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Which Is More Absurd?

The right side of this window is unbounded

The right side of this window is unbounded

Over at Vridar, Tim Widowfield made an observation about the Overton Window as applied to NT scholarship, which all came about as a result of James McGrath comparing Jesus Mythicism to Creationism. Here, I’ll let Tim speak for himself:

The band of acceptable thought in the areas of social studies, politics, history, etc. can be quite narrow. If you stray too far from the norm, you may find yourself labeled as a nutjob. The Overton Window in politics, for example, may drift to the left or right, but its width remains essentially the same, which explains why certain policies in the U.S. that used to be considered within the bounds of normal, polite discussion are now considered “too radical,” and vice versa.

However, the boundaries in biblical studies are unique. In fact, we would be mistaken if we used the word “boundaries,” since the boundary on the right does not exist. Within the guild a scholar can still be considered competent and highly respected even though he or she believes all the books in the NT are authentic and the inspired Word of God. You can watch a debate between a mainline scholar and an evangelical scholar about whether half of Paul’s epistles or all of Paul’s epistles are authentic. But you’ll never hear from a scholar who thinks they’re all late and spurious.

McGrath and his crew would explain that an electrified fence that seals off all “unsafe” ideas on the left simply doesn’t exist. They would argue, simply, that no scholars in academia believe in those extreme, radical, silly ideas. In a way, they’re correct. Self-censorship and self-selection are much more effective (and cheaper) than relying on thought police. The advantage of unwritten rules is that scholars, aspiring scholars, and students internalize them. Of course, nobody argues for those “crazy” things, because anybody who would have done so has already opted out, and anyone remaining who privately thinks that way is smart enough to keep her dangerous thoughts to herself.

So we arrive at the question proposed as the title of this post. Which is more absurd: That a personal god exists, incarnated (one third of) himself in the form of Jesus the Nazarene, and that the NT is at least 90% accurate in recounting the origins of Christianity; is literally the (inspired) word of god? Or that a pretty pedestrian nobody who more secular scholars claim to be the founder of Christianity didn’t actually exist?

A better way of framing it: Which is more mundane? More boring? More “every day” ho-hum? A nobody was such a nobody that he didn’t actually exist, or the NT is basically a CNN-like report of the beginnings of Christianity?

Which should require more evidence to convince you of: A normal, boring, everyday event? Or something extraordinary like god himself walking among us mortals in the flesh for a few years?

As one should know by now from reading this blog, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; that’s not just some pithy saying or thought-terminating aphorism. It is an inexorable mathematical conclusion. I personally waver around 45% – 55% likelihood that Jesus existed (I have yet to read Richard Carrier’s and Rafael Lataster’s books on the subject; I’ll probably get to them once I finish this semester of grad school). But the entire orthodox Christian interpretation of Christianity’s genesis? That is exceedingly extraordinary, and would require much more evidence to convince me of than the evidence necessary to show that Jesus didn’t exist.

The fact of the matter is that conservative/literalist biblical NT scholars (who are also much more likely to be actual Creationists!) are welcome in the guild while scholars who go about questioning the existence of Jesus are beyond the pale. This is evidence, to me, that something too far removed from just scholarship is going on to explain the disparity. Indeed, it seems more like basic tribalism. To the more liberal NT scholars, biblical literalist NT scholars are fellow Christians. While Jesus Mythicism is overflowing with atheists and agnostics.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in historical jesus, jesus myth

 

Richard Carrier Takes On Maurice Casey

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Truth be told, I haven’t been keeping up with the historical/mythical Jesus hypothesis all that intently. I’ve been reading about it tangentially, but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my thoughts on religion and early Christianity.

As you might have noticed, I’ve been blogging about the psychological reasons why people are religious more recently. Quite honestly, the historical/mythical Jesus argument looks hopelessly theoretical without anything concrete to explore so I maintain my agnosticism. Really, all of the evidence that we currently have regarding Jesus is probably all of the evidence that we’re ever going to have about Jesus so the only thing that can change at this point is probably something more political/psychological/cultural.

