Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Letters and Radio

It occurred to me recently that many of my fans might not know that I have several significant letters to the editor published in journals, and have appeared on many web radio shows, since none of these are listed anywhere else. So this post is for anyone who wants to obsessively read and hear everything significant of mine, and didn't know about my work in letters and radio.

Several letters to the editor from me have been published in Historically Speaking, Skeptical Inquirer, and Biblical Archaeology Review. The latter two magazines neither publish letters online nor index them, so there is really no way to find them other than physically pouring through every issue over the last ten years. HS, however, does publish its letters online. My favorite letter appeared in an issue not yet archived there, though another is available, which I'll discuss below. I won't bother cataloguing any of the other letters, since as interesting as they might be, they are relatively short and hyper-specific. But anyone who subscribes to these journals or finds themselves around them in a library will be able to find three or four of my letters in BAR and three or four in SI over the past seven-to-ten years or so, if you are disturbingly crazy enough to go hunting for them.

So far the only letter available online originally appeared in Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society 7.5 (May/June 2006), titled "Goldstone and Ancient Mathematics" (which you can read here, just search for that title). This was in response to the March/April 2006 issue of HS that rightly and soundly criticized many aspects of Rodney Stark's recent (and in my opinion embarrassingly bad) forray into the history of science, which you can also read there.

Immediately following my letter in the May/June issue of HS is "Goldstone’s Reply to Carrier," which you can also read. I responded in turn to Goldstone through another letter to HS, which they didn't publish (though I didn't ask or expect them to), and Goldstone and I exchanged a brief cordial communication after that. But that first unpublished letter I now reproduce here, since I think it caps the exchange well enough:

Please forward my thanks to Dr. Golstone for his excellent reply. I agree with everything he said. Attentive readers will note I had already said the Arabs improved upon both algebra and trigonometry, and I never said the Greeks invented the sine, but I have no problem with Golstone's mistaking me for saying otherwise, since it gave him the opportunity to elaborate in exactly the way I wish he'd been allowed to in his article. I also appreciated his inclusion of sources on the Indian contribution, of which I have always known too little. Just in case Goldstone thinks I was acting as an apologist for Stark, do let him know I completely share his critical attitude toward Stark's claims about the history of science. I think this added reply provides even more ammunition against Stark's thesis, so your publication of my letter and his reply was, for me at least, a pleasant bonus!
My next published letter in HS pertains to theories of historical progress, and in my opinion is much more interesting than this exchange, not least because it says something about my philosophy of history that I have not articulated anywhere else. When that issue is finally posted online I'll blog it.

Net Radio

The best net radio show I ever recorded, definitely my personal favorite, was a lengthy in-studio interview for the Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour, which was recorded quite a while ago, though it aired much later. You can listen to this online here (it's free): Episode 4 (Season 1). This is a great example of why I like in-studio recordings and absolutely loathe phone-in shows. Not only is the quality and editing far superior, and not only was it more comfortable to record, but with face-to-face interaction the show is more lively and entertaining. Likewise, because I was right there with him it was much easier to understand and react to my interviewer (rather than misunderstanding each other, getting confused or unclear, talking past each other or over each other, or exchanging a monotonous series of canned questions and lengthy monologues). The difference shows here.

I also love this episode because Dan the Demented is an awesome interviewer. His questions and comments, and his particular interests, took the show in very interesting directions that allowed me to actually expand on my philosophy in ways that go well beyond everything I've published. You will understand my worldview, and many elements of my take on philosophy, far better from listening to this show. The ostensive topic was how my naturalism differs as a worldview from that of other naturalist philosophers, and in answering that I go through all five Aristotelian divisions of philosophy, but I don't just summarize my book (thanks mostly to Dan). I got to talk a lot more about aesthetic philosophy, for example, something too few seem interested in (a curious fact that also comes up in the interview). I am usually asked to talk about the same boring old topics, like the resurrection or historicity of Jesus, or summarizing Sense and Goodness without God over and over again. This show was a lot more fun.

