SocraticGadfly: 12/27/15 - 1/3/16

January 01, 2016

Texas climatologist, others: #climatechange behind record 2015

Jon Nielson-Gammon, the official state climatologist, and other climate scientists, note that global warming was a driver in a 2015 that saw Texas set a new state precipitation record.

Per Tom Toles, will this be enough to break through to denialists?

First, the numbers:

Preliminary figures show weekend rains that accompanied a North Texas tornado outbreak dropped an average of 1.3 inches across the state. That brings the statewide yearly rainfall total to 41.39 inches, surpassing 40.22 inches in 1941 and 39.45 inches in 1919 for the top spot on the rankings. 
That means the entire state, on average, was as wet as a typical year in Dallas. And Dallas is a fair degree east of the geographic center of the state.

Third, a descriptor:
"I've called this year's climate 'Texas' wild ride," said state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. "We recovered from one drought, then had another one, then recovered from it. Texas had its wettest month ever, and its wettest storm ever, and the wettest storm was not in the wettest month."
That’s how “dynamic” the year 2015 has been.

Third, the analysis:
Experts credit phenomenal global-weather patterns in 2015 for the relentless storms, but also point to decades-old climate models, which long ago predicted that an earth warmed by greenhouse-gas emissions would see a higher volume of intense downpours like the ones that struck Texas this year.
Indeed, as the massive flooding, mixed with above normal temperatures, in Lancashire, England, has shown.

And more analysis:
The amount of rain that hits Texas in concentrated bursts has grown steadily over the last 40 years, according to Gerald North, a veteran climate researcher at Texas A&M University. That effect has long been predicted by computer models of greenhouse gas-induced climate change; warmer air currents hold more moisture, so when storm clouds break, there's more water to fall. 
"It seems to be a real trend," he said. "Probably more of our rain will be concentrated in these heavy events."

And, on the flip side, with Gammon's dynamics observations, will we have more of what we could call "microdroughts"?

And more:
"The intensity of storms is going up," said Ron Sass, fellow in global climate change at Rice University. … 
 "There's more energy in the atmosphere because of the higher temperature," said Sass at Rice. "So weather in general is becoming more intense."
And yet more:
The dramatic weather bears the markers of man-made climate change, according to Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University and former senior tech policy analyst at the White House. 
Decades of computer models with millions of data points and variables have suggested that precipitation would concentrate into heavy outbreaks as the climate warms. This year is strongly poised to overtake 2014 as the Earth's warmest year on record, according to federal data.
Note that last point.

Climate change denialists like to claim there’s been a “pause” in global warming. (There hasn’t, of course.)

Even if there were (any temporary slowdown has been due to oceans absorbing more warming for a few years), back to back record-warm years “refudiate” such nonsense.

Will tea party wingnuts listen to the home folks?

Texas insurance companies note the urban expenses of all of this.

Farmers note the wild swings of this year were a bad year for cotton and a horrible one for wheat. The 2016 season also shapes up to be horrible for wheat; fall rains killed two-thirds of normal planting from ever happening.

Add that the North Pole went above freezing on Tuesday, almost unheard of for any time of year, let alone when the sun isn't shining, as part of a whole mass of ultradynamic weather, and the denialists just don't have a leg to stand on.

So, yes, we need negative carbon emissions, and now. We also need negative methane emissions, and if a new GMO variety of rice can make a significant dent in that, by all means, let's junk the "Frankenfoods" nonsense if the food tests out as safe.

Let's hope Tom Toles is right, on the wingnut side, that cracks are appearing in the world of denialism. I'll believe it when I see more evidence. That said, as he notes, there's a second wall behind the original wall of denialism. That wall is the wall of, to riff on Evgeny Morozov. But it's simple: Carbon tax (as he notes) plus carbon tariff.

December 31, 2015

The 2015 Don't Think in Texas winner

Here's my offerings for the people who compel me to riff on the Don't Mess with Texas slogan and ask someone with brains and skeptical thinking, or Brains and Eggs and skeptical thinking, to yes, please mess with Texas.

Affluenza Jefe Ethan Couch
It would be so easy to to award "affluenza" teen, I mean Señor and Jefe (heh, heh) Ethan Crouch and mom Tonya. But, there are other worthy nominees.

There's Ken "Kenny Boy" Paxton, on indictment for issues related to securities fraud. Latest: a Daddy Warbucks backer suing to keep the special prosecutors, well suing to keep them from being paid for doing their jobs.

Then, there's Gov. Greg Abbott, who surely opposes Sharia Law in Texas, but sure sounds like he wants Vatican Law being taught as part of state law continuing education requirements. That's beyond being a fear-mongerer over Jade Helm this summer and to the right of Rick Perry in his first year as governor.