But anyway, Carrier has a lengthy rebuttal to Casey’s book Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. I have to get this disclaimer out of the way: I haven’t read Casey’s book, so I’m in no position to comment on the accuracy of Carrier’s portrayal of Casey’s arguments. But Carrier has always been good about not strawmanning opponents and his works are always well evidenced so my prior probability that it faithfully reports Casey’s arguments is pretty high.

What was really interesting about this review — as I mentioned above, from the context of why people are religious — is that Carrier points out a host of cognitive biases that points to the idea that Casey identifies too strongly with being a “Jesus historicist” to even allow for the possibility that Jesus mythicists can actually have good arguments. Take a look at this:

Deficit of Hypothetical-Categorical Reasoning

Casey is often incapable of understanding his own critics. So bizarrely, in fact, that it suggests a genuine cognitive deficit usually characterizing persons with an abnormally low IQ. I caught several examples of Stephanie Fisher exhibiting exactly the same cognitive deficits, where she could not think in abstract, hypothetical terms, but only in concrete, literal terms, resulting in bizarre misunderstandings of rather basic explanations of things (she had an extremely hard time understanding conditional “if, then” statements, or thought experiments, or even the purpose of counterfactual reasoning).

To understand how Casey shows the same cognitive deficiency, you need to first read an unrelated example of what I am talking about, based on a study of such reasoning. Once upon a time some researchers tested subjects in remote and previously largely illiterate villages of Uzbekistan and neighboring areas, as follows:

In a typical exchange the questioner asks: “In the Far North, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zemlya is in the Far North and there is always snow there. What color are the bears there?” One peasant answers: “I don’t know. I’ve seen a black bear, I’ve never seen any others. … We don’t talk about what we haven’t seen.” Exchanges of this sort could be repeated at length. In essence, the peasants refused, or were unable, to reason hypothetically. Similarly, when asked about similarities between objects, they tended to group them by similar use rather than by similar abstract categories. For them, a saw and a hatchet go together because they are both needed to make firewood, not because they are both tools (and, moreover, a log needs to be included in the group for utilitarian completeness).

The people tested had adequate vocabularies and detailed knowledge about their world. The exchanges with the testers revealed that they were often quick-witted, clear thinkers. They were, however, not comfortable with abstract or hypothetical thinking and found such thinking to be alien. In their world, abstract categories and hypothetical thinking were, frankly, not perceived to be very useful, and even faintly preposterous. Sometimes their answers implicitly said as much. Even if such habits of thought had been potentially useful, no one was disadvantaged because no one else in the community thought in such ways either. Not having such habits of thought, they did not develop expertise in dealing with problems involving abstract categorical and hypothetical (ACH) thinking assessed by the Raven’s and Wechsler Similarities tests.

Historically, neither peasants, nor laborers, nor tradespeople nor, indeed, practically anyone anywhere had much use for such skills prior to the 20th Century, except philosophers, scientists, and perhaps a few others.

James Allan Cheyne, “Atheism Rising: Intelligence, Science, and the Decline of Belief,”

Skeptic 15.2 (2009), pp. 33-37; see also James Flynn, What Is Intelligence? (2007)

You might not think this could possibly be relevant.

Just wait.

A stark example of this is when Casey repeatedly says no one else ever talks about crucifixions in heaven, therefore it’s impossible that anyone would imagine crucifixions occurring in heaven (6-5013, 5126, etc.). This is just like claiming not to know if bears in the north are white because you haven’t seen one. It’s hyper-concrete thinking.

In actual fact, in Jewish cosmology, all sorts of things that exist or occur on earth also do so in heaven: fighting, writing, scrolls, temples, chairs, trees, gardens. The Revelation of Moses has Adam buried in heaven (in the Garden he was made from, the very Garden Paul says was in the “third heaven” in 2 Cor. 12, just as the Rev. Mos. also says, in which Adam’s fall is described literally: a fall from the heavenly Garden to the earth below). So there’s even dirt in heaven, and corpses, and graves (Eve is also buried there, along with others). And indeed as the Ascension of Isaiah and the book of Hebrews both say: in general things on earth have correlates in heaven (Asc. Is. 7.10; Heb. 9.22-24; Philo provides an elaborate explanation; many Jewish cosmological texts elaborate on the objects and occurrences in heaven that have counterparts on earth).

