Creationists, Mythicists, and the Schroedinger’s Scholar Fallacy

One feature that young-earth creationists, mythicists, and other proponents of pseudoscholarly ideas have in common in the way they treat the writings of actual experts in the field in question.

On the one hand, they will mine the writings of experts for sound bites and quotes that seem to support their viewpoint, and will pepper their blog posts and discussion board comments with them liberally.

On the other hand, they dismiss at least one of the central conclusions drawn by those experts, and write about them in relation to that particular matter as if they were completely incompetent ignoramuses who cannot be trusted to draw logical, reasoned conclusions.

I think we should call this the “Schroedinger’s Scholar Fallacy.” Clearly both characterizations of experts in a field cannot be right simultaneously. Either they are capable of doing valid work in their discipline, in which case their acceptance of evolution, or the existence of a historical Jesus, or whatever else, cannot be chalked up to stupidity; or they are indeed incompetent, in which case they cannot serve as authorities to appeal to in order to bolster one’s own case, since they are just as likely to have botched those points as any others if they really are as gullible and illogical as is claimed.

But in the realms of mythicism and creationism, scholars seem to exist in a state of quantum paradox, like Schroedinger’s cat, being both reliable authorities with genuine expertise, and ignorant fools, and coexisting as both simultaneously.

It is time, I suggest, for mythicists, creationists, and other denialists to open the box and look inside. The experts whom they selectively quote are either one or the other – either authorities who can be cited as providing a perspective with genuine expertise that carries legitimate weight, or people whose expertise cannot be relied upon and should not be taken seriously.

On a related note, Bob Cargill said the following on Facebook, and it seems to me germane to the current topic:

‎’God of the gaps’ creationists are like defense attorneys defending a murderer: they want you to focus on the unaccounted for 38 seconds and ignore the smoking gun, body, fingerprints, and incriminating surveillance video while they try to suppress it.

  • Gary


    Clearly both characterizations of experts in a field cannot be right simultaneously”…only in alternative universes. I just wish Schroedinger didn’t use a cat. I like cats. The premise is, by making the observation, you collapse the wave equation for either the alive, or dead cat. The process of our observation creates the “real’ alternative. Perhaps this does apply to us. Since we make the observation of the data on Jesus (as real) or evolution, we create the reality, and collapse the false reality. The mythicists and creationists refuse to open the box, and therefore do not actually make an observation of the facts of reality. They prefer to remain in the dark.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJ6PZMYZVJL4CGQBUYBVMQSDPQ james Harrison

    Your analogy is strained. Mythicism and Creationism belong to traditions that have had very different trajectories. Mythicism is simply the extreme form of the skeptical examination of the evidence of Christianity that has been underway since Spinoza’s time. Genuinely analogous scholarly projects have been examining the historical evidence for the historical books of the Old Testament, Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism; and all of these efforts have outliers, which, like Mythicism, probably go too far in the skeptical direction.  Thing is, though, these programs have been brilliantly successful for the most part, especially in comparison to the corresponding Fundamentalisms, the ditch-by-ditch defense of the indefensible. Because of the skeptical examination of the evidence, we may not doubt that there was, in some minimal sense, a historical Jesus; but we also know we know next to nothing about him.

    My point is Fonzie jumped the shark; but he was cool till then.

  • Gary

    “we may not doubt that there was, in some minimal sense, a historical Jesus”…but that is the point. Probability, either a 1 or a 0. Not talking about whether Jesus was magical, just that a person existed that was called Jesus. Cat is dead or alive. Jesus existed or he didn’t. 1 or 0. Not that he was a God or close to it. Not a probability of 0.532. Either 1 or 0.

  • Geoff Hudson

    Reality is, the experts, historians and biblicists, want to maintain the status quo.  Why?    

  • Anonymous

    Dr. McGrath,

    Unfortunately for your argument, building on the work of previous scholars who reached different conclusions is every bit as characteristic of true scholarship as it is of pseudo-scholarship.  Has there every been any scholar in any field who reached a novel conclusion who didn’t rely in part on the work of some other scholar who didn’t find the new conclusion persuasive?

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

      Vinny, I think the distinction is between the two following scenarios: In actual scholarship, one is building on and trying to improve upon what went before, trying to make a case for your own distinctive view or interpretation, while recognizing your debt even to those with whom you disagree. Being a member of the community of cranks and crackpots, on the other hand, typically involves both quoting liberally from scholars and dismissing them as worthless for disagreeing with one’s pet idea.

