Open thread for AETV #885: Russell, Richard Carrier, and Chris Johnson


Today on the show I’ll be joined by Richard Carrier, author of On the Historicity of Jesus, and Chris Johnson, author of the book and upcoming film titled A Better Life. Can’t wait!

Comments

  1. Omar Jhoomer says

    We don’t know everything; so we don’t know anything. A first person account of climbing a mountain is exactly the same as a claim to have seen god. Eyewitness testimony is reliable. Ignore facts, show an inability to comprehend basic logic, keep talking and never listen to replies. I’m calling it now. Jennifer’s law degree is from Liberty University.

  2. corwyn says

    Russel, please use the hold button more. The phones are broken, and sometimes the caller can’t hear, putting them on hold shouldn’t be seen as punishing them, just as a way to ensure that only one person is talking at a time.

  3. says

    eh Russel said that a resurrection of a ghost wouldn’t be “relevant to the case” but should have said “believed by the court”. The caller was right to say that relevance depends on the specific context, because that’s exactly how relevance works.

  4. Indiana Jones says

    Fantastic show this week. Listening to intelligent and passionate people talking about what they are good at in such an engaging way! Wow.

    I also agree with Omar above. I must make sure I demand a 30 minute discussion around a neutral but arguable topic if I ever need to engage a lawyer before I hand over money. Cos yikes!

  5. Narf says

    Eh, that isn’t entirely fair, Omar and Indiana. Most of lawyering isn’t about constructing a sound, logical argument. It’s about appealing to a jury of 12 people, the vast majority of whom wouldn’t know a validly constructed argument without a 10 or 15 hour crash-course in Logic 101 … which they aren’t going to get before being allowed to sit on a jury. The defense lawyer’s job is more along the lines of slandering the witnesses, rather than logically deconstructing the prosecutor’s case.

    That’s assuming that she’s even a trial lawyer. There are plenty of lawyers who never see the inside of a courtroom or who have only gone up to the DA to get a traffic ticket tossed out on a vague technicality, such as the defendant being a rich, white guy.

    As for all of the usual stuff … if you have a bunch of eye witnesses supporting your side, and the other side has none, then eyewitness testimony is far more reliable than that silly stuff that the forensic scientists claim is 99.5% certain evidence. It’s all about emotion and giving a bad argument in an emotionally appealing way. She might excel at that, when dealing with the vast majority of the population which doesn’t know anything about philosophy, and she could get the rational few removed, during jury selection.

  6. James Fajardo says

    I find it hard to believe that this was just a case of ‘sometimes the caller can’t hear.’

  7. Robert, not Bob says

    There is more than one way a caller “can’t hear” the host. In my experience, cell phones don’t seem to transmit and receive simultaneously (which means there’d be nothing about the studio phones to fix). Mainly, though, when someone has launched into a sermon, and dare not hear any arguments, of course she’s not going to hear him… I mean, technical problems exist, but I’ve always thought that a lot of the time the hosts use “bad phones” for politeness, so everyone can pretend they’re not shutting up a caller who’s gone into sermon mode.

  8. favog says

    Wow, going from “we don’t have any more understanding than we did two thousand years ago” to “(the same statement) about God” ? I’ve seen theists with goalposts mounted on wheels, but those ones are on jet thrusters. And as pointed out, still fails big time because the best explanation for not getting more understanding in that much time with as much effort as has been put into it is that there’s no understanding to have of something that doesn’t exist.

  9. VeNOO says

    I felt like all the scientists who worked for hundreds of years turned in their graves. What an insult for herself!

    By the way, can anybody give some clue on “complexity theorists say…”. I’m a physicist quite familiar with cosmology and have no idea what she was talking about.

    I also don’t agree that we haven’t learned anything about god question. First of all we practically disproved concept of obviously active theistic god. He only can work now in a hidden ways. We also sufficiently expanded our worldview to see much more easily the problems with arguments for the existence of god. It was possible in the past but now we have much less thinking inertia. At least those who are interested in at least basic science.

  10. Matt Gerrans says

    In the case of Jennifer, I don’t think her talking over the other people was a technical problem, but a habit of hers. This is clear because she would often interrupt and talk over another person and continue talking, essentially trying to shout them down. In such cases, I think it would at least make sense to politely ask the caller not to interrupt excessively.

    On the verbal testimony point she was pretty much wrong factually. As Narf points out, court is more a matter of trying to sway 12 morons who don’t understand logic and are much more influenced by other things. If the rule was that court cases were presented to 12 intelligent people well-versed in logic, then personal testimony would be even less a factor. I remember one time being in a jury selection process where the lawyer asked if I knew any thing about the reliability of eye witness testimony; when I answered “yes” the lawyer immediately interrupted before I could say anything more and I was the next person eliminated.

    On the point of whether the NT is written in first person, she was clearly and unequivocally factually wrong, regardless of what her own personal opinion on the matter is. I kind of wish this point would have been driven home more forcefully. I think Richard was trying to do that, but she kept interrupting. This is just a fact. It is not a matter of opinion. Maybe she is confused by the fact that many of the gospels start out with a kind of first person introduction (eg. Luke “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus”), where the author is using first person. By that reasoning, the Princess Bride is a first person account of factual events. Once you are in the meat of the stories, you have an omniscient third person.

