The Last, Best Hope for Mythicism?

Although I never followed the show, catching even a few snippets of Babylon 5 here and there have left me with a memory of the catchphrase that Babylon 5 was the “last, best hope” for peace.

And it failed.

Perhaps the same sort of phrase would fit what R. Joseph Hoffmann wrote today about Richard Carrier’s yet-to-be-published work attempting to make historical inquiry more rigorous by using Bayes theorem. Here’s a sample:

Debaters like Carrier have suggested that the critical methods developed for dealing with the Bible in the nineteenth and twentieth century are insufficiently rigorous. But that is simply not the case. In fact, the methods grew in tandem with evolving perceptions of what the character of the text actually was, how it was formed, and what its creators thought about the world. In the language of an older school of criticism, what its “life situation” was. They continue to evolve and to adapt in an organic way. Only if the sole question to be answered is whether the description of an event corresponds directly and generically to “what really happened” (if it were possible to answer that question, as it isn’t in many cases) would the modality of a forensic approach be useful, and its usefulness would still depend on prior questions…

Beyond the forensic approach, the question about the kind of literature the New Testament literature represents remains absolutely prior and absolutely crucial. As an example, the amount of material that can be removed into the category of “myth” (a great deal, from most of Genesis to all of Revelation) can never be determined by modal assessment of the truth properties of a text, since analytically myth is not amenable to modal analysis and only a wrong definition of myth as a kind of rhetorical lie or pre-scientific error–a definition that flies in the face of modern anthropology–would make such analysis possible. The forensic approach does itself a huge disservice by paying insufficient attention to the history of criticism, where the general mythological character of much of the material is almost taken for granted, and focusing instead on a discounted view of myth as non-factuality.

What is true of myth, moreover, is true of the other “forms” (literary and historical genres) that exist within the Bible and the New Testament especially. So much of the Jesus story is myth, in the sense of μυθογραφία (writing of a fabulous story), that I have no objection to the phrase “the Jesus Myth.” –But a great deal to object to in the sentence “Jesus ‘was’ a myth,” implying absolute non-historicity and a method designed simply to document his irreality.

Click through to read the rest.

Richard Carrier also posted on his blog today (and via John Loftus I learned about a recorded interview with him).

Richard Carrier is the one historian with a PhD who espouses mythicism. He is mythicism’s “last, best hope.” If mythicism loses him, trying to maintain any semblance of scholarly credibility will be even harder than it already is. I appreciated Carrier’s work on the New Testament prior to espousing mythicism (since which time he has published very little relevant to this area), and so I keep hoping that he’ll return to the mainstream academic fold. But even if he doesn’t, he is exemplary among mythicists in acknowledging that scholars investigating the historical Jesus are using tools also widely used elsewhere in mainstream historical study (even though he is critical of them). And if his attempt to make historical tools more rigorous, and in so doing provide a basis for mythicism, ends up being a failure, then it is safe to say that mythicism will go from being mostly dead (to allude to The Princess Bride) to all dead.

Listening to the interview, however, it sounds to me like even if Carrier’s restatement or invigorating of historical method in Bayesian terms proves successful and gainst acceptance, mythicism as we know it from authors like Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price (to say nothing of Dorothy M. Murdock) will be exposed as weak and implausible by the principles of evidence and argumentation he proposes.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James,

    Could you understand what Dr. Hoffmann was talking about?  I read his blog post just now, and I was lost.  Perhaps I read it too fast.

    He seems to want to say that Carrier is trying to apply too mathematical of a methodology where it doesn’t apply, because you have to understand the text for what it is.  The Gospels are not cut out for Bayes’ theorem.  Is that the point he’s making?  (Apologies if I’m misrepresenting the point after reading it in haste.)

    If so, I have no idea where he’s getting this.  Of course Carrier is also trying to understand the Gospels for what they are.  And we all know that mythicism vs. historicism (and all other historical debates) come down to probability.  How probable is it that Jesus existed, given our evidence (properly understood and situated!)?  Bayes’ theorem is supposed to help here, I think.

    And I really liked the gem from Dr. Hoffmann’s mathematician friend: “Simply put, plug in different values into the theorem and you’ll get a
    different answer. How does one decide which value to plug in?”