Dan's philosophy is to get atheist authors to talk about things they aren't usually asked to discuss, but which they know quite a lot about, which makes his show more interesting than most. I'm certain my fans will love my interview with him. Even my enemies might enjoy it. It's only an hour, and we recorded another hour's worth, but Dan hasn't figured out how to edit that other material yet. We might record a bit more to fill it out and generate another show (as promised at the end of episode 4). We're also going to do a show next year on, ironically, Rodney Stark's awful treatment of ancient science. [These have now aired: see my more recent blog].

One of the most recent net shows I did was for Faith and Freethought Radio. Richard Spencer interviewed me on "How Not to Argue for Mythicisim," which aired in January of 2007 (you can play or download the mp3 file here). This was an interview by phone and has many of the faults I dislike about such shows, and is as a result, in my opinion, much less entertaining. In fact, even to get me on the show Richard really had to persuade me the material would be fresh and not just a rehash of the same old stuff, as I'm very much averse to doing any more phone-in shows. But Richard convinced me he wanted to focus less on "why I believe Jesus was never a historical person" (which I haven't even published on yet) and more on something less commonly discussed: the abuses of this thesis by others and how my position differs from, let's say, "village mythicism." As a result, this show is not exactly a presentation of my case or reasons for being a mythicist now (a major change of mind, as I used to be an ardent historicist). It focuses more on questions of methodology, although many examples of my new thinking obviously come up.

A few years ago I did several shows for Reginald Finley on Live with the Infidel Guy and more recently I did several in-studio shows for the Rational Response Squad. Shows on the Infidel Guy have to be purchased (I think he charges $1.25 per show) and I think you have to be registered even to view the download pages for individual episodes, so I can't even give you links (though a handy master-index of episodes is available here). I don't know what you have to do to be able to find and download these shows, but they are there somewhere. Most of the RRS shows must also be purchased, though one is available for free (see below), and similarly I don't know how one goes about finding and purchasing shows. But I'll list all the radio episodes I've done for RRS and IG so you can know at least what's available if you ever go looking.

The IG episodes are all phone-in shows and thus suffer from all the usual faults of that format (especially the debate shows). I believe this is a comprehensive list:
Episode 102 (recorded in 2002): Miracles and the Historical Method. My first show with Reggie. Interview meanders mostly over the origins and development of Christianity (as Reggie says "the rise of the Christian resurrection belief") and doesn't focus as much as one might expect on miracles or historical method in general, though it touches on both.

Episode 127 (recorded in 2003): Nadir Ahmed vs. Richard Carrier: Is Science in the Koran? Ahmed strangely claims he "refuted" me and caused me to correct "gross errors" in my essay Cosmology and the Koran. Any sane person who listens to this "debate" will instead hear Ahmed hardly even arguing against my position, and though I revised that essay many times I don't quite recall any "gross errors" (though that was a long time ago, so my memory is hazy). At any rate, on Ahmed's site Examine the Truth, on the page where he makes these strange claims, he has this episode available for free, so you can listen for yourself (see here). It's probably worthwhile to read, in conjunction with this, Denis Giron's account of The Phenomenon that is Nadir Ahmed.

Episode 257 (recorded in 2005): Richard Carrier and Douglas Krueger. Doug and I join forces, each of us calling in from different ends of the country, to discuss "Which is most likely true: Christianity or Atheism." As we are both atheists it wasn't a debate. I talk only very briefly about my book Sense and Goodness without God, which at the time was just about to be published, and then Doug and I each take turns addressing various questions from Reggie, on subjects from history and philosophy to sociology and current affairs, discussing arguments for atheism and why they are avoided by believers, discussing our concerns about the growing atmosphere of the increasingly fascistic religious right, and more.

Episode 273 (recorded in 2005): Richard Carrier: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism. Summary and discussion of my book Sense and Goodness without God, defining and explaining terms like "naturalism," "metaphysics," and "free will," and ranging occasionally beyond the content of my book.

Episode 320 (recorded in 2005): Carrier vs Turek: The Resurrection of Jesus. This has an "about" page that can be accessed by anyone (here). This was a planned but somewhat informal debate on whether Jesus rose from the dead. Obviously it was: Richard Carrier con, Frank Turek pro (he's the author of I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist). I didn't think much got done in this debate, and (once again) I found debating by phone frustrating and unproductive, but I've received a lot of positive feedback about this debate, so apparently a lot of people liked it. I still prefer the Licona-Carrier debate on this subject.