If people can be buried in heaven, and fight battles in heaven, and visit temples in heaven, then they can be crucified in heaven. But to grasp that requires abstract-categorical-hypothetical reasoning: you have to be able to infer from the abstract hypothesis “ancient Jews imagined all kinds of things happening in heaven” to “crucifixion can be one of those things,” just as one has to be able to infer from “it snows in the north and bears in snowy places are white” to “bears in the north are white.” Saying bears in the north can’t be white until you literally see one yourself exhibits a major deficit in ACHR. And here, though we’re even explicitly told that the things and activities on earth have correlates in heaven (and have countless examples of this belief), Casey can’t imagine any unless he can find a specific text specifically saying so. That is a cognitive defect. And it greatly impairs his ability to reason.

Now Casey (and his student, Stephanie Fisher) is obviously a high IQ individual, or he probably wouldn’t have become an expert in Aramaic. And he also, ironically, must be able to work with abstractions since his fringe hypothesis that Mark is based on a previous Aramaic work is, well, hypothetical. No such text exists, so Casey is manipulating a document in the abstract to arrive at his conclusions. Therefore it seems highly likely that Casey must be suffering from an extreme cognitive bias that prevents him from analyzing mythicist arguments dispassionately.

This, again, fits my experience with this whole debate. A lot of bad blood has been seething between historicists and mythicists over the past four or five years I’ve been reading about it. It’s definitely leaning towards becoming a full on Green vs. Blue issue. What’s more, which is also pretty sad IMO, is that a historical Jesus has very little to nothing to do with the emergence of Christianity. At least, from a secular perspective. The vast majority, if not the entirety, of the Gospel narratives are myths. None of the epistle writers in the NT met Jesus nor do they seem to care about any of his teachings. So Jesus the man has almost no relevance to why Christianity became the religion that it did. Whether Jesus was real or a myth seems more like a MacGuffin.

But, yeah. Carrier’s review of Casey’s book is pretty brutal. I’m looking forward to reading Carrier’s actual mythicist book, On The Historicity of Jesus when it comes out in the next few months.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in historical jesus, jesus myth

 

Was Jesus A Carpenter?

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Neil Godfrey is reviewing Thomas Brodie’s memoir Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery which is Thomas Brodie’s journey from a historical Jesus to an ahistorical Jesus. Brodie points out an interesting bit of evidence concerning Mark’s use of the word “carpenter”; which is the popular English translation of the Greek τέκτων::tekton (where we get the word architecture). Neil quotes from chapter 17:

Mark 6:1-6

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him.

On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

[…]

Brodie begins with the context. It is the reported miracles of Jesus that are the critical concern of the people. (Brodie identifies these miracles in particular as related to themes of “creation, life and death (Mk 4.35-5.43).”) Moreover, he identifies this section of Mark as having a

significant literary dependence on the (Septuagintal) book of Wisdom. Beginning in Wisdom 10, several chapters of the book of Wisdom speak of both God’s role as creator and life-giver and of the failure of many people to recognize God as the true technites, the supreme craftsman (Wis. 13:1; cf. Wis. 13.22, Wisdom is technites panton, ‘the worker of all things’).

Instead the people’s vision is limited to the kind of vision found in the woodcutter (the tekton, Wis. 13.11); that is all they can see

[…]

“The mindless people in Wis. 13:1-9 do not recognize the technites, the supreme craftsman, and turn their minds instead to lifeless things such as the tekton produces (Wis. 13:10-14:4). And the audience at Nazareth do not recognize the presence of the Creator in Jesus the miracle-worker but can focus only on the world of woodcutting, and so they call him a tekton.”


Brodie draws the conclusion that should be obvious. Wisdom 13, especially its account of the failure of the people to discern the works of the Creator, seeing only the works of a tekton,

“provides an adequate explanation for Mark’s use of tekton; it accounts fully for Mark’s data. In essence: once the literary connection is seen, the historical explanation is unnecessary; it goes beyond what is needed to explain the data.”

