News flash: blogs touching off firestorms IS actually helping!

Greg Laden, whom you might know from The Blogosphere, makes a good case that blogging about science, skepticism, et cetera, can actually help resolve long-standing questions a hell of a lot faster than traditional methods:

Someone is always wrong on the Internet. The idea that the most free-wheeling part of the Internet–blogs–would be a place where conflict is resolved seems laughable. The detachment of argument from social cues normally used to moderate our conversations combined with the intentional sloughing off of civil norms means that the only resolution that happens here might be the screen resolution of your computer. It would be easy to say that the Internet is where conflict is born, not resolved.

But that would miss an important point.

Almost all the conflicts I’ve observed in this milieu are problems that were already out there somewhere but in many cases hidden and thus unacknowledged. We can ask, if a conflict resides latent in meatspace, does it make a noise? And the answer is:

Go find out what the answer is.

Or just head over to tell him that he’s wrong.

Richard Carrier is my new favorite Bible scholar.

For a very long time, I had considered Bart Ehrman to be the foremost Bible scholar, especially as pertains the question of an historical Jesus. I thought Ehrman’s position, that it’s impossible to separate the historical man from the mythological parts, and therefore completely unnecessary, to be the most nuanced and all-encompassing position to take. His disdain for mythicists like the guys behind the terrible movie Zeitgeist (the one perpetuating the amythological myth, to coin a phrase, that Mithras was a virgin birth who was killed and resurrected) was well founded, and therefore he was the first guy I would turn to, if ever anyone asked me about the existence of Jesus as a real person.

Not any more. Richard Carrier, fellow FtBer, just tore apart Ehrman’s latest book Did Jesus Exist? for being a sloppily researched and off-the-cuff rebuttal of the “Jesus is nothing but myth” crowd, with such a poor understanding of the original texts, that I’m almost embarassed for Ehrman.

But I cannot recommend books that are so full of errors that they will badly mislead and miseducate the reader, and that commit so many mistakes that I have to substantially and extensively correct them. Did Jesus Exist? ultimately misinforms more than it informs, and that actually makes it worse than bad. Like the worst of mythicist literature, you will come away after reading it with more false information in your head than true, and that makes my job as a historian harder, because now I have to fix everything he screwed up. This is why I don’t recommend anyone ever read bad mythicist literature, because it will only fill your head with nonsense that I will have to work harder to correct. Ehrman’s book ironically does much the same thing. Therefore, it officially sucks.

This makes me want to read Proving History quite a bit. I realize that this is essentially a pissing contest between two Bible scholars, and that as someone only slightly interested in Bible history I don’t have a lot of skin in the game, so I might find the book dry or otherwise difficult to get through. But when I see someone for whom I had held such a high opinion get royally and rightly smacked down for terrible research, I can’t help but rethink my personal pantheon of atheist scholars.

The Big Reveal

Okay, so, it’s the day after April Fool’s, so naturally the jig is up. My custom style from yesterday is not, in fact, a preview of the new theme, but rather a Pony-fication of our current. I am assured that our new theme is coming soon, and when it does, my custom CSS will very likely break. So, for posterity, here’s a screenshot of what the front page (and all subsequent pages in fact!) would have looked like if you weren’t one of the 97 that were brave enough to try it.

Screenshot of the Pony-fied theme - sorry, visually impaired folks, I have no idea how to prank you with ponies as well.

I have it installed myself, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change it for a while yet.

I had also changed my Gravatar to a pony made with General Zoi’s My Little Pony Creator (I have a news item I’d like to post about her a little later in fact!). I didn’t, however, post it to the blog then the way Dana did, but I did manage to inculcate some pony-on-pony warfare in the comments on my other prank post. Anyway, here’s the pony I built. Probably the most over-encumbered member of its species ever built.

Of course, ponies weren’t the only prank that happened around these parts yesterday — the biggest prank, the one that attracted the most of our bloggers, involved casting aspersions and recriminations about one another in one gigantic circular firing squad. Which was also fun.

So, what’d you think?

Not one of us is a token

On my own blog, an argument came up — while I was so slammed with work as to be all but totally disengaged from the greater blogohedron — that just happened to become extraordinarily timely through a coincidental confluence that bears mentioning. Liam, on an older post, defended the idea that people encouraging diversity were in fact engaging in “reverse racism”, serving as an excellent foil for my argument that diversity is itself a laudable goal.

This happened concurrently with John Loftus’ rather abrupt departure from Freethought Blogs, and his slamming the door on the way out hard enough to rattle the china on the walls — he intended to do damage on the way out by picking several fights with so-called “mean atheists” when his chief concern was that the commentariat, not the bloggers, were mean to him when he launched on our network and that he’d therefore have a harder time reaching out to Christians. He was invited expressly because he had a perspective that was, while not totally unique, certainly underrepresented in our blogging group, with the hope that when people move their blogs to our network it grows the network readership overall. That doesn’t make him the “token ex-Christian” not even the “token ex-Protestant minister”, so when he suggested that Natalie Reed was only brought on for diversity’s sake rather than her personal qualifications, many of us bloggers rightly rankled.
[Read more…]

Full-out Atheist On Atheist War!

Oh holy shit, we’re talking honest-to-goodness internecene throwdowns happening all along the Great Atheist Rift! Crommunist fired the first shot, like Franz Ferdinand himself, declaring that anyone who likes cats must naturally be infected by toxoplasmosis, which is the only explanation why anyone would subject themselves the nonsense that is a cat’s existence.
[Read more…]

On helping people move

So as Cuttlefish recently documented, I managed to… uh… persuade the Google Python scripts that handle migrating Blogspot archives to WordPress into allowing him to import his older archives, so his old poetry, all the way back to 2007, is now available here at Freethought Blogs.

Meanwhile, I’ve also converted Libby Anne’s posts and sent along instructions on how to import them, so I expect those should appear shortly, and I also helped move Brianne into her new digs as well. She’s all unpacked now. Hooray for more new neighbors!

You should check them all out. Right now. Especially Biodork (Brianne), though, because she gives unironic thumbs-ups, which is very endearing to us Canucks.

Presently though, I’m probably knee-deep in real-life work. I’m sure I’ll be back to haunt the blogohedron soon enough.

Hits vs comments, controversialism, and a reception metric

DJ Grothe, in the wake of a bit of pattern recognition by Stephanie Zvan that made him look bad enough to evidently cause him to forget that he has a JREF communications director, recently made a claim in his reply (link to Greta’s sur-reply with blockquotes) to Greta’s two questions that certain blogs are under orders to write contrarian and controversialist blog posts in order to drum up hits. He hasn’t yet substantiated that claim with some actual specifics, so while we’re waiting, I thought I’d look at some statistics for the other major component of that claim, that controversial topics drive hit counts.
[Read more…]

The 2011 Lousy Year in Review

Happy new year, everyone! Hope 2012, the Year Of Doom, finds you hale and hardy. Remember, rinse your mouth out with water and wait fifteen minutes before brushing your teeth after you’ve vomited, or you’ll wreck the enamel on your teeth. Of course, the same advice goes for after eating an orange, so there’s that.

This is my first time trying something like this. I’ve been blogging since May 2008, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever once gone through my previous posts and highlighted a few things per month like most other bloggers have a habit of doing. This lack of introspection is inexcusable, of course. So, I’ll try right now.
[Read more…]