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.

Affordable One-Month Course on the Science & Philosophy of Free Will…and a whole lot of other things going on!

If you haven’t already, do consider taking my online course next month on the science & philosophy of free will—or recommend it to anyone you think might be interested! It starts in just two days. You can get in within its first six.

Meanwhile, a brief update and foreshadow:

  • I’ve been spending the last week starting a new relationship, so I’ve been AFK a lot. She’s a noted polyamory activist and all-around kickass, known by her handle Joreth Innkeeper. And I confess I’m very smitten. I am now meeting someone else in the next few days who might smite me as well. She practically already has. And all the while staying with a girlfriend who already smote me. So I’ll be AFK a bit more.
  • Further consuming my time is all the work I’ve been engaging in planning several upcoming tours (Southern California in April and Florida in May), two major debates, and one big move. Yes, by this summer I shall no longer be living in California. Stay tuned for that news. Because I’m going to do something fun with it.
  • Of course I consumed a lot of time prepping and engaging in the Carrier-Bass debate a week ago. The video is now up. IMO, that went badly for him. He’s a very competent presenter. He did well on all the skills of debate. Except for what gives you a technical win. So given his confident and charismatic presentation, you might not have noticed that he didn’t really rebut most of my arguments; and those he even properly took on, he ended up relying on argument by assertion. Assertions any fact-checker will be able tell aren’t all that credible. I’ll blog more on that in coming weeks. But that’s even more time to task!
  • Now I have the Kennesaw debate with Craig Evans coming up, on the historicity of Jesus. Don’t forget that! If you can make it, you may want to. It will be an important one. And of course, prepping for that, is also consuming my time.
  • In SoCal I’ll be speaking on why they invented Jesus and what’s up with feminism. There may be even more. Stay tuned.
  • In Florida I have two events of considerable interest going. I’ve announced one. Stay tuned for the other! [To be announced here.]
  • I’ll also be at Frolicon in Atlanta, Georgia. Just FYI. Not as a presenter. Just among the invisible happy masses attending, with my new paramour. But if you happen to see me, do say hi! And don’t worry, I won’t out you. Not without your enthusiastic consent.
  • I’m near to completing my first of two books on ancient science. Yep. If all goes to plan, Science Education in the Early Roman Empire will be released before the end of this year. I’ll announce that, and what it’s about, as soon as it can be pre-ordered. But needless to say, this is also consuming a lot of my time! Since I finished my fan-funded Jesus project (which resulted in three books, Proving History, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ), I’ve been able to blow the dust off of my dissertation and start turning it into some books. It just needs updating (since much has been published in the last six years I’ve been spending on the funded project). So I’m on that now.
  • I also have contracts for at least two other books to come (and am working on a fourth). More on that later. But I’m eager to get to them.
  • And on top of all that I have more things I want to blog than I’ll have time for! Including two new important articles on Jesus mythicism, one in a major Canadian magazine (Macleans), another in a major academic journal (Think).

So I’m a very busy man. Now taking a brief break. With his CostCo Jameson.

Photo of Richard Carrier's Apple computer screen, keyboard, and mouse, mostly out of frame, but more centered is a giant Costco style bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and a whiskey glass with a shot of Jameson in it, all by the soft light of evening lamp, on a blond wooden desk.



Typos List for Sense and Goodness without God

Cover of Sense and Goodness without God, showing a spaceman in a red space suit descending from a dodecahedron shaped white landing ship onto a strange grasland under blue sky, image on a black background, author name Richard Carrier in white against red on top and title below in blue over black for Sense & Goodness and White over red for Without God and then subtitle white over black A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism. The image is Richard Carrier's One and Only Oil painting, so titled and mentioned in the book. More about that at first book, Sense and Goodness without God, was completed in 2003 and published in 2005. Since then I have collected a long list of corrections (mostly typos, a few clarifications or improved wording, and updates to all the bibliographies) that I would certainly make if I ever do a second edition. I likely won’t, because I’m planning a new, shorter, popular market version—which will simply reference this one. And further updates will likely be separate volumes by subject (epistemology, ethics, etc.).