Those top two politico listings together remind me that the Trickster was also indicted. But, such is the depth of this year's numbnuts lineup, he may fall short of the top.

There's plenty of other elected politicians who outstupid and outarrogant Rick Perry.

Just this week, as part of oppo research in a contested primary, we've all learned that "former fetus" state Rep. Jonathan Stickland hypocritically believes smoking the occasional doobie, is well, just all right with him, speaking of doobies. Far more disgustingly, he believes its OK for a man to rape his wife. Insert Bill Cosby joke somewhere, I guess.

I suppose Former Fetus will soon be at a theater, starring in "Inglourious Blunts."

Even more disgusting is that a lot of males in the Tea Party agree with him, I'll venture.

Even more disgusting, sad, or a mix of both is that a lot of women in the Tea Party ALSO probably agree with him.

And, there's still other idiotic elected officials ahead of Perry.

Like Abel Reyna, the McClellan County DA who has used the Waco biker shootout to pretty much ignore the Fourtth Amendment and other things. It's nothing new with him, taking hang em high to a whole new level. Guess he wants to keep that privatized county jail full.

And in the not-elected but gawd-she-tried-hard division is Katrina Pierson, doing her best to be the Sarah Palin of Texas.

I haven't even mentioned Ted Cruz. Or Gohmert Pyle, aka Louie Gohmert, who must be off his game recently. Or Ag Commish Sid Miller, between calling "unhealthy" food "healthy" then having his social media staff go Islamophobe on us. Or another would-be Constitution wrecker, Rep. Cecil Bell, trying to pre-empt the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. Or Ted Cruz and his apparent either emotional cluelessness or a personality disorder, along with serial lies and more. Or Danny Goeb, also known as Dan Patrick.

But, let's get back to the non-politicos side.

Remember the backgrounder to Ethan Couch. There was a state district judge, Jean Boyd, who gave Ethan Couch his 10 years probation as a "sentence." And, there was the psychologist, G. Dick Miller (nice name, by the way), who used the word "affluenza" in describing Couch.

There's also notorious sports figures like Johnny Money Manziel, Greg Hardy and the Jethro Jerry Jones who signed him, and more.

It's tempting to name a political, and a non-political, winner.

But, we're going to cut this Gordian knot with one winner.

It's not an individual, but a group.

Per Progress Texas noting that Ted Cruz got his 2012 Senate GOP nomination with just 5 percent of registered GOP voters, our winner is:

Texas Tea Party GOP voters.

They've infested not only Cruz, but Dan Patrick and other numbnuts on Texas.

And, they support the growing income inequality behind the "affluenza" claims. (Boyd was a Republican, let's note.)

That said, I'm also controversially naming a Miss Congeniality.

And that would be Sabrina Lowe, the Rowlett woman who claims to have prayed away a tornado.

If you listen to the clip at this link, to me, it sounds pretty much like she's an African-American woman.

Given the higher degree of religiosity, and conservative religiosity, among blacks than white Democrats, this is going to be an ongoing problem in the future. It's part of why HERO failed at the ballot box in Houston. It's part of why black-white HIV rates are massively different. And, it's a reason why Battleground Texas' demographic assumptions, although focused primarily on Hispanics, are so wrong — for similar reasons, with further explainer here.

At the same time, there's hope, at least among minorities in less reddish states. The official Black Lives Matter (not Deray Mckesson), as Deadspin notes, has many LGBQT members.

The academic shortcomings of Jesus denialists

First, folks, that's what the likes of Robert M. Price, Joseph Atwill, Richard Carrier and Acharya (D.M. Murdock) are called here. Not "mythicists." I've moved Robert Eisenman into that camp too. (Wiki links on the above.)

The original version of post-Enlightenment Jesus mythicism really took off in late-Victorian Britain, around the same time as Theosophy and the Society for Psychical Research took off.

First, it wasn't just Jesus mythicism; Buddha mythicism and Zoroaster mythicism were also in the air. (Wiki's article fails to mention that, sadly.)


In my opinion, it was an attempt to "spiritualize" all three religions at precisely the same time Theosophy and psychic beliefs were in the rise. Especially given that Theosophy was connected to both Buddhism and Christianity, this makes some sort of sense.

Hinduism wouldn't be eligible for spiritualizing. The British who had the Raj in India, with stereotyping their "wogs" and seeing the all-too-anthropomorphic gods of Hinduism, would have said ixnay on that.

And Judaism? Well, the "genteel" anti-Semitism of late Victorian England would put the kibosh on that.