Episode 365 (recorded in 2006): Richard Carrier: History and The Bible. Based on a somewhat random list of questions from Reggie's audience, this show meanders across a variety of questions regarding whether the New Testament accords with historical fact, including various points of evidence for mythicism, but often just correcting various contemporary claims one will hear about ancient history in connection with the New Testament.

Episode 401 (recorded in 2006): The Resurrection of Jesus: Habermas, Licona, Carrier. This is the show that was supposed to be an informative interview but became a confused debate, which as a result went so disastrously I already blogged about it (That Habermas-Licona Interview).

That's all my Infidel Guy shows [since then I've done one more]. For the Rational Response Squad I did one phone-in show and then a whole raft of live in-studio shows. I don't know if these can all be bought separately (the in-studio shows might only be available as a block).

Episode 13 (June of 2006): Naturalism, Myth, and The God Who Wasn't There. A hodge podge of audience questions, beginning with a discussion of my book Sense and Goodness without God and related questions about my philosophy, moving on to bits about how animals fit into my philosophy and how Christians might take over the country or whether atheism will one day reign triumphant (and what we can do about either), then going on to other topics, including the plague of dogmatism, the history of Christianity and the idea that Jesus didn't exist, and my role in the film The God Who Wasn't There, including a lot about the Christian ogre James Holding (aka Robert Turkel) and his criticism of that film.

Episodes 23 through 29 (recorded in August of 2006): Richard Carrier In-Studio. As the RRS puts it, "Richard Carrier joins us in-studio to record a batch of shows. About 13 hours of recording, some of our best shows ever!!" All can be bought for $15. Being in-studio, I could again interact face-to-face with my hosts and get a good sound, which definitely elevated the quality and entertainment value of these shows. Because these were almost all recorded in one day, there is occasionally a bit of silliness. But in a good way.

One of the best of these, in my opinion, is Episode 27, on "What's Gone Wrong with Philosophy," where I debate a philosopher (who unfortunately had to do his end by phone...I feel for him). I defended several reasons why I think contemporary philosophy has lost its way and is in serious need of a major change of direction and attitude. Tightly argued on both sides, real progress is made in the debate, many good points were raised. This is not at all the usual fare. You probably won't hear these things discussed anywhere else, which makes it fresh and engaging. I have not yet published on the subject, though a book will likely result from this show.

Other episodes have me answering personal questions from fans about my life and interests, fan-submitted questions about the future of atheism and various arguments in my books and articles, an episode simply on metaphysics (mine and in general), a few episodes on the historicity of Jesus, and an episode on my moral theory (and whether atheists have reason enough to be moral), including scattered discussions on related subjects like the moral status of animals or whether we should teach children atheism.

This package also includes a show on which we all got drunk. Plastered, I think the word is. In fact I get so sloshed I hurl, quite unusual for an old sailor like me, being only the second time in my life liquor has gotten the better of me (and this is coming from a guy who stumbled across many a ship's brow while three sheets to the wind). There is also an episode on whether theism is irrational (including discussion of what it even means to be rational). This is the one show that is available for free. To listen to it, go here. On the player displayed there you will see a list of free shows. Scroll down to the bottom of that list and listen to the high quality version at the end (not the low quality version further up the list). Note that some fans might want to skip past Brian's long introductory speech (which runs from 6:45 to 30:48). Also note that I am only a co-host on this episode. It is not about me or my philosophy, and my contributions to it are not extensive.

Besides all the above I also recorded an interview about the content and argument of my book Sense and Goodness without God for Equal Time for Freethought (Episode 161, recorded 29 January 2006, "Richard Carrier - Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism"), answering various questions about it from hosts Neil Murphy and Barry Seidman. This was actually broadcast radio (WBAI 99.5 FM), my only occasion of being on real radio. But as far as I can tell this episode is not available online (I don't know why - if this bugs you, you can bug them until they put it up).

Okay. That's everything I can think of. In the immortal words of the MCP: End of Line.


Adam said...

Got an updated itinerary?

Richard Carrier said...

Itinerary for what? Appearances? In development.