Tucker’s Review of Proving History in the Journal History & Theory

Cropped view of the cover of a recent issue of the journal History and Theory. Subtitled: Studies in the Philosophy of History.As I recently mentioned, a Harvard University philosopher, Aviezer Tucker, just published a review of my book Proving History for the academic journal History and Theory (Vol. 55, February 2016, pp. 129-140), titled, The Reverend Bayes vs. Jesus Christ. Tucker is an expert in the methods and philosophy of history, so his review carries some weight. It’s significant, therefore, that he endorses the program of my book—that historians need to start using Bayes’ Theorem, as effectively as they can, to resolve questions in their field—and that in fact even when he criticizes my book, he does so by suggesting improvements that are either already in that book (and he merely overlooked them) or in my subsequent application of its program in its sequel, On the Historicity of Jesus. This is almost the best assessment one could expect. It lacks merely noticing that much of what he suggests, I already did. What I provide below is an analysis of his review that helps understand his points, and relates them to what I’ve already written. [Read more…]

Why the Smart Money Is on the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Being a Forgery

Photo of the Gospel of Jesus's Wife papyrus fragment, a rectangle with seven or eight lines of sloppy writing in Coptic, courtesy of Harvard University.I was going to do a news roundup of several new developments in ancient manuscript studies, until one of them turned out to be a roller-coaster ride down a rabbit hole filled with all manner of twists and turns. The subject? The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. The other news I’ll post on separately. Because this one. Boy. It needs an article all unto itself.

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Speaking at Darwin on the Palouse (WA)

Banner for the Palouse event. White background. Various nature greens in the lettering and logo. Logo is like a Picaso sleek stylized merger of an abstract finch and the Palouse hills. Text says Darwin on the Palouse, the date, the tagline Celebrating Science and Reason, the location and time and that it's free, the two speakers names and talk titles, and the sponsors.This year the annual Darwin on the Palouse event will be on February 6 (2016). I’ll be a featured speaker. The event begins at 6:30pm and is being held in the junior ballroom at Washington State University. Free to all. Details here. The event is sponsored by the Palouse Coalition of Reason and the American Humanist Association. My talk will be:

Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans vs. Armchair Christians

Dr. Carrier will discuss the ancient debate between creationists and natural selectionists, how ancient “intelligent design” advocates were far more scientific than their counterparts today, and what this means for the actual origins of real science. In the process he will survey the achievements and methods of ancient science and how it laid the foundation for modern science, and then examine the rhetoric against it by early Christians and how it hasn’t changed in near 2,000 years.

I’ll be followed by Glenn Branch of the NCSE, speaking on “After Kitzmiller, What Is Next for Creationism?” Which I’m also looking forward to! Description:

Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching intelligent design creationism in the public schools, was a pivotal event in the history of the creationism/evolution controversy in the United States. Branch will discuss why Kitzmiller was the effective end of the second phase of anti-evolution strategy and what the third phase is going to be like.

Come one come all! I’ll be selling and signing books. And hanging out after. I’ll also be in the area for the day. I don’t know what plans have been made, so I may be busy, but anyone interested in the possibility of hanging out, feel free to let me know, by email or Facebook message.

January Counter-Apologetics Course: Now Including Islam!

Logo for Partners for Secular Activism. The letters PSA in blue, in an art decco font, over a light grey watermark of a compass pointing near to north, all on a white backround.Next month I’ll be teaching my popular course Counter-Apologetics: The Best Ways to Refute Arguments for God. And this time I am including material on how to counteract Islamic apologetics. The required course text is still Murray’s comprehensive yet succinct Atheist’s Primer (which you should get as soon as possible in print or Google). Material on how to interact with Islamic apologists will be provided in-course for free, and is based on Dr. Carrier’s considerable experience debating Muslims (in podcasts, stage debates, and articles), and his contact with ex-Muslims, including some who became “ex” because of his work. He can provide key insights from that.

Most of the course will remain focused on generic arguments for and against the existence of God (and miracles and religious experiences generally), because they are equally effective, or equally necessary, against all forms of theism. And special attention will be given as always to popular Christian apologetic tactics and arguments, not only because they are increasingly being adopted and adapted by Muslims in defense of their own religion, but also because by far the largest barrier to material and moral progress, and human and civil rights, in the West, is still Christians and Christianity.

