Don’t believe every Jesus conspiracy you read

Okay, I need to nip this in the bud. We’ve gotten a flood of email in the last 24 hours telling us we should check out this thing.

I’m inclined to conclude that it’s rubbish. Joseph Atwill has been peddling his Jesus conspiracy theories for years. He is not a historian, he doesn’t have any credibility on the subject. I’m not inclined to believe his “discovery” of a “confession” by Romans who invented Jesus, and even if it were verified to be real, I wouldn’t be inclined to assume they were telling truth either.

I’m not a historian myself so I don’t have the ability to thoroughly evaluate this information. But here’s a guy claiming to have a made a new discovery of significant academic importance, yet he won’t just release it to other scholars and the public. Instead, you must buy tickets to attend a lecture at which he will reveal his secret information in a week and a half. Scholarship does not work like that. You don’t reveal new information in a lecture and then let other scholars pore over it. You get it reviewed, verified, and debated first, and after it’s accepted by a significant number of credible reviewers, THEN you reveal it in a lecture. Jumping the gun like this is just pulling the equivalent of the cold fusion fiasco, and in this case it’s clearly a stunt to bring in some money.

Bother us about this stuff again after Atwill has finished his lecture and other mainstream historians have reviewed his work. Until then, don’t be gullible.

Added: Martin would also like you to read this review of Atwill’s work by Robert Price.

Update 2: Richard Carrier weighs in with much more detail; calls Atwill a crank.

Climate change “skeptics” in the creationist role

We received an email from a relatively new atheist who is still coming to grips with various science-related issues now that he’s shed his theism.  He wrote:

After de-converting I’ve started reassessing some long held political beliefs that were based on my old religious beliefs. I’ve found that when I look at things from a skeptical point-of-view it is much easier to come to a rational political position than if I just accept things on faith or along party lines. Unfortunately I might be looking at things a little too skeptically. Here’s my current dilemma:

I’ve been studying the merits of accepting the concept of global warming. I am not a scientist, so I have to base my decision on the information that is available to me, which is usually dumbed down for mass consumption. I have done quite a bit of research outside of news articles, but I couldn’t really get far without hitting the political side of things. Unfortunately, I see way too many logical loopholes in the presentation; especially the Al Gore/liberal democrat presentation, which to be honest, sounds like it’s based on religious indoctrination.

It’s taken me quite a while to compose a reply, but the response touched on quite a lot of useful concepts about scientific claims, peer review, how laymen learn about complex scientific issues, and the political tactics of creationists.  While this isn’t always directly related to atheism, it’s one of those issues that comes up from time to time from atheist viewers, and it’s worth a discussion.

The rest of his letter, as well as my response, is below.

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