October 25, 2013

Review: Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution


Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution
Liberty's Dawn: A People's History of the Industrial Revolution by Emma Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Good, and thought-provoking, but with a couple of holes

(It's really 3.5, and I may move it down to 3, since Goodreads, like the Amazon who has majority ownership in it, doesn't allow half-star ratings.)

A very interesting revisionist look at the lives of the working class in the Industrial Revolution.

Griffin, while acknowledging that some aspects of said people's lives worsened, primarily in the matter of child labor, that, on the whole, on average, it brought betterment even before Victorian-era social reforms.

As part of this, she says that some problems associated with the IR, such as irregular/seasonal unemployment, actually carry over from pre-IR, or maybe proto-IR, times and that the IR itself did not worsen them and may have ameliorated them.

Where does she get these ideas? Diares, some eventually published as pamphlets, booklets or books, from working men, and even a few working women, of this era.

As far as those direct benefits?

Griffin lists:
1. More money;
2. More sexual freedom (primarily for men);
3. More literacy;
4. More religious freedom and empowerment.

More money is obvious.

The sexual freedom connects in part to that, in part to increased geographic mobility and shortening or ending of formal apprentice periods. Result? More premarital sex, even premarital pregnancies. In what would certainly shock the virtue and mythmaking of modern American religious conservatives, by 1800, about 1/3 of British brides were pregnant at their weddings. Add in those who had already given birth to that "ill-conceived" child, illegitimate births that parish registries didn't record, the occasional "founding" that fell between the record-keeping cracks, and the occasional, or bit more than occasional, abortion, and half of 1800-period British women got pregnant before marriage.

More literacy? That came from occasional night schools some women taught at home, reading schools of various sorts founded by congregations in the Methodist movement (and eventual denomination), and guilds and other workingmen's groups forming their own educational support programs. The result? In part, those diaries, booklets, etc., some of which ran to 25,000 or more words when published.

Religious and social freedom? It in part came from the Great Awakening, which hit Europe as well as America, producing Methodism in England and Pietism in Germany. At the same time, Griffin argues that a bit more money for workers in the IR, and a bit more self-awareness, led workers to help fuel the Great Awakening, by being more literate, including on bible study, and challenging Anglican vicars.

It's indeed an interesting read. I'm still not fully convinced. It's true that the working class's lot may have risen compared to its past. But, Griffin dodges a couple of issues.

First, directly related to that, she doesn't address whether or not income inequality rose during the IR, if so, how much, and whether we shouldn't weigh that in the balance against the reported benefits.

Second, per stereotypes of dirty London and its coal-driven smog, she ignores environmental issues related to the IR, and how much more those affected the working class than the upper class. As part of that failure, she doesn't address life expectancy issues. (My bits of Googling tell me that child mortality in Britain declined throughout the 1700s, but adult mortality remained unchanged. I can't find any breakouts by economic class, at least with a brief search.)

The lack of data issue cuts other ways, too. Griffin indicates that the IR seemed to give the working class more money. But, again, we're not given any data. I don't know how much is available, but there has to be some.

Finally, there's a philosophical issue. A logical issue, to be  more precise. A logical fallacy issue, to be more precise yet.

It's called "survivorship bias." In other words, we don't know how representative these diarists are of the British working class as a whole.

In other words, it's a good anecdotal people's history. But, it's not more than that.

The diary-based writing keeps this book near four stars. But, per what I just said, it's not quite there.


View all my reviews

Russell Brand and not voting



Russell Brand's BBC interview is drawing a lot of fire, from his statement that we're creating a more permanent, more worldwide, more entrenched underclass, through his statement we need some sort of revolution, and finally at his thoughts on not voting in a democracy. I take the written quote from the Guardian's summation of the interview:
"Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve."
It seems that progressives (one friendly Texas blogger, I know of) as well as conservatives are jumping on this one.

Sorry, but I'm with Brand, and I'm not alone.

About a decade ago, the Dallas Morning News had interviews with a lot of ’60s era civil rights activists from the Dallas area. You know what? A number of them felt like Brand, and said they hadn't voted in years, if not decades.

I agree with Brand, overall. The Guardian's columnist nuances the issue:
Should Brand be taken to task for rejecting the vote in this context? Yes and no. No, because his rejection clearly resonates with, and is reflective of, a growing sentiment in wider society where, in fact, actual majorities in our liberal democracies do not vote - not because they are apathetic, but because of the abject apathy of a broken political system in the face of the crisis of civilisation. Yes, because simply disengaging from the prevailing political system is another extreme reaction that is, in fact, part and parcel of the very system it purports to reject. Because the more the majority disengages, the more a decreasing minority is able to dominate the political class.
Sadly, big bucks from both the Republican and Democrat (sic on purpose) parties hope more people agree with him, and get apathetic not just about the act of voting, but about politics in general.

However, it appears Brand is NOT apathetic about politics in general. Or let's hope not. Back to the Guardian:
That does not mean the solution lies within the prevailing political paradigm. Brand's call for revolution, for a fundamental political, economic, cultural and cognitive shift, is on point. But rather than entailing disengagement resulting in anarchy, this requires the opposite: Engagement at all levels in order to elicit structural transformation on multiple scales through the overwhelming presence of people taking power back, here and now. 
Agreed. At the same time, at some point, it requires having specific goals, specific "toolkits" for working on those goals, prioritizing goals, and making other strategic decisions.

In short, we need people taking back power, but we don't need the Occupy mythical nonsense of "leaderlessness," nor the Adbusters/Anonymous mentality behind it.

Anyway, back on point, speaking of focus.

I support the act of not voting. I've done it before, myself, where both "mainstream" parties' candidates in a certain election were that unappealing and I had no third-party option.

Heck, Brand is British, and he's got a wider variety of options that might be electorally meaningful, being in a parliamentary system, even if the House of Commons is like the US House with first-past-the-post single-member districts.