More details on the course structure and content:

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Christians Freaking Out Over Freedom: Polyamory Edition

Photo Dr. Carrier took of his bottle and glass of wine at the airport. Venue menu on the table reads Carlolina Vintages. Bottle label reads Restless Soul Red Table Wine, from Old North State Winery. Label depicts drawing of a rising skeleton's arm lifting up a glass of wine.So when I came out as polyamorous in February, the godless Slymepit blew a gasket. But so did Christians. Their freakout was quaint. And hardly substantive. So I just filed it as something to amuse over when I had time. Now as I sit for hours in the Raleigh-Durham airport awaiting my flight home, drinking a lovely bottle of Carolina wine from the Old North State Winery, what better fun than to survey the Christian panic over poly?

First I’ll summarize a sample of some of what happened, then delve into a long treatment of the most thoughtful (albeit still totally wrong) example…

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Speaking at American Atheists in Puerto Rico!

Photo of the hotel the convention is at, the Sheraton hotel and casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the statement Aug 21, American Atheist Regional Convention 2015 at Puerto Rico.American Atheists is putting on an excellent conference in Puerto Rico this August (21st-23rd, 2015). And I’m one of the honored speakers. Atheists in Puerto Rico wanted me to speak on my work on the historicity of Jesus, and so I will. I’ll also be attending the whole convention and happy to converse with anyone there, so feel free to say hi! (Although, alas, I don’t speak Spanish, I’m pretty sure plenty of folks will speak English well enough to chat or translate.)

I will also be staying in PR after the conference for about a week to do more events locally (whether casual or formal), but for news on that, keep your eye on the Facebook wall that week of Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico.

American Atheists may or may not be selling some of my books that weekend. I haven’t gotten confirmation on that, but I’m sure they are making an effort. But no matter what I’ll happily sign anything you buy or bring.

And it’s not just me there. There’s an awesome lineup!

Read on…

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The Historicity of Paul the Apostle

Face of Paul as found in a Renaissance painting by Albrecht Durer.I am often enough asked what evidence there is for the historical existence of Paul that a summary write up would be handy to refer people to. This also has use as some scholars ignorantly claim that any standard that would deny the historicity of Jesus would entail denying the historicity of Paul (like that renowned fool James McGrath). Such a statement can only be uttered by someone who stalwartly doesn’t know (or is stubbornly refusing to hear) why the historicity of Jesus is said to be improbable.

The best formal attempt to argue for the non-historicity of Paul is that of Hermann Detering (see The Fabricated Paul). I cannot ascertain his qualifications in the field. But his writings are well-informed. They just trip over logic a lot. His case is not sound. Nor is anyone else’s I’ve examined. They falter on basic methodology (like ignoring the effect prior probability must have on a conclusion, or conflating possibility with probability) and sometimes even facts (e.g., Detering seems to think self-referencing signatures commonly appear only in forgery; in fact, they are commonly found on real letters—I’ve seen several examples in papyrological journals).

By contrast, the following is a basic run-down on why the historicity of Paul is actually, unlike Jesus, highly probable… [Read more…]

Reminder: Learn How to Question or Defend the Historicity of Jesus

Hey! Want to know how to defend the historicity of Jesus against naysayers? This class is for you. Want to know how to be the most irrefutable naysayer? This class is also for you. Join now. Ask all the questions you want for a month. Offer all the challenges you want. Bend the ear and get the thoughtful responses of an expert with a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University who has extensively studied the subject. Encounter the best attempts to rebut him (me!) and the best arguments pro and con. Class starts tomorrow! Registration will remain open for the next five days. And note that the course text is available not only in print but also on kindle or nook and epub.

New Course This June on the Historicity of Jesus!

I have updated my course on Questioning or Defending the Historicity of Jesus to account for the reception it’s had this past year. And now I’m offering it again over the course of June, which means this new class starts under two weeks from now (details and registration here).

Description: [Read more…]

Historicity of Jesus: Live Q&A

This Sunday at 9am Pacific I’ll be doing a live Q&A on the historicity of Jesus. Post questions here in comments or on the matching Facebook post. (Comments here won’t publish, but I’ll see them. I’m still looking for time to get through my queue. But go ahead and submit questions through this blog’s comment field.)

Ask any and all questions you have. The more the merrier. This is your chance to ask that hard question you’ve come across in talking about this subject or that question that’s been bugging you all this time.

This is part of this year’s FtBConscience. Bookmark the free online conference’s Lanyrd page. There you’ll be able to find everything that’s going on this weekend (lots of speakers, talks and panels), including the page for my Q&A which will on the day explain how to watch.

There will also be an associated live chat (which will also be explained on that Lanyrd page in time for the show), so you can ask follow-up questions in real-time. The whole event will be archived for later viewing as well; but you can’t interact then.

I will also be on another panel, with several other commentators, immediately before that: “The True Version of the False: Can Atheists Argue Over the ‘True’ Version of Religion?” So if that sounds interesting as well, catch me there as well.