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.

Tai Solarin: The Greatest Nigerian Atheist & Humanist

Cover of Babalola's book on Tai Solarin, with the title, subtitle, and author in black on white background, with a photograph of a young Tai Solarin in black and white against the background.Do you want to cuddle in with an interesting biography on a subject you probably never imagined reading about? Then I have a book recommendation for you. It’s a little personal. And a lot about humanism as a movement today, and its global importance, not just local.

In 1995 I wrote an essay on Tai Solarin for my African History course, just a year after his death. Which I soon after published on the Secular Web (“Tai Solarin: His Life, Ideas, and Accomplishments“). Because I thought this guy needed way more press. I often did this in my history courses: ask the prof who the most famous atheist was in the culture we were studying, and research and write about them. Because famous atheists in other cultures? Not usually much talked about. In my Ancient China course, this would be Wang Ch’ung, for whose discovery I am forever grateful (thank you, Professor David Keightley!). In my African History course, it was Tai Solarin (thank you, Dr. Ola Washington!).

If you want a quick introduction to the man and his importance to the history of Nigeria, and Africa, and atheism and humanism therein, definitely read or skim my article. There is now of course a Wikipedia entry on him. Which relies a lot on my essay and its research, but adds even more. And now also a website dedicated to his memory and biography.

I researched my article largely through reading archived African newspapers at UCLA. As well as Norm Allen’s interview of him in Free Inquiry. And the few books there were by and about him. And ever since I posted it online, I’ve had a lot of people express their gratitude for publishing it. Both people who knew him or of him, and his work, in particular his co-founding (with his wife Sheila) and running of the most famous secular humanist school in the country…or possibly anywhere (the Mayflower School); and people who had never heard of him and were so pleased to have had the opportunity to.

Now, of course, his memory is everywhere on the internet.

But a new development of note has transpired:

Dr. Dele Babalola (M.D.), though himself a Christian, has written the most admiring and comprehensive and personal biography of Tai Solarin and his school. By a mile. Babalola was a student at Mayflower when Solarin was still teaching there. He has numerous personal memories and recollections of him and his friends and family, and of the school and what it was like, and some of his fellow students there and what became of them. As a historian, I value works like this. This is memory that would have been lost had it not been written down and made available to the world. And that material only enhances Babalola’s general biographical treatment, which is also well-researched and well-informed. He consulted historians and leading lights in African and African-American humanism, as well as all manner of sources besides. Babalola covers Solarin’s whole life, including his path from Christianity to Secular Humanism, and the political and social context of his goals and accomplishments.

This is a great read for anyone curious to get a look into the memory of someone who was there and knew the man, and who gathers the facts well beyond, of a great humanist, atheist, and champion of education, and his creation of a secular humanist academy where one might least expect. Tai Solarin was the most famous atheist and humanist not just in Nigeria, but all of Africa. His fame and influence there can be equated with that of Dawkins or Harris in America or the UK. Though unlike them he co-founded and ran a school that taught humanism and its values. A school that still operates today, teaching some 6000 pupils a year.

Definitely get a look at this book. Get a peak at what’s going on and has gone on in the rest of the world, through the lens of the life and achievements of a great humanist and educationalist: Tai Solarin: Africa’s Greatest Educationist and Humanist by Dele Babalola. Available in print and kindle, hard cover and soft.

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Dear readers: I’d love it if you could show your appreciation or support my work with a one time donation through PayPal or become a regular Patron for even just a dollar a post. Simple information posts like this I don’t count for that. But I write on all manner of other subjects, from history and philosophy, and socio-political concerns, to traditional counter-apologetics. For more options, including buying my books in any format, visit my Support page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Atheistically Speaking: Does EvoPsych Suck?

Logo for the podcast Atheistically Speaking, showing an old time radio microphone on a white background next to a picture of Thomas Smith in thoughtful pose, and his name under the microphone, and above all of that the word Atheist in red inside a red box, with scrawled letters in black trailing after it completing the word Atheistically, and the typed word Speaking just below that.A good interview with me has gone up at Atheistically Speaking with Thomas Smith (“Taking a clear, rational look at atheism and surrounding issues!”). It’s episode 202, “Dr. Richard Carrier on EvoPsych.” The description:

Is 90% of all Evo Psych false? That’s the claim Dr. Richard Carrier makes in his mammoth article, which can be found here. While I’m hoping to have Richard on at a later date to discuss the topic he’s likely most known for – Jesus’s existence, this visit is all about Evolutionary Psychology and whether or not it is a pseudo science.