      I don’t think that anyone who has read both types of writings will fail to appreciate the distinction, even if there have occasionally been examples on both sides of the divide who sound more like those on the other side than is typical.

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

        In what mythicist publication online or in print have you found a dismissal of a scholar or their works as worthless for disagreeing with them on mythicism? In all our exchanges over E. P. Sanders and others I have demonstrated what some scholars themselves assert — that the scholar begins with the assumption that there is a historical Jesus to study.

        I have never dismissed any scholar’s work as worthless for disagreeing with my particular views, nor has Doherty or Wells or Ellgard or Price or any other I know. There is simply no debate on mythicism at all in the works addressed as far as I am aware.

        Once again, Dr McGrath, you are resorting to baseless insult instead of substantiated claims. You begin with the assumtion, it appears, that no-one outside the guild who thinks differently can possibly have seriously engaged with the literature in question or have read it comprehensively and with genuine understanding and appreciation. Yet I have demonstrated time and again that you yourself have not read (or have only read superficially) some of the works you would recommend to others to read and that you claim support your views. All you have mustered in response is that my claims to have read works are suspicious because I enclose the titles in quotation marks.

        It becomes you to actually address the arguments themselves instead of resorting to insult and abuse.

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

          It is because of his penchant for insult and abuse, as well as his denial of the true character of his posting on this topic, that I have, alas, had to abandon any hope of interacting with Neil Godfrey in an intelligent and reasoned manner. I encourage anyone curious about the sorts of tactics I was referring to (which Godfrey unsurprisingly denies having engaged in) pay a visit to his blog and see for themselves.

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

            I am simply asking you to support your assertions with evidence — it is my penchant for insisting that you always support your assertions with evidence that has led you to stoop to calling me insane — and I have attempted to bend over backwards to avoid reacting in kind to the levels of abuse and insult that I find regularly issuing from you and your commenters.

            Can you kindly address my request for evidence to support your serious accusations?

            As for your friends like Joel Watts I think they can see you certainly do respond to my comments.

          • pastasauceror

            I’ve read his blog and yours for a long time and you Sir are the one who insults and abuses, misrepresents and defames, and avoids intelligence and reason in the course of the debate. I’m not surprised Godfrey denies your claims, as they are false.

      • Anonymous

        Dr. McGrath,

        I have run across mythicists like the ones you describe, but their numbers pale in comparison to the internet apologists who happily quote those same mainstream scholars to support their historicity arguments while relentlessly bashing them whenever they depart from inerrantist orthodoxy.  I would not expect you to take anything I had to say seriously, however, if I generalized about all historicists based on the cranks.

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

          Indeed, my criticisms apply equally well to conservative Christian apologists. They too share in this sort of activity, quoting scholars when it suits them and dismissing them when it suits them. The point is not that cranks are all always wrong about everything, but precisely that one defining feature is the selective treatment of scholarship as authoritative and worthless as suits their ends.

  • Geoff Hudson

    But those that have gone before you may have led you astray.

    • Geoff Hudson

      And I don’t dismiss scholars as being worthless.

  • Just Sayin’

    And since Godfrey now knows that he won’t be replied to, his posts are nothing more than trolling.

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

    For anyone who happens to be a newcomer, Neil Godfrey posts a similar request for evidence no matter how many times evidence has been presented on previous occasions. Since he has shown himself to be unwilling to acknowledge evidence when presented, and to be unwilling to engage in rational discussion, I’ve had no choice but to stop responding to his attempts to get me to waste still further time, at least until he shows a willingness to engage in rational discussion, which to me means not simply saying one is willing, but actually doing so. Please search the archives on this blog, going back many years now, for the complete backstory, if you haven’t been here to witness it as it unfolded.

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

    Dr McGrath, I simply asked you to substantiate your accusation:

    In what mythicist publication online or in print have you found a
    dismissal of a scholar or their works as worthless for disagreeing with
    them on mythicism?

    You are walking away from any attempt to do so or from withdrawing your accusation as an overstatement. It is this that has been the pattern of our exchanges. I will continue to ask you for the evidence and you keep avoiding doing so until eventually you declare you gave the evidence long ago — but will never tell me where. This is all smoke and mirrors.

  • Geoff Hudson

    Cargill’s analogy is germane: “they want you to focus on the unaccounted and ignore the smoking gun.” 

