Thursday, January 26, 2017

Captain Cassidy calls me a Sign of the Times.

Image result for wrong-way corriganA psychologist calling herself Captain Cassidy attacked me in her blog a year or so ago.  A hundred and a quarter comments followed, so apparently Captain Cassidy, while not as popular as Captain Kangaroo, neither is entirely unknown.  But she is new to me: after my recent debate with Richard Carrier on Unbelievable, someone linked to her critique.  

This seems the trend.  More and more, some atheist I've never heard of, and hundreds of his or her fans, are found playing pinata with some rough-hewn caricature of myself, made entirely of straw, and I hear about it a year or two later.  Or earlier if I have heard of the person (Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Hector Avalos, our dear friend Richard Carrier). I'm going to have to start making my own pinatas, and selling them in the drug stores.  

As usual, what a person with a sense of irony learns from these "attacks" is how often those who praise the "scientific method" the loudest in theory, turn out to rely for their information on distant rumors, wild conjectures, and woolly stereotypes in practice.  And therefore, get everything not just mistaken, but Wrong-Way-Corrigan (who flew to Ireland "accidentally" after filing a flight plan for Long Beach, California and getting "lost in the fog") wrong.

And also as usual, while we find the comedy amusing, we attempt to squeeze lemonade when the angels kindly grant us a plethora of lemons.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Thank you, Richard Carrier, but I don't think I'll die in a fire today.

I know two men named Richard Carrier.

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Richard Carrier responding to
One obtained his PhD in the History of Greco-Roman Science, or some such topic, from one of the leading universities in the world, a beautiful oasis in the heart of Upper Manhattan called Columbia University.  That Richard Carrier is capable of gushing historiographical aphorisms, most of them sensible, for half an hour at a time without coming up for air.  He is well-read, recognizes the value and some of the characteristics of social scholarship, and is capable of producing original arguments (if not always of evaluating them well).

The other seems to be a raving lunatic.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Marshall vs. Carrier II: Fact-Check

Richard Carrier and I just shared a contentious debate on the Unbelievable radio program over the historical credibility of the gospels.  Pots and pans flew!  Fur hit the fan!  This is normal with Richard's public discourse: he has a long record of calling people who disagree with him, whether Christian or skeptic, popular writer or eminent scholar, "liars," "delusional," "incompetent" and other such terms of endearment.  Indeed, in this debate, when Carrier said "I will stop short of calling him a liar on this," I laughed and respond, "Why not, Richard?  You have before!"  Indeed, in the past his fans have had to remind him that even if Marshall is wrong (as they assume I am), I might still be telling what I ignorantly perceive to be the truth.  

Which for students of the human condition, may be amusing, if you like a little drama served on the side with your search for truth.

Also amusing is Carrier's repeated criticism that not all of the 30 characteristics of the gospels which I claim support their historicity (and which he has consistently overlooked), are "used by historians in the peer-reviewed literature."  One is permitted to discover new things in history, Richard.  One is even permitted to write things you have never read before.  

But since both Richard and I called one another on errors of fact many times in this debate, let us check the claims which are in dispute, and see who is right about what.  Since I think people can be mistaken, even tendentious, without being "liars" or mad (unless you're claiming, say, to be the divine Son of God), I do not intend to employ either word when I find Carrier in error.  And when I am mistaken (it has happened!), I will submit to correction, and gladly set the record straight, as I provisionally did in one instance during the debate itself.

So let the Wizards of Spin take their marks!  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Good Riddance, Barack Obama (Reply to The Seattle Times)

The Seattle Times thinks Barack Obama made America better, was a complete, scandal-free class act, and is terribly sorry to see him go:


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"Thought we wouldn't recognize you in a beard, huh?"
"President Obama leaves office this week with a remarkable legacy already intact.  He exits with grace, eloquence and optimism, his administration unblemished by scandal.  The economy is humming for much of America.  The US standing in the world is vastly improved.  He bent the arc of history toward justice. . . . Obama had an unsurpassed capacity to encourage the better angels of our nature.  The contrast this week between his farewell and his successor's first news conference was bitter and stark. 

"The Seattle Times editorial board in 2008 was the first major newspaper to endorse Obama for the general election.   Despite being young, he had the intelligence, steady temperament and thoughtful policy ideas to lead.  He proved that, and more.  

"He will be sorely missed."

Not by me, he won't.  Nor by much of the rest of the world -- aside from the more astute of our enemies.

While I don't know how the new president will fare, I will be delighted to see Barrack Obama walk out of the White House, hopefully never to set foot in it again.  (Though may he live long and come to repent of the evil he has done his homeland, and the haughty arrogance and self-righteous preening with which he has done it, and which the gullible mistake for "grace.")

Good riddance to a president who has "accomplished" all of the following, without the editorial staff of The Seattle Times deigning to notice any of it (do their jobs, in other words) for the past eight years:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Epic Rap Battle: Jesus vs. Alexander the Great (And Matthew Ferguson)

Yesterday morning I received the following request from (I believe) a college student on the US East Coast named Nick:
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Hi David. You seem to have had a lot of interaction with Matthew Ferguson. I seem to find him more substantial than most internet atheists (at least better than some Patheos writers like Mehta and GiD), but it looks like you've identified some patterns that expose his lack of understanding. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind helping me, in an example like the one I've attached, what are some problems that you find? Thanks.
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True enough, Ferguson and I have had "a lot of interaction," unfortunately not always amicable!  But Nick is also right in describing Matthew's posts as generally "substantial."  Last I heard, Matthew was a doctoral candidate in the Classics, and he has read widely (if not always well, I have argued), in primary and in secondary literature.

I devote a chapter of my new book, Jesus is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels, to one of Ferguson's on-line arguments, an analogy he draws between an ancient work called the Contest of Hesiod and Homer, and the canonical gospels.  Despite the sparks that have flowed between us, I find the epic search for parallel gospels on which he journeys in that article, interesting and useful.  If you find your neighbor digging up your pumpkin patch looking for his car keys, at the very least that shows the keys have gone missing, or he wouldn't go to such trouble!  And the fact that skeptical scholars keep looking for Jesus doubles in books like Life of Apollonius of Tyana, the "Gospel" of Thomas, and Contest of Hesiod and Homer, also helps demonstrate that genuine analogies to the historical Jesus are rare as double-horned unicorns, or they wouldn't keep looking for "Jesus" in all such bizarre places.

But Ferguson's on-line articles do show reading and some originality, and critics can be useful for their helpful challenges as well as salutary errors.

So let's analyze the essay Nick cites, which compares the evidence for Alexander the Great to that for Jesus of Nazareth.  While the title makes it sound like a neutral exercise in historiography, in itself is worth considering, in fact Ferguson's goal here is (as usual) to debunk arguments for the Christian faith.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Sophia of Jesus Christ (not of Richard Carrier)

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Everyone has a mustache!  That proves they're all
the president of Iraq.  
One of the more fascinating sub-plots running through the "Search for the (a) Historical Jesus" epic has been the search for Jesus Stunt Doubles, for allegedly Messianic figures in the ancient world who act the part of Jesus at the most exciting moments of his story -- doing miracles, dying for the world, rising again.  The hope among skeptics is that if there is anyone like Jesus out there, we can dismiss the gospels as "just another X," just another radical, just another Jewish Messiah, just another Gnostic, Buddhist, zealot, Augustan hippie in an age of yuppies, myth, you name the file into which to place "Jesus of Nazareth."