Smug Pilots

Smug Pilots

This New Yorker cartoon really sums up well what the current attitude many have towards experts and expertise sounds like. And it highlights the hypocrisy of it, as though figuring out what is happening with the climate, or the history of biological organisms, or what happened in the past, involves less training and expertise than flying a plane or performing surgery. All these different skills share in common that there is training and specialization required, and while plenty of people think that they can do them without training, the evidence doesn’t support such assertions.

See further Massimo Pigliucci’s recent post on the persistence of irrational beliefs.

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  • jh

    But I feel like I can do that job!!! God is my pilot. /s

  • “And it highlights the hypocrisy of it, as though figuring out what is
    happening with the climate, or the history of biological organisms, or
    what happened in the past, involves less training and expertise than
    flying a plane or performing surgery.”

    -So far as I know, it does involve less training.

    “All these different skills share in common that there is training and
    specialization required, and while plenty of people think that they can
    do them without training, the evidence doesn’t support such assertions.”

    -Guild members gonna guild.

    This is really an argument for dictatorship by members of the Democratic Party. Of course the American people are gonna reject such special-interest pleading.

    • WingedBeast

      That’s the feces of a male bovine mid-copulation. It’s not an argument for dictatorship. It’s an argument for acknowledging that spending a life-time studying a thing makes one more knowledgeable on a topic than someone who “has good old fashioned common sense”.

      This applies to global warming, evolution, whether or not tax breaks stimulate the economy and a number of other places where ideologues feel it oh so important to “stand up to experts.”

      • KRS

        I love how his argument implicitly gives Democrats all the expertise.

        • p-diddy

          It implies that because currently many Republicans have an aversion to scientific expertise.

      • that spending a life-time studying a thing makes one more knowledgeable
        on a topic than someone who “has good old fashioned common sense”.

        -Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. The correlation isn’t anywhere close to 1, even if it’s positive.

        • WingedBeast

          So, you’re of the belief that studying a topic, in depth, makes one less knowledgeable on said topic?

          Example of this happening in reality?

    • Nick G

      So far as I know, it does involve less training.

      Then you don’t know very far, as I’ve frequently noticed before. A climate scientist or evolutionary biologist in a position to apply for research grants as a PI (Principal Investigator) will typically have gone through a bachelor’s degree, possibly a master’s, a doctorate by thesis, and at least one post-doctoral position, for a total of at least a decade of specialist training.

      Incidentally, such experts are not necessarily members of the Democratic Party. Some of them, believe it or not, are not even Americans!

  • Ara G

    This reminds me of the obsolete Electoral College system and how it failed yet again to do its sole job – to stop an incompetent dangerous demagogue of becoming charged with the most powerful military in the world.

    • WingedBeast

      Well, to be clear, the Electoral College didn’t fail to stop him so much as put him in place. Remember, he lost the popular vote.

  • Otto T. Goat

    Unlike many “experts” in the political/bureaucratic sphere pilots have actual expertise. Also if pilots don’t do their jobs properly they get fired, if not killed, whereas “experts” typically face few consequences at all for being disastrously wrong. Foreign policy “expert” Hillary Clinton is a shining example of this.

    • Nick G

      Notice that the examples given were in the sphere of science, not of politics or bureaucracy.

      • Otto T. Goat

        The cartoon is political.

        • Nick G

          The cartoon is about the stupidity of believing that extensive training and knowledge count for nothing. Evidently you share that belief.

          • Otto T. Goat

            Evidently you have to attribute views to me I haven’t expressed.

          • Nick G

            I don’t have to – but I made a reasonable deduction from your initial non sequitur: obsessive need to denigrate Hillary Clinton when she is not relevant (I’m no admirer of her foreign policy myself, by the way) generally indicates that kind of stupidity.

          • Otto T. Goat

            You should try responding to my statements instead of making things up.

          • Nick G

            Unfortunately, your statements make so little sense that that would be a futile exercise.

          • Otto T. Goat

            Your inability to comprehend straightforward statements doesn’t excuse your making things up.

      • Gary

        Politics and science are usually intimately linked.
        Recent Dept of Energy Heads:

        Dr. Chu, Nobel Prize in physics.
        Likes Nuclear Power plants and glucose energy sources (practicality versus reality?)

        Dr. Moniz, PhD in physics. Negotiated Iran nuclear deal.

        There are some rather unbelievable one liners in the article that are troubling. Spinning centrifuges for show, with no fissionable material? Really? $1,500 a night hotel suites for negotiators. Reminds me of Vietnam Paris peace talks in the 70’s.