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

    Dr McGrath, you once had an exchange with Earl Doherty about the question of acceptance of scholar’s views for certain points while at the same time not accepting their arguments on everything in total. So may I ask once again what is surely a most reasonable question: In what mythicist publication online or in print have you found a dismissal of a scholar or their works as worthless for disagreeing with them on mythicism? Or is it not the case that what you find in works by the likes of Earl Doherty and G. A. Wells and Bob Price, for example, is exactly this sort of quite legitimate use of scholarly sources?

    While I am here, may I draw your attention to another question you appear to have inadvertently overlooked:

    I asked if you would be so kind as to inform us of the particular DH theory or DH scholar you had in mind when you wrote your post about the DH – especially since I, as a layman, am unaware of a DH theory that contradicts the fundamentals that Tim addressed in his post as a critique of yours. We are sincerely keen to learn from you since you have certainly read more books about such things than I have on the documentary hypothesis (I have only read about half a dozen dedicated to this topic exclusively and I am sure Tim has read many more than that since it is a topic of special interest to him). But I appeal to you as a professor to guide us to the particular DH view that is clearly not in accord with anything I have read in Wellhausen and Friedman and that was guiding the argument of your own original post.

    This, I am sure you can agree, is not a fact or piece of information you have previously supplied to anyone on this blog. So I do believe you will not dismiss my and Tim’s queries on the grounds that either of us has ignored or failed to accept your previous explanations.

  • Geoff Hudson

    There seems to be a dichotomy, invoking science and scientists in arguments, and not allowing scientists, or any others who do not hold positions in biblical academia, to do the same with biblical historians, text critics and theologians.  On this principle, the biblical academic has no right to comment on the views held by a YECer, or to comment on the light coming from stars that may already be a black hole.      

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

    It’s a funny phenomenon. It happens when devotee of some unpopular view comes to the conclusion that that the position is so clearly correct that no right thinking person could disagree. That requires an explanation as to why virtually everyone accepts the consensus. At that point the conspiracy starts, i.g., they are biased by their faith and everyone else is afraid to challenge the status quo (technically not a conspiracy, since no one is coordinating it, but similar). It’s a nice rationalization because we can apply it where ever we need it and it can’t be falsified without a brain scanner.  So if we say we like Dennis McDonald work on showing how Mark imitated Homer, or Spong’s assertions that the Gospels stories are midrash, that they were thinking logically here, but their belief that that Jesus is a historical person purely faith based or in fear of the faith based consensus.
     
    Personally I have charged some scholars with coming to conclusions based on their biases but have liked a lot of their work. In general, these scholars can show some reasonable justification for their conclusion, and the problem is typically of jumping from could be to probably. Of course even a sloppy researcher can have good points to. But in that case I wouldn’t be too eager to present them as an authority. For example, if I agreed with something Spong said on the history of Jesus, I would focus on the argument and not just announce what Spong said, since I wouldn’t expect too many people to be impressed with what he says.
     
     Some others do make this mistake, of dismissing a field of study as being full of theologians and scholars that proceed from unchallenged assumptions and then holding up the work of one of these uncritical theologians as a worthwhile insight that supports ones pet theory.  It might be better to stop and consider that the scholarly community may in fact have some rational basis for their understanding, even if it is wrong. I find this quite a bit in NT scholarship. A lot of it I disagree with, and I think a lot of bad scholarship is done because Jesus is popular and culturally valuable. A less popular subject may not have produced work like that that D. McDonald has made, which while interesting, is hardly as convincing as he imagines, and if Jesus weren’t such a culture icon, perhaps Morton Smith would not have made such an strained argument for Jesus’ homosexuality.  Likewise, I think there are a lot of interesting arguments and observations made by people like Doherty, Price, and some of the older mythicist views that saw parallels with Christianity and other classical religions.
     
     The problem is with their supporters who couldn’t imagine why anyone would not agree with all their positions. Someone here (or maybe at vridar) pointed out that for the most part modern scholars assume a historical Jesus because the arguments for a mythic Jesus were rejected long ago and the new arguments haven’t made the rounds. This is a bit like the situation in science where the many researchers just start with the assumption that the world was not made by god 6,000 years ago. There isn’t a need to have each generation of scientist revisit all the creationist arguments before going to work, no conspiracy, this is just how knowledge progresses. The fussing comes up, however, when someone does revisit the case for mythicism and rejects it. For the true believers only a real creep could dismiss such profound reasoning.

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

    This is an odd set of accusations. I am not an evangelist for mythicism. If it turns out that Jesus was historical after all then that is all fine and good as far as I am concerned. But I do believe that the application of the most valid historical arguments and methods lead one at present to favour mythicism by a long margin.

