Bart Ehrman Just Can’t Do Truth or Logic

Bart Ehrman was again asked what evidence there is that Jesus existed this February 18, 2016, at Fresno City College. See the video here (he begins his answer at timestamp 23:18). First he says this:

I don’t think there is any doubt that Jesus existed. There are a couple of scholars who’ve argued he didn’t exist. There are a lot of voices out there saying that he didn’t exist. But they’re not by scholars who are actually trained in any historical disciplines. There are voices on the internet. But there are voices on the internet for all sorts of things. Scholars who study this stuff really, there isn’t any, it’s not a question that’s debated among my colleagues. It is not debated. Because the evidence is so overwhelming.

This is not a very truthful statement. [Read more…]

New Book: Science Education in the Early Roman Empire

Cover of Richard Carrier's book Science Education in the Early Roman Empire, color scheme dark blues and greys, showing a 19th century print of the star field with labeled constellations featuring drawings of the mythical beings matching them, and an edge of a diagram of the planetary spheres.My new book is now available for pre-order! Science Education in the Early Roman Empire will hit the presses in October. But you can already order the print edition in advance on Amazon. Electronic editions will be available (probably before the end of the year). And an audio edition is contracted (I just don’t know yet when it will be completed).

The gorgeous cover art is thanks to Alex Gabriel.

This represents the first of two books that will be generated from my Columbia University dissertation in 2008. The official description says it all:

How much science were ancient Romans taught? What about math? What kind of math or science, and at which levels of education? How were scientists themselves educated? And what other avenues were there for the public, even the illiterate public, to learn scientific knowledge? How much science entered pop culture? Cities had public speeches and lectures, libraries, and teachers and professors in the sciences and the humanities, some even subsidized by the state. There even existed something equivalent to universities, and medical and engineering schools. What were they like? What did they teach? Who got to attend them? In the first treatment of this subject ever published, Dr. Richard Carrier answers all these questions and more, describing the entire education system of the early Roman Empire, with a unique emphasis on the quality and quantity of its science content. He also compares pagan attitudes toward their system of education with the very different attitudes of ancient Jews and Christians, finding stark contrasts between them that would set the stage for the coming dark ages.

My next book of this pair with be on The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire, and it will defer to this book on all questions regarding the education of scientists and the public dissemination of scientific knowledge. So the two will go together.

This one is relatively short, affordable, and interesting on many levels. It has relevance to combating Christian apologetics; to understanding ancient culture and civilization; to the history of science (as it compares medieval and modern periods on the same question); and the whole notion of education and what we think it’s for and whether and how we support it. I also discuss the roles of classism, sexism, and slavery in the equation. And more.

Learn the Science & Philosophy of Moral Reasoning: Take My May Course!

Come join my online course on moral reasoning! It starts next month. It lasks a month. Study and participate at your own pace and on your own time.

We don’t just cover the philosophy of morality and moral reasoning, and why be moral and how to get better at moral decision making. We also cover what the sciences have discovered about all this. Which is more than you might think!

You can register now. And spread the word. Let anyone know you think might be interested. Especially let your local or national clubs or organizations know (any nonprofit), because there is a discount you or they might be able tap (see end paragraph).

The only required course text you need to order is Personality, Identity, and Character (eds. Darcia Narvaez and Daniel Lapsley). To save money on that I highly recommend just renting it on kindle for the month (unless you want to buy the kindle edition or a used print copy). All other materials will be provided at no extra cost.


Why take this course?

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Historicity Apologists: Their Own Worst Enemy

Brian Bethune has published a good article on the historicity question for Macleans, a leading Canadian magazine. Titled Did Jesus Really Exist?, his article presents a pretty fair assessment of the debate (after summarizing recent developments in the field calling into question the reliability of memory). He doesn’t delve into the deeper levels (principally, what did Paul mean by “Brothers of the Lord” or being “made of a woman” or “of the sperm of David”?). But he summarizes where things stand. And like me ten years ago, he finds the historicity defenders have a surprisingly, indeed perplexingly weak case.

Around the same time, doctoral candidate in religious studies Raphael Lataster published a peer reviewed journal article summarizing the case in more detail. Titled It’s Official: We Can Now Doubt Jesus’s Historical Existence, and published in Think (by The Royal Institute of Philosophy), Vol. 15.43 (Summer 2016), pp. 65-79, it’s a good summary of his book Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists. None of his more speculative stuff is in there. Every point he makes is entirely correct.

In both cases, the truth of what they report significantly rests with the extremely poor responses of historicity defenders. Once again it’s starting to look like they have no good responses to make (this became evident even in my debate with Craig Evans in Georgia a few weeks ago, which I’ll blog about soon). Ehrman seems not to have given Bethune any good answers. And the only books the entire field has produced in defense of historicity really do phenomenally suck—and in all the ways Lataster documents.