        Driving planes and building planes require different skills. Knowledge of science and leading a government (in negotiations or in management) requires a different skill set.

        • Nick G

          What is your point? The vast majority of scientists are never appointed to any political position, and the vast majority of political appointees are not scientists. One person may have both scientific expertise and political skills, just as one person may be a trained pilot or surgeon and have political skills.

          • Gary

            “Politics and science are usually intimately linked.” At least on this post.
            In this particular case, instead of a smug pilot, well trained to fly; I dislike a smug physicist, who, instead of solving wave functions, like a good physicist, decides to play political negotiator with the Iranians, when he couldn’t negotiate a rabbit out of a paper bag (perhaps he liked his $1,500 hotel suite too much – while John Kerry was off, riding his bike)! Or, a smug physicist, who, after a nuclear power plant disaster, plays politician, and tries to speed up approval of new nuclear power plants in the United States, instead of investigating why Japan is now radioactive because of a faulty plant design.

            So, bottom line – more common sense is needed. Perhaps, that is why at least half the electorate is pissed off, and thinks the experts are smug.

          • Nick G

            Thanks for the attempt at clarification – but your point is dubious at best, because, as I’ve noted, only a tiny minority of scientists are appointed to political positions. When they are, their performance should be judged on the same grounds as that of any other political appointee. It makes sense to appoint people who are at least knowledgeable about science (if not current or former scientists) to positions in which they will be making decisions or performing tasks to which such knowledge is relevant. Of course that does not guarantee they will do well, but any general objection to appointing scientists to political positions, such as you appear to have, is mere prejudice – and indeed, would seem to be contrary to your cliam that “politics and science are usually intimately linked”. If that is true (whether it is or not depends on just what you mean by it), then it obviously does make sense to appoint scientists to political positions, as their scientific expertise will be relevant.

          • Gary

            “but any general objection to appointing scientists to political positions, such as you appear to have”…
            Did I say that? I don’t think so!
            I implied that they also need common sense for the position they hold. At least in one example I gave, it was clear being a Nuclear Physicist does not make one a good negotiator in the international realm – especially when your Secretary of State likes bike riding in Switzerland more than working hard on a good deal – I think they call this “not very good optics”.

            But for the big picture – I began commenting on this post primarily for one reason. The comic, “smug pilots”, I could care less about. But the nature of the responses became very politically oriented. It was clear that this had more to do with the underlying electoral-voter bad mouthing in the press than pilots being called smug, which is rather ridiculous. Democrats and Republicans both deserve better leadership and expert advice. When you have scientific experts being influence more by the nuclear industry to build more power plants, or the State Department to cut a deal with the Iranians at all cost, without common sense, you have discovered “smug” experts, in the extreme. OK, I’m done. If you have a response to what I said, I’ll give it a rest. This, as in most comments, becomes a contest in who can “out-wordsmith” the other – which is a wasted effort. Instead of simply one individual stating a comment of opinion, and another responds. I think we both made our points adequately.

  • Tige Gibson

    James McGrath is just a troll of atheist blogs. Ignore him.

    • Wow, what leads you to leave this comment? Is there someone who is also named James McGrath, who trolls atheists blogs, that you are confusing me with? Or is someone actually impersonating me? Can you direct me to what you had in mind when you wrote this, as I find it really worrying…

      • Tige Gibson

        Give me one reason why I should even know you exist.

        • This is expert-level trolling right here. The first post accuses the blogger himself of being a troll. It is like the ancient forgers who warned readers to beware of forgeries!

          Then he asks why he should know I exist – a bizarrely-worded question. And depending what is meant by it, the answer is the same as it would be in the case of Jerry Coyne. If someone doesn’t know me personally then the main ways they come to know I exist is by reading my books or my blog, or hearing about me from someone who has done so.

          • Tige Gibson

            I know Jerry Coyne because he’s a legitimate expert on evolution. When Coyne has something to say about evolution, it’s generally corrective to the religious community. This is the why.

            Likewise, there is a why for me to be here today which is not to gather attention to myself or to puff up my personal reputation or to insult others, things which you are only known for doing. I mean I am not aware of you doing anything other than those things. I am not aware that you are knowledgeable let alone an expert on anything and therefore have no why for anyone to read your blog.

            I do not even run a blog to service my ego as you do. Thus you fit the definition of troll while I do not.