That said, it was an idea with a positive goal, was Jesus mythicism. This is not to exclude that late-Victorian mythicism wouldn't have been guided by academic tools such as myth-and-ritual school of comparative religion or comparative mythology.

Today? It seems to be little more than an evangelistic vehicle for Gnu Atheism and as such, worth about as much.

Let's look at the leading intellectual lights.


Price (His homepage, and for others)?

First, as this rant on Facebook, an anti-Obama screed, shows, academic skills in Biblical criticism certainly don't translate across borders. (Note: Price normally posts to Facebook as "public," not "friends" or "friends of friends," therefore, I am not revealing any private confidences.)

Since then, per the screen capture of a recent Facebook post by him, he's gone far, far beyond that. In case you can't read the print in his avatar, it says, "Never apologize for being white."

A mix of that and commenting on a Facebook site about "American White History Month" (and not even the first such site!) would indicate that, if not a full-out racist, Price is at least that genteel, pseudo-scientific creature, the racialist.

Update, March 11, 2024: I am in the middle of reading "Teaching White Supremacy," with Goodreads review coming shortly, and it, indirectly, explains more about Price's apparent racism. 

I quote, from page 22:

(Lovecraft) combines elements from racial theorists like Louis Agassiz and John H. Van Evrie and his circle with anti-immigrationist ravings and a virulent anti-Semitism that even Henry Adams could respect. While he did not live to see the full development of Nazi Germany, he had freely expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Like so many American racial theorists, the misnamed f denounced miscegenation, believing that only "pain and disaster" would result from "the mingling of black and white." What lay behind his many stories is a thoroughgoing commitment to white supremacy and Black inferiority.
That pretty much says it all, eh?

Beyond that, per my original version of this post? Being selectively against democracy (Price doesn't indicate he had any problems with it when Reagan was elected) also would be an indication of some type of selective thinking.

In addition, Price is an official fan/liker of Ted Cruz on Facebook, showing how far in the right-wing tank he is politically. Isn't that like a closeted gay Republican politician voting for anti-gay legislation?

It's all part of what I call Christianism as a parallel to Islamism, or what Wiki labels Christian atheism.

He used to teach at a seminary named for a leader of the African-American wing of the New Thought movement. This is a school accredited only by an organization that accredits diploma mills. Think of a black version of Unity (from which Johnnie Colemon graduated, in fact), and that's where he teaches. At a minimum, doubly ironic for teaching at a metaphysics-dripping seminary, and a black one to boot. At a maximum, doubly hypocritical. (That said, I wonder if the folks at Johnnie Colemon know about all aspects of his personality.)

Oops, it's now "used to teach," IIRC. I think the Seminary moved and Price chose not to. Anyway, he now teaches at the Center for Inquiry's CFI Institute, which is online-only. I believe that it offers courses, but no degrees, and also does not appear to exist any longer as a separate CFI entity, but is rather rolled up within the Dawkins Foundation. Nuff ced.

Beyond that? Maybe Price's teaching at a New Thought seminary isn't by accident? Given that, per Wiki, he calls himself a "Christian atheist," let's just be honest and call him a New Ager. If atheism in a broader sense means "no metaphysical beliefs of any sort," then Gnu Atheists have latched on to him for strange reasons. Certainly for uncritical and unskeptical ones.

So, he must be simpatico with teaching at Johnnie Colemon on ideas, while, I guess, wishing he were teaching all Caucasians. The school surely knows about his professional stances, but apparently not his personal ones.

As for my non-"credentialism" comments about Price?

Are they mean-spirited? Or, logically, am I committing the classic fallacy of an ad hominem?

I think not.

Rather, I think that an academic who's also a racialist, when we know that no such thing as "race" scientifically exists, despite racialists' attempts to gussie it up in pseudo-scientific dross, has left the door open to his critical thinking skills in general being questioned.

Ditto for the fact that the place where he teaches is a diploma mill. Yes, luck can be involved with whether one lands an academic position or not. But, it's not necessarily the only factor. Price could teach at a credentialed community college, for example.

Add to it that Price believed a cock-and-bull story about an ancient Priapus statue indicates he could be a "movement atheist," an activist, even if not a Gnu, per my observation a few paragraphs above.

Beyond that, his review of Eisenman's "The New Testament Code" undercuts any previous modicum of actual scholarly insight I had given to him. I mean, his Semitic language scholarship to claim that the Hebrew version of "Caliph" is behind the full nomenclature of James son of Alphaeus and Simon bar-Cleophas is a howler, no two ways about it. Here is a possible refutation on Alphaeus. And the Hebrew חֵלֶף actually means "spare part" or "replacement." That took me all of two minutes. On Cleophas? Quite possibly a place name.