    For example, look at Mark 14:36 (and surrounding). The illiterate Jesus goes away by himself, yet his private prayer is related. By whom? When he gets back, he is immediately nabbed by the Romans (after his naked young lover runs away, no less) so he has no time to relate the details to anyone. This is obviously made up and it is clearly third person story telling. To try and claim otherwise is just completely inane.

  11. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Matt # 12

    On the point of whether the NT is written in first person, she was clearly and unequivocally factually wrong, regardless of what her own personal opinion on the matter is

    .
    I would have asked her if she had any background in ancient Greek or Hebrew or if she just read a translation of it in English. That is a key point that is missed by a lot of people. Just because something is translated into first person in a target language, does not mean that it was written in first person from the original. Then again I have a feeling this Jennifer would not have comprehended this. She would likely have been scared by the late Pastor I mentioned in previous posts who actually had studied ancient Greek and Hebrew. He was still a believer, but would not have bought any bullshit about 1st vs second person as he had actually studied a much closer vcersion of the original texts in their original language (I am suprised Carrier did not try this angle, maybe that was his intent at one point).
    .

    On the verbal testimony point she was pretty much wrong factually.

    .
    I tell a story on here about a friend of mine (I call him ‘L’) who is blind who was asked about a crime going on next door to him being the key witness in the case based on what he said to police (who kept asking about what he “saw” when he had actually “heard” it). Hence one might say that he was not really an “eye”witness so much as a “witness,” but verbal testimony can be just as deceiving as visual for some people. The key part of why his testimony was so critical to the case, was that it corresponded so well with the physical evidence that was acquired as a result of the investigation. And his testimony did not change much as he needs to have a good memory for what he hears (not like he can see it).
    .
    If we have nothing but witness testimony (I won’t say “eye” as there are ways to witness things other than visually) to go by then it may be useful. That is not to say that individual are not wrongfully convicted on witness testimony that turned out to be incorrect, that has happened particularly due to DNA advances (I hope Jennifer is aware of THAT). I am just pointing out that corresponding what is witnessed with other evidence, particularly physical evidence, can be very powerful. Lawyers who get individuals convicted on pure witness testimony is not as common today (but obvioulsy does happen).
    .
    It has been said on here that many a religious individual has a hard time comprehending how their imagination is not evidence and memories, such as witness testimony, are influenced by imagination. No offense if you are reading this Jennifer, but despite being an attorney this Jennifer sounds a lot like Valerie who called the show before and talked about reading science journals and discussing what she “deemed to be correct” from what she read about (her voice even sounds similar and I wonder if it is Valerie incognito).
    .
    That sounds like a corrupt lawyer, to try to claim that empirically demonstrable evidence is “just a matter of opinion” and things that are hypothetical and personal opinion that you have strong belief in should be honored as fact, probably just to win a case. Like one can deem gravity to be incorrect as though it were a matter of opinion. Just try demonstrating that. Claim that gravity is only a matter of opinion and jump off a building and see how strong an impact your opinion makes. Then again maybe it is not corruption so much as not knowing any better.

  12. Frank G. Turner says

    @ favog # 10

    Wow, going from “we don’t have any more understanding than we did two thousand years ago” to “(the same statement) about God” ? I’ve seen theists with goalposts mounted on wheels, but those ones are on jet thrusters.

    .
    Just tell her that since we don’t have any more understanding than we did about science than we did 2000 years ago then we won’t be able to provide her with medical advances when she gets injured. No cold medicine, no NSAIDS, maybe she can drink some herbal tea for her headache pounding like a freight train or “feed” her cold, and “pray” for immunity to disease (no vaccination). Surgery from an accident? Oh no we’ll be using some leeches on that or severing a body part with a rusty saw to prevent the infection from spreading.
    .
    To hell with that, maybe she should not be using a computer since we don’t have any more understanding than we did about science than we did 2000 years ago. Throw her out of her air conditioned and heated house and let her go find a pot to relieve herself. Give her water though, we had aqueducts 2000s years ago and she could buy her food in a gourd from a farmer, if she is willing to pick some food to earn her keep. Should I keep going or does that help to put in in perspective?

  13. Conversion Tube says

    When she said she was a lawyer, I said out loud alone in my house, I CALL BULLSHIT.

    A few seconds later they were practically lecturing her on how law and the courts work and she seemed completely oblivious to understood generalizations about law and courtrooms.

    Ya she continually cut off their responses. I was literally pissed at her because I wanted to hear Richard’s response. Damnit he is a special guest, let him speak.

    Don’t ask a question and then not listen to the response. aRRGGG.

    Please feel free to mute these people. I know you love theist callers, we all do but remember the vast majority of the audience are Atheists who love the show and view it to watch your poignant responses.