    Having said that, I do indeed fully understand why many people cannot or are not persuaded by mythicist arguments. I am sure Doherty and others are likewise understanding. And it is not because we have ever put it down to “conspiracy theories”. Religious bias is there among many, but not all, and besides, I believe that personal religious biases are not enough to explain why many do not accept mythicist arguments. The question is not so simplistic.

    So why all these gratuitous and baseless accusations?

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

      You certainly seem like an “evangelist for mythicism”. This become more apparent when you state why you beleive “the application of the most valid historical arguments and methods lead one at present to favour mythicism by a long margin.” It never seemed to me to be as strong a case as you suggest. I would be more inclined to question my judgment on this if more objective researchers found mythicism compelling.  The few who do, I don’t find their reasoning compelling and given their interest in promoting atheism and/or selling books, I can comprehend why they might give their theory the benefit of the doubt, though I can’t rule out that they really feel that this work is logical. None-the-less, having examined the arguments I don’t find them persuasive and most others agree. I don’t feel I have any religious need for Jesus to have existed, I’m not Christian, I’m happy to dispense with all sorts of Old Testament figures and find some value to arguments that that some New Testament ones are fabricated.  
      Why do you think many do not accept mythicist arguments? You’ve been asked before, but I don’t recall a reply, do think there are any valid arguments for assuming Jesus was a historical person? Would it be fair to say that someone who holds a conclusion which there is no reason to hold is not very competent?  Do you know of any historians whose work is not focused on biblical religion that have argued Jesus is a mythical figure or treated him as such?

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

        I have pointed out numerous times I am not a committed mythicist but have even been chastised for not producing a comprehensive argument for a mythical Jesus!! That is, Dr McGrath and others have accused me of not arguing what they falsely accuse me of representing! I have been faulted for not providing the evidence for his false accusations!!!

        Now that says to me that there is a little bit of prejudice at work here.

        Most of my arguments are about historical methodology and that has nothing to do per se with mythicism or any conclusion. It has to do with validity of arguments — with reference to noted historians in the field whom Dr McGrath tells me to read but clearly has not read himself. So he gets upset and accuses me of misrepresenting them when I quote from them but he says he can’t answer my request for proof I have misrepresented them because I am insane. This is a joke.

        As for the reasons and motivations of other people I am not interested
        in mind-reading. I am quite happy to engage with the arguments for and
        against themselves and see no point in dragging in unsupported character attacks.

        Now would you like to provide evidence to support your slanderous accusations — in another thread that you appear to have overlooked just now — of my supposed dishonesty?

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

    G Don posted an iteresting reply to Neil’s post:

    Neil: “McGrath frowns on the very notion that someone (especially an amateur like you or me) could read works written by subject-matter experts, but then “write about them [the experts] in relation to that particular matter as if they were completely incompetent ignoramuses who cannot be trusted to draw logical, reasoned conclusions.” So you see, if you quote scholarship, but then have the audacity to come to a different conclusion, then you are wrong. You have lost the game…Let’s consider the implications of McGrath’s Carnival Game Rule. You can quote scholars, but if you disagree with them, you’re committing a logical fallacy.”
    Let’s consider the implications of McGrath’s Carnival Game Rule. You can quote scholars, but if you disagree with them, you’re committing a logical fallacy.”
    I’m not sure that represents an accurate reading. As your quote from McGrath aboves makes clear, it’s not **disagreeing** with scholars that is the problem. It is treating them as experts when they agree with you and as “incompetent ignoramuses” when they do not.
    On the other thread, Vinny agreed with McGrath. He wrote:
    “I have run across mythicists like the ones you describe, but their numbers pale in comparison to the internet apologists who happily quote those same mainstream scholars to support their historicity arguments while relentlessly bashing them whenever they depart from inerrantist orthodoxy.”
    McGrath responded:
    “Indeed, my criticisms apply equally well to conservative Christian apologists. They too share in this sort of activity, quoting scholars when it suits them and dismissing them when it suits them. The point is not that cranks are all always wrong about everything, but precisely that one defining feature is the selective treatment of scholarship as authoritative and worthless as suits their ends.”

    The original and Neil’s post can be found here:
    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/dr-mcgraths-carnival-game/#comment-23193

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

      Oh Mike Boobs you are a classic!!! :-)

      Somebody posted a criticism of Neil Godfrey! Hey, this is great! Let’s share it around! Thrills and excitement all round! Neil Godfrey is rebutted!