Price also seems to entertain the possibility that Cthulhu is real, or such is the impression I have occasionally gotten.


That leads me to D.M. Murdock, aka Acharya.

She was an original peddler of this nonsense; I say it via Gnu Atheist thought leader P.Z. Myers favorably touting it. She has no bachelor's level degree in religion, let alone a graduate degree. As Murdock's Wiki page notes, she is 10 times more credulous a peddler of bad puns than was the Yahwist section author of the Torah.

Her listing of her academic background on her website seems precisely done to cover actual thinness. Take being a "trench master" on an archaeology dig. Nice, yes, but, unless at a major new dig, it's more grunt work than intellectual work. (As a kid, I watched my dad assist as a certified amateur archaeologist at a couple of Anazasi digs, so this observation isn't out of life.) Plus, note that this work is all at classical sites. No Biblical archaeology from you!

And, the wrongness about the Priapus statue is only the tip of the iceberg. Here's a laundry list of other howlers of hers.

Some denialists like to bash her, but Price and Eisenman are among those who give her touts on her website.

And, it's also not mean-spirited to call a cock-and-bull story a cock-and-bull story.

Update, Dec. 30, 2015. Murdock has just died, and ironically, on Jesus Day/Mithras Day, Dec. 25, 2015. Her death from cancer reflects the tenuousness of the U.S. health care system, from what I've read about her passing. At the same time, from what I've parsed together, it reflects the fact that she, too, had no full-time position or job, and no regular, steady, income stream, because mythicism of the Denialist Four Horseman is so outside academia that nobody claiming to be an academic mythicist can actually get a regular job teaching it.

Ironically, for someone claiming to be rigorously academic, she went down the alternative treatments road for her cancer, too. And, then tried to blame medicine ("conventional medicine" is simply called "medicine" at my site, folks) for her liver failure rather than accepting a rapid metastasis of her breast cancer.

The first of those two links illustrates what I said in the paragraph above that about the health care system here, as far as costs she was facing. That said, this:

I immediately started what turns out to be a ketogenic, anti-cancer diet, supplemented with known cancer-fighting substances as curcumin and many others, including mushrooms and ginger

Is pure nonsense.

No wonder she got defensive:
Do NOT let anyone go about writing stupid blogs saying that “alternative medicine” killed me. That would be yet more inaccurate propaganda.
It maybe didn't hasten your death, but it didn't slow it down, of that I'm sure.

Madam, you would have been better off coming to the point of "acceptance," much sooner, then finding a doctor ready to prescribe you a morphine overdose. 

What's also funny is that many sites mourning her are NOT "freethought" or "Gnu Atheist" sites. They're New Agers to the max. It's funny, but it's totally unsurprising, since in addition to not being a critical thinker in general, I never got the indication she was an atheist of any sort.

NOTE: This update will be expanded into a separate post for the start of next week. And, it's now up.


Carrier? He's proof positive of Mark Twain's bon mot about "lies, damn lies and statistics." Claiming that Bayesian probability and statistics allows him to estimate the most likely historicity odds of Jesus as 0.008 percent is horse hockey. And, yes, he really makes that claim; click the link. There's simply not enough information from history of 2,000 years ago to have anywhere near that degree of precision, above all else. It's horse hockey for other reasons, too. Overall, it's clear that Carrier is "cooking" his Bayesian books to claim such pseudo-precise "precision."

Click the 0.008 link. It will explain how Carrier tries to put numbers on his prior and consequent probabilities. I first saw this on another blog, a person who actually, though not a mythicist himself, took Carrier seriously.

Related? On his own website, at this link showing how to work with Bayesian probabilities, Carrier essentially admits to something like book-cooking. I quote:
You can use the following calculator to run any standard two-hypothesis Bayesian equation (up to a limit of 1 in 100 odds on any variable, and accurate to only two decimal places).
Now, within his first book, I'm sure he claims to have a more precise use of Bayesian stats, but ... that itself might be part of the book-cooking.

In short, Carrier's use of Bayesian statistics underscores the old bon mot about lies, damned lies and statistics.

Beyond that, Bayesian probabilities are, in general, more subjective than Carrier tries to portray. And, trying to present them as more objective than they are is another part of the book-cooking.

Carrier does have a Ph.D. in ancient history, so he's ahead of Murdock and at Price's academic level. However, in six years since obtaining that Ph.D., he has held no academic position, not even as an adjunct. His listing of such things as "instructor" at Partners for Secular Activism or "visiting lecturer" at Center for Inquiry Institute don't count, of course.