          • What you are doing sounds like trolling to me. Commenting on an academic’s blog, claiming that he runs it to service his ego, either pretending not to know who he is or not even bothering to do even that minimal research, not noticing that this blog engages in the defense of mainstream science, and not commenting on Coyne’s embrace of pseudoscholarship about history.

          • Tige Gibson

            I have heard of you many times and even engaged with you before. And consistently I and others have found you smug, insulting, and when questioned you refuse to back up any of your claims, that is you just offer/repeat claims alone without anything credible to back them up, leading others to defend themselves against that nothing. That is a troll. I doubt you know or remember who I am and I consider it irrelevant whether you do or not. In this instance, just as in the past, I am just sick of your attitude yet you have told me nothing of academic relevance.

            Actually all I really need to do here is invite you to honestly read your own post which you wrote and I am commenting to, because it implies just one thing that puts to rest the whole matter of which of us has an ego problem and hence is a troll. You are trying to say something about hypocrisy as if you are not completely stained by it. Is there anything in it which speaks to your own professional knowledge or competence? Do you need to check it again?

          • So now you have gone from asking why you should know I exist, to admitting that you already knew I existed. It seems that we are making progress, at least as far as your honesty here is concerned!

            Now perhaps you can be honest and address Coyne’s spreading of denialism with regard to history, acknowledging that I have in fact addressed these issues, with evidence provided, many times before, over the past several years?

          • Tige Gibson

            You question my honesty through a non sequitur. Just because I know who you are doesn’t mean I should and as far as I can tell I shouldn’t. How dense are you that you can’t figure that out?

            Coyne isn’t a historian. But coincidentally since you brought up Coyne for some strange reason, he posted the following cartoon just today, and look, it’s you making this exact post!


          • Tige Gibson

            What you are doing is squatting under a bridge that you had nothing to do with building and do nothing to maintain.

            What I am doing is questioning why your hypocritical post on hypocrisy ends up in my feed.

            I really have zero idea where you pulled Jerry Coyne out from under. You’ve referred to him several times but I have no idea why.

          • As you know full well from our previous interactions, and from my blog post if you read it, it is Jerry Coyne’s promotion of historical pseudoscholarship that is the reason I mentioned him.

            No academic is the sole builder of the edifice that constitutes the field they work in. That is precisely why those outside of a given field should look at the consensus, if there is one, and not merely the work of any individual scholar – never mind self-declared authorities with no actual relevant expertise.

          • Tige Gibson

            No, I still have no idea why you brought Jerry Coyne up. Which previous interaction you are referring to? What does it have to do with this?

            I don’t recognize Jerry Coyne as a historian, never did, and not aware that anyone else does either, except just now you seem to but I have no idea where you got this strange idea from and especially why you specifically bring it up now.

            But as you sit their trying to say something about Jerry Coyne, I have no idea exactly what you are saying, but I do know that you are a hypocrite who makes claims without apparently the expertise to defend them, specifically regarding Christian history.

            I already know this about you, but it’s a top result on Google:


          • You disagree that historians should set aside miracle claims as inherently improbable and thus a waste of their time?! Why?

            And why are you claiming that my view is the opposite of the one I articulated in the comment you are responding to?!

            Are you really going to pretend you aren’t trolling, when you do things like that?

          • Tige Gibson

            Why would you jump to such a conclusion? It is just evasiveness? All of the top results on Google for your name and “historian” mock you. All of them. They aren’t commentary on me.

          • Er, I’m an atheist myself, and a skeptic. You’re not helping yourself by making completely false claims.

            “All the top results on Google” demonstrably DO NOT mock James McGrath, even if such randomized searches on the internet were a meaningful measure. They aren’t of course, which is why so much internet advertising is based on grotesque “click-bait”.

          • Tige Gibson

            I didn’t make a false claim. Google is a primary means many people use to find out information, so if I look something up on Google and can’t find it within the first couple of pages, I’m probably going to give up finding it. And there’s no way McGrath or his critics are paying for advertising.

            The top result of my search was in my post above, and the next few results are similar, like this:


          • It is a false claim. When I search on those words, I see this blog, an Amazon listing for one of Dr. McGrath’s books, a listing of editorial reviews for the same book (mostly high marks), a posting on an atheist blog (Debunking Christianity) quoting Dr. McGrath favorably, an article in the digital commons by Dr. McGrath, a Butler University faculty listing for Dr. McGrath with a long list of his publications, and a respectful interview with Dr. McGrath on the Common Sense Atheism blog.