Smith was intrigued by the article I wrote, and asks me to discuss its claims, evidence, and basis, and why evolutionary scientists have deluded themselves into thinking they aren’t much more than astrologers carrying water for various social and political ideologies. Though on that last point we don’t get very far, for want of data. But the sneaking suspicion is addressed. As well as some of the dangers of their fallacious methodology.

Update: Part 1 is episode 202. Part 2 of our interview is episode 203.

Notes & Interviews

Just some random stuff today:

  • I’ve lost track of all the many pods and vids in which I’m interviewed or featured. But I shall try to link to more of them in notes like this as they come up. Anyone who knows of others from this year, please add them in comments.
  • Kim Ellington conducted a great interview with me on my historicity of Jesus research, and a little on the intersection of history, philosophy, methodology, and epistemology, for The Humanist Hour (Episode 161).
  • Related to that and expanding on it is my interview by a renowned Jewish creationist and biblical literalist, Nehemia Gordon, in episode 13 of his show Hebrew Voices. I help him “sort out the genuine pagan influences on Christmas, from modern-day myths” that often stem from “dodgy scholarship.” We touch on Tammuz & Inanna, Isis & Osiris, Mithra, and discuss ancient comments by Philo, Justin, Plutarch, Euhemerus, Plato and more.
  • I spoke at a rally on the capitol steps of Boise, Idaho for this year’s National Day of Reason, on behalf of the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason. The video is now available (and I have provided a rough transcript here). My speech is an amusing and rousing demonstration that our Christian legislators are simultaneously trying to outlaw Sharia Law and enact Sharia Law—and don’t know how democracy works, or the point of the Constitution, or that what they are doing is precisely what the Founding Fathers feared and denounced.
  • It’s well known that Luke used Josephus as a color source for his Gospel and Acts (see bibliography in OHJ, pp. 267, n. 26; and my summary of only some of the evidence here). In a new article, Lena Einhorn extensively collects even more evidence & bibliography on this (so those interested in that subject will find a lot of use there). But she discusses it in the context of her defense of a separate thesis: that Jesus was actually crucified under Claudius in the 40s, not under Tiberius in the 30s. This will be of interest to those who noticed that I document that there actually were early Christians who thought that (OHJ, Ch. 8.1). Of course, Einhorn’s thesis doesn’t argue for an actual crucifixion (she is presuming that it was an actual event), and as such it just as well supports the fact of Christian disagreement over when to place that event (and possibly the existence of lost Gospels that did).

Bart Ehrman vs. Robert Price & Richard Carrier vs. Justin Bass: The Debates Are On! (Get Your Tickets Now)

Mythicist Milwaukee logo.Two debates are happening next year (2016), sponsored by Mythicist Milwaukee as part of their Buzzed Belief debate series. Details here. You can get tickets now, through links there, and start making plans to travel and lodge where you can for these momentous debates.

First up…

Saturday, March 19, 2016 – 7-10 pm
Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Richard Carrier and Justin Bass
Are There Reliable Sources for the Miraculous Resurrection of Jesus?

FREE admission with advanced reservation. $5 at the door.

The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian religious belief that, after being put to death, Jesus rose again from the dead. It is the central tenet of Christian theology and part of the Nicene Creed. His resurrection is covered in the Scriptures; but are these writings reliable? 

That’s right. We aren’t doing that tired old “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” debate that’s been done to death and resurrected a million times. This time, we are debating what we should always have been debating first before that, yet never have before now: Are the sources we have for that even sufficiently reliable to establish that claim?—even if the claim itself happened to be true! The letters of Paul and the Gospels. Can we even count on them for this? Should we just not even?

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Next up…

Friday, October 21, 2016 – 6-9 pm
Turner Hall, 1034 N 4th St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Dr. Robert Price and Bart D. Ehrman
Did Jesus Exist?

$30* Early bird (tickets limited reg. price $60) ends 3/20/16
$47* Mythicist Milwaukee members at the door
$60* Regular Price after 3/20/16

$105* Early Bird Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet (Reg. Price $160) ends 3/20/16
$160* Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet after 3/20/16

*All tickets include FREE entrance to the Mythinformation Conference III

One of the most anticipated debates in the secular and theist realm alike realm is finally here! These two New Testament scholars are coming together to discuss the hotly debated topic of the existence of a historical Jesus Christ.