And, having an eight-page CV, like spinning one volume into two on Bayesian analysis of Jesus' historicity, is blathering up there with Murdoch, especially when it lists publications in non-peer review, non-technical journals. As for the amount of blathering? His surprises me not one whit, not considering the vomitorium of words he spills out at times at Freethought Blogs. And, he, like Murdoch, knows neither Hebrew, nor Aramaic, nor Syriac.

Beyond that, Carrier has what I can only call a willfully perverse methodology of interpreting Bible passages. Click this link for more. Along with a tendency to nit-pick, per Ehrman himself, to show that, if you're not 100 percent in agreement, you're an "enemy." How typically Gnu-ish.

And, it gets worse, as shown by an October 2017 debate. In short, he's an asshole and a putz who suffers from a high degree of Dunning-Kruger effect.

And, the "argument from silence," for which he is one of the strongest proponents, is logically fallacious, whether used for Jesus denialism, or to claim Jesus was a gay-lover because he doesn't say anything about homosexuality, or anything else.

Beyond that, 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 there, a British Gnu Atheist nutter (nice British term) trotted out the greatness of Carrier's work. I responded with this blog post, which lead to this discussion.

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.

Then, Alex, another commenter at Massimo's piece, 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.

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.

Since the time of this piece's original writing, four years have passed and Carrier has yet to have a regular academic position anywhere, not in his academic background of classics let alone biblical studies. He also drinks too much of Tim O'Neill's Kool-Aid. He strikes me as being overall the Brian Dunning of Jesus denialists.

Why do I call him that?

Well, this Chrestus app he's selling, which appears to be a play on Tacitus using Χρήστος for χριστός, comes off like Dunning's grifting.


Atwill has not even a bachelor's degree in theology, biblical studies or ancient history. (And he likely is engaged in some flim-flammery in claiming "Caesar's Messiah" was the best-selling book in religious history in the US in 2006.) And, the idea that Rome invented Jesus for Jewish crowd control is laughable to anybody who knows ancient history in general or the Roman Empire in particular. A PR blurb for his "Covert Messiah" shows that he's chock-full of motivated reasoning. The reality is that there are no "massive connections" or "parallels" between Josephus and the New Testament gospels.

He's also wrong on Flavian family history. He's so laughably wrong that Murdock calls him out, engaging in her own wrongness in doing so. (Her claim to distinguish between "Christians" and "ChrEstians" gets a Greek-language usage mistake by Tacitus, based on general ignorance of Judaism, elevated to canon. Epiphanius would love it, yet regret his missed that for his Panarion. Beyond that, per iotacism, Tacitus may have made no error anyway.) And, her claim that the four canonical gospels didn't exist until the middle of the 2nd century CE is also laughable. [NB: That's different from the idea that, say, John went through a second editorial hand after 150 CE.])

Finally, he's channeled this into some sort of grifting enterprise since I first wrote this blog post, if he's since written "Shakespeare's Secret Messiah."


The one person with seemingly a more impeccable academic background is Eisenman. But, he's gone beyond the point of credibility on his take on the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially his refusal to accept carbon dating evidence and other manners scientific. All he is proof for is that it's a good idea to wait until after one gets tenure to propose truly weird ideas. A decade or more ago, I wouldn't have lumped him in with the mythicists, but now I will, at least the narrower mythicists, and perhaps the full-blown denialists.

I have a "professional" M.Div. degree. It's a "terminal" degree in that, in most academic systems, I would have had to gotten a second master's before a Ph.D. But, I'll put it ahead of a Baptist Ph.D. on academic rigor, let alone one from a fundamentalist bible college.

My undergraduate degree was classical languages, and I read Hebrew there, too. I took a short course in Aramaic in seminary as well. That puts me ahead of all but Price (I think; maybe he never read Hebrew, either), and Eisenman. I've also taken both academic courses and independent study on historical-critical methodology, which applies to all ancient literature with a clear, diachronic development history, not just biblical literature. That puts me ahead of all but Price, Carrier and Eisenman, with Carrier either not learning much of it in his antiquities study or else deliberately ignoring it. And, it puts me well ahead of most denialists' fanboy flag-wavers.

Beyond that, most Jesus denialists, like most "denialists" in general, are to some degree, at least, conspiracy theorists, with the mindset that entails.

Mythicists in the broad sense G.R.S. Mead and G.A. Wells I separate from the Jesus denialists in one sense. Their general claim is that Jesus is a composite character, but has perhaps some historic personage behind him. They're also less conspiratorially minded than denialists. But, they too generally lack academic credentials.

That all said, many of the arguments of the denialists can be turned on their heads.

First, even with a brief period of evangelism, Judaism in the eastern Mediterranean was smaller than non-Jewish Hellenism by far. The argument from silence from 1st-2nd century CE pagans means little. There's other Jewish people and events they're also silent about. Did Rabbi Akiva also not exist?

