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No One Knows the Date or the Hour: An Unorthodox Application of Rev. Bayes's Theorem

Paul Bartha and Christopher Hitchcock
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 66, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 1999), pp. S339-S353
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188782
Page Count: 15
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No One Knows the Date or the Hour: An Unorthodox Application of Rev. Bayes's Theorem
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Abstract

Carter and Leslie (1996) have argued, using Bayes's theorem, that our being alive now supports the hypothesis of an early 'Doomsday'. Unlike some critics (Eckhardt 1997), we accept their argument in part: given that we exist, our existence now indeed favors 'Doom sooner' over 'Doom later'. The very fact of our existence, however, favors 'Doom later'. In simple cases, a hypothetical approach to the problem of 'old evidence' shows that these two effects cancel out: our existence now yields no information about the coming of Doom. More complex cases suggest a move from countably additive to non-standard probability measures.

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