  14. Omar Jhoomer says

    I understand that lawyers often make emotional appeals to clueless juries. But is that all they do? Don’t good ones also try to out think their opponent? Just because many jurors don’t understand logic; that doesn’t mean the prosecutor doesn’t. Jennifer’s counter to Carrier’s flaws in her logic was to ignore his points. Does that work in court? I would hope that if I ever need a lawyer; the plan would include trying to anticipate the opposition–and not base my entire defense on appeals to a dumb jury. I guess I should thank Jennifer for giving me something to look for.

    I’m still wondering why Russel didn’t mention the burden of proof–something a lawyer should know about. A claim to have witnessed a supernatural event is not the same as claiming to have climbed Everest, Jennifer. Mountains exist. Sometimes people climb them. There are ways to tell the difference between someone who thinks they’ve climbed a mountain, and someone who actually has. How do you prove that someone who claims to have seen god wasn’t hallucinating?

  15. toska says

    favog #10,

    Wow, going from “we don’t have any more understanding than we did two thousand years ago” to “(the same statement) about God” ?

    Yeah, I think her first statement was “we don’t have any more understanding about reality than we did two thousand years ago,” which is completely and obviously ridiculous. We know more about every aspect of reality, every branch of science, than we did back then. Fields like chemistry or microbiology didn’t even exist. How different is our understanding of reality just by knowing germ theory? By understanding that microscopic organisms are everywhere, and we need some of them just to survive, but they can also make us sick.
    ***
    I would also argue that our understanding of god has increased just by the fact that we know what he/she/it is not. We understand that there is not a physical being directly over us in the sky because we’ve been in space. We understand that god does not cause illness or natural disasters because we know the causes for those things. In that way, our understanding of god (even for believers) is vastly different from the understanding people had 2000 years ago. We think about god completely differently. We’ve made up other dimensions for god to live in because we know it doesn’t physically exist anywhere near us. We’ve had to completely change the definition and properties of god just to try to reason it into existence. Every time we look into phenomena or locations where we expected to find a god, we haven’t.

  16. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Conversion Tube # 15

    When she said she was a lawyer, I said out loud alone in my house, I CALL BULLSHIT.

    A few seconds later they were practically lecturing her on how law and the courts work and she seemed completely oblivious to understood generalizations about law and courtrooms.

    .
    There are lawyers who are not criminal courtroom lawyers. I met an attorney who reviewed appeals who rarely saw the inside of a courtroom. Albeit he was trained to speak in court and knew how it worked. Most of the attorneys I know that make good money don’t do criminal work. In some states that requires specialized training and certification. I would have expected her to know the basics though or at least how courtrooms work.
    .
    I keep wondering if she is actually a paralegal who is studying to be an attorney but already calls herself one. Still, most of the paralegals I have met have a decent understanding of how courtroom law works.

  17. says

    #13 Matt

    As Narf points out, court is more a matter of trying to sway 12 morons who don’t understand logic and are much more influenced by other things.

    I’ve seen this firsthand. A few years ago I was on jury duty. We were hearing a case about a father who was supposedly molesting his son over the course of many years. It was a disturbing, to say the least, to sit through that.

    I, along with 1-2 other people, ended up being a stick in the mud, because everyone else was voting “guilty” on little more than “why would the family lie?”

    I said, “I’m not comfortable with the idea that I could live in a society, and 3-4 people could conspire to put me in jail, merely on their say-so.” I can’t believe I had to explain that.

    I ended up taking them through the process of analyzing/tallying the available objective evidence, and ended up voting “guilty” anyway, but I’ve seen first hand that IQ, logic and even evidence, is not necessary to the jury deliberation process.

    We could have all said, “fuck it, let’s just vote guilty and get an early lunch”. I can’t imagine this fairs well for minorities.

    To see the process first hand was about as disturbing as the case itself. While we were in the room waiting, one of the other jury members was talking about how she didn’t understand why they couldn’t teach Intelligent Design in science class. They don’t select people on their capacity to think.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Err, I should explain. I just wanted a to voice some disapproval if you voted guilty when you were not yet sufficiently convinced. What you wrote was ambiguous as to whether that’s what you actually did in the end.

  19. Frank G. Turner says

    @ toska # 17

    We’ve made up other dimensions for god to live in because we know it doesn’t physically exist anywhere near us.

    Plenty fail to accept that we have even gotten that far. Interesting what fear will do to a person. I wonder if that is what this Jennifer person really is, someone trying to convince others liek atheists because she herself is not convinced. It would explain the attempts to talk over someone rather than ask what they have to say and then listen for an answer. You have to talk over a person when you are afraid of what they have to say.

  20. says

    Jiminy! For an obviously educated, well-spoken and (seemingly) intelligent person, Jennifer was completely nuts. Virtually nothing that she said held together. If she’s a lawyer, I feel sorry for her clients; she is utterly unpersuasive.

    But I wish one of the guests or Russel had simply said, “Well, Jennifer, you could argue that the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and Dianetics also reflect deeply held ‘first person’ (though she appears not to understand what that means) experiences … should we give them the same credence as *your* personal experiences?”

  21. Matt Gerrans says

    Yeah, EnlightenmentLiberal, my “WTF?” alarm was going off too. “…and ended up voting “guilty” anyway…” Wait, why?