Halloween urban legend time!

Ooohhh, we could start new urban legends?

Why not, since schools are cancelling Halloween events either from costume safety worries, food safety worries, or church-state issues, on the ground Halloween promotes religion. (Yes, mush-headed school administrators, you're actually right, there. Today's version of Halloween does promote the religion of hypercapitalism, aka Mammon.

"Daddy, is it true that bad people stick peanuts in Halloween candy to make them go into anaphylactic shock?"

(And, I could up this story one further, too.)

"Daddy, is it true that bad people put wheat gluten inside apples to make them go into celiac attack so they have to have intestinal quadruple bypass surgery?"

(Or, I could up this story TWO further.)

Picture young Evan Joseph McCarthy, talking to mom Jenny about trick-or-treating:

"Mommy, is it true that bad people put wheat gluten inside apples to give you autism? Is it true that people hide needles tainted with thiomersal inside candy to give you autism?"

Actually, Jenny McCarthy showing up at my house dressed as herself, today, would probably scare me. Not because she's ugly, but because I would know a torrent of nonsense was about to come out of her mouth.

So, let's have more.

"Mommy, it is true that a galloping horseman, man and horse both rabidly foaming at the mouth, might take his head off and throw it at me in the middle of a dark country night?"

Well, kind of, darling daughter. But Ted Cruz does that all that time, not just on dark country nights.

Meanwhile, from the college world, political correctness on Halloween costumes is even worse than at the K-12 level perhaps.

Don't wear any costume that portrays any group as overly sexualized? Or otherwise even starts to play into stereotypes? Nth-wave feminists, whether inside the Atheism Plus movement or not, probably love this one.

"Mom, is it true that if I wear the wrong Halloween costume at Big State U., I'm guilty of 'privilege'?"

"Sorry, dear, but yes you are. That includes being in a costume with those old 'mom jeans.'"

Speaking of the Atheism Plusers, what if someone like that showed up in a costume that fueled religious stereotypes? Or a Christian fundamentalist did similar in a costume that fueled stereotypes of non-Christian religions?

Oh, and on the lighter side? Parents, when you want to have fun after you do your post-Halloween candy theft from your kids?

Blame the chupacabra.

Have fun trick or treating!


October 24, 2013

Should Texans vote AGAINST Prop 6?

Fellow progressive blogger Harman on Earth rounds up good reasons for clicking the "no" on Nov. 5 or in early voting.

Why?

Briefly, there's really nothing in the proposition itself to push for conservation efforts, and North Texas and the Hellhole, namely snootier DFW and Houston suburbs, aren't doing anything about it on their own, and didn't during this summer's drought. 

Here's a nugget:
The Texas Water Development Board confirmed that some households in the Fort Worth area have provided irrigation of landscaped yards through the winter months in spite of the drought. In 2011, the state’s driest year on record, much of Fort Worth’s public water, estimated 45 percent, went to landscape watering. By contrast, the City of San Antonio estimated 25 percent of public water was used for watering and landscape purposes for the same period.
The Metroplex and Greater Houston as a whole as a whole use about 40 percent more per capita than not just dryland El Paso, but also as Austin.

Harman notes there's weasel words about how the TWDB should "undertake" to fund water conservation projects, too.

So, unless the state gets power to trump municipalities in times of water crises, we don't need a bill that's going to finance pipelines to big cities and call it "water project."

I agree that the state is woefully behind on what it needs for funding water projects for a growing economy and growing 21st-century population. However, sometimes the good can be the enemy of the best, and with what were already limited strivings for more conservation work weakened further in the final version of the legislation that put this issue on the ballot, I wouldn't object in any way if others voted "no," even if that would lead to tea party folks' crowing.

October 23, 2013

Mu to free will

And to determinism, too.

For those of you not familiar with this word “mu,” I’m not being a cow with a French accent. Rather, I’m “unasking a question,” so to speak. The word comes from Zen Buddhism.

If you’re read the magisterial “Gödel, Escher, Bach” by Douglas Hofstadter, of course, you ARE familiar with the word.

Anyway, by “unasking the question,” the word says that the premises upon which a question is based are false.

And, in the case of free will VERSUS determinism, I believe that is very, very true.

First, per Dan Dennett, and many other students of Gilbert Ryle and others, there is no such thing as a little “Cartesian demon” in the middle of our brains, choosing what thoughts in our minds rise to the level of consciousness. Rather, although Dennett at least, here as elsewhere, overextends Darwinian parallels, different subselves are competing, if you will, for which one of them rises to the top. Arguably, more fragmentary sub-subselves are a level lower, but I’m not going to do a Hofstadter-type eternal expansion! Of course, dissociative identity disorder is a case of extreme lack of connection between these subselves.

In short, there’s no “Cartesian meaner” running the projector of a movie theater.

However, Dennett doesn’t go to the logical next step, even though I know he full well knows it IS the logical next step.

If there is no Cartesian meaner generating consciousness, then there’s no Cartesian free willer generating consciousness-level free will. (Or, pace Massimo Pigliucci, no "Cartesian volitioner.")

Now, per David Hume living comfortably every day despite his inability to “grasp” a “self,” we, too act “as if” we have conscious free will. But, that doesn’t mean we actually do, contra the Massimo Piglicccis of the world.

But, just because we don’t have conscious free will, even of a fairly weak sort of compatibilism, doesn’t mean that it’s all determinism, contra the Jerry Coynes of the world. Certainly not in his neo-atomistic physicalist, "hard" determinism.

Nor, pace Massimo, do we have to go down the route of dualism if we reject conscious volitionism. That's especially true if:
A. We see something like free will as developing as an emergent property;
B. We reject "hard" physicalist determinism, too;
C. We see whatever this "quasi-free will" is, and a "softer" psychological determinism as being two endpoints on a continuum, and not two poles of a polarity.
As for what this means?