This was that debate they asked to get funded earlier, and they got the funding! This will actually help Robert Price make ends meet (Ehrman, already well off, will donate his honorarium to charity). And it will be the first time Bart Ehrman has ever debated the historicity of Jesus. This will be a historic event. I won’t be debating, but I will likely be included in the VIP crew. And of course I’ll be available for a post-debate analysis.

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For either or both, get your tickets now!

Everything You Need to Know about Coincidences

A demotivational poster meme, showing a UN soldier standing next to a UN sign in Africa that says Involved in Africa, but the soldier in the camera frame is standing right next to the front of the word, and the color of the letters and helmet match the colors on the sign exactly, so the sign appears to read Uninvolved in Africa. The byline says: Coincidence. Because you couldn't have planned it any better. Signed by the author, VeryDemotivational.comHere is some handy linkage on coincidences. Thanks to a coincidence. I was reading the The #Skeptic’s Daily News and in it, by coincidence, were two separate papers on the subject of coincidence. Though only one was labeled such; the other, just happened by coincidence to be about the same thing.

I have written on coincidences before. How they mess with the heads of some epistemologists when they try to make sense of Gettier Problems (where coincidence can coincidentally cause you to believe a true statement for what is only technically a justifiable reason). And they have an epistemological and methodological role in Bayesian reasoning—for example, because effects “by coincidence” are less probable than “effects that are predictably caused,” and a lot of attempts to deny causation rely on pretending coincidences are more likely. So you have to be able to know when that’s not true.

Although, sometimes, coincidences are just as likely as causation, or near enough as to make no visible difference in our math, or even more likely the case. And thus we can’t rule them out. But sometimes we actually can. So you have to know when is which. Like when we look for evidence of meaningful literary emulation in ancient texts (Proving History, pp. 192-204). Or when some hucksters tried to claim we found the tomb of Jesus. Or when we look for evidence that the Jewish scholar Philo understood a character named Jesus in Zechariah 6 to be the same archangel Paul thinks his Jesus is, by noting that the alternative explanation requires so many coincidences to have occurred as to be extraordinarily improbable (On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 200-05), including the fact that Paul and Philo assign all the same unusual attributes to the same figure, and the fact that Philo said he made the connection because the archangel in question was already known to him as the Son of God and the High Priest, and the only person in the Zechariah passage he quotes who is identified as the Son of God and the High Priest, is Jesus. Or how coincidence actually better explains the conversion of the Apostle Paul than the Christian thesis that he “really saw Jesus.”

Coincidences are also an important hypothesis to test and understand when criticizing pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, paranormalism, “miracle claims,” and all sorts of things of interest to atheists and skeptics.

So the two papers that have come up lately will interest you, if you are interested in any of those things! [Read more…]

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:

[Read more…]

Is 90% of All EvoPsych False?

Graphic from a pseudoscientific website using EvoPsych to argue nonsense about the thermodynamics of human marriage bonding, showing a pretty girl in a short skirt in flirtatious pose, with ratio lines showing the perfect ratios of her body parts, with the words Perfect Body, Perfect Genes. From http://www.eoht.info/page/Evolutionary+psychologyEvolutionary Psychology is the study of how attributes of human psychology evolved biologically by natural selection. I and others have averred many times that it is mostly a pseudoscience. EvoPsych proponents balk and take offense. We cite numerous papers by experts in evolution and psychology who agree with us. They claim they’ve been refuted. We ask where. They suddenly stop talking to us.

That’s a common sequence of events. I’m going to here collect all the information backing our claim. Any and all rebuttals to what I here argue, that you think are worth reading, I want to have collected in comments, so though my comments threads always close after six days, any links to rebuttals you email me after that time, I will post below myself.

Also be aware that this article is as long as it is because EvoPsych proponents employ whack-a-mole apologetics (“But you didn’t address x,” and it’s always a different x the moment you do address x). Consequently, I am covering all the bases. [Read more…]

Atheist Dudebros Don’t Know What Cultural Appropriation Is

Cartoon of two drunk girls half-assedly dressed as Native Americans, byline, No, it's cool, it's not like your ancestors killed them all or anything. Drawing from jenmust.blogspot.com/2010/03/native-appropriations.html.Jerry Coyne. Peter Boghossian. Richard Dawkins. Various others. I call them the Dudebros because they act like white privilege is awesome, pontificate infallibly like the Pope, and don’t understand any of the things they complain about. They are the Archie Bunkers of the 21st century. Progressives can also be wrong about things. These facts are not incompatible. But landing on the truth requires working harder. And the Dudebros just don’t.

Today, two examples will illustrate… [Read more…]