This reads like a pretty solid conclusion. Of course, resting the entire argument that Mark is using other writings and not oral tradition/historical memory on this one instance is fallacious. But under the assumption that Mark is using other literature — e.g. the Wisdom literature — in the construction of his narrative this observation seems to fit like a glove. Under an alternative assumption, e.g. a historical one, it either adds too many hypotheses (this pericope is a result of Wisdom literature plus history) which is a worse explanation than one that leaves the plus out of it.

Which side of the argument you land on at this juncture depends on your prior probability that Mark is using historical memory, oral tradition, or some other non-historical source.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in early Christianity, historical jesus, jesus myth

 

An… Interesting Interview With Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan has a new book out called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. In this book he argues that the historical Jesus was a Zealot. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m agnostic about the existence of Jesus. But the reconstruction that I feel makes the most sense of his crucifixion is if he were himself a Zealot (owing to the strange translation between “Canaanite” and “Zealot”) or if he had really strong ties to the Zealot party (as opposed to the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes) . For example, I wrote:

Simon the Zealot in the gospel narratives is the same Simon the Zealot in Josephus. Josephus’ Simon was executed (along with his brother James [the Zealot]) sometime in the mid 40s CE.

It’s telling that two of Jesus’ disciples share the same names as these two sons of Judas [the Zealot]. Not only that, but these two are also among the “pillars”. While I think that part is coincidence, I do think there’s significance that Simon the Zealot was listed as one of Jesus’ disciples in Mark and the other two Synoptics. I don’t see any reason for Simon the Zealot’s inclusion, either from a wholly literary point of view or from the traditional peace preaching Jesus historical view.

What if Jesus on the other hand was the disciple of Simon the Zealot and not the other way around?

This would mean that not only is Mark’s narrative theology; that Mark’s Jesus is mythical, but that Mark’s narrative is also apology. I think this makes sense of the silence in early Christian writings about the teachings of Jesus – because there were none. This makes sense of why no one talked about any of the Earthly activities of Jesus – because he was a revolutionary, and his actions were disreputable. That’s why they used to think of “christ” from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16) but no longer. This might mean that Jesus was executed along with the brothers James and Simon, hence the two other criminals on the crosses with Jesus.

So I’m partial to Aslan’s thesis that Jesus was a Zealot.

As for the interview itself, the Fox News correspondent comes across as obtuse and unable to think outside of a very narrowly defined box. She actually sounds eerily like how some NT scholars react to the Jesus Myth hypothesis. Her objections to Aslan being a Muslim writing about Christianity — even though he has the relevant expertise — sound a lot like Bart Ehrman’s objection to anyone writing about the historical Jesus unless they had super-duper specific qualifications. And the fact that the Fox News’ correspondent’s questions were answered right in the book reminds me of how James McGrath doesn’t read books he reviews. It’s interesting how bias always looks the same, no matter the medium.

 

Public Glory, Secret Agony

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So I just read a post by April DeConick where she’s ruminating about the progress on her latest book. In it (it’s a very short post), she writes:

I really find in the fabric of that text [John’s Gospel] Gnostic spirituality merging with Jewish scriptures and nascent Christianity. It is not just later Gnostic interpretation imposed on an orthodox gospel. It is there in the soul of the Gospel.

[…]

My next chapter is on Paul… I remember as a young woman really disliking Paul. What I didn’t know then is that what I disliked was not Paul but Luther’s Paul. That is when I discovered Paul the mystic. I read Albert Schweitzer’s book and then Alan Segal’s book, both on Paul the mystic. Suddenly Paul made sense to me. But he wasn’t anyone that contemporary Christians could relate to. What he was saying was way out there. Undomesticated. Wild. He was a visionary who realized union with Christ whom he saw as the manifestation of God. He developed rituals that helped democratize this experience so that all converts could similarly be united.

[…]

Of course as I am thinking about Paul the mystic, I am also wondering about Paul the Gnostic. Have we worked so hard over the centuries to domesticate Paul that we have lost touch with his Gnostic aspects too, like with the Fourth Gospel?