            So even if you include the vridar post (far down the list on my search of the same words), your assertion that “All of the top results on Google” mock Dr. McGrath is, again, demonstrably false.

          • arcseconds

            Might this not be because Google is giving you both different results because of your search history?

            I’ve just tried DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t preserve history, but it also isn’t so good at providing relevant information:


            The first one is about James ‘The Beast’ McGrath who is some kind of ninja warrior. Watch out, people who disagree with McGrath!

          • Tige Gibson

            The DuckDuckGo results aren’t much different from Google’s. Since my point is to find a good reason for taking McGrath seriously, it doesn’t make the case either.

            Almost anyone I can think of has a wikipedia page, but McGrath does not. Lots of people named James McGrath but not this guy.

          • arcseconds

            Do you have a Wikipedia page? If not, why should we take you seriously?

          • Tige Gibson

            I am not claiming to be an expert, McGrath is, and all of the experts I do follow have Wikipedia pages. Hence, McGrath is not really an expert and should not be assumed as such.

          • arcseconds

            Why would you think Wikipedia would have an entry on every expert?

            Wikipedia is supposed to record notable people (who aren’t necessarily experts, obviously), not experts. The most that can be concluded from the absence of someone is that they’re not notable, not that they’re not experts.

            Are you really confused on this point, or are you just making up random crap to vex McGrath?

            On Wikipedia, notability is a test used by editors to decide whether a given topic warrants its own article. For people, the person who is the topic of a biographical article should be “worthy of notice”[1] or “note”[2] – that is, “remarkable”[2] or “significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded”[1] within Wikipedia as a written account of that person’s life. “Notable” in the sense of being “famous” or “popular” – although not irrelevant – is secondary.


          • Tige Gibson

            I’m stating quite clearly that McGrath is NOT notable, has said and done nothing that should interest anyone, and that is why there is no Wikipedia entry for him to tell us about his “expertise” which he subtly implies here, whereas the people HE maligns are notable, credible experts. This specific post we are commenting to is doubly hypocritical precisely because McGrath makes it his business to malign real experts while propping up people who have self-interested reasons for preserving the status quo.

          • Ah, yes, and we should take seriously the guy who thinks Wikipedia is a valid academic resource.

          • Tige Gibson

            I’m not looking for academic source, I’m trying to find out why anyone should care what McGrath says.

          • Sure, Tige because all experts have Wikipedia pages …

            Where do you get such laughable nonsense?

          • Tige Gibson

            I’ve received a couple of dozen of these continuing self-deluded posts from followers of James McGrath’s personality cult, but every single one of you has thus far completely missed my very simple, obvious point in your efforts to defend your own delusion to yourselves.

            I wasn’t brought here by anything useful which James McGrath contributed any of his self-proclaimed expertise. I was brought here by James McGrath’s egotistical hypocrisy.

            If there were ANY other source to confirm his contributions, any of you cult followers could have suggested anything useful which James McGrath has ever contributed, but none of you could. That tells me more than I need to know and validates my original statement completely.

            Ironically, it was you, the believer in McGrath who proved to me that he is worthless.

          • Bless your heart, Tige, this is a blog, not a “personality cult”; one that you are blasting with a lot of self-aggrandizing nonsense for someone who claims to find Dr. McGrath uninteresting.

            We’ve posted a long list of Dr. McGrath’s peer-reviewed publications in multiple journals, and I think it’s safe to say that you have read exactly none of them, despite your silly lie that we could not suggest “Any other source to confirm his contributions”.

            Since it’s clear that academic editors in his own field take him seriously, don’t expect us to take you seriously.

          • arcseconds

            No, you have been saying quite clearly that you think he’s not an expert. You didn’t mention notability until I did.

            Being an expert and being notable are not the same thing. Princess Diana is very notable but not an expert; the heart specialist at your local hospital is an expert (you’d better hope they are!) but probably not notable.

            This is a strange thing to be confused about. I really hope you’re not really thinking about what you’re writing and are just saying the first thing that comes into your head that you think might bring McGrath into disrepute (i.e. thoughtless trolling) and you’re not actually going through life not understanding the difference between notability and expertise, and mistakenly assuming every medical specialist has a Wikipedia page.

            If that’s the case, could you start thinking about what you’re writing, please ? It would make the conversation much easier and far less frustrating.

          • Bless your heart, for a guy who doesn’t take McGrath seriously, you certainly spend a lot of time on his blog!

          • Tige Gibson

            Did you just say “Bless your heart”?

