I’ve been watching and listening to numerous debates on Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Carrier (whom I wrote about in my last post), and on the theist side (among others) Dinesh D’Souza, Rabbi David Wolpe and, most eminent of all, William Lane Craig.between eminent atheists and Christian/theist apologists on subjects like “Does God Exist?”, “Does the Exist?”, “Did the Resurrection Happen?”, “What’s the ?” and so on. The debaters on the atheist side include
If I had to score the debates he’s been in, though I disagree with him about virtually every point he makes, I’d give by far most wins to the phenomenal Dr. Craig. As atheist and debate aficionado Mark Smith notes about Craig, “He usually wins his debates. However, he wins his debates usually due not so much to being a great debater (which he is), but rather from debating people who haven’t the slightest clue how to debate.” A non-Christian rooting for one of Craig’s atheist opponents and caring about the outcome will probably wind up feeling like a Red Sox fan did last season suffering another visit from the Yankees at Fenway. Read the rest of this entry »
As Richard Carrier explains in this talk given at a skeptic’s conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison last spring, most academics who are paid to think, write and teach about Jesus will tell you that, while it’s really impossible to know for certain if Jesus was a historical figure, even the most secular of scholars in the field agree with near certainty that he probably did exist in some form or other. The key word there, of course, is the weasel word “probably.” Carrier doesn’t say so here, but these scholars are also very impatient with the alternative idea that Jesus probably wasn’t historically “real,” even though the degree of difference in certainty between their position and Carrier’s (and my) position is virtually non-existent. What the “historicists” have that Carrier and I don’t have is numbers in the academy who agree with them. That’s all they have, and when you get right down to it, that isn’t much at all.
When people who believe in a historical origin for the Jesus story find out how shaky the theoretical ground really is under their feet, they sometimes turn the conversation to less discomforting terrain, stating, for example, that it actually doesn’t matter if Jesus was real at all in the way the Bible says he was or was just made up out of thin air. The point is the wisdom in the religion and the good (or evil) that it hath wrought–or more neutrally, the impact it had on the rest of history. I disagree that this evasion is a suitable response to the challenge posed by Carrier and other mythicists. Their challenge is not aimed at the content of the religion. It’s aimed at the methods of historical research and the question of whether Christian history should be treated as a special case from other types of history, one where it is not permitted to get too close to the central questions about its origins.
If you think whether or not Jesus existed in history is an interesting question, you’ll probably find Carrier’s cogent presentation on reasons not to believe in it provocative, to say the least. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Andrew Revkin, in his Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, has been writing a lot over the past few days about the relation of global warming/climate change to the ferocious late-season appearance of #Frankenstorm Sandy, which flooded lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, tore up the Jersey shore, killed some 40 people in the US and left more than 7 million on the East Coast with no power for several days (not to mention the overlooked damage it wrought in the Caribbean before smashing into Delaware on Sunday). Many of his readers (including climate activist Dan Miller) accuse Revkin (who is a science journalist and not a professional scientist) of taking too cautious a tack on climate change generally and on human responsibility for the increase of North Atlantic storm activity in particular. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night I was having a twittersation with someone named Simon Albert, a nonconforming, conservative Ron Paul supporter who refuses to go along with the Romney Republicans, about something entirely unrelated (at least in obvious ways) to politics: the nature of cosmic reality and what human minds can know about it. It’s not easy to have conversations of such weight in so ephemeral a format, but, of course, that rarely stops “tweeple” from trying.
It began when Albert tweeted, “God is real. #jesus #atheism.” Clearly, Albert was trolling for an argument with an atheist and he put a great big juicy worm on his hook. I bit. Read the rest of this entry »
Call me a sadist if you want, but I love watching a really dumb argument getting smashed to smithereens, maybe because I like blowing up dumb arguments myself. Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution Is True) performs the devastation on Robert Wright’s spectacularly lame speculation about the effect of angry atheism on the receptivity of non-scientists in America to evolution.
Wright’s speculation is based on this little snapshot of American attitudes about the origins of humans:
Wright is apparently stuck on the marked divergence in one year of the top two lines, each reflecting differing degrees of belief in theistic involvement in the appearance of our species. Wright’s “hypothesis”:
Over the past two years, the portion of respondents who don’t believe in evolution has grown by six percentage points. Where did those people come from? The graph suggests they’re people who had previously believed in an evolution guided by God–a group whose size dropped by a corresponding six percentage points. It’s as if people who had previously seen evolution and religion as compatible were told by the new militant Darwinians, “No, you must choose: Which is it, evolution or religion?”–and pretty much all of them chose religion.
Before reading any further, take a moment to take Wright’s argument seriously. Do you think he has a point?
At the risk of looking like a nut, I just sent the following e-mail to Dade County’s crime lab: Read the rest of this entry »
More information about Rudy Eugene, the man who was killed while “eating” three-quarters of the face of Ronald Poppo in Miami last week. His family and friends, while acknowledging he smoked marijuana, had mental health issues and had occasional run-ins with the law (what black man in America has not had those run-ins?), say he was trying to quit weed and was an avid student of the Bible. His mother says she thinks he may have been drugged and dropped off on the causeway where he committed the crime; his girlfriend reportedly blames a voodoo hex.
While police still seem to have settled on the hypothesis that Eugene’s bizarre behavior was the result of his taking the notorious drug du jour “bath salts,” they apparently have no evidence that he ever took any. His girlfriend has even said he wasn’t intetrested in drugs other than marijuana:
The man being depicted by the media as a “face eater” or a “monster” is not the man she knew, she said. He smoked marijuana often, though had recently said he wanted to quit, but he didn’t use stronger recreational drugs and even refused to take over-the-counter medication for simple ailments like headaches, she said. He was sweet and well-mannered, she said.
Of course, Eugene may have successfully hidden a secret drug habit from her, and that may prove to explain his behavior on the causeway. But unless the police are withholding privileged information until the toxicology reports on Eugene’s body come back in a few weeks, the bad drug hypothesis seems no stronger than the one I discussed here.
I only hope the Miami toxicologist intends to eliminate the possibility of rabies as well as “bath salts.”
You’ve probably heard by now about the case of the naked man “eating” the face of a victim on a busy Causeway in downtown Miami. If not, here (if you aren’t too squeamish) is the story. Read the rest of this entry »
Like the estate tax , “lean, finely textured beef”has a marketing problem. The tax’s enemies have successfully hung the popular term “death tax” on it; similarly LFTB, as the meat product is referred to in the industry, has assumed the unappetizing moniker its enemies have given it: pink slime. Unlike “death tax,” which is actually assessed on the windfall some very much living heirs gross after an especially well-off loved one dies, “pink slime,” coined by a microbiologist and critic of the product, is an apt label. The stuff is pink and before being mixed into ground beef as a cheap filler to reduce its fat content and cost per pound, it is slimy.
But is it bad for you?