      I really do overestimate people here sometimes. Pst — Neil has posted a rebuttal of GDon’s comment. But don’t breathe a word about that now, will ya! Will spoil the party.

      And above all, don’t let no-one actually address the logic of Tim’s post — least of all mention that the hard logic of it completely escapes anything said by GDon. But logic is not the strongest attribute of people here, I have noticed.

  • Gakuseidon

    My mistake — that blog post was written by Tim Widowfield rather than Godfrey. Apologies. 

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

      Don, it was indeed confusing, so while an apology may be appropriate, it is a very odd case indeed – someone allegedly addressing me yet in a comment on someone else’s blog where I had no way of knowing about it, until it was shared in a post. The irony that someone wrote something that is supposedly a question addressed to me sincerely, and doesn’t actually ask it of me themselves, was not lost on me.

      I am also glad to see that few people are falling for Godfrey’s attempt to claim that I said it is inconsistent to disagree with scholars, as opposed to treat them dismissively and with ridicule. Such attempts at sleight of hand are of course one of the reasons I have given up trying to engage him in conversation – although I shuld add that I have no objection to others doing so, if they are so inclined.

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

        Dr McGrath, I do apologize to you for my use of the words “disagree with” in place of your “treat them dismissively and with ridicule”. It was certainly not my intent to use sleight of hand. In normal conversation a person would offer a correction to such an apparent misunderstanding before accusing them of nefarious tactics. Perhaps you should try to follow my own example for normal human discourse and suspend such judgements till the last resort.

        But now there is a bigger problem, because I find it even less in evidence that your charge has any substance to it. Can you find me an example of a mythicist who “treats a scholar dismissively and with ridicule” because they, as you say, “dismiss at least one of the central conclusions drawn by those experts”? I have not found Crossan or Allison or Sanders “drawing a conclusion” that Jesus exists — they always start with that assumption. And mythicist scholars that I have read all highly respect many of those scholars and engage seriously with their works. Can you quote me an exception from Doherty? Price? Wells? Ellgard? Can you demonstrate that they treat them “dismissively and with ridicule”? Where have they done this?

        Or am I insane for expecting you to offer any evidence for your slander?

        I also find it curious that you should say you would have no way of knowing about a post on my blog when it is clear to all and sundry who follow yours and mine that you keep an eye on my blog and are ever ready to jump to any ridicule or rebuttal whenever you deem it convenient. Now that’s a claim where I think we may have a case of sleight-handedness, yes?

  • Gakuseidon

    Neil: “In what mythicist publication online or in print have you found a
    dismissal of a scholar or their works as worthless for disagreeing with
    them on mythicism?”

    How about Acharya S, and her thoughts on Ehrman? This is before Ehrman criticized mythicism. Here, Ehrman’s scholarship is sound. She calls him “noted theologian and professor Bart Ehrman” in her book “Who was Christ?” and quotes him a dozen times or so. In her look at one of Ehrman’s book, she notes how he had come to the same conclusions as she had:
    http://freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/531-bible-scholar-new-testament-books-and-letters-bogus.html

    “Ehrman’s hat in the ring of scholarship basically proving textual forgery is a step in the right direction…”

    “Ehrman’s contention of rampant lying in antiquity is precisely correct,
    especially as concerns Christianity, a fact I demonstrate repeatedly in The Christ Conspiracy… it’s good to see mainstream scholarship finally catching up and exposing the truth.”

    Now, here is Acharya S’s view of Ehrman after he announced he was going to write a book about mythicism. Here, Ehrman is bad, only a “perceived expert” as Acharya S calls him:

    http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3923

    “Re Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman, the book sounds entirely forgettable… The fact that he came out with this ebook so
    quickly, along with his conclusion, indicates that he has not studied
    this particular subject in any real depth and is therefore not an expert
    on it…”

    “I should add that I have REAMS more material – it’s pouring in every day
    – to PROVE essentially the contention that Christ is a mythical figure.
    There is a mountain of it, and dollars to donuts Ehrman didn’t scratch
    the surface…”

    “How someone could sift through this massive material demonstrating this
    logical contention and come away with another viewpoint is curious, to
    say the least, except I’m wagering that he did NOT sift through it to
    any depth, and I’ll also be blunt in asserting that his a priori
    assumption that Christ is a historical figure, albeit evemerized, is a
    reflection of uncritical conditioning, not scientific analysis…”

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

      So a scholar disagrees with Acharya S on mythicism so she declares Bart is worthless as a scholar???? You’ll have to ask her if that’s what she thinks but it’s not what I read in the quotes you’ve provided.