The responses to these two articles so far are absurd. They even make the defense of historicity look embarrassing and ridiculous. Which shouldn’t be so easy to do. But alas, two authors definitely accomplish said marvel… [Read more…]

Announcing The Richard Carrier Exists Tour!

Photo of a Penske moving truck.I may be visiting your town soon! And I may need your help. I’ll explain in a moment. But here’s the basic idea…

Because Christians don’t understand how evidence works, they’ve literally argued that there is no more evidence for my existence than there is for the existence of Jesus their Christ. Never mind that that’s already wildly false. Here is your chance to see how evidence works, and confirm for yourself, as an eyewitness, that I do indeed exist! No silly hearsay for you anymore. Oh no. This is the real deal. (Jesus, meanwhile, promised he’d be back lickity split, and it’s been nearly 2,000 years, so…)

I am moving to Columbus, Ohio, for good and all this May (2016). And I’m taking a moving truck and towing my car all the way across country from my current and soon past home in Stockton, California, with the assist of some of my girlfriends as relief drivers on different legs of the trip (that’s really above and beyond…I’m extremely grateful!).

It’s a modern day whistle stop tour. I’ll be driving each day from one major city to the next, and giving a talk, or appearing in some public fashion selling and signing my books, and happily chatting and glad-handing and posing for photos for anyone who wants to verify my historicity.

I’m developing tour stops already for Reno, Nevada (Tuesday night, May 24), Omaha, Nebraska (Friday night, May 27), and Kansas City, Missouri (Saturday night, May 28). I’ll announce those details as soon as they are finalized and there is a public page somewhere promoting them.

But here is where I need your help.

I have made all possible efforts to contact organizations and arrange tour stops for Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; and Indianapolis, Indiana. And that hasn’t worked. There is a campus group near SLC that might pull something together for my stop Wednesday night May 25, but I haven’t gotten a confirmation, so I don’t know if that will happen. Indianapolis doesn’t want to compete with Memorial Day parties that Sunday May 29. And Denver just seems not to have been interested for Thursday night May 26.

So anyone who lives in or near those three places and wants to see me make an appearance on the respective date, I’d appreciate any help you can offer to make something happen. I’d love to show up and speak about something, hang out, sell some books…and confirm my historicity with you and all, with photos, or signing odd things, or whatever. Here are some ideas…

For Indianapolis, maybe the best plan would be if there is already a large enough gathering of interested atheists for a Memorial Day party (at least thirty or so!), I could just show up and join you all. As long as I can publicly announce the location, sell books at it, and there’s any alcohol other than beer, I’m golden. So anyone who has a bead on that, let me know! It needn’t be exactly in Indianapolis. Anywhere within an hour’s drive around that epicenter. All the better if you have a place my girlfriend and I can crash for the night (not a requirement, just a hope). And BTW, given what Memorial Day is all about, do recall, as it happens, I am a veteran! Of a war even (I very importantly guarded an estuary in San Diego against Saddam Hussein’s phantom submarine). True, I am not dead. Nor have any fallen comrades. But I’ll have my National Service Medal on hand. And Letters of Commendation. And marksmanship ribbons. They’ll just be in a little box, like a Korean Toe (only Kids in the Hall fans will get that one). I’ll still make a point of calling a solemn toast to those who’ve died for us in service. Because, seriously.

For Denver, I can make anything along the I-25 that’s en route to KC (e.g. Fort Collins, Boulder, Colorado Springs). Surely some group out there wants to be in on this historic(ity) event! If you want me to deliver a lecture, my only charge is $200 (negotiable). If it’s a party, and I don’t have to work, it’s free (see Indianapolis above for requirements). And I am also looking for anyone with a guest room for my girlfriend and I to stay that night.

For Salt Lake City, or anything within an hour’s drive of SLC, the same.

Anyone who has offers, ideas, anything helpful, email me. If we can pull something together, I’ll appreciate it!

NOTE: Subjects I speak on are listed at the bottom of my booking page here.

UPDATE: I now have my completed tour-stop list, with info on each talk or appearance now linked. It’s as follows: 

(I won’t be appearing in Indianapolis this trip. But I may in future.)

Thanks for everyone’s help!

Appearing at UCLA Next Week!

As I announced earlier, I’m speaking for CFI in two locations this Sunday in Southern California, on why a Jesus was invented at all. But the following Wednesday (April 20 at 5pm), I will be speaking on simply what evidence there is for a historical Jesus, at UCLA, for the Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists (BASS). Ironically named given my recent debate. But no relation. :-)

Details here.

We’ll be meeting in the Ackerman building, room 3516. Which is the Student Union, at 308 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA.

This will be a straightforward listing of the evidence that’s been offered (“The Historical Jesus: What Evidence Do We Have?”), and what the status of it is in the field and why, and what merit I think it has and why (I may also comment on some of the attempts at evidence made by Craig Evans in last night’s debate, which was…interesting). I will of course be selling and signing my books and doing a Q&A.