Second, as noted, arguments about the critical development of Christian scriptures applies to the Homeric corpus and other things.

That's just some short notes, in the end, here. Other priniciples of Biblical criticism apply to some degree to study of antiquities in general, and some of the denialists' arguments besides that from science can be turned on their head.

So, while I don't totally agree with a Bart Ehrman, and would give more credence to the "soft mythicism" of the likes of Mead and Wells than he might, I'm definitely with him much more than I am his Gnu Atheist attackers like Carrier.

Speaking of, and regarding criticism of Ehrman as a critic of denialists? Anybody (per a social media comment I saw, surely reported elsewhere) who thinks Ehrman acts like a theist is showing their own bias, in my opinion, assuming that a liberal critical scholar who's also a theist and a Ken Ham have the same amount of credibility.

(Beyond that, theists can be credible outside of being theological academicians. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and cosmology come immediately to mind.)

As for this seemingly becoming a big issue? No, per a commenter on social media, I don't get why it is for Gnus, either.

Critical academic discussion of the New Testament will point out the same issues that deserve critical scrutiny, including the same theological and dogmatic conflicts between one gospel and another, a gospel vs. Paul's authentic letters, his authentic letters vs. pseudepigraphal ones, etc., whether there was a historic Jesus or not.

Since the different gospels, Paul, etc., have different Christologies, how they would be affected by mythicism would differ from gospel to gospel. But nowhere, do I think, would it greatly change their Christologies as determined by critical theology.

Since fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals already reject that theology anyway, Jesus denialism won't have any effect on them, because, even if the denialists seem to be nearer the truth than they seem right now, conservative Christians would reject them too.

Beyond that, any Gnu Atheists who claim Ehrman's lying in this because that's a Peter statue aren't reading well, and are also dumb enough and knee-jerk enough to believe the ravings of a loon renamed Acharya who tells worse puns to worse effect than the Yahwist-section writer in the Torah.

Meanwhile, it it possible that mythicism in the broadest sense, that Jesus of the New Testament didn't exist as described, or close to that, but is build on a historic personage? I say yes, it's possible, while still assigning it a low probability. It would make Christian growth rates easier, among other things.

That said, none of the people above have increased that low probability, as I see it.

December 30, 2015

Clinton pandering, triangulation and maybe warhawking over #genocide by #ISIS or not in Iraq

Hillary Clinton, playing Hamlet for Politico, indicates that she's willing to take the oh-so-tough decision of breaking with President Obama and calling ISIS's killing of Christians in Iraq genocide.

On Twitter, which is where I saw the link, Doug Henwood disagrees, snarkily, noting that he doesn't think it's genocide:

Per Doug, if Hillary Clinton said that, not only would I open the blinds, I'd go outside to check. And, as I told Doug, I like the assumedly deliberate direction reversal.

My concerns are other.

First, per the Politico piece, genocide declarations have little teeth, and basically no teeth at all against a non-state actor like ISIS. Given that Clinton was a former Secretary of State, and State is basically in charge of a lot of the relevant issues, she damn well knows that.

She also knows that from her husband's experience, as the U.S. did little but hand-wringing over Rwanda even after a genocide declaration.

So, it's pandering, since a couple of dozen Congresscritters have already pushed for such a declaration.

Besides all that, Obama is planning a genocide declaration against ISIS because of the Yazidis, per the Politico piece. And thus it's triangulation, as well, the Clinton claim that genocide also is against Christians in Iraq, since a fair amount of the push to have Obama declare this comes from the Religious Right. But, just because he's hypocritical (how many boots on the ground are YOU sending, Dear Leader, since bombing is of, er, less than optimal effectiveness?) doesn't mean that two hypocriticalities make a right.

As for the specific issue at hand, international law doesn't provide a percentage requirement for what constitutes genocide. Yet, per what I can tell, the percentage of people deliberately killed for religion by ISIS/ISIL is definitely smaller among Christians than Yazidis. Given that Yazidism is syncretistic of Islam and Zoroastrianism, mainly, it may draw extra ire. Per this NYT piece, about the "rape culture" of ISIS, the facts that the Yazidis are polytheists (more here), it seems, and not a "People of the Book," adds to ultra-fundamentalist Islamic contempt. Hence, if this all is a guide, Obama is right, right now.

(And, given that Obama has indicated that his administration likely will enter a finding of genocide re the Yazidis, the NYT piece linked just above, while horrific and disgusting, has no relevance to wanting to expand said declaration to cover Christians in Iraq, or Syria. None.)