  22. says

    #23 Matt

    Yeah, EnlightenmentLiberal, my “WTF?” alarm was going off too. “…and ended up voting “guilty” anyway…” Wait, why?

    What I was trying to say was that after we had examined the objective evidence, it was sufficient to find him guilty, so we ended up upholding the majority’s initial vote.

  23. Narf says

    @11 – VeNOO

    By the way, can anybody give some clue on “complexity theorists say…”. I’m a physicist quite familiar with cosmology and have no idea what she was talking about.

    The nearest I can come up with is a component of Intelligent Design. There’s some bullshit concept that I’ve read in a few apologetics books, trying to claim Specified Complexity as positive evidence for the Intelligent Design hypothesis. I guess we should give them credit for that, since pretty much everything else they throw out there is some variation of an argument from ignorance or pointing at the actual scientific theory and going, “Nuh uh.”

    I’ve never seen a coherent construction of the actual nuts and bolts of the claim, though. They don’t seem to have any idea how to quantify the complexity in a way to make it meaningful. It shouldn’t surprise us, since almost no one in the I.D. movement is a scientist. I’m sure that the ones who came up with Specified Complexity aren’t the I.D.ers who have a more scientific bent.

    Hell, who in the I.D. movement is an actual scientist, besides Behe?

  24. Narf says

    @14 – Frank G. Turner

    Give her water though, we had aqueducts 2000s years ago and she could buy her food in a gourd from a farmer, if she is willing to pick some food to earn her keep.

    Be sure to keep her water stored in a lead-lined barrel, though, for that fresh-from-the-aqueduct taste.

  25. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Narf # 27

    Hell, who in the I.D. movement is an actual scientist, besides Behe?

    I was mentioning John C. Sanford recently. Not surprisingly, anything that Sanford has published for peer review (which is actually a lot) regarding plant genetics either says nothing about ID/creationism or supports evolution and anything that he has published in favor of ID is not submitted for peer review. There are a lot of scientist, real scientists, that you have to take with a grain of salt. Dawkins mentions a geologist in “The God Delusion” who is working for the (lack of) Discovery Institute.
    .
    It seems that any actual scientist in their little “movement” gets bogged down in emotional/spiritual bullshit after having done real science before coming to the ID camp. I wonder if some of the scientists being paid to give their movement real meaning or purposefully trying to keep people dumb regarding real science so that they can maintain a feeling of superiority by knowing what the masses don’t. (Of course after telling themselves the same bullshit over and over they may have actually started to believe it).
    .
    I would not be surprised if we set up cameras to follow people like Behe around 24/7 we would eventually turn up evidence that he didn’t really buy his own bovine feces regarding ID. Of course the Kitzmiller Dover trial showed enough corruption on the part of the ID/creationist camp.
    .
    For years I heard about this Intelligent Design crap that I had to “give respect to as it sounds like an actual working theory,” and I looked at it and said, “no it really doesn’t” (even as a believer) and said that it just sounds like creationism in disguise. I was laughing my ass off at people who told me to give it a real consideration beyond just my typical “it is possible but does not sound highly probable” response after the Kitzmiller Dover shit.

  26. Narf says

    @16 – Omar Jhoomer

    I understand that lawyers often make emotional appeals to clueless juries. But is that all they do? Don’t good ones also try to out think their opponent?

    They’ll often benefit from being able to out-think the opposing side, but presenting the results of that logical thinking isn’t necessary to their advantage. If your case is complete nonsense, then paying close attention to logical flaws is not in your best interest.

    For that matter, I can see how being more of a preacher could be beneficial. Most people equate certainty with being correct. It’s ass-backwards from reality.

    Preachers will project absolute certainty about things they couldn’t possibly know; scientists will state up front the uncertain elements in their conclusions. Who should we trust more? Who do most people trust more?

    Just because many jurors don’t understand logic; that doesn’t mean the prosecutor doesn’t. Jennifer’s counter to Carrier’s flaws in her logic was to ignore his points. Does that work in court?

    Who cares if the prosecutor has a solid logical foundation? The prosecutor isn’t the one she has to convince.

  27. Monocle Smile says

    @Narf,

    This “specified complexity” nonsense has the same definition of pornography. Some IDers will try to use “conforms to an independently-given pattern,” which amounts to word salad and is shot in the face by the existence of crystals, but it’s an attempt to obfuscate a glorified Paley’s Watchmaker argument.

  28. xxxxxx says

    Jennifer’s point re: eye-witness testimony: Its not that no one accepts eye-witness testimony as evidence — clearly many, perhaps all, people do from time to time — but rather the questions she should be contemplating are 1) whether humans innately over-value eye-witness testimony, and 2) (and entirely independent of the first), does eye-witness testimony serve as a good form of evidence when the goal is to establish truth, rather than merely determining guilt?

    Tons of research has long demonstrated that, in the case of this first question, people do in fact WAY overvalue the testimony we receive from our fellow humans. Secondly (as noted in by the hosts during this call) eye-witness testimony has also been scientifically proven to be highly unreliable as a demonstration of the truth.