Nevertheless, Sense and Goodness still holds up as a really good and solid worldview survey. Nothing like it exists (by me or anyone). It’s still the place to start if you want to examine and build a complete worldview. After twelve years, none of it is relevantly incorrect, and even though its bibliographies could be updated, those updates (all the new science that has happened since 2003) simply confirm further the conclusions already reached in the book. The only thing it lacks is more attention to feminism and social justice as an integral part of moral and political philosophy, and the integration of Bayesian epistemology. But there are many minor corrections worth making.

In this post I will survey the substantive ones, then list all the known typos I and others have caught. I will also update this article as I get further notions or discover more typos. [Read more…]

Lataster on the Historicity of Jesus Being a Debate Among Atheists

Cover of Raphael Lataster's book Jesus Did Not Exist, A Debate Among Atheists, with Richard Carrier. Shows an annular solar eclipse.Raphael Lataster, an Australian doctoral student in religious studies, has published a book recently, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists, examining the debate over the historicity of Jesus by focusing only on what atheist and agnostic experts are saying, and not Christian believers—regarding the latter as too biased to consider; since any good arguments they have should be as convincing to experts who aren’t believers anyway, so really we should only be looking at the debate among atheists.

It’s a good point. Unfortunately, atheist academic monographs defending historicity don’t exist. The only two so far written this century, by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey, were neither published by academic presses, nor underwent any formal peer review. But Lataster works with what the academy has given him. And so he surveys the merits of those two books anyway. And compares them with mine, On the Historicity of Jesus, which was published by an academic press and did pass formal academic peer review. His own result is historicity agnosticism. And a lot of serious criticism of how the academy has handled this debate, judging by the only two books it has produced so far in defense of what the academy often claims should be so well demonstrated as to be irrefutable.

I was commissioned to write a foreword and afterword to the book, and to read the manuscript and provide any advice I had towards its improvement or the correction of any obvious errors or omissions. Lataster operated independently. He did not necessarily heed all of my advice. Whatever remains in the book is now his responsibility to defend. But I will make some comments on the matter below. In particular, I discuss in his book’s afterword what I expected critics will attempt to do, like attack its tone rather than its content—or lie about its contents. That process has already begun… [Read more…]

Might Stellar War Be a Good Christmas Gift? (Hint Hint)

Oh, sorry, “Holiday Gift.” For those atheists who abhor the Christ in Christmas. Although we know everything distinctive of Christmas is pagan. And paganism is fun. So most of us atheists happily celebrate the pagan holiday under its now familiar moniker. Because it’s hilarious to call all this pagan shit Christ-mas. Besides, we can use Christian apologetics to prove Santa Claus exists and flies to other planets on a rocket. And we all know gods don’t exist anyway, so who cares what we call it. No one freaks out over Mighty Saturn’s Day, er, I mean, Saturday.

So, regardless. If you will be giving sinful filthy heathen gifts to people this coming Winter Solstice, you might consider my card game Stellar War. What the hell is that? It’s this. Which you can buy here. Have someone you’ll be gifting to who is a fan of my work or of fun but complicated tabletop games (the kind of games that freak out the squares), consider the game I invented in my childhood, Stellar War. I’ve even updated the box so the title is on the sides as well so you know where it is in your crazy giant stack of boxed games. There are other Christmas gift buying options besides the game, of course, which can help support my work in various ways. This article summarizes them. Although since then my average income has gone up ten grand, but I am now living on my own, and thus entirely supporting myself on a starving artist’s wage.

Below the fold are some spoilers, however. Spoilers that might make Stellar War more attractive as a gift idea. What spoilers? Pictures of the three cards I added to spice the game with some humor. They were included in the original release two years ago, intended to surprise players of the game. I’m now revealing the secret to everyone. Imagine drawing them randomly through the course of the game. A game that is about an interstellar war, the goal of which is to destroy as many ships and space stations of your enemies as possible.