That got me to remembering something I thought about a long time ago, but never had any evidence for, other than in a general sense. Mystery religions in antiquity, (of which Christianity was a part of), had public stories and then private stories. Think about Scientology: They have the public story they sell on the streets with their e-meters and Dianetics books but then they have the private story they tell about Xenu and his nuking of humans in volcanoes millions of years ago. The same dichotomy was happening in antiquity. Richard Carrier gives an example with the cult of Osiris:

In fact, Plutarch attests that Osiris was believed to have died and been returned to life (literally: he uses the words anabiôsis and paliggenesis, which are very specific on this point, see my discussion in The Empty Tomb, pp. 154-55), and that in the public myths he did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 19.358b).

Although Plutarch does say that in the private teachings Osiris’ death and resurrection took place in outer space (below the orbit of the moon), after which he ascended back to the heights of heaven in his new body (not “the underworld,” as Ehrman incorrectly claims on p. 228), that is irrelevant to the mythicist’s case (or rather, it supports it, by analogy, since this is exactly what competent mythicists like Doherty say was the case for Jesus: public accounts putting the events on earth, but private “true” accounts placing it all in various levels of outer space: see my Review of Doherty). In fact the earliest Christians also believed Jesus was resurrected into outer space: he, like Osiris, ascended to heaven in his resurrection body, appearing to those below in visions, not in person (see my survey of the evidence in The Empty Tomb, pp. 105-232; the same is true of many other dying-and-rising gods, like Hercules). The notion of a risen Jesus walking around on earth is a late invention (first found in the Gospels).

That these kinds of beliefs about Osiris’ death and resurrection long predate Plutarch is established in mainstream scholarship on the cult: e.g. S.G.F. Brandon, The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation (Greenwood 1963), pp. 17-36 and John Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult, 2nd ed. (Brill 1980). But we hardly need point that out, because there is already zero chance that the entirety of Isis-Osiris cult had completely transformed its doctrines in imitation of Christianity already by 100 A.D. (I shouldn’t have to explain why such a claim would be all manner of stupid). Ehrman’s claim that Plutarch is making all this up because he is Platonist is likewise nonsense. Ehrman evidently didn’t check the fact that Plutarch’s essay is written to a ranking priestess of the cult, and Plutarch repeatedly says she already knows the things he is conveying and will not find any of it surprising.

It should be that Christianity shares that same pattern. You can see this a little bit in Paul, e.g. 1 Cor 3.1-3. My thought was that the gospel of Mark is the “public” story and the gospel of John (and Paul himself) are part of the tradition of the “private” story. Eventually the public story gained social currency and overshadowed the private story, and the private story fell to the Gnostics to maintain. Of course, there’s no evidence of this, so it will have to remain in the realm of speculation.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in early Christianity, gnosticism, jesus myth

 

Are Jesus Mythicists Literal Antichrists?


(“The coming curse, your antichrist, I am the watcher’s eye” – Earl Doherty*)

Contrary to popular belief, the “antichrist” doesn’t make an appearance in the book of revelation. The only mentions of “an” antichrist (it is actually multiple antichrists) is in the epistles of 1 and 2 John:

1 John 2:18
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22
Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3
but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

2 John 1:7
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

In historical context, the epistle writer is really talking about the docetists of his day. Those were the ones who thought that Christ had not come in the flesh but was just a phantom or spirit. So for example, Marcion would be considered an antichrist. The writer(s) of these epistles also seems to be railing against adoptionists, those who separate Jesus from Christ. Again, adoptionists were technically Christians who thought that the Christ was only a spirit that had possessed Jesus, such as what was happening at Mark 1.12 (the spirit literally throws him out into the wilderness: τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον::to pneuma auton ekballei eis ten heremon). And of course, the spirit leaves Jesus at his crucifixion at Mark 15.37. Even though modern translations say something like “he breathed his last”, the wording that is used in Greek lends credence to the adoptionist interpretation: ἐξέπνευσεν::exepneusen literally means the spirit left him (ex = out; pneu- = spirit). An example of this sort would be Christians like Cerinthus, another antichrist.

But taking the epistle writer at his bare word, without historical context (since people that full stop didn’t believe that Jesus existed at all probably didn’t exist in John’s day), it would seem that modern Jesus Mythicists might qualify as antichrists. They are also people who believe that Jesus didn’t come “in the flesh” but was originally thought to be a celestial being. It might even apply to mythicists who think that Jesus never existed even though they might think that all early Christians thought that Jesus was a real human being walking around Galilee. Much like Ned Ludd or John Henry.