    Jennifer, even though she claims to be a lawyer, also seems to fail to understand that the “guilt/innocence requirement” used in a court of law is a relatively low bar of achievement, well below the “truth requirement” practiced in academia. Law cases are usually heard/tried a single time and that’s it (or perhaps one or two appeals at best, in the case of a conviction). Most of the time in law, however, there is no peer reviews, and their is tremendous pressure to provide a quick-and-timely trial. Moreover, rarely do convicted criminals get verdicts set-aside if new evidence is discovered after the conviction (and only if that evidence is deemed highly-relevant), and few (if any) cases are re-examined after the verdict in any real way to re-evaluate whether the defendant was rightly/wrongly convicted (this is done in legal academics but not by by the courts/practicing lawyers for the sake of re-trial).

    In contrast, when truth (rather than mere guilt) is under consideration, the situation is treated in a way that is almost the exact opposite. No “verdict” is quick-and timely, everything is peer-reviewed, the smallest bit of new evidence often leads academics to re-evaluate even the soundest of conclusions, and there are always an army of academics constantly re-evaluating and re-testing even the most established of scientific principles . Thus, If truth were the true goal of the courts, like it is in science and history, the accused would likely die long before a verdict were ever achieved in their case….

    …thus eye-witness testimony, being among the easiest and most common form of evidence available, becomes a neccessary component to law and order, not because it is a particularly good or even reliable form of evidence, but merely because it greatly expedites a process that demands a timely pace. In contrast, without the need-for-speed when if comes to discovering the actual truth, however, historians and scientists alike have long realized, and rightly so, that eye-witness testimony, while far from useless, still remains among the weakest forms of evidence due to its inherent unreliability.

  29. HappyPerson says

    Was frustrating listening to the so-called attorney. She kept wavering between testimony as ‘primacy’ vs. the actual important point of accuracy truth. When the accuracy of witness testimony was refuted, she reverted back to ‘primacy’, whatever that means.

  30. HappyPerson says

    also, the so-called attorney puts too much importance to personal validation (ie it seems to me that x is true so x is true). even though Richard Carrier was there talking about a topic that he did his thesis on, correcting her about whether or not the witnesses in the bible can be considered as testimonial, she kept saying that it seems like it so it’s true. she broke one of the fundamental principles of critical thinking – just because x seems true does not mean it is true (because we aren’t always an expert in the given topic, for instance, a good example being how many non-engineers ‘see’ the twin towers fall by a controlled demolition). just frustrating listening to her talk

  31. Monocle Smile says

    I wish theist callers like Jennifer would show up at the blog more often. I typically have a bunch of questions for them.

    Of course, I should be careful what I ask for, given subzerobob.

  32. KsDevil says

    If I ever need an attorney in Austin, I will NOT hire Jennifer. Yeesh!
    However, if Jennifer is the other attorney, then I suspect my lawyer would have no problem winning the case against her arguments. I feel embarrassed for her and an concerned as the the standards that allow lawyers to receive a license to practice law.

  33. ThouShaltNotBelieve says

    New to watching “The Atheist Experience” and just wanted to say I appreciated the level of detail Richard Carrier brought to the discussion.

  34. xscd says

    First caller, who said that he likes religious worship services for the whole culture grown up around the religious beliefs, the sense of community, the feelings of awe, etc.– Would he be willing to trade his Christian faith for all these same things in the Muslim faith? There’s a whole history, culture and community there too.

    Woman caller who said she was an attorney, tried to say that the Bible is like the eyewitness testimony we allow in court; I notice (like I’m sure a lot of other people did) that she never mentioned “evidence.” Evidence gives weight to (often unreliable) testimony. As anyone who ever watches one of those true-crime television programs knows, eyewitness testimony is often fabricated by guilty people to try to cover their tracks.

  35. Matt Gerrans says

    # 38 xscd — It is also worth noting that the four “independent” accounts in the NT would get shredded as “testimony” in a court, which as mentioned above has a much, much lower bar than scientific method. Even in a court, written testimony of anonymous writers who were followers of a particular cult would be laughed at. Where are the writers and how can they be cross examined?

    Looking at just the stories (of which we have no original documents, but just imperfect copies of imperfect copies) of these anonymous authors without cross examination, there are many inconsistencies that would invalidate them. What day did the magical event occur? Who witnessed it? What actually happened? They differ significantly on these points and many more.

  36. Monocle Smile says

    @Matt Gerrans
    That’s correct, and in fact, the NT would be dismissed as hearsay. They aren’t eyewitness accounts and there’s nothing to suggest eyewitnesses were even interviewed. People who claim either of those things are making them up. Jennifer should know this.

  37. JDandCo says

    With all respect for Russell (I love him to death), I think he spent too much time trying to argue with Jennifer about the incredulity of claims about demons and angels. She was talking about ordinary crimes in an ordinary court system. What I kept thinking was, so Jennifer, you’re a lawyer, and say you’re defending a man whose only evidence against him is several eye-witnesses–what’s the first thing you do? Start attacking the eye-witnesses’ story.

  38. Frank G. Turner says

    @ xscd # 38

    First caller, who said that he likes religious worship services for the whole culture grown up around the religious beliefs, the sense of community, the feelings of awe, etc.– Would he be willing to trade his Christian faith for all these same things in the Muslim faith? There’s a whole history, culture and community there too.