[Read more…]

The Moral Bankruptcy of Divine Command Theory: Matthew Flannagan’s Failed Defense

Cover of Doctor Hector Avalos's book Bad Jesus: The Ethics of the New Testament, yellow background, with a frame including the key focus of a painting depicting Jesus whipping people in the temple square.Theology has no salvageable theory of morality. Theists complain atheists have no reason to be moral. But in fact theists have no reason to actually be moral, as in: to elevate compassion, honesty, and reasonableness above all authority, even the authority of their own gods. Unless they covertly adopt a naturalistic moral theory (and most do), they are not actually moral people. They are minions. Theists are essentially the unquestioning gestapo of whatever monster manufactured the universe. Or rather, whatever monster some men made up and duped them into thinking it made the universe. Which means, they are essentially the gestapo of whatever random ignorant madmen wrote their scriptures and now thumps their pulpits with sufficiently fiery claims of special divine communications at bedtime.

I’m sorry to say, but that’s the truth. Theism actually has no moral theory.

This is why.

Hannibal Lecter created the universe? He escaped from a future holodeck simulation and then used a stolen TARDIS to Make the Universe after evaporating God by discovering the Babel Fish? Oh crap. Well, I guess we better get down with murder and elegant cannibalism or else he’ll be angry with us and send us to hell. Because he is now eternal and the supreme being and made the universe. So we can’t deny, his will and character is now the ground of all morality. And, oh yeah. This all totally makes sense.

Is that any more sensible than…?

A cosmic Jewish zombie named Jesus who telekinetically fathered himself by a virgin and now resides in outer space, is possessed by the spirit of a supernal ghost that is in some sort of parallel-dimensioning identical with but distinct from himself and an ancient Canaanite storm god, and promises to make you live forever in an alternate dimension if you symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that has eternally tainted our mammalian flesh ever since a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. So you better do what he says.

And lest we forget, that’s the Jesus who has nothing to say against slavery or the subjugation and disenfranchisement of women or the execution of homosexuals, other than, at best, that you shouldn’t invite sluts and homos to legally murder the sluts and homos because that would be hypocritical (John 7:52-8:11, a forgery). Oh no, you are supposed to wait for Jesus to murder them (Matthew 3:12). This Jesus is actually a morally dubious person.

You can always invent any Jesus you want, of course. A Jesus who fought for abolition and women’s suffrage and the decriminalization of homosexuality—and, oh, let’s say, promoted democracy and human rights and universal education (also not things Jesus ever says one word for in the Bible). But that’s just a guy you are making up in your head. Because you don’t like the guy on paper. Except… That you have to invent a better Jesus than the one that’s in the Book, really says all that needs saying here.

Matthew Flannagan & My Article for Philo

Several years ago (though it entered print only a couple years ago) I published a paper in the philosophy journal Philo, responding to Christian fundamentalist Matthew Flannagan on behalf of noted atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, whom Flannagan had written an article against, defending William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory against Sinnott-Armstrong’s rather scathing destruction of it. Sinnott-Armstrong was probably bored at this point. I was recruited to write the rebuttal. The result is Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as We Know Them, Ethical Naturalism Is All There Is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan,” Philo 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2012), pp. 200-11, I think so far my favorite paper for a peer reviewed philosophy journal.

The abstract reads:

In responding to Matthew Flannagan’s rebuttal to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s argument that ethical naturalism is more plausible than William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory of moral obligation (DCT), this author finds Flannagan incorrect on almost every point. Any defense of DCT is fallaciously circular and empirically untestable, whereas neither is the case for ethical naturalism. Accordingly, all four of Armstrong’s objections stand against Flannagan’s attempts to rebut them, and Flannagan’s case is impotent against a properly-formed naturalist metaethic.

In this paper I found Sinnott-Armstrong indisputably correct on every point but one, and even on that one he was correct, he just didn’t adequately prove it. My other peer reviewed paper on normative ethics, the chapter “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)” in The End of Christianity (ed. by John Loftus: Prometheus, 2011: pp. 333-64, 420-29), is an example of proving the point he intended, which is that grounds for morality not only do, but necessarily must exist independently of any gods, because in no other way can moral claims be sufficiently motivating so as to be true.