            It’s very tedious at work today because of physical inventory. Nothing I’ve seen today suggests I should ever be back.

          • Yes, I did just say “Bless your heart”.

            I would agree that nothing you’ve said today warrants much further consideration.

          • Tige Gibson

            The top result, the one quoting McGrath is not exactly favorable if you understand it. McGrath knows this, that’s why he claimed that I didn’t believe historical methods could prove Jesus rose from the dead. If you read into the comments you can understand the point being made, that essentially McGrath is agnostic to history, at least when it comes to extraordinary claims, but either way it’s not a professional attitude of a historian. It’s negligence or refusal to do his job on the matter.

            The second is from the same blog, where it is only a quote of a whole review of another person’s work not McGrath, but it’s taken apart by the commenters anyway. How ironic it is that you can deny we can know something happened but unpack out of nothing all kinds of commentary about how exactly it happened.

            Right now the third result is not just this blog but this specific post.

            Then the link to Vridar which questions McGrath’s ethics.

            Then John Loftus’s book on Google Books which is just the same quote as the first link, that McGrath is agnostic to history when it comes to miracles.

            Then I see two broken links, so they tell me nothing.

            Then I see some guy named Paul James McGrath who is a historian on the city of Toronto.

            Then I see something about Jailhouse Journalism, by James McGrath Morris on the history of prison journalism.

            Then, another Google Books: Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? by Maurice Casey defending “McDaft” here (tell me when this starts to sound mocking).

          • Oh my. Clearly you’ve missed the fact that Google personalizes it’s searches. Your top searches simply show the kinds of websites you tend to “like”.

          • Tige Gibson

            Sorry, no, I tried DuckDuckGo and Bing which I don’t use and therefore have no knowledge of my personal browsing history. DuckDuckGo produced very similar results to Google. Bing on the other hand had much more difficulty keeping results to this James McGrath, since lots of people have that name, McGrath really isn’t notable out of people who share his name.

            Anyway you’re asserting that Google would deliberately prevent me from seeing relevant articles. The truth is they don’t actually exist.

          • This is hilarious!

            Riiight, “all” Google sites mock people you don’t like. And since you say that James McGrath articles “don’t actually exist”, we should just believe you:


            Oh, Tige, you offer nothing but fodder for laughter.

          • Sorry, no, false again, I get the same sites for DuckDuckGo and Bing that I get for Google. McGrath’s academic presence and long publication listing.

            You must think people never check whatever silly assertions you try to make.

          • myklc

            Google sorts results by Ads and then the user’s demonstrated past preferences. So if someone has a habit of searching for “Some Guy” + rubbish, it will bias all future searches so that similar articles float to the top. While intended as a convenience, it results in skewed perceptions.

          • Tige Gibson

            I didn’t search for rubbish, I searched for historian since that’s what McGrath presumes to be.

            And as I told Beau, I also tried DuckDuckGo and Bing, neither of which have any browsing history for me.

            The bottom line is that McGrath hasn’t done anything notable or interesting, but he does often say things that are not appropriate for a historian and props up historians with self-interest in defending the status quo.

          • Sorry Tige, I just used DuckDuckGo and Bing and easily found Dr. McGrath’s blog, academic website at Butler, and publications. Certainly nothing to corrobate your silly claim that “all” the listings “mock” him.

            Nobody’s buying it.

          • myklc

            Hi Beau! I just found Tige on LinkedIn. Guess what his profile says about his qualifications? He’s an Electronics Engineer. No notes about any studies in the humanities at all.
            His twitter feed shows that he’s a fan of false attribution, like his 8.33am 4 Jan 2017 post: “James McGrath: “How am I a troll? I only post offensive statements then refuse to back them up with evidence.””

          • That is an ugly and false little tweet. I don’t fault Gibson for being an Electronics Engineer. I work in database systems myself. I fault him simply for not telling the truth.

          • myklc

            Indeed. I wasn’t suggesting anything about his powers of reason! I’ve worked as IT Support for the last 30 years and my highest qualification is in Theatre Performance!
            It was more an indication of how Google and online ‘evidence’ can mislead.

          • myklc

            You’re doing a remarkable amount of whinging. Who stung you?
            James has who and what he is splashed all over here and you can drill down those links to your heart’s content. This is just trolling of the worst kind.
            You obviously have a very particular view, perhaps that has somehow incapacitated your ability to read:
            (from the top of this page, the ‘About’ link!)

