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“Refinements” made by Feurverger and others

In a Jerusalem Post Article this week Emmy Award winning film producer, Simcha Jacobovici wanted to respond to a previous JPost article that stated that many of the scientists of his film had “backtracked” from their original statements. He asserted that they had rather “refined” their conclusions.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

“Feuerverger is not giving interviews, but Jacobovici quoted from an e-mail he received from Feuerverger in response to the article, in which the statistician states: “I would like to make it clear that I stand by the statements I had made in my probability calculations. I have retracted nothing.” Jacobovici added that Feuerverger was continuing “to refine his calculations in preparation of a scholarly paper destined for publication in a scholarly journal.”

“Changes cited in the April 11 article that have been made on the Web site of the Discovery Channel, which broadcast the documentary, relating to Feuerverger’s conclusions, said Jacobovici, reflect those refinements. “As he refines his language, Discovery Channel refines its Web site language on the statistics. So what? The bottom line is that Feuerverger does not ‘backtrack’ on any statement made in the film, nor on the 600 to one probability presented in the film,” insisted Jacobovici.”

Let’s see what is meant by the term “refine” when it is written of Feuerverger, that “As he refines his language, Discovery Channel refines its Web site language on the statistics.”

The Discovery Channel, in March, followed the statement of the statistician, as voiced in the film, “Based upon the assumptions given to me, the odds are 600 to one in favor of this tomb being the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

After some refining, (which might be said to be “midcourse corrections”; see the earlier blogs of April 21-22) the following changes were made:

According to the Discovery Channel’s website, statistician Prof. Andrey Feuerverger now concludes: that the probability factor is in the order of 600 to 1 that an equally ’surprising’ cluster of names would arise purely by chance under given assumptions.

This particular type of refining that took place at three places on the Discovery web site, led to the complete removal of any reference to Jesus of Nazareth or his family from the statisticians assertions. (For more detailed quotes see Cracks in the Foundation .)

We trust that Professor Feuerverger will not “backtrack” but will continue “to refine his calculations in preparation of a scholarly paper destined for publication in a scholarly journal.”

We hope this will also be the case for other scholars in the film, whose initial, premature, observations caught on film, will be replaced by more judicious and refined statements in the peer reviewed scholarly publications.

We also hope that when those who have responded to the filmmaker’s invitation to “come to the table” to offer challenges, (or perhaps offer refinements to the film’s statements) will not be so quickly and wrongfully belittled and dismissed by the filmmakers, as has been their practice recently. (For Professor Pfann’s qualifications in Greek epigraphy see the blog of April 15: “Epigraphy, the microscope and statistics: tools of the trade” and Click to see Dr. Pfann’s CV)

We can certainly hope that some of these refinements will be provided in the discussion following the next time the film is shown (which still will be aired without being updated to reflect the scholars’ current refined views).

If you would like to hear some of these very scholars update the viewers after the upcoming airing of the film, Write to the Discovery Channel, encourage them, and let them know who you as a viewer would like to hear from.

On the Discovery web site:

“For suggestions regarding programming and all other TV questions, contact Viewer Relations

(http://extweb.discovery.com/viewerrelations)

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