Friday, August 27, 2010

New Vid and Podcast

Quick report on a new video and podcast of me some of you might be interested in.

Video: a decent video of the second Carrier-Licona debate on the Resurrection of Jesus (more a conversation really, a completely different and in many ways more illuminating format than our formal debate on this same topic at UCLA years back) is available for free viewing online. This took place at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, this year (2010), with almost double the audience of the UCLA debate. Luke Muehlhauser gives a good recap of this new debate, and he and I ended up in an interesting exchange there about the Bayesian epistemology of witness testimony (on his blog Common Sense Atheism).

Podcast: Luke also runs a podcast Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot, and his first interview of me is available here. The topic is my chapter in The Christian Delusion on Christianity and ancient science. Nice companion piece to that.

14 comments:

Steven Carr said...

Has Licona now abandoned trying to show that it is a historical fact that there was an empty tomb?

Tristan D. Vick said...

Carrier--

You might want to try switching over to a better comments system such as

http://disqus.com/overview/

Also Blogger now has a SPAM button.

Personally I like moderation so I can block annoying trolls and spammers.

Pikemann Urge said...

Richard, very interesting debate. Personally I prefer discussions over debates, and this was a good combination of the two. Hopefully we'll see more like this. And I look forward to listening to your interview soon.

There is one fundamental objection I have on your part. You mention that people don't rise from the dead, therefore the prior probability for Jesus' resurrection is already very low to begin with. But I don't approach it that way.

By definition, Christians are not arguing that people rise from the dead - rather, it's a privilege only granted to few. That's the whole point of the claim, right? It's more in line with "I own a nuclear missle" (privilege) than "I own an interstellar spacecraft".

But once again, I see that Licona has possibly made his case weaker by mentioning that even today, people are in fact raised from the dead. If that were true, what would be so special about Jesus? (He made the Titanic point again, beautifully cutting the branch of inerrancy on which he sits).

I was a bit annoyed that one of the early questioners didn't know what Occam's razor was. Is this representative of armchair skeptics? Or just a fanatical naturalist? I kind of hoped you'd set that guy straight, good and proper!

A final thought, if off-topic: Mike told of a testimony (vision of a person's friend with a demon) which you regarded as hypnagogic and effectively put it down to the law of large numbers. But even assuming it's a true story, it merely asserts that telepathy is possible, and doesn't solidly back-up Mike's claim at all.

I happen to think (with 85% certainty at present) that telepathy is possible (and established), and it's because of this that many people turn to a religion after such an experience. My two cents.

Richard Carrier said...

Steven Carr said... Has Licona now abandoned trying to show that it is a historical fact that there was an empty tomb?

No. He just tried a strategy in this debate of bypassing that thorn patch by using only 1 Corinthians as his evidence.

His aim was not to avoid defending the empty tomb, but (I suspect) to avoid having to address my arguments against Craig in the Carrier-Craig debate that effectively refuted the historical reliability of the Gospels. If I were a conspiracy theorist I'd think he and Craig are embarrassed by this evidence and don't want more Christians to hear about it; at any rate, for whatever reason, Licona wanted to avoid it. Which made for a very different debate than you're likely ever to see again--which IMO actually makes this debate more interesting than most.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... Personally I prefer discussions over debates

Me, too. It's hard to get Christians to agree, though. They want combat (and in my experience they often try to force you into the most combative debate formats possible; and then accuse us of being angry and combative).

By definition, Christians are not arguing that people rise from the dead - rather, it's a privilege only granted to few.

Which entails it has a low prior probability. That was my point. Hence this tack is not an effective response to my argument. Admitting it's rare is simply admitting it's rare. It doesn't matter what your explanation is of its rarity. That rarity still must be accounted for in any argument. Which is why you need strong evidence that your claimed exception really is one.

That's the whole point of the claim, right? It's more in line with "I own a nuclear missle" (privilege) than "I own an interstellar spacecraft".

Only if they have as much evidence of miraculous resurrections as of nuclear missiles.

Or of any comparable miracle. As I said in the debate, it doesn't have to be resurrections per se, just confirmed evidence that the requisite agency exists and does things like that.

The reason it's like spaceships (in fact, as I pointed out, worse), is that we have no more evidence of such miraculous agency at all than we have of spaceships (and in fact we have substantially less--we have sufficient evidence to prove spaceships at least possible; not so, miracles--which thus have to be presumed, against all known evidence supporting their physical impossibility).

But once again, I see that Licona has possibly made his case weaker by mentioning that even today, people are in fact raised from the dead. If that were true, what would be so special about Jesus?

You may be caught between two different arguing branches of Christianity: those who want the resurrection to be "special" and those who want it to be "evidence." Because these are at cross purposes. The more special it is, the more evidence you need to believe it. But the evidence that actually exists is feeble. Thus "it's special" actually eliminates "it's evidence." You can't argue both (at least on the evidence that actually exists now). Licona was clearly fine with abandoning "it's special" as long as he can thereby rescue "it's evidence." The problem of course is that he has no more reliable evidence of those "other" resurrections than of Jesus. Which I pointed out, and he didn't really have a response.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... I was a bit annoyed that one of the early questioners didn't know what Occam's razor was. Is this representative of armchair skeptics? Or just a fanatical naturalist? I kind of hoped you'd set that guy straight, good and proper!

