Against my better judgment I clicked a link Jim West’s blog to the utterly inane ramblings of Jesus mythicist Richard Carrier, which purported to be a review of Maurice Casey’s book refuting mythcism. I won’t link to the “review” because no one should ever have to waste a second of their lives reading anything a mythicist has written, and I really really mean that. They’re insane and we’re all stupider for reading them. For reals.

I haven’t read Casey’s book yet and I’m not sure if I will since refuting mythicists is kinda like shooting the water that the fish in the barrel are swimming in. In any event, I was amazed by Carrier’s first paragraph in which he prattles on about Bart Ehrman saying:

I already exposed all the egregious errors of fact and logic in Bart Ehrman’s sad armchair failure at this. Which evidently provoked him to repeatedly lie about what happened, which I then also documented. I consider him disgraced as a scholar. If you have to tell lies to save face, rather than admit a mistake and do better, you are done in this business. Or certainly ought to be.

I just can’t make sense of how this paragraph is supposed to have any meaning whatsoever in Carrier’s atheistic world. What’s a lie supposed to be without a universal (transcendent) standard of truth and why should it be a problem for Ehrman to do it sans that standard? Carrier is full of self-righteous indignation and yet he can’t possibly account for why that is. He obviously has some sort of code of ethics but he can’t possibly think it’s universal and believe that Ehrman should live up to it. Can he?



3 thoughts on “Nonsense

  1. Carrier’s initial charge is that Ehrman made errors in statements of fact and logic. Let’s just address the logic charges. Nothing requires a religious commitment to agree on (universal) laws of logic; for example, an atheist can read Euclid with perfect comprehension. In this sense, for example, mathematics is often called “the universal language.” Now, there is no notion of “sin” attached to making errors in mathematics (even most religious adherents would not claim that solving a math problem incorrectly was an offense against God), but there is a common, universally agreed standard for logic.

    So, making a claim that someone has made an error in logic does not require a religious commitment.

    (Now, there is a degree to which specific systems of thought have “additional” laws of logic that are not universally agreed to: for example, “Talmudic logic” or “Buddhist logic” or “Stoic logic” or “non-monotonic logic”, etc. — see for example this reference. Nonetheless, there is a set of “core logic” which appears to be universal and gives mathematics its “black or white” perspective.)

    The issue of errors in facts is considerably more difficult philosophically, since it draws on deep epistemological questions. Nonetheless, there are broadly accepted standards for statements that are asserted to be factual. When I say, for example, “As of March 5, 2014, Barak Obama is President of the United States” it can be universally accepted as being factually correct, without requiring any religious commitment. (There is still the problem of skepticism — consider for example the solipsist that denies the existence of the universe outside of herself — but there is a general broad consensus on most factual statements that allows, for example, courts of law to be authorized to decide “objective” questions of fact.)

    Now, as to the notion that errors in logic and fact constitute a “bad” thing; that does seem to require some degree of ethical commitment. You and I have disagreed in the past whether ethical commitments presuppose a religious commitment — I do not wish to revisit that argument now. But I do wish to point out that it is possible to hold the proposition that errors in logic and fact do not constitute an intellectually CONVINCING argument — and that holding this proposition does not require a religious commitment. In other words, an atheist and a theist can agree that a faulty argument is not convincing.

    None of this should in any way be read as an endorsement of Carrier (who I have never read other than brief snippet that you quote above.) I merely wish to point out that that it is possible for an atheist and a theist to agree a core set of logical standards and on the status of at least some statements (not necessarily all statements) as being factually correct or factually incorrect. Even if you take the position that the universe is created by God (or constantly “recreated” each moment by God) and that logic is created by God, the universe and logic are accessible both to the theist and atheist.

  2. I wanted to post something on how atheists can maintain logical and moral consistency alongside theists… and then I noticed Theophrastus already said it and more, better than I would’ve. Cheers!

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