Hykel Hosni noticed this bit from the Lindley Prize page of the Society for Bayesan Analysis:
Lindley became a great missionary for the Bayesian gospel. The atmosphere of the Bayesian revival is captured in a comment by Rivett on Lindley’s move to University College London and the premier chair of statistics in Britain: “it was as though a Jehovah’s Witness had been elected Pope.”
From my perspective, this was amusing (if commonplace): a group of rationalists jocularly characterizing themselves as religious fanatics. And some of this is in response to intense opposition from outsiders (see the Background section here).
That’s my view. I’m an insider, a statistician who’s heard all jokes about religious Bayesians, from Bayesian and non-Bayesian statisticians alike.
But Hosni is an outsider, and here’s how he sees the above-quoted paragraph:
Research, however, is not a matter of faith but a matter of arguments, which should always be evaluated with the utmost intellectual honesty. . . . what academics constantly owe to society, is the moral obligation of refraining from dishonest nonsense, of which the above quoted passage is a despicable example.
I’m fascinated to see that an old joke can be so completely misperceived from the outside. Scary, really. (Hosni did not simply say that the quote was in poor taste, or that it could be misinterpreted, or that it was a distraction. He actually called it “despicable.” Of course, he could be himself joking by writing that. It’s notoriously difficult to convey intonation in typed speech.)
P.S. I’d like to stay on Hosni’s good side, given that he wrote a very nice summary of my recent Rationality, Markets and Morals article on induction and deduction in Bayesian data analysis. Hosni seems completely up to date on Bayesian philosophy, not so much on statistics in-jokes. I much prefer that to the reverse!