    Oh crap, I’m sure that never crossed Carrier’s mind as he wrote his book!  Well that’s years of hard work, wasted.

    • Neil Godfrey

      Hoffmann is a Classical Humanist — some might say he presents the air of a snob. His writing style is a classical illustration of the intellectual sounding gobbledegook exposed by Andreski in “Social Sciences As Sorcery”. it’s the equivalent of medieval clergy’s use of Latin or witch doctor mumbo jumbo. That is, it is intended to impress and mystify. What he is saying is really quite simple and mundane, and mostly non sequitur re Carrier’s thesis.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Oh, and he’s also trying to settle a score with Carrier because of a bad review Carrier gave a recent poor effort of his . . . http://wp.me/p2lgb-5ay

         

        • Anonymous

          You could’ve said that to begin with.  A typical pissing match between HJers  and MJers that make the lay folks think that both have issues. 

      • Landon Hedrick

        Neil, Perhaps it was Hoffmann’s writing style that made his point difficult to discern.  All I could see was that he objected to using Bayes’ theorem when studying the Bible.  And the fact that he quoted his mathematician friend’s “objections” and thought they were powerful suggested to me that (maybe?) he hasn’t given this much thought.  Those comments were rather weak.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James,

    Could you understand what Dr. Hoffmann was talking about?  I read his blog post just now, and I was lost.  Perhaps I read it too fast.

    He seems to want to say that Carrier is trying to apply too mathematical of a methodology where it doesn’t apply, because you have to understand the text for what it is.  The Gospels are not cut out for Bayes’ theorem.  Is that the point he’s making?  (Apologies if I’m misrepresenting the point after reading it in haste.)

    If so, I have no idea where he’s getting this.  Of course Carrier is also trying to understand the Gospels for what they are.  And we all know that mythicism vs. historicism (and all other historical debates) come down to probability.  How probable is it that Jesus existed, given our evidence (properly understood and situated!)?  Bayes’ theorem is supposed to help here, I think.

    And I really liked the gem from Dr. Hoffmann’s mathematician friend: “Simply put, plug in different values into the theorem and you’ll get a
    different answer. How does one decide which value to plug in?”

    Oh crap, I’m sure that never crossed Carrier’s mind as he wrote his book!  Well that’s years of hard work, wasted.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Hoffmann is a Classical Humanist — some might say he presents the air of a snob. His writing style is a classical illustration of the intellectual sounding gobbledegook exposed by Andreski in “Social Sciences As Sorcery”. it’s the equivalent of medieval clergy’s use of Latin or witch doctor mumbo jumbo. That is, it is intended to impress and mystify. What he is saying is really quite simple and mundane, and mostly non sequitur re Carrier’s thesis.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Oh, and he’s also trying to settle a score with Carrier because of a bad review Carrier gave a recent poor effort of his . . . http://wp.me/p2lgb-5ay

         

        • jgoodguy

          You could’ve said that to begin with.  A typical pissing match between HJers  and MJers that make the lay folks think that both sides have issues.

      • Landon Hedrick

        Neil, Perhaps it was Hoffmann’s writing style that made his point difficult to discern.  All I could see was that he objected to using Bayes’ theorem when studying the Bible.  And the fact that he quoted his mathematician friend’s “objections” and thought they were powerful suggested to me that (maybe?) he hasn’t given this much thought.  Those comments were rather weak.

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  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Fascinating!  I love this controversy — especially the politics of it.
    Due to your recommendation, James, I got a Kindle version of Carrier’s book — very interesting fellow.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Fascinating!  I love this controversy — especially the politics of it.
    Due to your recommendation, James, I got a Kindle version of Carrier’s book — very interesting fellow.

  • Gary

    “Richard Carrier’s yet-to-be-published work attempting to make historical inquiry more rigorous by using Bayes theorem”…won’t work, plenty said already. Richard Carrier should talk less, and write more – First get it published, and then defend and discuss it. Talk before publishing usually means you don’t really have a novel approach. At least in science, you publish first, or patent first, then do your talking.

