Mysteries Do Not Invalidate Knowledge

A key point I emphasize in my classes is that, just because a range of views about a topic may be held by experts, that does not mean that all views are compatible with the evidence. Nor is it the case that, just because we are uncertain about the answers to some questions, everything is uncertain. [Read More...]

Stuff Mythicists Say: “Q Was Real, Jesus Wasn’t”

Mythicists say a lot of ludicrous things, and perhaps it would be useful to highlight some of the more astonishing and laughable ones from time to time. Mythicists like Earl Doherty will accept the existence of Q – a hypothetical source the existence of which is deduced from the common material shared between Matthew and [Read More...]

Differentiating Between Debate and Denial

IO9 (in an article entitled “How to distinguish crap denialism from legitimate scientific debate”) linked to an article on the NIH website by Wendee Holtcamp, with the title “Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between Denial and Debate.” Both focus on the challenge the media and the general public faces in our day and age, when (to quote [Read More...]

Competing Denialisms

Steve Douglas drew my attention to the above comic from SMBC. As someone who deals both with denialists who attack mainstream science, and denialists who attack mainstream history, I don’t know that I think one is worse than the other. And since both evolutionary biology and ancient history deal largely with theories that make sense [Read More...]

Evolution and Homicide

Someone turned the point I made in my last blog post into an image. I will have to check the figures, but it looks about right. Thoughts? HT Reddit My first instinct is to doubt that there is a connection, that the correlation indicates causation. But it does not seem impossible to me that the [Read More...]

Tackling Denialism With Painful Logic

Compared to historians and scholars dealing with Jesus mythicists, those who tackle other forms of denialism seem to have it somewhat easier – or would, if denialism could be combated with logic of the sort illustrated in this XKCD cartoon: In related news, while I myself have used the comparison between the tactics used by [Read More...]

The Danger of Backfiring Skepticism

Skepticism ought to be about critical thinking. But it often ends up being something else, which is illustrated nicely in the latest cartoon by David Hayward: It is a bit like the point made in Richard Beck’s recent blog post about scapegoating. Going against the flow, once looked down upon, is now highly appreciated in [Read More...]

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 [Read More...]

Julius Caesar Mythicism vs. Jesus Mythicism: Smackdown!

Tom Verenna shared some thoughts on something I wrote recently, in a comment on the Vridar blog, in which I suggested that it is not harder to be a mythicist about Julius Caesar than about Jesus, and that the same tactics and methods used by Jesus mythicists could be employed for good effect in the [Read More...]

Mythicism: The Heart of the Matter?

I think that Neil Godfrey’s recent post on “fear of mythicism” raises what may be the most important issue in relation to mythicism. After listing numerous comments on this blog which make comparisons between mythicism and other fringe views such as creationism and holocaust denial, Godfrey writes: I can read rational, evidence-based rebuttals of holocaust [Read More...]

Why the Scientifically Literate Can Believe Silly Things

Jim Kidder pointed to and quoted from a piece in Discover Magazine by Chris Mooney, and this quote from it is worth circulating widely: If you understand motivated reasoning, then you understand that high levels of knowledge, education, and sophistication are no defense against wrongheaded views like climate change denial and anti-evolutionism.  What I’ll call “sophistication” may [Read More...]