So to me it seems that even though the author of these epistles of John didn’t have modern mythicists in mind, according to a more relaxed version of his definition of an antichrist modern mythicists might be considered antichrists.


* Note, this is just me being funny, not an ad hominem…

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in jesus myth

 

The Halo Effect and Super Happy Death Spirals

Recent posts have reminded me that no one is immune to Happy Death Spirals. I guess if I get nothing intelligent out of them (their point has already been addressed, reminding us that bad arguments are like roaches), those blogs are still a good example of what not to do from a cognitive science point of view; to remind myself that conclusions are never a good in and of themselves. That only correct methodology (the rules of logic and probability) is the “one true good”. Everything else is transitory:

Yesterday, I suggested that one key to resisting an affective death spiral is the principle of “burdensome details“—just remembering to question the specific details of each additional nice claim about the Great Idea. (It’s not trivial advice. People often don’t remember to do this when they’re listening to a futurist sketching amazingly detailed projections about the wonders of tomorrow, let alone when they’re thinking about their favorite idea ever.) This wouldn’t get rid of the halo effect, but it would hopefully reduce the resonance to below criticality, so that one nice-sounding claim triggers less than 1.0 additional nice-sounding claims, on average.

The diametric opposite of this advice, which sends the halo effect supercritical, is when it feels wrong to argue against any positive claim about the Great Idea. Politics is the mind-killer. Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you’re on, you must support all favorable claims, and argue against all unfavorable claims. Otherwise it’s like giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or stabbing your friends in the back.

If…

  • …you feel that contradicting someone else who makes a flawed nice claim in favor of evolution, would be giving aid and comfort to the creationists;
  • …you feel like you get spiritual credit for each nice thing you say about God, and arguing about it would interfere with your relationship with God;
  • …you have the distinct sense that the other people in the room will dislike you for “not supporting our troops” if you argue against the latest war;
  • …saying anything against Communism gets you stoned to death shot;

…then the affective death spiral has gone supercritical. It is now a Super Happy Death Spiral.

What happens if “the existence of Jesus” is the Great Idea? You have to decide which side of the war you’re on. And of course, you just have to be on the side of the Great Idea. Now arguments are soldiers fighting for the Great Idea; any argument for the historicity of Jesus has to be good and must be supported (even if under normal circumstances it is a bad argument). Any argument or potential argument that could be used against the historicity of Jesus must be bad, and has to be fought at all costs.

This is war, folks. There is no mercy, no quarter, no solace for the enemy. They must be crushed and driven before you. Followed only by the lamentations of their women.

It just so happens that this mentality is exactly what creates an impenetrable wall of unfalsifiability around the Great Idea, even if the Great Idea would not be unfalsifiable absent a Super Happy Death Spiral.

Without thinking that conclusions must be defended at all costs, you start to see that there actually are some scraps of evidence that make better sense for the opposition than for you. To me, it’s highly unlikely that an all powerful god exists or that Christianity is true. Yet I’m not afraid to admit that some things make more sense under Christianity than under atheism. I’m not afraid to admit that there are some things that might make more sense under Creationism than evolution (I don’t know what those would be, but I don’t reject it out of hand). I’m not afraid of those sorts of evidences because resting an entire conclusion on them is the Base Rate Fallacy. P(E | H) is not P(H | E).

Similarly, there are some things that make more sense under Jesus mythicism than historicism (like Paul’s silence). And there are also things that make more sense under historicism than under mythicism (like brother of the Lord). Someone who is defending arguments with soldiers could never admit this, because it is giving ammunition to “the enemy”. Which leads to all types of sophistry. The true strength lies in methodology; of accumulating all evidence and seeing which hypothesis wins when all cards are put on the table.

But that cannot be done if the entire reason for the existence of your arguments is that they are soldiers fighting on the side of the Great Idea. This sort of thing leads to the absurdity of rejecting the laws of logic and probability and replacing it with your own flawed intuition.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in cognitive science, jesus myth

 
 
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