  • Gary

    “Richard Carrier’s yet-to-be-published work attempting to make historical inquiry more rigorous by using Bayes theorem”…won’t work, plenty said already. Richard Carrier should talk less, and write more – First get it published, and then defend and discuss it. Talk before publishing usually means you don’t really have a novel approach. At least in science, you publish first, or patent first, then do your talking.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The difference here is that this is a disagreement between two PhD-holding secular historians who have, at the very least, sympathy with mythicism.

    When I read Neil’s comment, I was struck that those whose sympathies lie more with Hoffmann than Carrier could say more-or-less the same thing, i.e. that the introduction of Bayesian analysis is just an attempt to add mumbo jumbo to what good historians are doing already, making it seem more rigorous because it can be expressed in the form of equations.

    But the heart of the matter is that historical study, as both Carrier and Hoffmann emphasize, is by definition a realm in which there is always room for significant uncertainty. And it is not clear that historical evidence (in particular when it is a matter of the many texts which provide historical information but not as their principle aim or in a sufficiently critical manner) can be quantified precisely enough that one can plug it into an formula and thereby get a more definitive answer.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The difference here is that this is a disagreement between two PhD-holding secular historians who have, at the very least, sympathy with mythicism.

    When I read Neil’s comment, I was struck that those whose sympathies lie more with Hoffmann than Carrier could say more-or-less the same thing, i.e. that the introduction of Bayesian analysis is just an attempt to add mumbo jumbo to what good historians are doing already, making it seem more rigorous because it can be expressed in the form of equations.

    But the heart of the matter is that historical study, as both Carrier and Hoffmann emphasize, is by definition a realm in which there is always room for significant uncertainty. And it is not clear that historical evidence (in particular when it is a matter of the many texts which provide historical information but not as their principle aim or in a sufficiently critical manner) can be quantified precisely enough that one can plug it into an formula and thereby get a more definitive answer.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    And elsewhere in the blogosphere, Jim West and Tom Verenna have chimed in.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    And elsewhere in the blogosphere, Jim West and Tom Verenna have chimed in.

  • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

    I just don’t understand what is wrong with saying “I don’t know.”  

  • TomVerenna

    I just don’t understand what is wrong with saying “I don’t know.”  

  • Richard Carrier

    I agree with this post (Last Best Hope). When it comes to logic, Hoffmann doesn’t know what he’s talking about (at any rate, all his objections are already met in my book, which is in contract and peer review now). But McGrath is right that my methods will either make or break mythicism. And that’s my aim. Even if the debate is settled against mythicism, as long as it is settled on logically sound and valid reasons I’ll be happy. And either way, the methodology I develop will benefit all fields of history. It’s not specific only to this issue.

    I’m not sure, though, what is meant by saying I’m the only historian with a Ph.D. who doubts the historicity of Jesus. I know many. Perhaps you mean the only one with a Ph.D. directly in the field of ancient history? (As opposed to biblical studies, etc.) When you start checking actual credentials, you might be shocked to find there are hardly any such persons in Jesus studies at all. So it might be disingenuous to make that into an excuse not to count the various other Ph.D.s who are doubters or agnostics about historicity. I am sympathetic at least to the underlying idea that Ph.D.s in ancient history are the ones who are actually best trained to address this issue. But if you agree with that, then you are agreeing that most Ph.D.s defending historicity are as unqualified as opponents of historicity are (if you are imagining either as unqualified in any degree). It’s one way or the other. Either all Ph.D.s in related fields but not directly in ancient history count, or none do.

  • Richard Carrier

    I agree with this post (Last Best Hope). When it comes to logic, Hoffmann doesn’t know what he’s talking about (at any rate, all his objections are already met in my book, which is in contract and peer review now). But McGrath is right that my methods will either make or break mythicism. And that’s my aim. Even if the debate is settled against mythicism, as long as it is settled on logically sound and valid reasons I’ll be happy. And either way, the methodology I develop will benefit all fields of history. It’s not specific only to this issue.