    Peter Boghossian talks about how one can have that outside of religious services. Don’t atheist and agnostic groups have Sunday meetups?
    .
    I remember something from a book of Boghossian’s about people getting together and reading poetry or plays and singing sounds and discussing morality and having a general sense of community, but about how they don;t then go out and try to claim that Macbeth or Hamlet are real people that were written about verbatim by Shakespeare that need to be worshiped afterwards (even thought they may have historically existed).

  39. Frank G. Turner says

    @ HappyPerson # 35, xscd # 38, and Matt # 39
    What I suspect that is going on with this Jennifer individual (mind you this is just speculation, but it fits the information) is that if she IS an attorney that she does understand the importance of witness testimony and how it can be lacking. While it is sometimes used for lack of better evidence when one cannot collaborate it with physical evidence, on a deeper search for factual correctness it does not hold water. So perhaps she is a believer in a crisis of faith that cannot reconcile her doubts? (I suspect that of steele).
    .
    One the one hand jennifer recognizes on some level that the witness testimony is weak evidence when it comes to Biblical accounts, if it is really evidence at all. On the other hand she really WANTS to believe and wants to have it validated by someone, preferably an expert on the subject who really knows their shit to make her feel good (i.e.: Carrier). So she wants the witness testimony she believes of the NT to have the same impact and import as scientific method, but knows that it does not and may never do so.
    .
    I base this speculation on the observation of a lot of believers that appear to go through this ongoing failure to reconcile their doubts and learn to be comfortable with them. So it seems that they have to convince others of the bullshit they believe in in order to keep them going. Basically, if they can’t reconcile their doubt in order to fit their environment, they have to get their environment to fit themselves.
    .
    Does this compile what the three of your have been saying in a meaningful way?

  40. Omar Jhoomer says

    @Narf #30

    I don’t believe I said anything about using logic to appeal to the jury. I was trying to say that understanding your opponent’s weaknesses can make it easier to anticipate what they might do. How can Jennifer’s lack of critical thinking skills not have an effect on what she presents to a jury? If she’s a bad strategist (eyewitness testimony is primary), I would expect my lawyer to be able to use that to my advantage. My bad for not being clearer.

  41. Narf says

    @38 – xscd

    Woman caller who said she was an attorney, tried to say that the Bible is like the eyewitness testimony we allow in court; I notice (like I’m sure a lot of other people did) that she never mentioned “evidence.”

    This whole argument about the validity of eyewitness testimony is short-circuited by the simple fact that the Gospels are not eyewitness testimony. They’re anonymous compilations of the stories told about Jesus, written down in the third person, several decades after the supposed events. Any judge who would allow “evidence” like that into his/her courtroom needs to be thrown off the bench.

  42. Narf says

    @43 – Omar Jhoomer

    I don’t believe I said anything about using logic to appeal to the jury. I was trying to say that understanding your opponent’s weaknesses can make it easier to anticipate what they might do.

    I guess I’m mostly picking apart details here. To follow on from what you just said … yes, understanding your opponent’s weaknesses is very important. I just think that the emotional and rhetorical weaknesses play a much larger role than the logical weaknesses. I think that’s primarily where I’m disagreeing with you, more in the matter of relative value, rather than saying that it doesn’t matter at all.

    How can Jennifer’s lack of critical thinking skills not have an effect on what she presents to a jury? If she’s a bad strategist (eyewitness testimony is primary), I would expect my lawyer to be able to use that to my advantage. My bad for not being clearer.

    I think I would describe the composition of a legal argument more as an exercise in writing and rhetoric, rather than as a formal logical construction. Poets and speechwriters can make use of critical thinking in their composition, but I think the wording and the emotional appeal to the jury is likely to have a greater effect than appealing to their reason.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think what you’re saying is the way things should be. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the way things are.

  43. Frank G. Turner says

    @ Narf # 46

    Don’t get me wrong. I think what you’re saying is the way things should be. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the way things are.

    .
    What you are saying makes sense and is a point where I had a major bone of contention with adam in a previous string of posts. Appeals to emotion should not be allowed in debates (more-so formal but I can see application to informal). The difficulty is that human beings are not creatures of pure reason. Sometimes an emotional appeal has to be made before an appeal to reason to get people to listen. Sometimes an appeal to reason does work but only after appealing to emotion.
    .
    Once we can turn human emotion off and make us into beings of pure reason, if only temporarily, I think that should be required of jury participants. I doubt that it will happen in my lifetime.

  44. HappyPerson says

    I agree that there may be a lot of cognitive dissonance going on there. i’m going to watch the video version and see if i can get a better insight on what’s going on. from memory, it seems like there’s BASIC critical thinking errors going on.