How “free” or how “determined” our actions are is a case-by-case basis issue, and it depends on which subself seems to be in the saddle at the moment, and how determined or not a particular aspect of that subself is.

I wish we, both amateurs and professionals of the philosophical world alike, could move beyond the “free will VERSUS determinism” issue. It has religious-type moral baggage, at least to a degree, on the free will side, on issues of guilt and responsibility. More and more, it has scientism baggage on the determinism side. Beyond, Jerry Coyne's a good enough scientist, or he should be, that he should know that quantum theory, if nothing else, undercuts the stance of people like him. It’s so unproductive. But, I’m not holding my breath.

On the free will side, in comments within his latest post on the matter, Massimo admits the issue of guilt and responsibility is why he continues to defend free will VERSUS determinism (or other attacks, or "attacks").
(A)ny talk of free will and consciousness being illusions is a threat to humanism, since among humanist's cardinal principles are that we are responsible for our actions and that we can use reason as a guide to life.
Well, then, per the ways in which I've previously chastised Joseph Hoffmann, humanism, whether explicitly secular or not, without embracing scientism, needs to embrace scientific advances.

Massimo also, which I hadn't noticed until this late-2013 update, mischaracterizes my postion on free will:
Several readers of course brought up dualism, even accusing me of being a crypto-dualist. Here is Gadfly:
"If there's no Cartesian meaner, there's no Cartesian free willer."
True enough, but this assumes that the only way to meaningfully talk about volition (again, my and others’ preferred term instead of the metaphysically loaded “free will”) is in dualistic terms, a position that has been rejected pretty much by all compatibilist philosophers, from Dennett down.
Actually, no, it doesn't assume that.

Per my whole line of reasoning, it assumes that, as currently expressed, this is an outdated issue. Rather, speaking of Dennett, I mean just what Massimo quoted me as saying. If something akin to Dennett's multiple drafts theory of consciousness is true, then we simply can't talk of a unitary volitional self. Per the detailed outline I list above, it assumes that the degree of volition involved with a certain action must be determined, as best we can, on an action by action basis.

There's nothing dualistic about that, whether in the broad idea of substance dualism or the narrower idea of property dualism, on my part, nor do I assume Massimo entertains such ideas on his part. The only idea I entertain about Massimo is that, in fair part because he doesn't buy into multiple drafts or subselves ideas, he's wedded to traditional ideas about volition for the wrong reasons.

That said, he does admirably refute, again, the nonsense that Jerry Coyne spouts in support of dualism. And he's right that science currently has little to say on this issue. And, per the likes of him, John Horgan, myself and many others, likely will have little to say about this issue for decades if not longer. My thoughts, Dennett's, and others, on the nature of consciousness, are psycho-philosophical theories untestable now or any time soon.

And I'm sorry that, for whatever reasons, Massimo inferred I thought he was a crypto-dualist. My stance on a multiple drafts and multiple subselves view of consciousness is entirely compatible with the non-dualistic emergentism that's central to Massimo's views on human consciousness. We just arrive at different finish lines.

That said, a regular, tendentious commenter on his blog has inferred, from the post above that Massimo is a full-blown dualist, and thinks that emergentism pretty much necessitates dualism. That's a far bigger error that Massimo's incorrect inference.

Anyway, speaking of Massimo's take on Coyne? Ian Pollack, writing a guest post at Massimo's blog, appears to move a step in this direction, with an analytic philosophy type approach that includes saying Coyne is ... insufficiently reductionistic, of all things, in his use of language.

Here's the core of his thoughts:
So how would I tackle the issue of free will/volition?

Suppose I am driving along an undivided highway when the stray thought
comes into my head that I could steer into the opposing lane, resulting
in a horrible, deadly accident.

Of course, I don’t do so, because... well, I like living and I don’t
much want to kill others, either. And I just washed my car. But I could
have done it.

...Wait, was I right to say that I could have done it?

Yes and no. As we have seen, the pivotal word in that sentence is
“could,” and “could” has at least two meanings that are relevant to the
question of free will.

Meaning #1 maps physical possibility, and in this case returns the clear
answer “No, the physical state of the universe was such that you could
not have steered into oncoming traffic, as evidenced by the fact that
you did not, in fact, do so. QED.” Jerry sees this clearly, and I have
absolutely no argument with him.

Meaning #2 of “could” maps counterfactual statements. To say that you
“could” have done something in this sense is (roughly) to say that IF
circumstances had been otherwise, a different outcome would have
resulted. Meaning #2 returns the answer “Yes, you could have steered
into oncoming traffic, if you had wanted to.”

Meaning #2 is what people actually mean by “could,” most of the time.

If you’ve been sleeping through this post, pay attention now, because
the entire click of compatibilism lies in this realization.

Proposition #1: “No, the state of the universe was such that it was physically impossible for you to have steered into oncoming traffic.”

Proposition #2: “Yes, you could have steered into oncoming traffic (if you had wanted to).”


However, to my mind, he still fails. He addresses only the Coyne-type physicalist determinism, not "softer" versions, first. Second, he's committed to the "versus" stance, continuing to defend a compatibilist version of free will versus determinism.

For more excellent thoughts in this general vein, I strongly suggest Walter Kaufmann's book "Beyond Guilt and Responsibility."

And, for broader background, here's a bit of information on where we are at on studying consciousness issues in general.

And, per a reader, this take on Benjamin Libet's famous experiments is in general line with what I'm saying.

Ted Cruz vs Terry Gross, Krugman vs WTO, and other news bits

NPR's Fresh Air host Terry Gross said today,"I don't think Ted Cruz is that connected to Christian conservatives."

That's despite this piece showing just how much he and his dad are plugged into dominionist theology.

Mad yourself? Fresh Air's Twitter account is here. And webmail is here.

