JP Holding replied to my last post on him, and I thought it might be worth clearing up a few of his misconceptions. First of all, since Holding assures me that he has shaved his "douchebag goatee" I'll have to retract that statement. If you happen to read my blog on him again, just mentally replace "douchebag goatee" with something like "butt-ugly douchebag face" or whatever suits your fancy. ; )
Anyway, I’m going to address Holding in order of the issues that I think are most important.
In regards to the late date of Daniel, Holding said:
[I]t remains true that it is bias, not evidence, that drives a late date thesis.
Holding also said that he "never said" that the majority of Biblical scholars were out to discredit the Bible. Well, he damn well should've said it. If it is true that
1) Bias is solely (or at least primarily) driving the late-date thesis.
2) The late-date thesis is accepted by most scholars (Which is true, see here).
Then it follows that most scholars are accepting the late-date thesis because of bias. But why the hell would most Biblical Scholars be interested in debunking the Bible? Doesn't make sense. It reminds me of how you see Jesus mythicists: As seeing conspiracy and bias behind every scholar.
Here's what Holding said in attempt to defend himself from his false accusation that Richard Dawkins employed circular reasoning to support evolution:
No, Nick. It's still all a begged question, and Dawkins interprets evidence so that materialistic evolution comes out of the other end.
Horse shit. Dawkins argues at length in The Blind Watchmaker that only evolution predicts the evidence we have (see chapter 10). Furthermore, he says this in chapter 11:
My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.
If you eliminate all the alternatives to evolution (such as creationism, which Dawkins does if you read further into the chapter) then evolution can be inferred as the best explanation. Of course, it is possible that Dawkins' attempt to discredit creationism was wrong, but even if his refutation of creationism is wrong it doesn't mean he was begging the question. By the by, I disagree with some of what Dawkins wrote on discrediting creationism, however, I do think he has shown that creationism is a priori highly improbable while evolution is not, and therefore even if the evidence (the a posteriori) wasn't clearly in favor of either, evolution would still be probable. I could go on about this, but I'm really going off on a tangent. I'd be happy to discuss it elsewhere.
Something else Holding said:
And as for Dawkins being so bad at elementary logic, allow me to quote Michael Ruse, an atheist, concerning Dawkins' attempts at logic and philosophy:"The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why."
Thanks for giving me a good example of a bad argument from authority. The quote you give makes no argument show Dawkins is wrong, and so merely quoting Ruse's opinion is pretty meaningless. Furthermore, Ruse's opinion does not necessarily represent the opinion of the majority of philosophers, or atheists, or atheistic philosophers, and so it can't constitute a legitimate argument from authority as I’ll discuss later on. Finally, from what I understand Dawkins and Ruse have been really just been feuding over whether religion and science can co-exist. Are they separate spheres of human inquiry that never support nor contradict one another? Ruse might say yes, but his opinion doesn't really represent a consensus, so again, he can't be used to form an argument from authority. On the other hand, philospher Greg Dawes, physicist Victor Stenger, philosopher Bradley Monton, among others, emphatically do not believe this to be the case. I agree with them, and again, if you'd like to bring this up at a later point I can fully explain how science and religion are not in principle incapable of supporting/contradicting one another, given my definition of science. But I won't go there right now because that's kind of going off on a tangent. But I will discuss it if you disagree.
In regards to the work of John J. Pilch, Holding said:
Uh yeah, so what, Nick? This has no application whatsoever to anything related to Christianity. No one ever said of the resurrected Jesus that you never see him, and doesn't appear to people, and there were aspects of evidence involved too: empty tomb, nature miracles, etc.. Is this how stupid you are? Do you think that if you just throw some other story about delusions into the air, this proves that Jesus was a delusion too? Good night, what level retardation do you have anyway?
Apparently a level of retardation not quite as severe as yours, dumbfuck. I didn't say that people claimed to have never seen the risen Jesus, I simply used the Congo creature as an example of how beliefs about reality (and how we can learn about reality) differ radically from culture to culture. And if you had actually bothered to read the chapter I linked to before running off at the mouth, you'd know that. What Pilch's article shows is that people often have experiences in altered states of consciousness in which they, in some sense, 'experience' the presence of holy man. If you actually read Pilch's work, he shows how it is completely plausible that the altered states of consciousness experiences he describes are actually what inspired Christians to say that Jesus was raised. In modern day society such altered states of consciousness aren't usually regarded as being indicators of truth (we are a good bit more empirically minded than cultures past) but in other cultures they ARE. So the types of evidence that it would take to convince me that Abe Lincoln rose from the dead today is quite different from types of evidence it would have taken to convince certain first century palestinians that Jesus was raised. Probably the same types of evidence ancient people accepted as proof of other claims would have been accepted as proof of Christianity. If you think otherwise, you have the burden of proof, not me.