  45. Ethan Myerson says

    In discussing the validity of supernaturally-based eyewitness testimony, Russell and the other hosts argued that such testimony would be essentially laughed out of the courtroom. Jennifer, the caller, was trying to make the point that if it was eyewitness testimony – if the witness actually saw demons and ghosts and whatnot – that the testimony should be believed. However, what she said belied her actual beliefs on the topic. In response to Russell’s comment about a hypothetical witness stating that “he saw a ghost in his house”, Jennifer’s response was that it could be valid testimony if the case in question were, say, “a drug case, where someone murdered someone else”. It sounds to me as though she feels supernatural testimony is only useful in determining if someone is not seeing things correctly. (about the 49:30 mark in the podcast version of the show)

    Why would she make that argument if her main point was that we ought to believe the supernaturally-based “eyewitness” testimony presented in the bible?

  46. Mas says

    Chris’s response to “I’m an attorney” in the video (47:40) pretty much sums it up.
    At first he’s dumbfounded, then scoffs, looks at others present on and off screen, audibly drops his hands onto the table, then assumes a look of resignation, mixed with regret at having taken this BS seriously.

  47. Ethan Myerson says

    @53 Brian

    You’re right that I was wrongly conflating the two ideas, but in this case the point appears to be the same: Jennifer seemed to think that supernatural claims are relevant to the case when they demonstrate that a person is not experiencing the world correctly. She said that supernatural claims are relevant in “a drug case, where someone murdered someone else”, to assess whether the accused was seeing things that were not there.

    It sounds to me (and I admit, I may be misunderstanding her point) as though she was trying to smuggle in the notion that we sometimes accept supernaturally-based testimony, so we should therefore always accept it. Never mind the fact that the sometimes when we accept it are those times when we’re demonstrating that people are not perceiving reality properly.

    Or did I simply misread her attempt here?

  48. corwyn says

    She said that supernatural claims are relevant in “a drug case, where someone murdered someone else”, to assess whether the accused was seeing things that were not there.

    Great if the point is to use that as evidence that the person was delusional. Since that goes against her point, I don’t see why she would be mentioning it. We don’t really need evidence that Paul was crazy to accept Christianity.

  49. Ethan Myerson says

    @55 corwyn

    Yeah, I think what she was trying to do was say, “Look, we have a precedent for accepting this kind o testimony, therefore we should always accept it”. But that’s a ridiculous line of thinking, and not one you’d expect from the mind of someone with legal training.

  50. Narf says

    @54
    Yeah, sounds like a pretty reasonable summation, Ethan. It’s a pretty insane leap she’s trying to make, in your analysis of it, but I’ve heard theists make far worse equivocations than that.

    Well, not strictly speaking an equivocation. Bad conflation? Something like that, anyway.

  51. Frank G. Turner says

    @ corwynn # 55

    Great if the point is to use that as evidence that the person was delusional.

    I was thinking the same thing when she mentioned it. And I can imagine a person seeing something that is ridiculous, but plausible, being relevant if it conferred with physical data.
    .
    I can even be open to the possibility of a person mistaking it for something supernatural as they did not understand it, but using this as a precedent that something supernatural actually exists?
    .
    @ Ethan Myerson # 56

    “Look, we have a precedent for accepting this kind o testimony, therefore we should always accept it”. But that’s a ridiculous line of thinking, and not one you’d expect from the mind of someone with legal training.

    Eh people with legal training can be superstitious too.

  52. JDandCo says

    @59

    “Eh people with legal training can be superstitious too.”

    Yes, but one would think a lawyer would consider long and hard before bringing up said superstition in a courtroom. Can you imagine the lawyer saying “But your honor, you can’t schedule the deposition for that day, it’s Friday the 13th!” or “A demon ate the documents I intended to file.”

  53. Frank G. Turner says

    @ JDandCo # 60

    Yes, but one would think a lawyer would consider long and hard before bringing up said superstition in a courtroom. Can you imagine the lawyer saying “But your honor, you can’t schedule the deposition for that day, it’s Friday the 13th!” or “A demon ate the documents I intended to file.”

    Given some of the blue laws in states in this country and how they came about yes I can imagine a lawyer saying something to that effect and even a judge potentially honoring it too (the Friday the 13th part, not so much the demon line).
    .
    I agree though that a lawyer should think long and hard before bringing that up in a courtroom. In informal conversation I can imagine it being not as cautionary.

  54. Joe says

    If Richard Carrier gets really famous and a movie gets made about him, Topher Grace will play him. 🙂

  55. calyptico says

    I was really disappointed with how they handled the eyewitness testimony part. It was clear from the start that she was arguing for personal experience about god instead and the validity of that. The court system analogy was just a red herring and Carrier went with it, instead of narrowing down the issue and taking out the main premise of the argument.

    There are many conflicting accounts concerning personal experience with god of people intra-religion and inter-religion. What follows if that only very small percentage can be right, if at all.
    Conclusion: it’s not reliable in the slightest.