I mean, along with a few true liberal friends of mine, I've long said NPR stands for Nice Polite Republicans, but that's just ridiculous. Especially when Gross's webpage claims:
Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. 
Yeah, right. Like that "tough" statement above?

Note: This isn't an opinion/commentary issue of whether one agrees with Cruz, or dominionist theology, or not. It's a straight news issue of being informed, or not.

NPR, if it's not just for Republicans who want to think they're liberal, is also for neoliberal Democrats, the Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Meyer-lemon squeezing ones, who also want to think they're liberal.

Beyond NPR in general, I just listen to Gross on the Waco NPR station when I'm driving. (I can't quite pick up WRR, the Dallas classical station, until I get closer to Waco itself.) But, she's never floated my boat. In fact, I find her, again along with some of my friends, an easy object of parody.

===

Someone bigger-named and better-known than me touts my idea of carbon taxes domestically, plus carbon tariffs on imports from places like China, to address the "free rider" issue on global warming. And, like me, says he thinks WTO regulations allow it. And, like me, says, the hell with the WTO if it doesn't.

That "someone"? Paul Krugman, in this book review. The review is in depth, and the book itself sounds good. And, in my opinion, carbon cap-and-trade's been a failure in Europe. Business knows that carbon taxes are a better way of addressing this, and, businesses who don't import cheap crap from China know that carbon tariffs on imports is a way to force other countries to play along.

===

If you missed it last night, PBS' "Frontline" had a good episode on multiple-antibiotic-resistant germs. It promises a spring follow-up on how CAFO agriculture and its antibiotic use play into this. It's scary, as is news that came out during the government shutdown that we may have salmonella bacteria that now resist 165-degree meat temperature on properly-cooked (theoretically, at least) chicken.

I may, at some point, contribute money to PBS again. But, I doubt I'll ever contribute to any local NPR station, nor the specific affiliates that produce most of its programming.

Giants inhale, give Lincecum $35M out of dime bags

What the hell? Tim Lincecum, the former San Francisco Giant ace fallen to mere mortal the last two years, gets a two-year contract for $35M? When he had been talking himself about a short-term contract to rebuild his value, the Giants pay him more than he was surely expecting.

Yes, he was better this year than last year. My left kneecap would have been a better pitcher than him last year. And, this year even, he still had a negative WAR.

Off the top of my head, I know two people just as happy as him, though, if not happier. Max Scherzer. Clayton Kershaw.

Gentlemen, enjoy your pending massive new contracts, whether with your current teams or elsewhere.

And, since the Freak's new deal has a no-trade clause, the Giants had better hope he pitches better than the last two years. If not, they've got a Barry Zito Jr. on their hands, albeit for a shorter term.

I maybe could have seen 2/$30, though if I were Giant GM Brian Sabean, I would have started even lower.

Help a poor journalist find a new job

Updating this from 2011. I'm not keeping it quite as anonymous as then, but I am pretty much doing so. (I reserve the right to change my mind at some future point.) Nonetheless, for regular readers, and "drive-bys," I have more than a decade of experience, including copy editing, assignment editing, writing news, features, op-eds and more, desktop publishing, photography, etc. I am interested in a variety of communications positions, that is public relations and broadly similar work..


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SUMMARY: Whether you need crisp, clear, concise news releases, in-depth presentations, branding or similar writing, brainstorming and idea generation, web and social media outreach, a PowerPoint or public speaking, I have the experience you need — award-winning experience.

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ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Persuasive communications: Editorials work — I helped defeat a school bond issue shortly before the housing bubble hit, saving suburban Dallas taxpayers major headaches and money. Public speaking: Whether it’s serious, straight or a bit of both, I hit the style of speaking needed for an audience and event. Analysis and Research: I have conducted fact-finding, research and conclusions for detailed investigative news stores; as part of that, I know what facts are important and what are not, and what facts capture attention and what don’t. New Media: I have both personal and professional experience and thoughts to offer. A Tweet — that’s a newspaper headline in new format. Facebook involves branding, customer service, marketing and more. Blogging and in-depth website posts offer ways to communicate in detail.

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COMPUTER SKILLS
Quark   Photoshop  • InDesign  • Office • Video • Web content  • Social media • QuickBooks


PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
1. 
--> Editor and publisher, September 2012 — community weekly paper
• Edited one weekly, plus oversaw a second as publisher of both
• Developed advertising plans and strategy; sold ads with ad salesperson 
• Improved customer service at newspaper
• Helped develop sales and revenue budget
 
2. Managing editor, semiweekly paper plus multi-paper lifestyles section, December 2011-September 2012
• Managing editor, semiweekly, plus of weekly lifestyles section that went in that paper and two others
• Managed two staff writers, two other editors
 
3. Copy Editor, September 2009-December 2011, seven-day daily paper
• Led editorial office on Sundays as slot editor
• Managed other copy editors as needed 
• Helped paper win state awards
• Assisted in exceeding company profit-sharing goals
• Edited stories, wrote headlines, desktop published
• Significantly improved on-time publication percentage and profit-sharing bonuses

4. Managing editor, Group of suburban weekly papers, Sept. 2007-July 2009, (Same company as job 4)
• Managed group of newspapers 
• Oversaw consolidation of newspapers
• Directed staff writers and freelancers
• Improved and increased social media use
• Edited, updated website content    
• Marketed newspaper operations to public
• Wrote, edited, desktop published  
• Participated in various civic groups

5. Managing Editor, community weekly, Jan. 2007-Sept. 2007
Hired as editor of weekly to start 2007. Management responsibilities include one full-time staff writer and 10 freelance correspondents. Otherwise, personal work similar to newspapers below.