    I’m not sure, though, what is meant by saying I’m the only historian with a Ph.D. who doubts the historicity of Jesus. I know many. Perhaps you mean the only one with a Ph.D. directly in the field of ancient history? (As opposed to biblical studies, etc.) When you start checking actual credentials, you might be shocked to find there are hardly any such persons in Jesus studies at all. So it might be disingenuous to make that into an excuse not to count the various other Ph.D.s who are doubters or agnostics about historicity. I am sympathetic at least to the underlying idea that Ph.D.s in ancient history are the ones who are actually best trained to address this issue. But if you agree with that, then you are agreeing that most Ph.D.s defending historicity are as unqualified as opponents of historicity are (if you are imagining either as unqualified in any degree). It’s one way or the other. Either all Ph.D.s in related fields but not directly in ancient history count, or none do.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James, I’ll let Carrier explain to you (and others) the benefits of using Bayes’ Theorem.  But the idea that historical information can’t be quantified precisely isn’t entirely relevant.  Carrier alleges that using Bayes’, you can account for that kind of uncertainty.  The fact is, as you continually emphasize on your blog (in posts against mythicism), it comes down to a matter of probability.  You claim that this or that piece of evidence favors the historical Jesus hypothesis and disconfirms the mythical Jesus hypothesis.  If you can’t tell us how much probability is on your side in each of these cases, and what the overall probability ends up being (accounting for all of the individual pieces of evidence), then what are we to make of the vague assertion that your hypothesis is “more probable”?  How much more probable?

    As for Jim West’s blog post, it was interesting to see him claim that the idea that Jesus never existed “is just so absurd on the face of it that very few scholars have bothered with it.”  On the face of it?  Really?  What is so absurd about the idea that somebody who we have stories about never actually existed?  I think, if anything, it’s not something to be ruled out because, “on the face of it,” it just seems absurd.  Instead, if it’s absurd, it will be because the actual evidence decisively rules it out.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James, I’ll let Carrier explain to you (and others) the benefits of using Bayes’ Theorem.  But the idea that historical information can’t be quantified precisely isn’t entirely relevant.  Carrier alleges that using Bayes’, you can account for that kind of uncertainty.  The fact is, as you continually emphasize on your blog (in posts against mythicism), it comes down to a matter of probability.  You claim that this or that piece of evidence favors the historical Jesus hypothesis and disconfirms the mythical Jesus hypothesis.  If you can’t tell us how much probability is on your side in each of these cases, and what the overall probability ends up being (accounting for all of the individual pieces of evidence), then what are we to make of the vague assertion that your hypothesis is “more probable”?  How much more probable?

    As for Jim West’s blog post, it was interesting to see him claim that the idea that Jesus never existed “is just so absurd on the face of it that very few scholars have bothered with it.”  On the face of it?  Really?  What is so absurd about the idea that somebody who we have stories about never actually existed?  I think, if anything, it’s not something to be ruled out because, “on the face of it,” it just seems absurd.  Instead, if it’s absurd, it will be because the actual evidence decisively rules it out.

  • Mike WIlson

    I would have to see a demonstration of Bayes’ theorem used in a historical case before I applaud Carrier’s work. On the surface it doesn’t seem useful as it is very hard to calculate accurate odds for events in ancient history. Regarding some earlier comments, I find Hoffmann’s writing to be easy to comprehend and at the same time sharp and intelligent. I think there is a bit of jealousy as the writing of the detractor is not nearly of the same level. Ironically, I think intellectual sounding gobbledygook would be a good description of it.  He may be a bit of a snob, but I can understand his disdain of Sarah Palin types.

  • Mike WIlson

    I would have to see a demonstration of Bayes’ theorem used in a historical case before I applaud Carrier’s work. On the surface it doesn’t seem useful as it is very hard to calculate accurate odds for events in ancient history. Regarding some earlier comments, I find Hoffmann’s writing to be easy to comprehend and at the same time sharp and intelligent. I think there is a bit of jealousy as the writing of the detractor is not nearly of the same level. Ironically, I think intellectual sounding gobbledygook would be a good description of it.  He may be a bit of a snob, but I can understand his disdain of Sarah Palin types.

  • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

    Precisely Richard, thanks.  That is exactly the point of the volume with Thomas Thompson as well.  The idea is to open the conversation up in a manner that it requires; either the data will show that there was probably a historical Jesus or there its indeterminable, or there probably wasn’t.  Which one?  At this point, without a proper academic investigation, it can only be the second option.  