            Dr. James F. McGrath is Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

            He blogs about religion, the Bible, science fiction, evolution, and lots of other topics.

            You can visit his Amazon and Selected Works pages to learn more about his publications, and you can follow him on Twitter, YouTube, and elsewhere.

          • myklc

            “he does often say things that are not appropriate for a historian”
            Somebody made you God of historical appropriateness?
            What insanity compels you to believe that either a wikipedia page (which anyone with access to the internet can create and edit) Or the hits from any modern search engine, all of which bias their responses to you based on marketing data collected from many sources (Bing gets a lot of it just from being part of the MS empire and all of the mighty data mining that it performs)?

          • myklc
    • Nick G

      Ignore him by commenting on his blog?

      • Tige Gibson

        Someone posted about this post on his blog, if that had not happened then less attention would have come here.

        • So someone else was trolling there…which led you to troll here?

          • Tige Gibson

            I’m not trolling. What is trolling to you?

        • Nick G

          So why didn’t you advise ignoring Prof. McGrath on that blog, rather than here? Incidentally, as an atheist who frequents a number of atheist blogs, I’ve never seen him trolling on any of them.

          • Tige Gibson

            I did, but that does not preclude me from preventing other people from doing what the other blog did.

            Trolling doesn’t necessarily mean that he goes to some other blog, it means he posts things on his blog which incites people to respond on their own blogs, thus giving him attention he doesn’t deserve.

          • Why does the pseudoscholarship on history that Coyne linked to deserve attention, but mainstream historical scholarship not deserve attention? Can you justify this stance you have adopted?

          • Tige Gibson

            Jerry Coyne isn’t a historian.

          • That is precisely the point – he isn’t a historian, and yet even though he fights crank pseudoscholarship in his own field of biology (as I also do, even though it is not my field), yet he promotes crank pseudoscholarship about history.

          • Tige Gibson

            This is a non-sequitur. You’re making me work for it which means I am going to come to the correct conclusion. You are just obsessed with (misrepresenting) Jerry Coyne. Sooner or later anyone is going to get tired of it and ignore you. That must really eat you up.

          • LOL

          • Tige Gibson

            This is the reason people don’t like you. You make a simple statement, such as in this case, the supposed pseudo-historical scholarship of Jerry Coyne, and I’ve asked you a dozen times and you don’t back it up. That’s it. That’s why you aren’t respected. That’s why no one should read your blog.

            A couple of your deluded acolytes tried to guess for you, but only one of them admitted they couldn’t. Can you do that either?

          • I’m sorry to hear that your memory, which I should have realized was spotty since you went back and forth between wondering why you should know who I was to recalling prior interactions, means that you do not recall the issues that I have discussed about Jerry Coyne promoting pseudoscholarship about history. And I’m sorry to learn that your Googling skills are really as bad as everyone here has tried to show you that they are. And so there’s always this as a last resort:

          • Tige Gibson

            There’s nothing wrong with my memory. This is the time I interacted with you:


            This is what gets my attention:

            >I have changed my mind about religious matters in dramatic ways over the course of my life, while on the other hand I have said explicitly that I have chosen to remain within the broad Christian tradition precisely because of my upbringing

            This was back in July of this year where you were making a fool of yourself by trying in vain to undermine the single greatest change in historical methodology in, well, history. The reason why you did that is written on your sleeve.

            You yourself walk around it, which I take it to be for the obvious reason since I used to be Christian and still know many whose careers depend on their faith, but you can’t expect other people to ignore your motive. We don’t necessarily talk about it, but we know it and understand it and we assume you know that we know.

            Your position and future are deeply intertwined in this. You’re afraid this “industry” will just disappear if it were proven false. I’m proof that your motive isn’t (totally) true, but it is true there are way too many people pretending to study this stuff and I don’t think you are one of the people doing serious study because of your pseudo-ideological commitment to something you know is false. The people who will be successful in this industry in the long term have to be honest. You are not and you know it. I don’t personally need any confession from you, you already gave it in the quote above. You inability to face this personal truth undermines your future, not mythicism.

            I have been informed of your foolishness on a number of other blogs many times over the years, but I have never heard any good reason to pay any specific attention to you. In fact, that is the reason I came here, that alone, your hypocrisy in criticizing others but not correcting yourself. If you had pointed me to something impressive I might have changed my mind. Honestly. You didn’t, you went on an aside about Jerry Coyne which you knew was irrelevant, you were trying to distract me instead of showing me your own worth. This forces me to conclude that your whole value is just window dressing for the fact you can’t admit Christian theology as an academic field is fatally wounded.