6. News editor, later assistant managing editor, group of suburban weeklies, up to Dec. 2006
• Assisted in redesign of newspaper     
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Previous:
Managing editor of twin weeklies, where I improved profit margin
General manager of weekly, moved from red to black
City editor, five-day daily
Contact this blog to hire me

October 22, 2013

Jesus reality and Jesus mythicism — moved back a century

Seeing how uncritically accepting many Gnu Atheists are of Joseph Atwill's claim, recently doubled down on with this non-academic press release, that the Flavian dynasty of Roman emperors invented Jesus and Christianity, I decided to throw my semi-academic hat (see near the bottom for how I make that claim) about the Jesus of history or the Jesus of mythicism here.

That said, let's jump in.

Despite what the new round of mythicists like Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier say, I can't accept mythicism, though, per Wikipedia, I do support those like R. Joseph Hoffmann who say it deserves academic discussion. Bart Ehrman, insightful as he may be otherwise, is simply wrong here.

The earthly Jesus of Paul

On Price, I believe he's  wrong when he says Paul didn't believe in an earthly Jesus. The "born of a woman" in Galatians 4:4 contradicts him and others. I take this as a straightforward passage. Yes, his larger thrust is the Law as a curse, as in "born under the Law." But, within that context, its clear that he is talking about a normal human being whom he understands to have had a normal birth and life.

But, at least for some other mythicists, it ain't. For example, Earl Doherty engages in seeming verbal flim-flammery here, to try to talk around the passage. Some of it is just laughable, like claiming, based on the Old Testament, that "exapostello" can only be used for sending forth "spiritual beings." I don't know that Price has even tried to do that much ersatz heavy lifting.

The only way I see for true mythicists to get around this is to claim that Paul was either accidentally mistaken, wrong, or telling a mythmaking lie in the name of an anti-Docetic stance.

None of those seem likely. On Docetic or anti-Docetic issues, Paul splits the difference in 1 Corinthians with his "spiritual body." Plain wrong? If you're a mythicist and you believe the mythic Jesus began with Paul, then "wrong" isn't an option; you have to fall back on "mythmaking lie," as I see it. Accidentally mistaken? Assuming there was a Jerusalem community of James, Peter and others, how do you mistake them talking about a physical human being? (You could mistake when they said he lived, but that's a different story.) I suppose mythicists could punt "mythmaking lie" back on James and/or Peter. However, in the case of James, I then contend that you have to believe that about everything Josephus writes about him is also part of the mythmaking.

What about James?

And, the mythicists also, by and large, don't seem to me to address Josephus' discussion of lynching of James the brother of Jesus. James (Ya'akov) was a hugely common Jewish name, of course, but so was Jesus (Yeshua). So, Josephus seems to recognize that this James needed to be identified. He does so by calling him the brother of Jesus. But, that presumes that this Jesus is so well-known as to not need identifying. (Note; I do not see this as a Christian interpolation, certainly not the "brother of Jesus"; I am still undecided on the "who was called Christ.")

Carrier does address this, saying this was the brother of a Jesus who was high priest in the year 63. But, to follow Carrier, you have to hold the "who was called Christ" as an interpolation. You also have to assume an audience 30 years later was familiar enough with THAT Jesus for Josephus to not need to identify him further, and I'm not ready to commit to that. Per Wikipedia, Josephus' audience was Gentiles; unless you narrowly restrict that audience to "friends of the Flavian imperial dynasty," they probably wouldn't know who this Jesus was.

So, I stand by some sort of non-mythical Jesus. And, I'll deal with Josephus myself, below.

Early Christian growth rates: One view

This leads to Christianist sociologist Rodney Stark. (I use that moniker because, like Samuel Huntington, he believes in a "clash of civilizations," but he's not a religious Christian, though he is a nutter in other ways.)

Stark postulated that, with a start point of 5,000 believers in the year 50 CE, and a growth rate of 40 percent per decade, we get Christians up to being half the Roman Empire by the time of the Council of Nicea.

I think that end number is too high, and I'm far from alone. I think Christians at that time were higher than a Robin Lane Fox thinks (more below) but not that high.

Anyway, how did Stark get there?

His 40 percent per decade comes from historic growth rates of Moonies and Mormons. However, there's several problems. Moonies moved their base from small South Korea to the US, and the Mormons recruited immigrants, especially in Scandinavia, before they emigrated, for one thing. Also, he fails to allow for Christians outside the empire, who may have been as high as 15 percent of the total by the time of Constantine. And, he doesn't try to fit this growth into a bell curve, especially given that total population in the ancient world remained almost flat, and indeed did so, over longer periods, until about 1700 CE.

All of these issues are problematic for Stark, or, I think, for anybody who believes in either a traditionally-dated historical Jesus or a mythical Jesus who was "hatched" at about the same time, and who believes Christians were more than 5 percent of the Empire at the time of Constantine.

Now: My alternative

So, what if we "move Jesus back"?

Why not? G.R.S. Mead, and others, either entirely on their own, or influenced by the Jesus Pandera tales from pre-Rabbinic Judaism, postulate a Jesus who lived circa 100 BCE, possibly a Jesus who was among the Pharisees executed by Hasmonean king Alexander Jannai. (Here's Mead on this.)

This idea has long appealed to me. Mead and former mythicist G.A. Wells (I consider him to be a recanted mythicist, not a "soft" one) were two major influences on me in my late 20s, beyond modern historical criticism, as I did intellectual judo on what I was being taught in conservative Lutheran divinity school as well as what I had been taught to avoid.

The idea still appeals today, maybe even more so, and for two main reasons.

We get a slower, easier-to-believe growth rate, and a longer period for development of Christian traditions and their move from oral to written forms.

First, my take on the growth rate issue

I see two "hinge points" in the growth of the Jesus movement, later Christianity. (Dating Acts to 115 CE or so, it wasn't "Christianity" before 100 CE.)

The first one is for there to be at least 5,000 Jesus followers by 50 CE. Even with allowing for uneven distribution, the number of Jews in Rome, and the religious inquisitiveness within Rome (the city, not the empire), I think this is the minimum number for a "Jesus community" to be in place for Paul, never having been there, to address in his Epistle to the Romans.