As for the empty tomb and the ‘nature miracles’: We do not have sufficient evidence to believe them, and we do not have any evidence that anyone in the first century came to believe Christianity on the basis of carefully investigating the empirical evidence for such things. The earliest Christians may have simply converted because they felt Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament, or because of visions, or experiences had in altered states of consciousness, as John Pilch argued. Now, I understand that you argue that things like the empty tomb would be checked. If Jesus' rotten body was still in the tomb (or if there were people who actually knew the full details of the events surrounding Jesus' death), and it was actually somehow available for viewing (or the witnesses were available for questioning), then it still might not have made a difference to ALL prospective converts. Christians would have dismissed this: 'Oh yes, that's a trick of Satan' or 'That isn't really Jesus, just someone who looks like him that the Romans placed there in the tomb to trick you'. Would most people have bought this? No. But they didn't have to. Only a very small percentage of the population had to buy it, and they might have bought it because of the sincerity they saw in the other Christians, because they felt like they had access to a loving community in the church, because they thought the Old Testament prophesied about Jesus, etc. There could have been, and probably were, people who were more willing to believe the early Christians than the Romans and the Jewish sanhedrin. And that need not be more than a small fraction of one percent of the population.
Finally, there's not really any way we could put odds on the success of Christianity. How would we know that its probability of success was 1 in 1,000,000 rather than 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 1,000? Why would such odds compel us to turn to a miracle explanation rather than a chance explanation?
BTW, even the individuals with direct knowledge of what the evidence was surrounding Jesus' death would have only lived in a pretty tiny area. Christianity could have been pretty free to grow without worry of the facts being checked on outside that little district.
Some Minor Points I wanted to make:
What Holding said about my quotations of him acting like a jackass:
Don't like shocking images, Nick? Your poor virgin ears too sensitive? Please. You've been edited for profanity here at TWeb, and you're one of those jackasses who would whine about similar language in the Bible, particularly Ezekiel's implication that Israel was guilty of a sort of bestiality, metaphorically, when they went after pagan gods. So please -- spare us your self-righteous Victorian pretend-moralism.
Actually, the main reason I put those quotes up was to let folks know that I wasn't calling some quiet, sweet little Lamb of Christ a dumbass or a dumbfuck. I was attacking someone who's pretty comfortable insulting and talking down to others. Got it?
In my post on Holding, I wrote,
"Although Holding has only a degree in library science, he feels very confident writing (EXTENSIVELY) about historical, biblical, philosophical and theological issues while constantly making arguments from authority and questioning the expertise of real scholars who happen to hold views that he doesn't agree with (see here)."
"Argument from authority" here of course means serious scholars who know their business; as usual, these guys have no idea what "argument bu authority" actually is, as though it were meant to prevent a twit like Nicky Poo from quoting Stephen Jay Gould on some point of paleontology. This is Nicky-speak for "Waaah, I'm in over my head when you use people who know what they're talking about, waaaah." And of course, Nicky thinks it is OK for him to quote what he calls "real scholars" anyway. Can we say, "projection"?
I don't have a problem with outsiders like you (and me, for that matter) relying on the majority opinion of scholars. In fact, it is quite reasonable, and appeal to the consensus of scholars is in fact a reasonable form of the argument from authority. To be crystal clear: I've got no problem with you doing this. However, you're guilty of overt special pleading if you won't rely on the majority opinion of scholars for issues such as the age of the earth, whether or not Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet, when the book of Daniel was written, etc.
Holding said something else that is relevant to this in his post:
I have also said that the one who disagrees with consensus needs good arguments for doing so.
I suppose I don't disagree with that. However, I think that anytime an amateur decides to disagree with the consensus, they had better interact with the scholarly community (which means publishing in peer-reviewed journals or at least having lengthy correspondances with numerous experts who hold the view that you don't agree with). The reason I say that is because there are often very good, valid reasons that the majority of scholars hold the opinion they do, and so doing some correspondance with those who hold the majority view gives them a chance to show you why they believe what they believe. And, in my experience, it usually turns out that scholars have excellent reasons for believing what they do. Amateurs like us often don't understand which questions we should be asking, and we're often not aware of details that completely change the way we once viewed something. Do you actually bother to write or email the folks who say that the book of Daniel was written in the second century and ask them your questions? If not, why not? If you have, then great. But don't act like others are forced to agree with you. It's completely reasonable for those who have not checked this stuff out (in the way I described) to simply accept the consensus position.