            I don’t believe you are oblivious to your own motives. That would put fundamentalists to shame, though I have heard people say that about you, I really think it’s unlikely. Your own followers however DO believe this about you, and you allow it, not that you are a fundie but they don’t know your motive the way I do and think you are sincere in your faith. The consequences of this foolishness have played out right here in this post on your blog as your followers desperately tried to defend you while you went off on a tangent. This whole blog is so pathetic since no one here is even capable of serious discussion of anything, not even the weird “not-a-Christians” you’ve collected.

            Googling Jerry Coyne doesn’t address the issue which brought me here. Obviously you had Coyne in mind when you made this post but everyone who is not one of your cult followers had no way of knowing that. You made this post oblivious to your own hypocrisy, far worse I might add because, as I have repeatedly informed you, neither Coyne nor anyone else recognizes him as a historian.

            You’re problem isn’t in fact his historical statements, it’s his followers and their trending acceptance of something that you are afraid threatens your little industry. The industry itself isn’t threatened at all, only the theological insinuation of it. Historical study can survive the death of the culture being studied. Most of history is exactly that. Christianity is the anomaly and it’s a sick one, contaminated with self-interest.

            Over the next few years Christianity is going to decline even more sharply due to political abuses carried out in the name of Christ in the years to come by far right political leaders. Very few people cared about the historicity before but more people will be looking for ways to fight the far right through validated historical ideas which undermine Christianity.

            If you’re deluded by your followers you might not be aware of the big picture at all. The fundies will completely destroy everything you are defending. They will burn every bridge, use up every ounce of good faith, and drive out everyone who isn’t the most conservative. Whatever worth you see in this endeavour will be burned in their retreat.

          • This is really quite amusing. You clearly have no idea that a professor of religion in a context like mine could, if the research supported it, teach and publish that there was no historical Jesus, and could simply not teach and research those topics at all. I am under no professional obligation whatsoever to make this a focus of my research, and indeed it has never been my primary focus, as you would know if you cared to actually engage in meaningful conversation with me as a real person about whom you found things out either by looking into them or simply asking. Instead, you seem to prefer to have a conversation with a figment of your own imagination.

          • arcseconds

            This was back in July of this year where you were making a fool of yourself by trying in vain to undermine the single greatest change in historical methodology in, well, history.

            Are you referring to Carrier’s Bayesian methodology?

            What makes you think this is the single greatest change in historical methodology?

          • Mark

            Amazing. Carrier’s book on it, Proving History, has racked up 18 citations in the last 5 years, many from R Lataster, one on ‘astral projection’, some by Carrier. The Jesus-historicity book is maybe too new, the great change in methodology will take a little while to sink in.

          • arcseconds

            I did actually have a look myself (the UFO abduction one is also an… interesting place to see one’s work cited, although here google seems to have mistakenly picked up the wrong post, it’s actually referenced in the one titled ‘Sociologie des parasciences : la preuve par l’absurde ? Lecture critique de la thèse de Pierre Lagrange’) there is one citation that appears in a serious journal might be moving in such a direction, namely ‘Bayesian representation of a prolonged archaeological debate’ by Wallach, which I think I shall read once I get a moment.

            I note that Wallach cites Merrilee Salmon (wife of the famous philosopher of science Welsey Salmon) as endorsing a Bayesian approach in archaeology back in 1982, so Carrier doesn’t have the priority here. But maybe Salmon was decades ahead of her time, and Carrier will be the first stone in the avalanche?

          • arcseconds

            What, exactly, is your point? You are making approximately zero sense. McGrath is making you work for what? and why do you think that will result in you coming to the correct conclusion? Conclusion about what?

            And do you not see the contradiction in advising people to ignore McGrath and saying they will eventually ignore him, and seeming pleased that is the case, yet responding to him repeatedly on his own blog?

          • Tige Gibson

            McGrath is making we try to figure out why he insists on discussing Jerry Coyne’s name without any context because he won’t explain why he brought up Jerry Coyne’s name or what it has to do with the current topic. If anyone doesn’t make sense here it’s James McGrath and his weird obsession with Jerry Coyne.

            So I’m saying Jerry Coyne would, and in fact does, ignore James McGrath because for the life of me I have no idea what McGrath is on about. There are only handful of references to James McGrath on Coyne’s blog and most of them are McGrath’s own comments or other comments critical of McGrath, nothing directly written by Coyne about him.

