March 18, 2015

Richard Carrier, other Jesus denialists, meet the Obama #birthers

Richard Carrier is one of the chief water-bearers among Jesus denialists, whose general lack of credibility, and general lack of academics for most of them, I have critiqued here, easily enough on my own, without needing any "help" from the likes of Bart Ehrman (although his own critiques, in even more depth, are spot on).

Massimo Pigliucci, at Scientia Salon, has a new post, referencing an essay from a few years ago about the use of Bayesian probabilities in establishing the soundness of informal logical arguments.

Early in comments, a British Gnu Atheist nutter (nice British term) trotted out the greatness of Carrier's work. I responded with my link about him and other Jesus denialists. To which, I have responded back, with editing and expansion, per the below.

Coel, it matters not whether the 0.0008 is a low end, or a precise number in general. Per Aravis, that’s not how you do history — or any other of the humanities. Bayesian probabilities or anything else, you simply cannot be that precise with history. And, you know that.

Let’s put it this way. Carrier has a Ph.D. in ancient history. Whether I phrased as just 0.008 or per you:
“The probability that Jesus existed is somewhere between 1 in 12,500 [the 0.008%] and 1 in 3. In other words, less than 33% and most likely nearer to zero. We should conclude that Jesus probably did not exist”
But, instead, said that about, Anaximander, Pythagoras, or another of the pre-Socratics, or about Homer, he would laugh in my face, and so would you. I know Aravis or Massimo would.

But, because it’s about Jesus, Jesus denialism, and Gnu Atheism, such utter rot, to use a good old British term, is acceptable, eh?

Well, no, it’s not.

The rest of your opinion is just that — an opinion. And, it may become more “mainstream” among Gnu Atheists. That doesn’t make Carrier any more accurate than Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

The “argument from silence” is not done sensibly by Jesus deniers. Again, if I used the argument from silence on classical history the way Carrier does on Jesus, again, you and he would laugh at me. But, because it’s about Jesus, Jesus denialism, and Gnu Atheism, such utter rot, to use a good old British term, is acceptable, eh?

Well, no, it’s not.

As for the rest of your comments, again, you’re not a Biblical scholar, and neither is Carrier, and you continue to prove that with vague comments about “Paul’s letters” that I know are wrong just as easily as an Ehrman knows are wrong.

And, also per Aravis, my undergrad degree was in classical languages and history, so, yes, I know you don’t do history that way. (As I told Massimo in an email, the first writing I ever read on free will was in an independent study on Augustine, which included his tractate on free will.)

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To complete the snark, I await Ted Cruz or somebody even worse among US “birthers” using Bayesian probabilities the way Carrier does to “prove”:
 The probability that Barack Obama was born in the United States is somewhere between 1 in 12,500 [the 0.008%] and 1 in 3. In other words, less than 33% and most likely nearer to zero. We should conclude that Obama probably was not born in the United States, but was born in Kenya.
Yep, lies, damned lies and misuse of Bayesian probabilities.

To be honest, beyond him being an easy name of a nutbar to hang the birther label on, the Havana Ham is only a birther fellow traveler, on the Obama birth BS, and, his own birth in Canada has spawned its own birther industry.

But, yes, in my mind, it's a fair analogy to compare the likes of Richard Carrier to the likes of Ted Cruz. And, people like Carrier, and their loyal touters like the commenter Coel, are yet more proof that Gnu Atheism is a variety of fundamentalism. And, in both cases, it's like shooting fish in a barrel that refuse to admit they've been shot.

Or, per the one tag on this blog post, a good example of village idiot atheism.

Or, per another commenter at Massimo's site, perhaps we should invoke Hillary Clinton instead of Ted Cruz.

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Alex says:
Also, in what sense is Carrier not a Biblical scholar? He is said to have got a PhD in ancient history and writes about little else but Biblical scholarship and possible misinterpretations of old Aramaic words. Does it only count as Biblical scholarship if one is a believer?
First, while he may comment on misunderstanding of old Aramaic words, I see no information that he has any knowledge of Aramaic or Hebrew on his quite extensive CV, which speaks only about the Greco-Roman world in general. I would think that, if he actually knew Aramaic, as long as his CV is, he’d explicitly mention it.

Beyond that, I even did a Google search: “Does Richard Carrier know Aramaic?” And I can’t get any hits that will confirm that he does.

Assuming he does not, the fact that he would still think to comment on misunderstandings of old Aramaic words “goes to character,” your honor. And, that’s putting it politely.

But, places where he calls a Targum an “Aramaic translation of the Old Testament” show he’s no biblical scholar. 

Fuller quote, from his original blog site: “A Targum is an Aramaic translation (or paraphrase or interpretation) of the OT. So really, this is akin to a textual variant for this passage.” 

Targums, as actual scholars know, were far more than that. They were commentaries, exegesises and more.

And, click that first link. It’s clear that not only does he not know Aramaic, but that he just doesn’t know the bible that well, especially the Tanakh or Christian Old Testament, especially when he’s engaged in quote-mining and gets caught.

Carrier, as far as I can tell, also does not know Hebrew. He claims to know five languages — as best as I can tell, these are English, French, German, Latin and classical Greek. Because he doesn't know Hebrew, and probably doesn't know details of the biblical koine Greek translations of the various books of the Tanakh, this leaves him unable to comment on text-critical issues of quotes of or references to, the Tanakh or Old Testament in the New Testament.

Beyond that, Alex, this?
He … writes about little else but Biblical scholarship and possible misinterpretations of old Aramaic words.
I’m not even sure what logical fallacy that should be named, but it’s definitely a fallacy.

There are people who write about nothing other than how the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare. Do you call these people “Shakespearean scholars”?

And, no, I never said one had to be a believer to be a Bible scholar. One of the best today, Bart Ehrman, is an agnostic.

To extend another analogy to US politics, Gnu Atheists defending the scholarship of Richard Carrier is like Democratic muckety-mucks defending the transparency of Hillary Clinton.


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