Science Denial Mad Libs

Science Denial Mad Libs December 3, 2014

Science Denial Mad Libs

Also note how well this works:

The scholarly consensus regarding the historical Jesus leaves something to be desired. If Jesus is historical, then why are the details of his life absent from Paul’s letters? Besides, Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and others have challenged the views of scholars like Mark Goodacre and James Dunn, proving that the historicity of Jesus is far from a settled matter. Wake up! Big Tobacco did their own research, and so why should we trust anything from New Testament scholars. They just serve the interests of Christianity anyway. Look at all the scholars in the 19th century whose jobs were threatened when they tried to publish views that were at odds with Christian orthodoxy. Historical Jesus scholars are no different from religious zealots who just want to control everyone. The academy has been using the same tactics as the Nazis to stifle dissent and protect the status quo. Richard Carrier couldn’t get a job at a university because he questions the historicity of Jesus. Even James McGrath had his doubts. He said, “mythicism will persuade a majority.” Also, Arthur Drewes and Bill Maher. Open your eyes, people!

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  • Avenger

    I’m not sure why Paul’s silence is seen as an argument for mythicism. According to the mythicists, the Gospels are filled with fictional details of Jesus’ life. In that case, why didn’t Paul mention some of the fictional details that appear in the Gospels? Presumably, the answer is that such details as we find in the Gospels had not been invented when Paul was writing. But this isn’t a necessary part of the myth theory. There is no reason why mythical details about Jesus should not already have been invented. So the idea that the details had not been invented is simply one of many potential explanations for Paul’s silence.

    • I wouldn’t call Paul’s silence “an argument.” I would call it evidence and I would argue that one logical inference that might be drawn from this evidence is that Paul didn’t have any knowledge of a historical person who resembled the character that we have in the gospels. I agree that it is not the only potential explanation.

      • But since he keeps talking about Jesus, without providing essential details about either his terrestrial actions or his celestial escapades, clearly it is not evidence for one view or the other at all.

        • I think that appearing to 500 people at the same time might fairly be called an ,”escapade,” but it is true that Paul doesn’t really seem to know much of the risen Christ doing things of his own volition.

          • Ah, but the risen Christ material isn’t relevant to the historical Jesus question. The question is about what Jesus did prior to the crucifixion. Both the myth and the history need stories, and since Paul gives neither, pointing to his silence on that supports mythicism not in the slightest.

          • Paul E.

            I’m not a mythicist, but to to be fair to the argument, isn’t Vinny saying that Paul’s reports of the risen (i.e., celestial or “mythical”) Christ doing things like making appearances and communicating with people make Paul’s silence regarding the earthly Jesus more unexpected than it would be absent those “celestial escapades”? And if the silence regarding Jesus’ earthly existence is rendered more unexpected by Paul’s discussions of the risen Christ’s celestial existence, is it not an argument from silence strengthened?

            I think this is not a great argument for a number of reasons, but might it be going too far to say that the “risen Christ” material is irrelevant to the historical Jesus question?

          • I don’t think so, for two reasons. First, resurrection was something that Jews expected to happen to human beings. We have no evidence for anyone thinking that celestial beings would need to be resurrected – indeed, how could they return to bodies that they were not thought to have previously? Second, the statements of Paul about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection make no sense if one knows nothing else about this figure. And so there must be some sort of backstory, be it celestial or terrestrial. But it makes equally little sense without such backstory and so does nothing advantageous for mythicists, in my opinion.

          • Paul E.

            I completely agree, and that is why I think the “risen Christ” material, instead of being irrelevant, actually assists an argument for historicity. Nevertheless, I think I see where Vinny is coming from, and I don’t think he would view it as irrelevant either. I just think it cuts the opposite way from what he does.

          • My question is whether any more than a vision of the risen Christ is required to make sense of Paul’s statements. If I claim to have had a vision of St. Christopher, my statement makes sense regardless of whether he was really a historical person.

          • If you claim to have had a vision of St. Christopher and provide no details about who or what a “St. Christopher” is other than someone who appeared to you in a vision, then there would indeed be something puzzling, regardless of whether you or anyone else thought he was a historical figure, or even a human being.

          • If I made the statement to people who shared my understanding of who or what St. Christopher was, they wouldn’t be puzzled by that lack of detail. However, someone who was not party to the original understanding might be compelled to acknowledge that several different interpretations fit my statement.

          • Finally, you seem to have grasped my point!

          • Paul E.

            I think James is right. Didn’t you just basically argue against yourself here?

          • As I have always acknowledged the possibility that Paul thought of Jesus as a historical person, I don’t think that I am arguing against myself. I just don’t think that Paul’s belief gets me very far as he seems to have thought that Adam was a historical person, too.

            I don’t think it very likely that Paul thought of Jesus as a teacher whose disciples included Paul’s contemporaries in the movement as I would expect that understanding to be reflected more clearly in Paul’s letters.

            That Paul thought of Jesus as existing entirely on some celestial plane prior to the crucifixion strikes me as an intriguing possibility which may well be as probable as any single one of the different reconstructions of the historical Jesus that scholars have proposed.

