Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A pox on Gnu Atheist and non-Gnu houses alike

P.Z. Myers, aka Pharyngula, gives space to "Jesus mythicist" Richard Carrier for bashing liberal Jesus scholar Bart Ehrman, who is somewhere between deism and agnosticism himself, for nothing more than upholding the historicity of Jesus.

And, in return, self-appointed defender of secular humanism against the hordes of Gnu Atheism R. Joseph Hoffmann, bashes Myers, Carrier, and "mythicism" (a term I reject as much as "accommodationism" when used by Gnus).

And, I've come to the conclusion that what we have is Carrier and Ehrman (we'll see what reply Ehrman may have to Carrier) as authors of dueling books with dueling propositions. Between their stances, there is no room for compromise.

And, above that level, we have Myers willing to give a platform to anyone who might advance the Gnu Atheist agenda and help recruit cadres (his Chairman Mao word from a couple of years ago), while Hoffmann, in part because he's a Jesus historicist, sees P.Z.'s "using" of Carrier as another excuse to attack him.

First, my reply to Hoffmann, since I just wrote it;
I disagree with your take on mythicism, starting with the word. (That said, I'm not a Gnu by any means.) Were I to offer Bayesian-like odds, based on current levels of scholarship, I'd offer 10 percent odds, maybe 20 percent, that Yeshua bar Yusuf never lived. In other words, high enough probability for it to be legitimate discussion. That said, PZ is really ridiculous here. While Ehrman believes in the actual existence of Jesus, he's always, from what I've seen, been cordial about the issue. And, I know that from personal experience

And, quoting Paul? The only thing he says in an authentic letter is that Jesus was "born of a woman." That says nothing about his historicity, and could be interpreted as nothing more than an anti-Gnostic statement. [Calling James "the brother of the Lord" can be seen as nothing but stating his leadership in the Christian movement.]

Q?  Q says nothing historically grounded about Jesus' existence other than his baptism, and thousands of people were baptized by him. [Q is the putative source behind the wisdom sayings of Jesus common to Matthew and Luke.]

As for mentions of Caiphas, etc.? Well, Matthew mentions a likely non-historic "massacre of infants." Mark has no birth account. Luke of course botches the historicity of Jesus' birth and in a royal way, enough to argue AGAINST anything else he claims that is alleged to be historical.

Besides, as I've said, there's option 3: Yeshua was the Pharasaic Yeshua crucified by Alexander Jannai. That gives more than a century for the myth to develop and the history to be replaced.
And, yes, I believe that is at least in the 5 percent range, if not 10 percent. So, let's discuss it more.

Second, let's look at what Carrier says. The reality? Hoffmann overstates Carrier's tone vis-a-vis Ehrman, and ignores some of Ehrman's own tone in his original article. Carrier notes he has appreciated Ehrman's previous books, and even that many mythicists of the past have been kind of nutso. Otherwise, it's a general arguement against some of Ehrman's claims for historicity.

And, , yes, Ehrman DOES overstate his case. And, per my comment to Hoffmann, does so with a vitriol I've not seen from him before. Although, from what I've read, Carrier's now book-to-be is probably very overrated, Ehrman's, which I want to read, may well be, too.

And, just as Myers and his ilk are ruining the word "atheist," Gnu or otherwise, Hoffman and his "acoylte," Steph, are coming closer to ruin the phrase "secular humanism."

Monday, April 09, 2012

#SamHarris: benavioralist

John Horgan just nailed it. And just "nailed" Sam Harris. He's the modern day version of B.F. Skinner in his ardent, even strident, denials of the existence of free will:
He is a throwback to the old behaviorists, who pretended that subjective, mental phenomena—because they are more difficult to observe and measure than planets and protons—don’t exist. 
And, if that's not enough, Horgan fires both barrels, again, with perfect accuracy:
Dwelling on Harris depresses me. All that brainpower and training dedicated to promulgating such bad ideas!  He reminds me of one of the brightest students I’ve ever had, who was possessed by an adamant, unshakable belief in young-earth creationism. I did my best to change his mind, but I never succeeded. I probably won’t change the minds of Sam Harris and other hard-core determinists either, but it’s worth a shot.
Now, not all Gnu Atheists reject free will, but it's getting to be an ever-more-common stance. And, Horgan's first comment, at least, is applicable to them, too.

That said, Harris is also, per Horgan, a kind of voyeuristic thrill to watch digging ever deeper into the same holes. I'll probably engage in more of it, tho not to the point of spending money on a 96-page "book."

My own thoughts on how free will VERSUS determinism is a totally false dichotomy are here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Haiku: The Tell-Tale Boss

For your Poe-etic reading pleasure:

The glassy blue eye
Glances, no glares, balefully;
His intruding boss.

Stressed he is for time
As are we, the underlings;
But, no sympathy.

But, that eye, that eye!
Poe saw it, that glassy eye
That drove a man mad.

I'll not kill my boss
Though I fear no tell-tale heart;
I'll just remember.

The glassy blue eye
Windowless window of soul,
Haunted, tired, burdened.

But, no sympathy?
A two-way street, a highway;
Too bad, glassy eye.