Beyond that, if it's genocide by ISIS against Christians, why wasn't it genocide by al Qaeda before splinterings, makeovers and whatever else? If it's very clear to candidate Clinton that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, not just Yazidis, why wasn't it clear about al Qaeda to Secretary Clinton? Or, to really throw the haggis in the fire, quoting Scotty of Star Trek fame, why not a finding of genocide by ISIS against Shi'ites?

Or, for that matter, if any finding of genocide by ISIS includes territory in Syria as well as Iraq, I'll bet we could get a finding against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. I mean, he did cross a red line publicly stated by Dear Leader by using chemical weapons.

Beyond that, what purpose is there of a second genocide declaration? If one of them has real teeth, it's like killing a person with an H-bomb instead of an A-bomb to have a second declaration. If one is toothless, it's like shooting a person with two water pistols instead of one.

That said, we know Clinton is more of a warhawk than Bernie Sanders, and probably more of a warhawk than her husband. After all, she did, in my opinion, "wear the pants in the family" more than he did, often times. And, for Hillarybot feminists who don't like that metaphor, I'll top you by reminding you that SHE quoted a famous, or infamous, Tammy Wynette song.

So, if you want to go beyond Rwanda hand-wringing, Madame Secretary, how many boots on the ground are you planning on sending to Iraq if you're elected president of These United States? If not that, what other actions do you plan?

Contra Amy Fried, who also didn't like that rhetorical question, it's a legitimate one, even were the declaration made against the nation of Iraq. It's even more legitimate against a non-nation state terror group. And, it's very legitimate when I'm told on Twitter to "do some research," when I already have more an idea what I'm talking about than she does.

Otherwise, we're in the land of rhetoric, where the epithet-thrower is king. Or queen, if you're a Hillarybot. Especially now that Amy Fried seems to think the Godwin's Law angle, or a milder version of it, is the next tactic. Saying we should worry as much about ISIS as Nazi Germany is ridiculous. And, Henwood's right on this, again: If you do believe that, then what action, not rhetoric, do you support?

And, that squares the circle again. Pandering, triangulation, or both, none of this should be of any surprise to people who track Hillary Clinton with a skeptical, gimlet eye.

Also, myths about smallpox blankets aside, under that international law definition, if exact percentages aren't involved, U.S. action against American Indians is arguably genocide.

December 29, 2015

#TheCardinalWay can't induce discount contract offers to retain or add to #Cardinals roster

Looking at the Cardinals' failure to resign John Lackey, followed by the actual signing of Mike Leake, with all the "meh" it inspired in me, I wonder if Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn't expecting players to take a discount of some sort in exchange for playing for the Birds on Bats.

After all, the Cubs' 2/32 to Lackey is the same, in terms of annual average value, as the 5/80 (setting aside the sixth option year) as the Cards paid for Leake, and he's not as good a pitcher. I can only conclude that Mo either offered less than $32 million, or else the length of contract was 1+ option and not a guaranteed two years.

This even goes to the Jason Heyward resigning failure, discussed extensively by me here. Yes, Mo, and at least one other team, made a higher AAV offer than the Cubs. And, yes, Mo had said at one time that the team was willing to offer an opt-out.

But, you know what? I've never seen St. Louis media, in its various post-mortems, which include discussing the value of the Cards' offer to Wayward, mention that the contract on the table actually had an opt-out.

I can therefore only conclude it did not, unless I get evidence to the contrary. And, the more and more I see Mo in action, the more and more I know that he carefully shades and hedges his language. (And, some might wonder if the lack of an opt-out clause in Mo's offer to Heyward wasn't deliberate, since he knew Heyward had said he wanted one best final offer from each team, with no second chances at the pie.)

Hence, the header of this piece.

At least with retaining players, it makes me wonder if Mo is trying to argue The.Cardinal.Way.™ is worth so much that players should take a discount on contracts.

The 1950s Yankees tried similar, and often succeeded. Their argument was that World Series money was worth a discount.

In an era where salaries were a lot smaller, and a World Series check could be worth 10 percent or more of even a veteran player's contract, this argument might have worked. (Having no free agency meant the Bombers were in a better position to sell it, too.)

But, even with the added rounds of playoffs, and Cardinals' recent post-season success, the monetary side can add up to just 1 percent. Sure, fandom love is incalculable, and local product endorsement advertising dollars can be big, but are they that much?

What about the chance to be part of that winning tradition? Yes, that is a big deal, but that should be an add-on to basic contract talk, not a partial replacement.

Per the final price, the fact that his value as a defender may be overrated in right, and turn out not to be so good in center, and related questions to him playing center in Chitown, I'm OK with Wayward walking, if Mo does something good in replacement.