          • Paul E.

            Ok, I think I see what you’re saying. While I can follow the logic of it, I simply don’t agree with your conclusions after assessment of the applicable, relevant evidence, and it seems to me that is where your argument gets more difficult, i.e. translation from a purely “logical” position in hypothetical terms to an application of the NT material to that “logic.” But, I’m no expert, only an interested layman, and I find your posts to be interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks! 🙂

          • Landon

            James: “We have no evidence for anyone thinking that celestial beings would need
            to be resurrected – indeed, how could they return to bodies that they
            were not thought to have previously?”

            It seems like you’re understanding Carrier’s theory to be asserting that celestial beings don’t have bodies. You’ve read the book, and I haven’t, so I won’t contest this point. But I just want to confirm that this is your understanding of his view.

            Secondly, you wrote: “Richard Carrier couldn’t get a job at a university because he questions the historicity of Jesus.”

            Now, I know this was just a toy example, but I thought it may be worth pointing out that, to my knowledge at least, Carrier has never said that the reason he couldn’t get a job at a university is because of his views about Jesus. For all I know, it may be really difficult for him to get a job in a Religious Studies department doing New Testament scholarship with those views. But if he were to get a job at a university, it would likely be in a history department, and I’m not sure whether his fringe views would cause any significant problems for him there.

            I’d like your honest assessment here. Do you think that an ordinary history department would think badly of Carrier qua historian knowing that he is the author of On the Historicity of Jesus? (If so, then I assume you think that his conclusion is not just wrong, but that the book as a whole is a sloppy historical investigation. Is that your general assessment?)

            I think the reasons that I’ve heard him give for his being unable to get a university position have more to do with (1) a bad job market, and (2) his desire to be in California. After some time I think he came around to the realization that he didn’t really want a job at a university anyway.

          • I don’t know the details of why Carrier does not work at a university – this was indeed just an attempt to offer a concrete example of how mythicism fits. In many instances, when creationists or other science deniers claim persecution and discrimination, the reasons they do not have academic jobs turn out to be something else, such as failure to secure grant money in the manner expected or to teach what their contracts required them to. And so even with the additional details you offer, the point stands, if not indeed being reinforced.

            My point about bodies was me commenting on what I think the evidence about ancient Jewish thought indicates, not me commenting on how Carrier views things.

      • Avenger

        Agreed. One possible inference is that Paul had no knowledge of a historical Jesus. But if, in order to make that inference, we have to speculate about a belief in a heavenly crucifixion, which is never actually stated, and explain away other evidence then the inference is probably not worth making.

        • It is noticeably similar to the way anti-science creationists say “There are gaps in the fossil evidence, your view is unsupported, therefore creation,” but don’t notice that there is even less in the fossil record to support their own dubious stance.

        • Another possibility is something along the lines of Joseph Smith and the Angel Moroni. Paul may have believed that the heavenly being who appeared to him in a vision had once been a man who walked the earth, but the existence of that person cannot be verified.

          • Avenger

            Life is full of anomalies, but there is rarely anything to be gained by building theories on them, especially theories whose details must be filled in with speculation.

  • davidreilly7

    I don’t get the big deal of Jesus historical existence. Someone named Jesus who had a small following and was crucified is an unremarkable historical event so the burden of proof is not great. On the other hand extraordinary claims like the miracles and resurrection require extraordinary evidence and that definitely is not there. I’m with Bart Ehrman on this one.

    • Paul E.

      I agree with you on Jesus’ historical existence, but too many people, on both “sides”, think they have too much at stake for this to be anything other than an incredibly emotional slap-fest.

    • Neko

      Obviously it’s a big deal for Christian theology. No existence of Jesus, no incarnation and “God is with us,” no salvation.

      Furthermore Christianity changed history. Also a big deal.

  • Sorry, James, but that’s too broad. It could too easily fit Semmelweis and Israel Finkelstein.

    • I don’t see it. How so? Finkelstein is well within the mainstream, although working in an area where the evidence is piecemeal and so there is a wider range of scholarly views on other topics.

      • The evidence supporting the conventional chronology of the Levant leaves something to be desired. If Solomon built gates at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, than why is no Philistine pottery found at Lachish VI? Besides, Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin question the assertions of William Dever and Amnon-Ben-Tor and pretty much every other Israeli archaeologist. Wake up! Big tobacco did their own research too, so why should we trust anything from the Israeli/American archaeological establishment? They just serve the tourist dollar, anyway.

        Ilan Sharon released a study proving Tel Dor’s strata date well over a century later than scholars thought, but it was suppressed by the Israeli/American archaeological establishment because of their ideological golden-age-of-Solomon bias. The Israeli-American archaeological establishment are simply religious zealots that want to control everyone. They’ve been using the same tactics as the Nazis to stifle dissent and to protect the status quo. Even Amihai Mazar has his doubts. Open your eyes, people!

        • One can insert any words into a Mad Lib that one wants. But not all of them will make sense. I don’t see that your attempt fits at all well.

      • And, again, as long as I’m capable of understanding the arguments, I care not whether a position is in the mainstream.