      So if A still thinks Bart’s works are worth reading for their scholarly value — and there is absolutely nothing in your quotes to indicate otherwise — is she a hypocrite?

      The redoubtable Dr McG says if a mythicist agrees with one thing a scholar (say, Ehrman) says he or she is bound to agree with everything he says or be found to be a hypocrite and guilty of some fallacy. That’s what you’re supporting Mr McG in saying here! I can understand McG coming up with such a blooper but I thought you were a bit smarter.

      • Anonymous

        You’ll have to ask her if that’s what she thinks but it’s not what I read in the quotes you’ve provided.

        Really Neil?  That’s kinda what those quotes look like they are saying to me.

      • Gakuseidon

         Neil: The redoubtable Dr McG says if a mythicist agrees with one thing a
        scholar (say, Ehrman) says he or she is bound to agree with everything
        he says or be found to be a hypocrite and guilty of some fallacy. That’s
        what you’re supporting Mr McG in saying here!

        “Agrees with one thing, bound to agree with everything”??? This is a distortion of what McGrath wrote. I think this kind of hyperbole does you no credit.

        And I do support McGrath here. You just have to read the comments about Ehrman before and after he announced he was going to write a book against mythicism.

        Before his announcement, Ehrman was generally portrayed as an honest scholar whose investigations into early Christianity were recommended reading. About the only criticism made against him was a wondering why he didn’t take that final step and reject a historical Jesus altogether, but this was only considered a matter of time.

        And after his announcement? Apart from Acharya’s comments (I have more), here are some others:

        http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=305661
        (On Ehrman’s 24 hour video series on the Historical Jesus) “I got through the first five minutes. The introduction sounded like something you hear on the crazy Christian stations with hyperbolic distortion, a lot of unsubstantiated facts mixed with facts taken out of context to paint an entirely false historical picture.” (PhilosopherJay)

        http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/bart-ehrmans-failed-attempt-to-address-mythicism

        “Ehrman’s wife is a believer, so it wouldn’t be good for marital harmony
        if he were to consider the ahistoricity issue with more objectivity.”
        (Bob Carlson)

        Neil, you tell me. Has Ehrman’s reputation amongst mythicists taken a hit since he has announced he is writing a book against mythicism, even though the book hasn’t been published yet?

        • Anonymous

          This is a distortion of what McGrath wrote. I think this kind of hyperbole does you no credit.

          Really GDon? Given the tone of Dr. McGrath’s post, I don’t see anything hyperbolic about it.  It is the same implication that I saw and commented on. 

  • http://church-of-ouzo.com/ Bob Evenson

    Dr. McGrath, in an earlier blog on “The Ouzo Prophecy,” http://church-of-ouzo.com/pdf/ouzo-prophecy.pdf you referred to pseudoscience or pseudoscholarship and selective use of scholarly methods that allows one to hold and defend his views against the crashing waves of mainstream thinking and cognitive dissonance.  I don’t believe the paper uses science or scholarship at all, much less a pseudo variety, and a philosophical position hardly requires a defense.  But if everything you say is true, how do you explain the letter from the spokesman of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project?  http://church-of-ouzo.com/pdf/spiritual-counterfeits.pdf

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

    Dr McGrath chastised me for using the words “disagee with” instead of “dismiss with insult and ridicule”. I apologized.

    To disagree with someone in my books implies some sort of engagement with the arguments and reasonably arriving at different conclusions.

    To dismiss with insult and ridicule implies not even attempting to engage with the scholar entirely on the grounds — in the context presented by Dr McGrath — because they disagree with the conclusion.

    I have never seen any mythicist — I am not saying there are none, but let’s be fair and hold Dr McGrath accountable here since he was addressing mythicists generically, totally — dismiss a scholar with ridicule an insult solely on the grounds that they are opposed to mythicism or draw a historicist conclusion. In every case that I have read (I admit I have not read D. M. Murdock’s work more than a few pages — but there is nothing in the words quoted to suggest otherwise) a mythicist engages with the arguments of the work.

    If there is any ridicule and insult it is of the same order that one finds among scholars of the academic guild themselves who engage regularly in verbal knivings of one another — very often — just ask any academic who has been in the business for any length of time — as a result of what they see as intellectual or professional incompetence in their arguments. In their arguments. The DO engage with the arguments.

    I myself have accused Dr McGrath of being incompetent intellectually when it comes to his attacks on mythicists and what he perceives to be mythicist arguments (generally straw men). But that is because in every case I engage with his arguments — his logic, his fallacies, his red herrings — and NOT his conclusions.