That said, maybe Mo thought a discount for The.Cardinal.Way.™,  or simply a desire to be part of The.Cardinal.Way.™, would have Heyward wanting to stay in St. Louis after the original trade of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for him plus Jordan Walden. If so, Mo needs to recalibrate some thinking.

So far, he's done zip offensively (the Jedd Gyorko for Jon Jay deal is nice in my book but isn't anything big), and the Leake signing is in part CYA for failure to resign Lackey.

Two final notes.

First, they're a midmarket team, not a small market team. Between past success, ongoing fan support and other things, they can afford to spend $140, even $150 million a year, even before the new TV contract officially starts. Without breaking too much of a sweat.

Second, dealing with Scott Boras is not insurmountable. Matt Holliday is, after all, a Boras client. So, whether it's Chris Davis or somebody else, Cards fans should not let Mo, or any sports writers, use that as a smokescreen.

December 28, 2015

TX Progressives talk climate change, fracking, Bernie Sanders

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks of Dallas tornado victims, while offering its readers to take a cup of kindness yet as it brings you this last roundup of 2015.

Off the Kuff had some thoughts on the primary in CD29 between Rep. Gene Green and Adrian Garcia.

Libby Shaw contributing to The Texas Blues: Living in a place run by GOP jerks, saboteurs and spiteful bigots.

People are starting to get the fact that the only practical alternative for progressives -- once Bernie Sanders is eliminated from contention for the Democratic nomination -- is a vote for the Green Party's Jill Stein, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

SocraticGadfly notes that if the Paris climate change deal has any hope of being real, and not just warm-fuzzies aspirational, we need negative carbon emissions ó and now.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Greg Abbott goes for a two-fer in hate. No health care for you. What a guy.

Neil at All People Have Value took a nice picture in Galveston. APHV is part of

Egoberto Willies calls out alleged pro-lifers for opposing Medicaid expansion.

Dos Centavos calls bullshit on people saying "Happy Holidays" is part of a "War on Christmas," remembering when it was common.

Nonsequituse wants the Chron to apologize to Houston's Mayor Parker and her wife.

Texas Sharon talks about fracking as a job not worthy of talking about at home.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Progress Texas names their Top Ten Worst Texans of 2015, though how they stopped at only ten remains a mystery.

Lone Star Ma focuses on the fourth of the United Nations' new Sustainable Development Goals, an inclusive and quality education for all.

Rick Campbell tells the story of Texas City blues singer Charles Brown, and his original recording of "Please Come Home For Christmas", later made famous by The Eagles and Don Henley.

BOR points to the real culprits in the case of cancer patients losing insurance.

John Jacob and Jen Powis advocate for Texas's endangered wetlands.

Prairie Weather wonders if Trump's supporters will turn out to caucus in Iowa.

Somervell County Salon thanks HEB for banning open carry in its stores.

Grits for Breakfast looks at top criminal justice stories of the year.

Bernie still burning against Hillz and the DNC, but for the real Donald

From the Christmas weekend news files, Bernie Sanders is still upset about the Democratic National Committee locking him out of the voter information files, and rightly, per my blogging about that.

First, the staffer he wound up firing was recommended by the DNC. I'm not a full-on conspiracy theorist, so I'm not buying sabotage. I am saying that he, because of this, had multiple reasons to know better. The DNC also has multiple reasons to accept his explanations at something near face value.

The fact that DNC folks and folks with the software provider, NGP VAN, are refusing to comment, speaks loudly.

Second, the fact that Team Clinton got the audit logs of the security breach, but the Sanders campaign didn't, also speaks volumes. It's about the eleventy-seventh time that the DNC and its head, Dancing With the (Debbie Wasserman) Schultz, has shown to be in cahoots with Clinton and not winning.

Third, this is another reason why people like me, even if we didn't have a Green Party alternative, would refuse to vote for Clinton. This anti-democratic coronation process is basically bullshit.

Fourth, it's good that the Sanders campaign hasn't yet dropped its lawsuit. Too bad Sanders himself was presumably speaking for the record and not just public consumption when he disavowed any third party run months ago.


In a pretty, but not totally, unrelated development, Sanders is saying Trump supporters should back him.

Several things to unpack.

First, is Sanders assuming Trump is fading sooner rather than later? Per friend Brains, a media analyst and insider like Matt Bai is no longer betting on that.

Second, is there really that much overlap? I think not.

Related to that, does such an overture risk alienating core supporters? Probably not much, but maybe a little.

Third, is this a shot across the bow to the DNC? (Here's where it's somewhat related.) "I can pick up 'independent' voters that Clinton can't."

Or, despite his earlier disavowals of a third-party run, is this an even bigger shot across the bow? "Play fair with me, or I'll run as an independent for those votes."