The second? Per the likes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and other professional and amateur social theorists, is a "tipping point" that led Diocletian to start serious persecution of Christians. (Per my review of Candida Moss' "The Myth of Persecution," I don't think there was serious, imperially-directed persecution of Christians before Diocletian, but there certainly was then.)

Such sociological tipping points are very serious. Urban sociologists have shown that when an all-white, or nearly so, neighborhood, gets X percent African-Americans, the rate of moving out picks up. When it hits Y percent, the rate increases.

I see a similar "tipping point" behind Diocletian. What might it be?

I started playing around on a simple computer-based 10-key calculator. I started with a much earlier time frame, which allowed lower growth rates over a longer period, but also gradually accelerated growth rates as Christianity got larger mass.

And, I came out with approximately 1.25 million Christians in the year 285. If I assume an imperial population of 50 million, and act like Stark and assume all these Christians were inside imperial boundaries, that's 2.5 percent. Given Christianity's strength in the east, maybe 3 percent or a little bit more, counting Italy and Roman Africa (today's Tunisia) as part of the east. And, about 4 percent Empire-wide when Diocletian ramps up the persecution.

And there you go.

Details?

I assume 1,000 "Christians" in the year 70 BCE.

From there, I assume a growth rate of 10 percent per decade  until 30 BCE. (Again, I'm assuming flat population rates, in part for simplicity but in larger part because, over the longer term, that's the simple reality of the ancient world.)

That gives us about 1,460 "Christians" in 30 BCE.

For the next six decades, I up the growth rate to 15 percent, starting a bell curve. (The proclivities of Herod, followed by direct Roman control of Judea, are assumed as "stimulators" for this higher growth rate.)

At 30 CE, that gets us to about 3,380 "Christians."

I then ratchet the bell curve up a bit, to 20 percent growth over the next 70 years. Worsening Roman action in Judea and the first revolt, plus the work of a man named Paul, are taken as "stimulators."

That gets us to 12,130 "Christians" (per above on the book of Acts, the scare quotes will be dropped from here on out) at 100 CE.

I next ramp up the bell curve a bit more.

For the next 80 years, I assume 25 percent growth per decade. This gets us to about 72,300 Christians by the death of Marcus Aurelius. Still a tiny minority, not much more than 1/10 of 1 percent of the Empire. The myth of Paul before Felix and Festus aside, we now, with people like Justin Martyr, see the first interactions of Christians with Roman officialdom. Somebody is noticing them. That's a "stimulator" of growth.

But now, the growth rate is going to pick up again. No external stimulator, just a larger semi-critical mass, more publicity in non-Christian circles, and social and economic decay in Rome making some people look more favorably on Christianity. (The movement, also, now has no scare quotes, as first attempts at doctrinal organization begin.)

So, for the next 90 years, I put the growth rate at 30 percent.

That gets us to 453,000 by 250 CE, which would be 3/4 of a percent or more; enough to catch Decius' attention. And 767,000 by 270 CE, comfortably above 1 percent.

So, I turn the bell curve higher. To 35 percent.

That gets us to 1.89 million by 300 (and about 1.25 million in 285, the year after Diocletian assumed the throne).

If I keep that same growth rate for 25 more years, we're at around 4 million by the time of Constantine calling the Council of Nicaea. That's 8 percent of a population of 50 million. (And on tipping points, for Constantine, we're at around 2.75 million  Christians, or 5.5 percent of the population, by the time of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.)

(Ehrman agrees, putting Christians at about 7 percent of the population by the time of Nicaea. However, with a traditional dating for Jesus birth, you have to expect growth rates close to Stark's for much of Christianity's lifespan.)

I don't ever need to go to Stark's 40 percent. And, I don't even see that happening. Due to "backsliding" and the "leisure" of Christianity being legalized, the growth rate probably plateaued until Theodosius made it the state religion of Rome.

That said, I hold that the growth rate issue is another challenge for mythicists if they believe that the myth started at about the time the traditional dating says Jesus lived. That is, if they think Paul started the myth, or somebody no more than one generation before him, they've got trouble.

Now, the development of Christian tradition

Different ideas of Jesus, such as a teacher of wisdom, allegedly reflected by the hypothetical Q document and the Gospel of Thomas, a faith healer/wonder worker with parallels in some Jewish holy men of the era, and a "divine man" of some metaphysical import with possible soteriological import, would all have longer to ferment, and more under any communal "radar screens," with an extra century of development time, and with a slower growth rate to bring less attention to any perceived need for uniformity.

We can postulate brief written bits being put down by the second generation after the death of this Jesus, around 30 BCE, when I see the growth rate tick up a bit, or maybe after 30 CE, when I see the growth rate tick up a bit more.

We can then simply put the first Jewish Revolt against Rome, and the destruction of the Second Temple, on top of this as a motivator to record the first unified "gospel" of Jesus in light of similar gospels of wonder-workers both before and after this time that floated around the Mediterranean world.

More on and from Paul

That still leaves connecting Paul to all of this.

He claims to be a Pharisee himself in Philippians. I accept this as true. I reject that he was a Roman citizen, as he never claims that about himself. He could well have come across the "Jesus movement" as part of a trip to Jerusalem or something.

If his "thorn in the flesh" was temporal lobe epilepsy, or whatever led him to his visions and revelations, his version of Christianity took off from there. And, if he did die in Rome, or nearby, we can perhaps peg the first Gospel, Mark, to there, in part based on the "Latinisms" in its Greek. But, that's aside from the main focus of this argument.

That said, now I, in a different way than Carrier, have a problem with Josephus' statement above. And, I also have a "problem" with the thinking of the likes of Robert Eisenman on the history of Jewish Christianity. And, on the issue of James as a historic person. (That said, Eisenman takes Acts as being WAY too historic. Example: He thinks the phrase that people of the "Way" were first called Christians in Antioch first dates to the 50s CE.)

