Applying the Baloney-Detection Kit

Skeptic magazine recently shared the Baloney-Detection Kit infographic below. I would challenge P. Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne to apply it to the mythicist bunk that they so gullibly embrace and promulgate.


See also Paul Braterman’s recent article on the limits of logic, and Alison Head and John Wihbey’s article “The Importance of Truth Workers in an Era of Factual Recession.”

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  • jh

    Couldn’t this be used for the other side as well?

    Example –
    Question 1 – The main source is the bible. Are all the truth claims in the Bible actually true even to non-believers of any or no faith?

    • James F. McGrath

      No. Historians don’t deal with “the Bible” unless they are historians who study later periods when it existed as a collection. Historians interested in the life of Jesus or Paul, for instance, deal with individual sources, and deal with them using historical methods. The results of historical investigation are true to people of any faith or no faith, even though they may be rejected by some.

  • Ted Herrlich

    I have to ask, what mythicist bunk do P. Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne so gullibly embrace and promulgate?

    • James F. McGrath

      PZ shared a link to an article that has been circulating about what David Fitzgerald, a man with no expertise, has written. Jerry Coyne banned me from his blog for inquiring pointedly about his support of pseudoscholarship in history while simultaneously arguing against pseudoscholarship in science.

      • Ted Herrlich

        Thanks, I’ll check that out.

  • SnowLucario

    I don’t know what this is, but I’m a Jesus mythicist.

    • Pseudonym

      I believe you on both counts.

  • Brandon Roberts

    not bad advice

  • arcseconds

    Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty clear what they’ll say:

    1. duh, it’s the Bible. Totally unreliable.
    2. the people who wrote the Bible believe all sorts of incredible stuff, yes.
    3. the people who make the original claims are all Jesus-freaks, only two of them are even thought to have known Jesus according to tradition, and the actual authors probably weren’t these people. So no really, no.
    4. it doesn’t fit with the way the world works to suppose God was walking among us. it does fit with the way the world works to suppose the whole story was made up, as people make up all sorts of stuff.
    5. sure, lots of people have made a good case for Jesus to have been made up.
    6. what evidence? This the whole point, there really isn’t any, so we should no more believe that Jesus existed than that there’s a teapot orbiting Mars.
    7. I’m scientist, so obviously I am. Obviously illiterate peasants in the 1st century AD wouldn’t be doing this, and biblical scholarship is about as far from science as it’s possible to get and still hold down an academic position.
    8. The only so-called evidence is late testimony by people who don’t even claim to be directly acquainted with Jesus who are die-hard followers of the new religion and who believe all sorts of outlandish things, see above. no-one can provide any more evidence than that, failing an amazing future archaeological discovery.
    9. Outlandish tales being made up is a perfectly good theory which explains the facts. That they actually happened is not. That they’re based on a historical core requires evidence the core is historical, which we don’t have.
    10. hell yes. Obviously Jesus-freaks, either ancient or modern, totally have a reason for slanting the case in the direction of Jesus existing. The few atheists that support this notion either still retain fond feelings for the faith of their youth, can’t face disappointing their peers, or want to retain their academic positions.

    There’s some kind of resonance with the 3QD article here. You can’t just show someone’s wrong by pointing them to the rules they’re not following: chances are they think they’re already following them, or they don’t think they’re good rules to begin with.

    I don’t hold out much hope of convincing Myers or Coyne. They already think of themselves as critical thinkers par excellence, and I suspect they are at least implicitly buying into the notion that scientists are naturally at the top of the critical thinking pyramid. And at this point they stand to lose face if they admit they were wrong. As they don’t have to ever deal with ancient texts seriously, they are never going to be ‘brought up by the text’. So continuing to deny the existence of the historical Jesus is a winning game for them.

    I think they are most likely to be brought around by atheist scientists that they respect already.