          • arcseconds

            He bought up Coyne because he’s someone whose existence you are aware of primarily because of his blog, like McGrath.

            He’s also an example of the sort of thing that McGrath is referring to in this blog post: someone who thinks that his amateur opinion about the history of early Christianity is equal or superior to the experts.

            It also sounds like you have had previous interactions about Coyne with McGrath, or at least he thinks you have.

            I’m not sure why you’d think it’s necessary for Coyne to have written about for McGrath to be interested in him. Surely it’s perfectly normal to discuss people who have never written about you, and I’m not sure how anyone would get on in life otherwise.

          • Tige Gibson

            I know who Jerry Coyne is, but I don’t recognize Coyne as a historian and have no knowledge of anyone ever taking his word on historical matters, and McGrath here doesn’t point me to any or make the connection so it’s just a no-context claim pulled out of thin air. I am supposed to figure out what he’s referring to, but the only thing that jumps out is a post that wasn’t even written by Jerry Coyne, it was written by Ben Goren a few years ago.


            Or maybe this one? It’s even older, but mostly quoting Eric MacDonald whose blog has been scrubbed from the web.


          • Nick G


    • Mark

      This is disinformation and a real, genuine injustice. I can attest that McGrath doesn’t have anything against atheists and unbelievers, nothing at all, zero. The posts that offend people out in the internets either 1) attack ‘mythicist’ theories of the origin of christianity or 2) attack the stupid arguments of anti-evolutionist christians.

      You may like Coyne but the fact is that is lately sympathizing with mythicism. This is /every bit/ as degrading and irrationalist as birtherism, 9/11 truthism, climate change denial, holocaust denial and the whole rest of the lot. Coyne doesn’t affirm mythicism but professes suspended judgment, but this is in fact characteristic of all of these irrationalisms, which always tend toward fascism. Thus birtherism didn’t affirm that Obama was born in Kenya, it ‘just wanted proof’.

      • Tige Gibson

        I never brought up Coyne, McGrath did. I don’t even know what the relevance of Coyne is to this topic. So, you, if you are not a sock puppet of McGrath, are trying to tell me the reason McGrath brought up Coyne, since he himself doesn’t say so I have no idea how you would know, is because he thinks Coyne is a mythicist? But it still doesn’t explain why it’s relevant.

        I’m going to tell you flat out that you know literally nothing about mythicism and leave it at that. It’s impossible to discuss something with that kind of attitude.

        • Mark

          Sorry I misunderstood that bit, so scratch the second paragraph. Mentioning Coyne was in fact irrelevant to my main point which is that you have unjustly and wrongly maligned McGrath.

          Mythicism and the going mythicist arguments have been discussed on this blog countless times and for many years now. The suggestion that readers of the blog ‘know nothing about mythicism’ is absurd. It is one of the few places where rational secular discussion of the matter is carried on.

          The suspicion of sock puppetry on the part of McGrath intensifies your injustice considerably. If you care to engage in the tedious investigation you will notice I have posted countless (unbelieving) comments on this blog, and looking at the content of only a few would make the hypothesis impossible.

          Where are you getting these false and sinister ideas about McGrath?

          • Tige Gibson

            McGrath is a very nice guy, frustratingly nice, because he avoids correcting his mistakes and insists beyond reason that knowable things are not knowable and impossible things are possible, but plays nice anyway. An actually nice person to deal with would not be like that. The reason I thought of a sock puppet, in addition to claiming to know what McGrath hasn’t said, is because I know that McGrath would never use his account to insult or attack, he’s too nice.

            It’s not so much that I have any contempt for McGrath, but he’s clearly set you up badly with a foundation of not only error but bad attitude about it.

            I suggest you know nothing simply because you equate a simple and perfectly reasonable position with outrageously unreasonable positions. If you know anything, you have already prevented me from knowing what you know by your stifling attitude.

            Like McGrath, you don’t seem to realize that you have to bring something to the table.

          • arcseconds

            because he avoids correcting his mistakes and insists beyond reason that knowable things are not knowable and impossible things are possible,

            Could we have some examples of the mistakes, knowable things, and impossible things please, so we can understand what on Earth you are on about? Thanks.

          • Mark

            If you want to bring something to the table you could start by learning Koine and Aramaic, which in the present context are the ABCs of expertise.

            By the way your theory that McGrath is a malign troll is now founded on the evidence that he is always very nice when speaking in his own name.

  • Brandon Roberts

    everyone thinks they can do better