Paul and James

Of course, Mead potentially founders on this, too. Paul talks about meeting James, and Paul in his own writings, not Luke's "Paul" in Acts. (It's been a long, long time since I read Mead; I don't know how he addressed this issue.)

But there's a way around what Paul says in Galatians 1:
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
Note he says "the Lord," not Jesus. This is usually means the risen Christ, not the earthly Jesus. Hence, not to sound like a Catholic protecting Mary's perpetual virginity, but, there's no reason this has to be read as James being the earthly brother of an earthly Jesus.

So, let's then go back to Josephus. And, let me one-up Carrier.

Perhaps EVERYTHING after "James" is a Christian interpolation. There may have been an earlier identifier of James, rather than just his bare name, in Josephus' autograph. (I admit I'm unaware of textual variants on this.) But, maybe an early copy got edited for this interpolation. In fact, if Luke borrowed from the Antiquities, he could have made that interpolation himself.

In for a penny, in for a pound on interpolations. But, that's the only one I need to get past the issue of a historic James at the time of Josephus and a historic Jesus of nearly 150 years earlier.

World religious history

I'm going to briefly morph over to other world religions, then.

The late-Victorian England original "surge" in mythicism wasn't about Jesus, alone. As the British Raj expanded in India, the historicity of the Buddha was questioned, too.

There's both similarities and differences. The early Buddhist writings might be compared to the hypothetical early Q strand, if there was a written Q. The Buddha as a teacher of wisdom, occasionally esoteric, just like Jesus in this tradition. The difference is that the idea of the Buddha as a divinity didn't develop until later, so no textual fusions were needed. But, if we push back Jesus, we have about the same gap between his life and the first writings about him as we do the Buddha and the first writings about him.

Islam is a tougher nut, with so little textual criticism so far. But, it's possible we didn't have a finalized version of the Quran until a century after his death or so.

Finally, to tackle one other "hard mythicist" counter-thrust.

Now, I've seen one mythicist (sorry, no link, can't remember where it was) cite the Micronesian cargo cults, specifically noting that in one place, two different deities or whatever were being venerated in less than 20 years.

However, on the typical Micronesian or New Guinean site, the issues that started the cargo cult were HUGELY intrusive. British or American military, occasionally civilians, with modern technology, setting up an outpost out of nowhere just before or during World War II into the middle of a dark-skinned, often Stone Age, society. Occasionally, even , a white man crashing an airplane on an island. And then leaving as soon as the war is done, or the crashed person is rescued.

Whereas, a messianic movement starting in late Second Temple Judaism? With all the other messianic claimant that Josephus documents in his time and others probably earlier? Hardly intrusive at all.

So, contra the one person's who's commented already trying to claim just the opposite? Don't. I'll laugh in your cyberface.

Meanwhile, per a discussion on a blog post by Dan Fincke, I will reiterate what should be obvious. Just because certain events of a person's life are fictitious doesn't mean the person is. (A disputant said the fiction of the Buddha's enlightenment meant the Buddha was mythical.) Honi the Circle Drawer almost surely existed, myths about his rain miracles aside. If mythicist claims here were true? Well, millions of people long believed the Parson Weems myth that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. Millions still believe myths about his wooden dentures today.

Also, don't be like D.M. Murdock (Acharya) who outdoes even American Gnu Atheists in claiming that religious personages are myths, making puns as bad or worse than those in the Tanakh, and otherwise promoting anti-intellectual stupidity, as I've noted here.

My academic and personal background

Who am I to be laying this scenario out with any presumption to credibility?

I'm a "semi-academic," in case any scholars noted in this post, or friends or followers of theirs, question my presumption.

I have an undergraduate degree in classical languages, part of spending most of my time in a pre-divinity program. (I also read Hebrew as part of that, though not enough to get a biblical languages degree.)

I also have a "professional / terminal" masters, a master of divinity degree. Being at a conservative Lutheran seminary, we weren't taught too much about the critical theological method, but we were taught a little. And, from there, I did a lot of reading on my own, eventually doing intellectual judo to refute what I was being taught there and had been raised to believe.

That said, I had several classes in exegesis of particular biblical books. I audited a class on introductory Aramaic. I took a class on the Greek of the Septuagint and also did readings in patristic Greek. And I took an upper-level graduate course on textual criticism. And, in English, I've read much of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most of the Nag Hammadi finds and more.

And, in the years since graduation, I have kept up with a fair amount of biblical studies on both testaments.

So, I feel comfortable calling myself a semi-academic.

And, I feel quite comfortable, as a semi-academic, and as an atheist who's not a Gnu Atheist, telling the mythicists they're wrong, and how and why.

Anyway, this isn't an overarching redaction criticism of any specific New Testament book, or some other detailed academic exercise. For example, I'm not going to try to tackle how a Mark relocated Jesus 100 years earlier. Suffice it to say that, albeit with a mythical leader, we historically had "early" and "late" dates for the Jewish exodus from Egypt, and the certainly mythical Zoroaster has had floruits dated as much as 1,000 years apart.

Don't make me hang here, either

I'm hoping for some critique. I'll even take some less-than-totally-friendly criticism. This is a serious bit of work and it didn't pop into my head overnight.

Also, just because I think Jesus mythicism doesn't have legs to fully stand on doesn't mean that I don't question the likelihood of literal existence of all ancient religious figures. In fact, with the Tanakh/Old Testament and "minimalists" there, I believe it's quite possible a historic David never existed; at best, I think his "vita" has been overstated at least as much as the historic Jesus.

October 21, 2013

Pre-second guessing the Cards before the World Series

Why? Because I still don't trust Lance Lynn and because somebody in Cards' management is lying, it seems, about Shelby Miller and whether or not he's on an innings limit.