  • TomVerenna

    Precisely Richard, thanks.  That is exactly the point of the volume with Thomas Thompson as well.  The idea is to open the conversation up in a manner that it requires; either the data will show that there was probably a historical Jesus or there its indeterminable, or there probably wasn’t.  Which one?  At this point, without a proper academic investigation, it can only be the second option.  

  • Mike WIlson

    I have a great appretiation for Hoffmann’s writtng  style. I never had trouble following him and he’s witty to boot. Maybe its jealosy, there does seem to be a bit of projection going on.  “Intellectual sounding gobbledegook”? Sounds familliar.

    I’m doubtful of Carrier’s method. I guess I would have to see it in action. It seems to me that it would be very supceptible to people entering in dubious figures. I’m not sure how you would get any thing close to accurate odds for 2000 year old events.

    • Anonymous

      Mike, this is a methodology that has been used in statistic for decades, medical studies have started to pay heed to it, and philosophers have been more recently using it as well.  Richard Swinburne in particular has a lot to say on it.  In historical studies, Richard can talk about that in his book, but it is used in archaeology today; there are papers and books on using it as well.

      It’s only problem is the same problem that any argument has, if you put in garbage, you will get garbage.  In formal logic, if you have a crap premise, the conclusion will not follow; if you then say that formal logic is bunk, then you are in serious trouble.  Same with Bayes’ theorem.  I look forward to Richard’s volume in dealing with how to avoid the pitfalls of what numbers to plug in, but in the mean time there is a significant amount of literature from philosophers backing the use of Bayes’ theorem.

      • Mike Wilson

        Precicly Gilgamesh, garbage in garbage out. I think if Bayes were to be used in NT studies I think we would have “mathamaticaly proven” outcomes for every position under the sun.

        • Anonymous

          @b6762ac4736fdd1040d275ee56ef8c8a:disqus But the point of doing the math is you have to show your numbers, and you have to justify them.  If you claim such-and-such is 90% likely, you have to supply a reason for that.  It’s the same with formal logic; you have to defend your premises or the conclusion is not sound.  Formal logic and Bayes’ theorem force you to show your cards and justify everything.  That is the definition of rigor.

          • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

            Right Gilgamesh.  Most works in NT specifically (but across the board in historical studies) make claims about probability without ever having to show their work.  How does one get to a conclusion that something is ‘more probable’ than something else?  Just stating it doesn’t make it so, and anyone with any degree of background in rhetoric and persuasion can make a valid argument sound probable without actually demonstrating it.  Having to use bayes will demonstrate its probability.  It keeps claims in check, makes them more honest, and will show that an argument has weight, rather than just saying it does.  

  • Mike WIlson

    I have a great appretiation for Hoffmann’s writtng  style. I never had trouble following him and he’s witty to boot. Maybe its jealosy, there does seem to be a bit of projection going on.  “Intellectual sounding gobbledegook”? Sounds familliar.

    I’m doubtful of Carrier’s method. I guess I would have to see it in action. It seems to me that it would be very supceptible to people entering in dubious figures. I’m not sure how you would get any thing close to accurate odds for 2000 year old events.

    • Gilgamesh42

      Mike, this is a methodology that has been used in statistic for decades, medical studies have started to pay heed to it, and philosophers have been more recently using it as well.  Richard Swinburne in particular has a lot to say on it.  In historical studies, Richard can talk about that in his book, but it is used in archaeology today; there are papers and books on using it as well.

      It’s only problem is the same problem that any argument has, if you put in garbage, you will get garbage.  In formal logic, if you have a crap premise, the conclusion will not follow; if you then say that formal logic is bunk, then you are in serious trouble.  Same with Bayes’ theorem.  I look forward to Richard’s volume in dealing with how to avoid the pitfalls of what numbers to plug in, but in the mean time there is a significant amount of literature from philosophers backing the use of Bayes’ theorem.

      • Mike Wilson

        Precicly Gilgamesh, garbage in garbage out. I think if Bayes were to be used in NT studies I think we would have “mathamaticaly proven” outcomes for every position under the sun.