Flannagan has since published replies to my critique of him on his website (“Richard Carrier and the Arbitrariness Objection,” 5 September 2014, and “Richard Carrier and the Abhorrent Commands Objection,” 5 October 2014, and “Ethical Supernaturalism Is Still More Plausible Than Naturalism: Carrier’s Preliminary Objections,” 20 August 2014). Below I will summarize my paper in Philo, which summary already refutes most of what Flannagan now says—since what he now says pretty much ignores what I said, so restating what I said is a more than adequate rebuttal. And then I’ll address the remainder of Flannagan’s new rebuttals. The end result is not any different from where we started…

[Read more…]

Typos List for On the Historicity of Jesus

I will update this page as I find more. But over the past year I and readers have caught dozens of typos in On the Historicity of Jesus that slipped through even our excessive editorial process (a common experience I find). Some of these may require corrections to the indexes as well (e.g. the scripture index). Please email me any you have caught that aren’t already listed here. Sorted here by page and then paragraph and/or line number (or note number):

[Read more…]

Looking for a Literary Agent

Cover image for Audible edition of On the Historicity of Jesus written and narrated by Richard Carrier.Anyone with connections, please do inquire:

I want to produce a mass market book summarizing the conclusions and findings of On the Historicity of Jesus, with a major publisher, one that works often with expanding into foreign language markets. I have been asked by fans throughout Spanish speaking countries especially. But it’s impossible to get a Spanish language publisher on board with something as enormous and footnotey as OHJ. A shorter, popular market book, however, would definitely appeal (I already have translators lined up). And if it meets with success in the English language market, then we can indeed push for a Spanish edition, and maybe others.

But major publishers will only field queries submitted by literary agents.

So if this is to happen, I need a literary agent.

Know any? Who’d be interested? Send them my way.

In case it needs to be said, I do quite well by myself, in my niche market. I have a decent bio and cv. I have published with a mainstream publishing company (one title of my own with Prometheus books, plus several anthologies; they distribute through Random House), another with a major academic publisher (at the University of Sheffield), and have also successfully sold over twenty thousand books entirely on my own (through AuthorHouse, Lulu, and CreateSpace). I have sold all my titles (six so far) successfully as well in Kindle format, and Audio format (through Pitchstone). I’m an accomplished and capable writer. I can produce a good, entertaining popular market abridgement of OHJ without difficulty. I just need a reason to.

OHJ itself, BTW, has already sold over 4000 copies in just a single year. And that’s a 700 page academic monstrosity dense with footnotes. Imagine the potential of a shorter, tighter, mass market edition!

If I can’t find an agent, this idea will simply remain shelved until I do, since I can’t justify the expense in time working on it without that step at least in the works. This is due to how the publishing industry works, sadly. I have other projects I’ll devote my time to instead. But this dream of mine I’ll keep alive until someone comes along who wants to take a chance on it.

Initial business inquiries should be made by email. This includes emailing me the contact info of literary agents whom you think might be interested in this, and thus to whom I could send a query letter. But it can’t just be random agents you picked out of a guide. There has to be noticeable reason they would take on an unusual project like this.

Rare Fine Bound Editions of My Books: Special Auction!

Photograph of the three fine bound volumes in dark brown artificial leather with gold lettering and decoration, standing on Dr. Carrier's desk..Yep. You might want. These are fabulous. And presently unique. But even if duplicated, they will remain extremely rare. I’m giddy at the craftsman’s work on them. They are an aesthetic achievement that harkens back to the old days of leather-bound books in private libraries. And I’m auctioning them off to help support my continuing enterprise as an independent scholar. So I have just two simple questions. Do you want an elegant fine bound hardcover edition of my most popular books? And at the same time to help support my continuing work, research, and activism? Then get in on this rare opportunity!

Summer is always slow for paying gigs. So I need to make up a $2000 shortfall in projected revenue for this quarter if I am to hit my target to get through the year. I have several special things in the works to do that. And this is the first: I have commissioned a local master craftsman and bookbinder to convert three of my books into what you see depicted. I have taken one copy each of Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and had them hand-bound in high quality artificial leather by an expert European craftsman, with gold lettering and styling, and stitched pages. Each will be inscribed personally, by me, in pen, to the auction-winner’s specifications (reasonable requests only, of course).

Any of these lovely books will adorn a library in prestigious fashion, old school, reminiscent of the days when monographs were elegantly crafted. It’s why I made them. Aesthetically, this is what books should always look like. But alas, few publishers produce books that look like this anymore.

Same as before, only the books are scattered and at different angles to see their binding and fronts.Four things to note: [Read more…]