The innings limit? The Cards themselves discussed it this year, per Derrick Gould. at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which means, as manager Mike Matheny has shown, like Stephen Strasburg, there was apparently some sort of "shutdown" talk, even if the Cards, unlike the Nationals, didn't do this loudly and publicly. And, at 173.1, as of the end of the regular season, he was near that top edge of 180. He pitched one wasted mop-up inning in the NLDS and not at all in the NLCS. But now we have this.

The team is now claiming that Shelby Miller isn't under an innings limit, a claim that has to be seen as bogus.
Cardinals officials have said that Miller, 23, is not in danger of eclipsing any innings limit they placed on his young shoulder and that he is not injured.
Uhh, yeah. right.

Miller's being a good sport about it, but, underneath, I'm guessing he's puzzled as anybody.

Anyway, all we know for sure is that it's Adam Wainwright for Game 1, and, although nothing official has been announced yet, unless Matheny really wants second guessing, it's Michael Wacha for Game 2. After that, Joe Kelly as a possible for Game 3.

Assuming Miller is THAT gassed or the arm is that much of a worry, I'll go back to what I said: Even if you don't want to start Jake Westbrook in Game 4, and you insist on Lynn, then put Westbrook on the roster, not Miller, for long relief.

Don't, contra GM John Mozeliak, think of him as "insurance," especially since Mo was the one talking about an innings limit in the regular season.

Anyway, other than this ongoing frustration with Matheny (who is NOT in the same tactician class as John Farrell over in Boston), let's play some baseball.

A UK-EU showdown may be shaping up over cybersnooping

And, it won't be about the Euro, or a Tobin tax, or other financial measures that get the City of London and the Conservative Party up in arms.

Rather, the UK-US special relationship vs. UK membership in the European Union may be at risk over the National Security Agency's cybersnooping, and the active participation in that of Britian's Government Communications Headquarters, which Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian know all about.

The "push"?

A new EU law specifically designed (and carefully designed, one hopes) to fight such cybersnooping when it intrudes on personal privacy.
European Union lawmakers on Monday were set to approve sweeping new data protection rules to strengthen online privacy, and sought to outlaw most data transfers to other countries' authorities to prevent spying.

The legislation was widely expected to pass a committee vote late Monday. Still, it is likely to be amended later since it also requires approval by Parliament's plenary and the EU's 28 member states. Lawmakers hope to conclude the process before the end of their term in May.
And, those last two sentences are where Merrie Olde England comes into play.

More of the details:
In response to the revelations of the National Security Agency's online spying activities, lawmakers also toughened the initial draft regulation, prepared by the European Commission, to make sure companies no longer share European citizens' data with authorities of a third country, unless explicitly allowed by EU law or an international treaty.

That means a U.S. tech company handing over data to U.S. authorities, including information on its European customers, might be violating EU law.
That said, the law was originally targeted at for-profit companies gathering too much data, and using it for too many hypercapitalist reasons. The toughening in this area comes to the 500 million residents of the EU courtesy Edward Snowden.

That said, could this be a coalition breaker in Britain? Would Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg actually find a spine, or cojones? What about some backbencher Conservatives? Will British in general, at least in the posh class, resent Brussels trying to force it to have elements of a written constitution? Stay tuned.

That said, as I noted, this was originally written to be a consumer protection law. And, with updating, even just there, it's a damn skippy bit of legislation. Also, even there, it's something that America's posh political class will never let see the light of day. Here's the consumer protection details:
The legislation, among other things, aims at enabling users to ask companies to fully erase their personal data, handing them a so-called right to be forgotten. It would also limit user profiling, require companies to explain their use of personal data in detail to customers, and mandate that companies seek prior consent. In addition, most businesses would have to designate or hire data protection officers to ensure the regulation is properly applied.

Grave compliance failures could be subject to a fine worth up to 5 percent of a company's annual turnover (revenue in European financial lingo) — which could be hundreds of millions of dollars, or even a few billion dollars for Internet giants such as Google.
Boom. And, revenue, not profit.

There's also this:
Consumers, in turn, would be able to file complaints with their national authority, regardless of where the targeted service provider is based. For example that would make it easier for an Austrian consumer to complain about a social media site such as Facebook, which has its EU headquarters in Ireland.
Picture if I could file a complaint about Google, or Facebook, here in Texas. (Of course, that provision would also never see the light of day in the US.)

Oh, the EU has its flaws. It's susceptible to lobbyists itself at times. (That's why, with even more Big Pharma companies headquartered in the EU + Switzerland, its pharmaceutical regulation, as is the UK's as a member state, is even more toothless than here in the US. And, while it's talked tough with Google in the last couple of years, both it and member states such as Germany haven't acted a lot tougher than the US.)

But, overall, it has a stronger regulatory environment than the US, and the financial muscle to make it mean something.

Well, except for even laxer controls on lobbyists, it has a stronger regulatory environment.

October 20, 2013

A cuture of laziness: Some observations

Two incidents last weekend at my apartment complex led me to the idea for this, which I will make into an occasionally updated, ongoing post.

In a modern America where obesity, type II diabetes, and poor cardiovascular function are on the rise, laziness is not just the opportunity for a cheap joke, but a serious concern. Ditto since more health findings indicate that if we actually will engage in at least brief physical activity from time to time, we can also lower stress levels.

That said, here goes:

Oct. 19, 2013: First instance? Guy in my apartment complex puts two kitchen trash bags in his SUV, then drives to my small apartment complex's Dumpster with them rather than walk 90 yards, if that, round trip. Even if he was driving somewhere else immediately after, the exercise still couldn't hurt. Nor could the not wasting gas.

Second instance? About 5 minutes later, a woman drives into the parking lot, and rather than go to the parking space in front of her unit, then walk 20 yards round trip, she stops her car in front of the mailbox complex (without shutting it off) and gets her mail.