Free Thought Discussion

The Group meets every Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at the home of Hilton Brown in Mountain View. For more information contact Hilton at:

Strictly speaking, this is not a “book group,” since we devote the first Wednesday of each month to discussion of current news events, and, on the other evenings, discussions tend to be wide-ranging, centered about, but not exclusively about, the chosen book.  The word “group” is often used but does not imply that you have to join formally in any sense. Visitors are welcome. Just show up—the more the merrier!

The current book we are reading is “The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy” by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, 2o11

Book Description
Bayes’ rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.In the first-ever account of Bayes’ rule for general readers, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores this controversial theorem and the human obsessions surrounding it. She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. More……
For more info See:
About the Author

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of critically-acclaimed books about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. She is interested in exploring the cutting-edge connection between social issues and scientific progress–and in making the science clear, interesting and accurate for non-specialists.

From Amazon:

Fascinating History of Bayes Rule

As someone with a background in Physics and Computer Science and more lately a Coursera junkie, I found this book a fascinating and entertaining read as it narrated how scientists and non-scientists (some of whose names were familiar from college textbooks and Coursera classes) from various disciplines used Bayes rule to solve the great problems of their times. I did feel that the author sometimes attempted to force-fit the solutions found into Bayes rule, rather than conceding that perhaps the person just got lucky instead. However, as a popular account of the ups and downs of Bayes rule through the ages, I think the book did a great job. I found it quite riveting and entertaining. It also provided me with some pointers for follow up to learn about some Bayesian techniques such as Monte Carlo Markov Chains.” ―The

7 FebFreethought Discussion Day – Bring your timely ideas to discuss

14 Feb
— Chapters 2 “The man Who Did Everything” and 3 “Many Doubts, Few Defenders “, Pages 13 to 57, about 45 pages (Over two weeks)

21 Feb — Chapters 4 “Bayes goes to War”, 5 “Dead and Buried Again ” and 6 “Arthur Bailey “, Pages 61 to 97, about 37 pages

28 Feb — Chapters 7 “from tool to theology”, 8 “jerome cornfield, lung cancer, and heart attacks”, 9 “there’s always a first time” and 10 “46,656 varieties”, Pages 97 to 138, about 41 pages

7 Mar — First Wednesday, Freethought Discussion. Bring your ideas and concerns to discuss.

14 Mar — Chapters 11 “business decisions”, 12 “who wrote the federalist”, 13 “the cold warrior” and 14 “three mile island”, Pages 139 to 182, about 43 pages

 21 Mar — Chapters 15 “the navy searchs” and 16 “Eureka!”, Pages 182 to 232, about 50 pages

 28 Mar — Chapters 17 “Rosetta stones” and  Appendices A and B, Pages 233 to 259, about 27 pages.
Note: We will select the next book on this day. Email for an updated Book List. I will open the book list to new suggestions till Midnight, Saturday 24 Mar. After that no new books can be included in this pass.

Some previously read books

Our customs on book nominations & voting


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