Mythicism as Pseudoscholarship on Wikipedia

Mythicism as Pseudoscholarship on Wikipedia December 15, 2014

David Fitzgerald posted this on Facebook:

Mythicism as pseudoscholarship on Wikipedia

If a “war is brewing,” are you involved in Wikipedia enough, or invested enough in the subject, to get involved?

It was interesting to see the comments on Fitzgerald’s post. Some mythicists suggested that Richard Carrier having a peer-reviewed book published somehow proves that mythicism does not deserve this label. One can certainly make that case – if one is willing to grant that Intelligent Design, with its qualified supporters in the form of Michael Behe and others like him, is not pseudoscience. I wonder how many mythicists are willing to do that? If they are, I will admire their consistency.

I also appreciated this response to a mythicist’s comment in the Talk: Christ myth theory section on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia does not give equal validity to positions that receive less academic support, which is determined by due weight from sources, rather than choosing one source and rejecting others. In other words, the conclusions of the majority trump the claims of the minority. This is parallel to our article on Evolution: the majority in the field hold a particular position which we repeat, while we shuffle off the “alternative” to an article that’s mostly criticism. To date, Carrier’s work is the only peer-reviewed Mythicist work from an academic publisher, while there are plenty that (regardless of whether individual editors disagree or want to argue against it) take a Historicist position.


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  • Neil Carter

    In all fairness, the most substantive criticism I received for comparing mythicism to climate change denial was that biblical criticism isn’t quite the hard science that climatology is. The same could be said for biology. It could be argued that biblical criticism has for quite some time been based on certain rarely questioned assumptions, least of all that the historical Jesus at least existed. Far less scholarship before now has sincerely questioned the existence of the man, which means that the bulk of the scholarship which established the scholarly consensus has been predicated upon the very assumptions these folks are questioning. That should be at least taken into consideration when we make these comparisons. The analogy does break down at some point because of the relative “softness” of biblical historiography vs. harder sciences.

    • There is certainly a difference between history and the hard sciences. But on the other hand, it is a common point, the claim that scholarship has failed to examine what is in fact the conclusion from all the relevant evidence. Evolution-deniers claim that evolution is an assumption rather than a result of work in biology. Mythicists claim that, despite historicity being deduced from each various detail of evidence that is skeptically examined and stands the test, it is an assumption rather than a result of historical investigation.

  • Ian

    Where is the edit war supposed to be? I don’t see it on the page you linked to.

    • I don’t see it on the Wikipedia page for “Christ Myth Theory” either. I shared what Fitzgerald said, but at present have no further information. Sorry.

      • Ian. W

        James, it could be a myth.

  • Kris Rhodes

    Does Michael Behe have work advocating for intelligent design (or irreducible complexity or whatever) that is published in peer reviewed venues which mainstream biologists read and cite regularly?

    • Take a look at Google Scholar’s results (including citation data) for Michael Behe and Richard Carrier.

      • Kris Rhodes

        With respect, your reply seems to sidestep the question, or possibly miss the question’s point (in other words, either the point missed the question or the question missed the point! 😀 ).

        On performing that search, I’m not seeing any evidence that Michael Behe has had work advocating for intelligent design (or irreducible complexity or whatever) published in peer reviewed venues which mainstream biologists read and cite regularly.

        However it’s a very long list of search results so it’s very possible I missed something relevant. I was assuming you had knowledge of relevant publications, given the comparison you made in the blog post, and was hoping you could point me to something specific!

        • Perhaps I am missing your point. Do any mythicists have – to rework what you wrote – work advocating for a non-historical Jesus that is published in peer reviewed venues which mainstream historians and Biblical scholars read and cite regularly? Is your point that, just as scientists criticizing Behe add to his citation numbers and thus seem to boost his credibility, the same could happen when historians and other scholars critique mythicist arguments?

        • GodisLove

          Michael Behe is one example. There have been other examples of proponents of ID who have had their work-published in some mainstream academic peer-reviewed Journals/articles(Extremely few). However, the point that McGrath was making(as with any other academic/scholar) is that just because a scholar was able to get his book published by a mainstream academic University press, doesn’t, therefore, entail that his case for mythicism is more credible than historicsm or credible in general. If we take this view by mythicists, then we have to assume that all fringe views that end up getting published in any academic journal are somehow credible. But of course that is blatantly false.

          What we have to look for is the research that outweighs an opposing theory – and certainly academic books, journals, and papers have outweighed any mythicist publication in centuries. Carrier’s book makes up the 1% or less of academics who think that Jesus was a myth, which is why his work is not accepted by mainstream scholars and historians.