    I find myself agreeing with some points he makes in two of his books, and I find myself disagreeing with points he makes in both those publications. I do the same with Spong, with Crossan, with Allison, with Davies, with Sanders, with Fredriksen, with Mack, with N.T. Wright, with Doherty . . . .

    I dismiss none of them with ridicule and insult because of any of their conclusions or where and if they reject mythicism.

    The quotes by GDon about A.S. were nothing more than the same sorts of scoffing we even find among the academic guild itself of scholars who fight one another — and they were all predicated on engagement with the arguments themselves, and not the conclusions.

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

    The following set of statement may give an idea of where James gets “they dismiss at least one of the central conclusions drawn by those experts, and write about them in relation to that particular matter as if they were completely incompetent ignoramuses who cannot be trusted to draw logical, reasoned conclusions.”  I don’t know how Neil’s position that this is o.k. because those scholars haven’t even properly concluded Jesus is historical; they just assume it unquestioningly, helps his position.  The scholars are still incompetent if they accept things as historical that no one else would due to thoughtlessness, and the vridar gang sure thinks they are incompetent, except when they present a point that favors their own position. Regarding Neil’s demand to show a mythicist quote where a scholar is ridiculed “solely on the grounds that they are opposed to mythicism or draw a historicist conclusion,” the request is stupid. Clearly James is making an inference, no one making an invalid claim states that they used cherry picking to make their claim. Do people that claim aliens made the pyramids say that the reason other scholars are wrong is because they disagree with the alien theory? Do people who think that 9/11 was an inside job say that people who doubt this are wrong because they doubt it? No, they say their biased toward the government and their work is shoddy.
     
    Unless noted otherwise, the author is Neil Godfrey. Sorry about the length.
     
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/what-do-biblical-scholars-make-of-the-resurrection/#more-18267
    From J. Quinton: “NT scholarship really is just a religionist enterprise”.
    Daryl: “I always find it dispiriting that someone like Robert Price is considered a fringe scholar who supposedly holds outdated views when he seems to understand the study of history in general better than most other historical Jesus academics. Perhaps he’s the nearest to a proper historian in HJ studies, and therefore a hero?”
    Tim Widowfield: “Seriously, though, isn’t it about time for real scholars of history to stand up and defend the Enlightenment?”
    Rich Griese: “Seems pretty stupid to even give a kook like Habermas the time of day.”
    —————————————————————————————————————–
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/more-games-played-by-some-many-biblical-scholars-with-research-data-and-personal-reflection-on-why-i-post-this-stuff/#more-18623
     
    Neil Godfrey: “This post is not an attack on Paula Fredriksen. No doubt she has met all the requirements of her discipline to be a recognized biblical scholar. But my oh my, what can one conclude about the nature and rigour of those requirements?”
    ——————————————————————————————————————–
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/a-serious-take-on-maurice-caseys-jesus-of-nazareth/#more-19008
    Tim Widowfield: In short, Simon Greenfield was a miserable hack, and only the most desperate apologist would be swayed by his writings.
    Steven Carr: This is just sheer junk scholarship. Why am I paying taxes to finance Casey’s work? I want my money back.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/what-has-always-been-wrong-with-historical-jesus-scholarship/#more-20054
    Steven Carr: But a simple glance at the research being done by NT scholars reveals a world far more akin to Shakespeare analysis than to history.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/how-doing-real-nonbiblical-history-compares-with-historical-jesus-studies-a-case-study/#more-20153
    In the process of moving recently I discovered one of my long-boxed copies of a history book researching the lives of renegade leaders of small bands generally considered to be Robin Hood type bandits. What is interesting about this particular field of history, and that is worthy of note among those interested “how history works” in fields other than among theologians and other biblical scholars studying the historical Jesus, is the way the historian treats literary evidence of legendary tales of famous outlaws.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/the-fallacy-that-invalidates-historical-jesus-studies-conspiracy-theories-and-creationism/#more-20155
    The fallacy that invalidates historical Jesus studies, conspiracy theories and creationism
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/the-worst-argument-advanced-by-historical-jesus-scholars/#more-20339
    Bart Ehrman says ‘If you want to make up a story about the Messiah, will you make up the story that he got squashed by the enemy and got crucified, the lowest form of execution in the empire? No! If you’re going to make up a story about the Messiah, you’d make up that he actually overthrew the Romans and he’s the King in Jerusalem now…Why didn’t [early Christians] make up that story? Because everybody knew Jesus was crucified…this is why Christians had the hardest time convincing people that Jesus was the Messiah.’
     