        • Gilgamesh42

          @b6762ac4736fdd1040d275ee56ef8c8a:disqus But the point of doing the math is you have to show your numbers, and you have to justify them.  If you claim such-and-such is 90% likely, you have to supply a reason for that.  It’s the same with formal logic; you have to defend your premises or the conclusion is not sound.  Formal logic and Bayes’ theorem force you to show your cards and justify everything.  That is the definition of rigor.

          • TomVerenna

            Right Gilgamesh.  Most works in NT specifically (but across the board in historical studies) make claims about probability without ever having to show their work.  How does one get to a conclusion that something is ‘more probable’ than something else?  Just stating it doesn’t make it so, and anyone with any degree of background in rhetoric and persuasion can make a valid argument sound probable without actually demonstrating it.  Having to use bayes will demonstrate its probability.  It keeps claims in check, makes them more honest, and will show that an argument has weight, rather than just saying it does.  

  • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

    Mike, I have given you links before on this, I don’t understand why you don’t consult them:

    http://www.richardcarrier.info/jesus.html

    Go there and select the pdf file ‘Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners’

    You can also check out his ‘The Twelve Axioms of Historical Method’

    • Mike Wilson

      I read the article on his Bayes for Beginners, but it didn’t seem to show much promise and his examples weren’t that helpful. It didn’t seem capable of much more than vague generalities. If someone would like to demonstrate its usefulness, I would be curious to see it. The article I don’t think went that far.

      • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

        Mike, I hate to say I don’t believe you, but I find it extremely difficult that you read the article, understood it, and yet find no value to it.  

  • TomVerenna

    Mike, I have given you links before on this, I don’t understand why you don’t consult them:

    http://www.richardcarrier.info/jesus.html

    Go there and select the pdf file ‘Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners’

    You can also check out his ‘The Twelve Axioms of Historical Method’

    • Mike Wilson

      I read the article on his Bayes for Beginners, but it didn’t seem to show much promise and his examples weren’t that helpful. It didn’t seem capable of much more than vague generalities. If someone would like to demonstrate its usefulness, I would be curious to see it. The article I don’t think went that far.

      • TomVerenna

        Mike, I hate to say I don’t believe you, but I find it extremely difficult that you read the article, understood it, and yet find no value to it.  

  • Anonymous

    I can think of ways that understanding statistical
    methodology could be helpful.

     

    For a somewhat crude example, let’s suppose that the four
    minimal “facts” that Habermas touts each have a 75% probability of being true
    and that the events are independent.   The probability of all four facts being true
    is only 32% and a conclusion that depends on all four facts being true has a
    68% chance of being wrong.  As a result,
    a conclusion that is robust enough to withstand one or more of the facts being
    false is likely to be superior to one that is undermined if any one of them is
    false.

     

    The assessment of particular probability values for particular
    events and assessments of their correlation is always going to be subject to
    considerable imprecision, however, understanding how relative changes in the probability assessments for various premises changes the relative overall probability of the conclusion could be
    quite useful.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I can think of ways that understanding statistical
    methodology could be helpful.

     

    For a somewhat crude example, let’s suppose that the four
    minimal “facts” that Habermas touts each have a 75% probability of being true
    and that the events are independent.   The probability of all four facts being true
    is only 32% and a conclusion that depends on all four facts being true has a
    68% chance of being wrong.  As a result,
    a conclusion that is robust enough to withstand one or more of the facts being
    false is likely to be superior to one that is undermined if any one of them is
    false.

     

    The assessment of particular probability values for particular
    events and assessments of their correlation is always going to be subject to
    considerable imprecision, however, understanding how relative changes in the probability assessments for various premises changes the relative overall probability of the conclusion could be
    quite useful.

  • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna

    The best book I know of on the use of statistics and math in historical analysis SHOULD BE required by every historian in every field:

    K.H. Jarausch & K.A. Hardy, ‘Quantitative methods for historians: a guide to research, data, and statistics’ (UNC Press, 1991)

  • TomVerenna

    The best book I know of on the use of statistics and math in historical analysis SHOULD BE required by every historian in every field:

    K.H. Jarausch & K.A. Hardy, ‘Quantitative methods for historians: a guide to research, data, and statistics’ (UNC Press, 1991)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Richard, thanks so much for taking the time to chime in! I did indeed mean, as you suggested, that you are the only person with a PhD in history as opposed to say Biblical studies, even though many who study the latter do study historical methods. Unfortunately in dealing with Neil Godfrey I have heard the complaint so many times that “X is what people in Biblical studies think, not what secular historians think” so many times that, even though it doesn’t make much sense, I still have a tendency to try to take it into account even so. :-)

    I was glad to hear from the interview that the book on historical methodology has found a publisher. I’ll look forward to reading it and blogging about it at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Richard, thanks so much for taking the time to chime in! I did indeed mean, as you suggested, that you are the only person with a PhD in history as opposed to say Biblical studies, even though many who study the latter do study historical methods. Unfortunately in dealing with Neil Godfrey I have heard the complaint so many times that “X is what people in Biblical studies think, not what secular historians think” so many times that, even though it doesn’t make much sense, I still have a tendency to try to take it into account even so. :-)

    I was glad to hear from the interview that the book on historical methodology has found a publisher. I’ll look forward to reading it and blogging about it at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

  • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

    James, I’m afraid I lost track of the post when I read your words in the very first sentence: how could James McGrath not have followed Babylon 5?!

    Granted, I just caught up on it myself, but IMHO it drips with more erudite science/religion/spirituality material than many of the other things you blog about! Although created and driven by an atheist, the show explores everything from a decidedly panentheistic slant (which you should appreciate). And the entire series is available for Netflix Watch Instantly…no excuse for you, Dr. McGrath. No excuse!

  • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

    James, I’m afraid I lost track of the post when I read your words in the very first sentence: how could James McGrath not have followed Babylon 5?!

    Granted, I just caught up on it myself, but IMHO it drips with more erudite science/religion/spirituality material than many of the other things you blog about! Although created and driven by an atheist, the show explores everything from a decidedly panentheistic slant (which you should appreciate). And the entire series is available for Netflix Watch Instantly…no excuse for you, Dr. McGrath. No excuse!

  • Anonymous

    I must admit that I was a big fan of the Babylon 5 series, although the departure of the Vorlons did decrease my interest by quite a bit.

    • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

      True, that. I hated to see that story line end.

  • beallen0417

    I must admit that I was a big fan of the Babylon 5 series, although the departure of the Vorlons did decrease my interest by quite a bit.

    • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

      True, that. I hated to see that story line end.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    It sounds like I may have to borrow the DVDs from the library and rectify this – maybe later this summer!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    It sounds like I may have to borrow the DVDs from the library and rectify this – maybe later this summer!

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    McGrath wrote: “Unfortunately in dealing with Neil Godfrey I have heard the complaint
    so many times that “X is what people in Biblical studies think, not
    what secular historians think” so many times that . . .”

    Neil: All you have to do, James, is quote me, or point directly to something I have written. If I have said the same thing so many times then it should not be a problem for you to locate one instance and stick to the facts.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    McGrath wrote: “Unfortunately in dealing with Neil Godfrey I have heard the complaint
    so many times that “X is what people in Biblical studies think, not
    what secular historians think” so many times that . . .”

    Neil: All you have to do, James, is quote me, or point directly to something I have written. If I have said the same thing so many times then it should not be a problem for you to locate one instance and stick to the facts.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @9eb80d11dd33a3b625e2b0a1204fdb45:disqus , will these do?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @9eb80d11dd33a3b625e2b0a1204fdb45:disqus , will these do?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil is prolific writer and doesn’t have time to remember what he wrote.  He’s rather like an octopus, change shape, change color, disappear into a cloud of ink, but if your persistent you just might get him to sacrifice a tentacle. I’ll post a link, other wise he’ll argue that I’m making up accusations against octopi and not providing proper citation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDUyUk7TmAg&feature=fvsr

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil is prolific writer and doesn’t have time to remember what he wrote.  He’s rather like an octopus, change shape, change color, disappear into a cloud of ink, but if your persistent you just might get him to sacrifice a tentacle. I’ll post a link, other wise he’ll argue that I’m making up accusations against octopi and not providing proper citation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDUyUk7TmAg&feature=fvsr