I don't recall that exchange. But it was Kansas. :-)

A final thought, if off-topic: Mike told of a testimony (vision of a person's friend with a demon) which you regarded as hypnagogic and effectively put it down to the law of large numbers. But even assuming it's a true story, it merely asserts that telepathy is possible, and doesn't solidly back-up Mike's claim at all.

True. But too much of a digression for the context (you have to stay on point or else things go wildly off track).

I happen to think (with 85% certainty at present) that telepathy is possible (and established), and it's because of this that many people turn to a religion after such an experience. My two cents.

I'll resist the urge to make a joke out of those two sentences.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Richard,

Have you seen Craig's response to your Barabbas theory that he posted on his website? Do you have any comments?

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8256\

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
It is not implausible that “Barabbas” was a name given to this insurrectionist by his followers precisely because of its symbolic value.


CARR
SO Craig confirms for us that the name has symbolic value, and could well be chosen precisely because of its symbolic value.

Craig now confirms the claim that Christians set up a Jesus, Son of the Father to be released while guilty, although the real Jesus, Son of the Father was to be killed although innocent.

CRAIG
Ironically, the best argument for its being in the original text is the precise opposite of the infidel line, namely, it would be highly unlikely that Christians would lend the name of the Lord Jesus to a sinful criminal....

CARR
Craig will now confirm for us that sin bearing was important to early Christians, and they knew perfectly well that sin bearing happened at Yom Kippur, so we should expect a piece of Yom Kippur to appear in what allegedly happened at Passover.

CRAIG
As for the scapegoat, this hypothesis is misconceived, since the scapegoat was not part of the Passover feast, when Jesus died, but part of Yom Kippur, celebrated at a different time. Moreover, the sins of the people were symbolically laid on the scapegoat, which was then driven out into the wilderness

CARR
Unless Craig is now proclaiming the theological ineptness of saying that Jesus, the Passover Lamb, bore our sins, he is claiming that scapegoats bore sins, not Passover Lambs.

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
The use of the definite articles shows that Mark expects his readers to know what uprising he meant.

CARR
Of course, no record of any uprising exists.

And was Pilate , 'a friend to Caesar' by releasing convicted murderers who had been part of an uprising?

And why was Jesus convicted so quickly, when even convicted murderers were not crucified immediately after trial, but hung around, hoping to be released?

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
Barabbas was evidently a rebel leader, who “was called” “Barabbas” (cf. Josephus’ reference to James “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ” [Antiquities 20.9.1 §200])

CARR
Is Craig calling attention to the way that Josephus used language in a remarkably similar way to the Gospels?

Why else would Craig call attention to this similarity, if not to show how similar they are?

Edwin said...

It would be nice to see the OTF put in a questionnaire form-- answer these 10 questions about your religion and get a grade: Pass, Fail, Epic fail. But it would require the Christian (or whatever) to see through the eyes of another faith. Therefore, not an objective test.

Richard Carrier said...

Carr is right in his rebuttals to Craig, who is so deep to the neck in special pleading it's really sad.

The bottom line is: Jesus' death atoned for the sins of Isreal (you can't deny that is the Gospel message in a nutshell, confirmed even by Paul), and there is only one sacrifice in Hebrew practice that did that: Yom Kippur. That sacrifice had two goats, one bearing the sins, the other dying for it. Thus the mythic parallel derives from the sacrifice, not the date (thus Jesus is equated with both the Atonement Sacrifice of Yom Kippur and the life-saving sacrifice of Passover, which both are clear in the NT and thus can't be denied).

The rarity of Barabbas' name creates an extraordinary coincidence (two sons of the father? one "just happens" to be said to bear the sins of Israel and the other "just happens" to die for the sins of Israel?) which is improbable on Craig's theory. Possibility is not probability, thus it doesn't matter what's possible, what matters is what's probable: the probability of these details being in the story on my theory is 100%; the probability of their being there because of a series of amazing historical coincidences is near 0%. You do the math.

On top of that is the entire implausibility of the narrative (in every respect I noted in the debate and that other historians have remarked upon), which again is 100% expected on myth, but nearly 0% expected on history (again, "possibility" does not purchase probability; Craig loves that fallacy, but he's delusional, so what do you expect?).

Richard Carrier said...

Edwin (re: questionnaire), yes, that sort of thing is doable, but would be a difficult task. A partial attempt at it has been made by sociologists, in designing an instrument for measuring "dogmatism," but they only used one element, and they got it partly wrong; to cover the whole field of purported evidence, and correctly, would be a very time-consuming task. Unless someone wants to pay for that to be done, it's unlikely to be done, or done well.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

"possibility" does not purchase probability; Craig loves that fallacy, but he's delusional, so what do you expect?

Yes! Craig and lots of other apologists like to commit the fallacy of retreating to the possible. He displayed this fallacious reasoning in absolutely howling fashion during his debate against Ray Bradley on the topic "How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?"