Mythicism, History and Rhetoric

Mythicism, History and Rhetoric October 13, 2010

Neil Godfrey is right, when he suggests that I have allowed myself to stoop to engaging in heated rhetoric. There is a fine line between satire and ridicule, and I have no doubt that I have crossed it, and for this I apologize. As for whether he and his regular commenters will see that they too have engaged in “public ridicule and scorn” remains to be seen. But it is irrelevant to the fact that I want my approach to be different.

Of course, he is exaggerating when he writes

These public intellectuals also incite public disrespect, even saying that certain people don’t deserve to be listened to because of their different views about an intellectual topic of which they regard themselves the public guardians. This is not how evolutionary scientists defend science against creationists.

I know many evolutionary biologists who think that creationists’ ideas don’t deserve any attention at all, and pay attention to them only because they are misleading people. I don’t know any scientists worthy of the name who, even if they try to address creationists as people with respect, encourage respect for their ideas, since those ideas are touted as being scientific when they are not, and many scientists would say that taking the media’s approach of trying to be “fair and balanced” by always presenting an opposing viewpoint can itself be misleading, since it suggests to an unwary public that the two positions are equal in terms of things like evidence, scholarly consensus, and so on. The same can be said about mythicism in relation to history.

Neil also offers to explain to me what a colleague meant when he said “history is an art.” Interestingly, it sounds a lot like the way I myself have described historical study in the past. Once one has identified authentic material using the tools and criteria of historical study, there are still countless ways that one could turn those nuggets of information into a narrative, a historical reconstruction.

At any rate, I hope to keep the focus in the future (inasmuch as time allows me to spend time discussing fringe views that thus far have not proven themselves capable of passing peer review) on matters of evidence, lest this simply seem to be a mere disagreement, with mythicists being perceived as persecuted freethinkers rather than people with unpersuasive arguments.
HT Science and the Sacred

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