discovering about invaders in other places. That was the question Cavalli-Sforza had about the unexpected rarity of Turkish genes in Turkey.

You can ask: given t0 and t1, what could have happened, or what story can possibly explain the deviation, or how far fetched is it?

Repeats Beard’s Misrepresentation



Klueless Massimo needs to understand the debate.