This supplements the Sunday talks well, so if you are intrigued by what you hear Sunday, you might want to make this talk, too. They won’t have very much overlap. But they address different angles of the same issue. Sunday will be about why they’d make Jesus up. Wednesday will be about what evidence there is that Jesus existed instead.

Brief Note on Euhemerization

This is just a brief note for those interested in my thoughts on Tim Widowfield’s article “What Is Euhemerism?” about what he thinks are confusions regarding the terminology of “Euhemerization.” For the context, see my article “Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did.”

Widowfield is confusing what Euhemerus did, with why he did it. This is a basic mistake of Aristotelian categorization. The efficient cause is the act itself that brings about the effect. The final cause is the reason why, the goal being sought, by doing that. Those are two different things.

Aaron Adair, the astronomer who wrote the best book ever on the Star of Bethlehem (seriously, I highly recommend it, for all who want the definitive take-down of that miracle claim), will be presenting an equally well-written paper at the upcoming national meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature on this point that documents what I’m saying extensively, but it will be awhile before that will be available to cite.

TL;DR, Euhemerization is doing what Euhemerus did: convert a non-historical deity into a deified historical man (in contrast to deification, which is when an actual historical man is converted into a deity). Why he did that is actually widely debated. We don’t actually have the text in question, only hostile reactions to it, which quote selectively from it or paraphrase it (how accurately we can’t tell). But whatever his reasons for doing it, his reasons for doing it are not what he did, but why. And as Adair shows (and as do I, though less directly, in OHJ, e.g. in my discussions of Romulus and Osiris), many people did the same thing (used the same process) to accomplish different things. Some wanted to rationalize cosmic myths. Some wanted to hide them from the uninitiated. Some wanted to polemicize against them. But what they all did in common, is the same one thing: convert a non-historical deity into a deified historical man. A trend begun by Euhemerus. And thus so called.

This is the problem with trying, as Widowfield does, to create an analogy between Darwinism, which is by definition not teleological, with an actual goal-oriented human activity. The latter differentiates between the act itself and its purpose. And as such, the same act (smelting steel, say) can be turned to many more purposes than its originators intended or imagined (you can smelt steel to make swords, plowshares, or literal flying machines). What you create is different from how you use it. Euhemerus did not invent his idea, but he popularized it. How people thus inspired then used that idea varied, as each user had their own goals, which his idea could be turned to accomplishing.

And this is demonstrated in the historical record.

On the Gullibility of Bart Ehrman & the Asscrankery of Tim O’Neil

As someone recently clued me to, the indomitable asscrank Tim O’Neil had posted a comment on Ehrman’s blog back in 2013 lambasting my peer reviewed article on the James passage in Josephus, to which Ehrman responded “Terrific comments!! Many thanks.”

Hmm. In the comment Ehrman gullibly praised, O’Neil, who has no relevant qualifications but claims to know more than the peer reviewers for the prestigious Journal of Early Christian Studies, told Ehrman that my paper they published (which you can find reproduced, along with my peer reviewed papers on the Thallus and Tacitus passages, among other items, in Hitler Homer Bible Christ) was “riddled with problems,” yet never discusses any of my paper’s actual arguments, or any of my paper’s actual evidence, and instead spews his own lies and mistakes.

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Did the Apostles Die for a Lie?

Photo of a medieval wooden diptych with twelve frames, six on each side, showing in paintings the legendary martyrs deaths of all twelve Apostles (Paul substituted for Judas).Do we have good evidence that Paul or any of the original twelve Apostles died for their belief in the risen Jesus? Nope. Nevertheless, Justin Bass claimed so in a lecture you can view online (Evidence of the Apostles’ Martyrdom).

I may eventually write a commentary on the whole Carrier-Bass debate, now that it’s available for viewing online.

But first I want to post my observations of that previous lecture he gave that pertains to the subject. I viewed and annotated that in preparation for our debate, and had all my notes ready at the table. And yet, though Bass leaned on this claim in our debate (the famous “No One Would Die for a Lie” gambit), I didn’t need to get into much detail to refute his argument against the clock.

As I noted in the debate, he couldn’t establish that they died for anything more than a vision, and visions are ubiquitous across religions—even now, but then especially. He couldn’t even establish that they could have avoided their deaths by recanting. Or even that what they died for was their belief in the resurrection, rather than their moral vision for society, or (I could have added) some other belief they wouldn’t recant—such as their already-Jewish refusal to worship pagan gods, the only thing Pliny really ever killed Christians for (the resurrection was never even at issue); and that’s the only explicitly eyewitness account we have of any Christians being killed for anything in the whole first hundred years of the religion.

But there is a lot more to be said.

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