  56. Kamil Gregor says

    So if I understand the argument that Richard Carrier makes in his new book correctly, it’s more probable that Jesus didn’t exist than that he did because it’s extremely unlikely that someone actually lived a life so similar to the pre-Christian stories of dying and rising gods and the supernatural being called Jesus that Philo of Alexandria mentions. So what is this extremely unlikely series of events exactly? Well, it’s basically that someone in the 1st century Judea preached radical stuff and got killed because of that. That doesn’t seem so unlikely to me…

  57. Narf says

    My understanding is not so much that it’s unlikely as much as that there are way too many coincidences. There’s some literary analysis, some analysis of theological evolution …

    It isn’t so much that the mundane events of the life of some itinerant rabbi named Jesus, upon whom the stories of the Bible are loosely based, are unlikely. It’s that the specific events, supported by fingerprints in the non-canonical writings, bear the signs of manufacture from scratch by the group that wrote the Gospels.

    I’m not completely swayed by the argument, but he has a lot of good points.

  58. Kamil Gregor says

    @ Narf # 65

    “It isn’t so much that the mundane events of the life of some itinerant rabbi named Jesus, upon whom the stories of the Bible are loosely based, are unlikely. It’s that the specific events, supported by fingerprints in the non-canonical writings, bear the signs of manufacture from scratch by the group that wrote the Gospels.”

    OK, let’s break it down. Let’s assume for Carrier’s benefit that the following is true:

    – The Gospels’ description of specific events is deliberately fictional (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount never actually happened, note that this is assumed to be true regardless of whether there was a radical rabbi called Jesus who was crucified in the 1st century Judea).
    – Pre-Christian Jews (or proto-Christians) believed in a celestial being called Jesus that descended to lower regions the heavens, was defeated there by the forces of Satan and rose from the dead.
    – Paul believed to receive visions from this being and never actually met a rabbi called Jesus (meaning that Carrier’s analysis of the Pauline letters is correct).

    I honestly don’t see a reason to change the probability of Jesus being completely fictional in either direction since from the two possibilities

    A/ the Gospels are entirely fictional,
    B/ there actually was a rabbi named Jesus who was crucified for his radical teachings and authors of the Gospels much later took that person and wrote fictional biographies around him

    either one is not really more likely that the other EVEN if all the statements above are actually true.

    So if you remove these bits from the Carrier’s argument the only thing that you have left is the notion that there are too many similarities between the story of Jesus and stories of pre-Christian dying and rising gods and of the celestial being called Jesus. And that’s what I ultimately don’t find very compelling because it’s not very unlikely for these similarities to occur. The only thing you need is a radical rabbi who was executed for his teachings and that’s not that difficult to imagine in the 1st century Judea.

  59. Narf says

    There’s a lot more to it than that, man. I can’t thoroughly describe a book that is several hundred pages long, in a blog-post comment.

  60. unfogged says

    @66 KG:

    The only thing you need is a radical rabbi who was executed for his teachings and that’s not that difficult to imagine in the 1st century Judea.

    I don’t disagree with you and that’s of why I am OK with the idea that there could be a historical figure at the core of the myth. The point I took from Carrier’s OHJ is that previously the idea that an actual person was likely because it made little sense to think the gospel writers imagined everything but he has shown that that conclusion is actually much more reasonable than it seems.

    If his hypothesis is correct then the need for a historical figure is reduced to near zero which means, for me anyway, that the only reasons to accept it are (a) tradition and (b) inability to prove the negative. I just finished the book so I’m still digesting much of it and need to read it again but I think I’ll end up an ahistoricist for the same reasons I’m an atheist. If there’s no need for a historical Jesus and no evidence that can’t be explained at least as well under mythicism then there’s no reason to accept the claim that he existed.

  61. Kamil Gregor says

    @ 68 unfogged:

    OK, I see your point. If an explanation of Christianity’s origins that doesn’t involve a historical Jesus is about as likely to be true as an explanation that does involve him then we should favour the former over the latter because of the Occam’s razor. And what you’re saying is that Carries has constructed such an explanation. I agree. I think that he should be more careful, though, when marketing his argument. Some people (including me) can get the impression that he’s actually defending the strong position of saying that there actually was no Jesus.

  62. corwyn says

    I think that he should be more careful, though, when marketing his argument.

    Perhaps instead of putting all the blame on Carrier, you could take some on yourself. Unless, you can provide an example of where he states there is no Jesus. Carrier seems to be a careful historian, and he gives ACTUAL NUMBERS for (the range of) probabilities for Jesus being historical. If you are going to argue against those numbers, you will be asked to provide numbers of your own.

  63. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Kamil Gregor in 66

    I honestly don’t see a reason to change the probability of Jesus being completely fictional in either direction [even if the above was true]

    Really? Really?

  64. Narf says

    @72
    A&E? The Television network?

    If you mean TAE, the show that this blog is about … your question is still a little incoherent. Do you mean someone who disagrees with every single statement that was ever made on TAE, just because someone said it on the show? I’d say that the person has a serious issue, stemming from something related to the argument from authority fallacy.

    Are you speaking about someone who disagrees with a specific point that was made on the show? What’s my opinion of that person?

    I don’t know. Which issue is the person disagreeing with?

  65. georgesteele says

    It is strange, isn’t it, truth, in law, is a judgement call by a fact finder.

    Knowing that eye-witness reports are often inaccurate because every witnesses’s view is colored by their previous history, fair judges take this into account.

    What an individual holds to be true is a personal judgement call, I suppose. A matter of probability. Reality the test.

Trackbacks