    It must be true because nobody would make it up….. (Cited from a recent Carr comment)
     
    What pathetic drivel is capable of coming from the pens of some biblical scholars!
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/an-even-worse-worst-argument-for-the-historicity-of-jesus/#more-20370
    Would you buy a used car from a bible scholar?
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/reasons-not-to-doubt-the-historicity-of-jesus-raising-the-daughter-of-jairus/#more-20470
    In the light of the above level of argumentation can someone give me a reason why I should not use words like “fraudulent” and “charlantry” when describing the nature of what passes for “historical Jesus” scholarship among certain biblical scholars?
    The future of biblical studies looks as dark as it has always been.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/page/6/?s=historical+jesus+scholars
    Grounds for excluding historical Jesus studies from university research
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/two-misunderstandings-in-biblical-studies-the-nature-of-scepticism-and-evidence/#more-15766
    But the presentation goes to the heart of why mainstream biblical studies on the historical Jesus are very often not comparable with genuine historical studies.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/marks-ambiguity-fools-scholars/#more-15576
    In the case of the Gospel of Mark, scholars who interpret Jesus words in their literal sense are aligning themselves with the very characters the author set up as foils (and fools) to teach the readers spiritual lessons
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/maurice-caseys-historical-methods-for-historical-jesus-studies/
    aurice Casey (Emeritus Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the University of Nottingham, UK) in his 2010 book Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching devotes his third chapter to a discussion of his historical method, and becomes the latest New Testament scholar to demonstrate (once more) how studies of the “historical Jesus” follow their own idiosyncratic rules and are unlike any other studies of ancient historical figures.
     
    Unfortunately, Casey also demonstrates in this chapter the all too familiar tendency of biblical scholars to carelessly misrepresent arguments and authors they do not like.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/biblical-scholars-explanation-of-historical-methods-for-jesus-studies-1/#more-14482
    Biblical scholarships’ ignorance of the significance of different types of evidence
    This unfortunate state of much scholarship of Christian origins is aptly illustrated throughout many studies of the historical Jesus, but I focus in this post on statements by one such self-professing “historian” of the New Testament who makes a point of explaining what he understands by “the historical enterprise”:
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/history-as-science-not-only-art-history-for-dummies-2/#more-14660
    In contrast to how “real” historians ideally work, HJ “historians” begin with a search for some “facts”.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/history-for-dummies-and-biblical-scholars/#more-14621
    One thing is certain about the difference between nonbiblical and historical Jesus historians. I am fairly confident that one will never find a statement like the following among serious historians in nonbiblical studies:
     
    Even fabricated material may provide a true sense of the gist of what Jesus was about, however inauthentic it may be as far as the specific details are concerned.
     
    (From a scholarly review of a chapter of a book discussing historical methodology)
     
    Scholars who write such circular and fatuous tripe have no right to call themselves “historians”. They are misleading their readers and students if/when they claim to be historians.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/games-historical-jesus-scholars-play/#more-13774
    A review of Dale Allison’s forthcoming book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History, illustrates both in its post details and subsequent comments how far removed Historical Jesus studies are from the way history is practiced in other (nonbiblical) fields.
    From: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/dunn-on-price-4/#more-13679
    Incompetence is a motive for dishonesty.
     
    I suggest it thrives because of the accident of history that allows biblical and Christian studies in their current forms to be given a peer status alongside real sciences and disciplines. It allows them to assume that their nonsense and facades are legitimately on a par with disciplines that are grounded in genuine logical and methodological rigour.

  • steven

    Crank behaviour is a great example of a crank who thinks somebody is wonderful when he agrees with them, and then derides them as all kinds of things when they disagree.

  • steven

    CARR
     But a simple glance at the research being done by NT scholars reveals a world far more akin to Shakespeare analysis than to history.

    I see Wilson doesn’t even attempt to  refute this claim of mine, even when the research I highlighted was incredibly analogous to Shakespeare scholars tracking down the textual history of folios, and doing literary analysis on plays.

    Indeed , I do blog posts pointing out how well NT scholars can do literary analysis. They are often very good, just as good as Shakespeare scholars when they analyse plays.

  • steven

    Even fabricated material may provide a true sense of the gist of what Jesus was about, however inauthentic it may be as far as the specific details are concerned.’

    Isn’t that one of James McGrath’s? I love to quote it when ever he tries to portray himself as a serious scholar.


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