Jump to content
Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
eight bits

Jesus, Reverend Bayes and Richard Carrier

Recommended Posts

eight bits

After two more-or-less academic books advocating his brand of Jesus mythicism (Proving History, 2012 and On the Historicity of Jesus, 2014), Richard Carrier's next book, due out later this year, is pitched to the general public. It's flippantly entitled Jesus from Outer Space, and it comes to us from an atheist-counterapologetics brand name publisher (Pitchstone).

A good time, then, to look back at the utter lack of impact Carrier has had on the academic Jesus "guild."

The Uncertaintist blog offers a brief step-by-step Bayesian-style re-analysis of the Carrier framework, from specifying the hypotheses more usefully through "sensitivity analysis," the conventional final checking step that locates where errors in reasoning may have crept in.

Here's the summary post for the series, which includes links to the three more detailed individual posts, but stands alone fairly well for those already familiar with the Carrier oeuvre:

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2020/02/13/why-richard-carrier-probably-wont-win-over-the-guild-summary/

The take-home is that Bayesian theory offers advice that the enthusaistic convert Carrier hasn't followed. First-principles near-certainty ("Of course Jesus really lived, what kind of crackpot nonsense have you been reading?") is best addressed by attention to the variety of seriously possible alternatives, plural. That, rather than working out a single detailed but not exceptionally plausible alternative that fits the available evidence only if the evidence has been badly misinterpreted for a very long time.

Of course, the Promethean hero-deed of scholarship is to remake the paradigm of an entire field, preferably "single handedly." Einstein, Darwin, Chomsky ... step aside and make way for Carrier.

But the possibility of such a feat depends on the field as much as personal genius. Physics, biology, linguistics - all have lots of reliable data to work with, and can get more whenever the need arises. Jesus studies? Not much data, little of it really new, of low quality to begin with, and now corrupted by centuries of pious cooking of the books.

There's only so much even an Einstein could do with this mess. Good strategy might be to settle for what can actually be established, perhaps as articulated by the conspicuously gifted Bertrand Russell:

Quote

Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one.

(from "Why I am not a Christian," a lecture delivered at the Battersea Town Hall on March 6, 1927)

Maybe that way, we could get the guild to look down, and understand their true situation:

 

Workers on girder 5x jpg.jpg

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 
Sherapy
25 minutes ago, eight bits said:

After two more-or-less academic books advocating his brand of Jesus mythicism (Proving History, 2012 and On the Historicity of Jesus, 2014), Richard Carrier's next book, due out later this year, is pitched to the general public. It's flippantly entitled Jesus from Outer Space, and it comes to us from an atheist-counterapologetics brand name publisher (Pitchstone).

A good time, then, to look back at the utter lack of impact Carrier has had on the academic Jesus "guild."

The Uncertaintist blog offers a brief step-by-step Bayesian-style re-analysis of the Carrier framework, from specifying the hypotheses more usefully through "sensitivity analysis," the conventional final checking step that locates where errors in reasoning may have crept in.

Here's the summary post for the series, which includes links to the three more detailed individual posts, but stands alone fairly well for those already familiar with the Carrier oeuvre:

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2020/02/13/why-richard-carrier-probably-wont-win-over-the-guild-summary/

The take-home is that Bayesian theory offers advice that the enthusaistic convert Carrier hasn't followed. First-principles near-certainty ("Of course Jesus really lived, what kind of crackpot nonsense have you been reading?") is best addressed by attention to the variety of seriously possible alternatives, plural. That, rather than working out a single detailed but not exceptionally plausible alternative that fits the available evidence only if the evidence has been badly misinterpreted for a very long time.

Of course, the Promethean hero-deed of scholarship is to remake the paradigm of an entire field, preferably "single handedly." Einstein, Darwin, Chomsky ... step aside and make way for Carrier.

But the possibility of such a feat depends on the field as much as personal genius. Physics, biology, linguistics - all have lots of reliable data to work with, and can get more whenever the need arises. Jesus studies? Not much data, little of it really new, of low quality to begin with, and now corrupted by centuries of pious cooking of the books.

There's only so much even an Einstein could do with this mess. Good strategy might be to settle for what can actually be established, perhaps as articulated by the conspicuously gifted Bertrand Russell:

(from "Why I am not a Christian," a lecture delivered at the Battersea Town Hall on March 6, 1927)

Maybe that way, we could get the guild to look down, and understand their true situation:

 

Workers on girder 5x jpg.jpg

Wow, just wow, well done. :clap:
 


 

Edited by Sherapy
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Davros of Skaro

One has to read Carrier's work to come to their own conclusion.

 

Here's his final estimate.

 

"3. What We Should Conclude

There is only about a 0% to 33% chance Jesus existed. Furthermore, given my analysis in Chapter 3, this means the probability that minimal mythicism is true is about 67% to 1OO% (and most likely nearer the high end of that range). 

What does that mean for Jesus studies? It means all later tales of a historical Jesus and his family need to be seen as legendary, mythical and prop­agandistic inventions, and studied for their literary and rhetorical purpose and not for their specific historical content. But more importantly, it means we need to re-examine the earliest evidence from a completely different perspective. That means the authentic letters of Paul, but also other Epistles close to him in thought, such as Colossians, Ephesians, Hebrews, I Peter, and 1 Clement; and perhaps other literature as well, such as the Didache. We need to reconsider all the evidence now from a new perspective. We need to see it in light of what the present study has shown to be the most likely account of the origin and early development of the Christian religion, which now fits the theory of minimal mythicism (as outlined in Chapter 3), in the context of the background knowledge (all forty -eight elements) surveyed in Chapters 4 and 5."

Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 606-607

 

Edit: btw I just sent that page to Dr. Carrier. Hopefully he blogs about it?

Edited by Davros of Skaro
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Habitat
1 hour ago, Davros of Skaro said:

There is only about a 0% to 33% chance Jesus existed.

Still that risk, eh ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Davros of Skaro
1 hour ago, Habitat said:

Still that risk, eh ?

What? A man that we cannot know for certain what he said, and did because he's under a landfill of myth did exist.

HA!

71aiEtYAi5L.jpg

 

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Piney
3 minutes ago, Davros of Skaro said:

HA!

Nice book title.........

:lol:

  • Like 1
  • Haha 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Habitat
7 minutes ago, Davros of Skaro said:

What? A man that we cannot know for certain what he said, and did because he's under a landfill of myth did exist.

HA!

 

 

Yet you still fret over it. It is a book that does have a message, and it oft repeated, and it really would not matter if the words are attributed to a fictional character. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sherapy
43 minutes ago, Habitat said:

Yet you still fret over it. It is a book that does have a message, and it oft repeated, and it really would not matter if the words are attributed to a fictional character. 

Did you read the book, Habs?

Love to hear your thoughts on it.;)

Edited by Sherapy
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Will Due
48 minutes ago, Habitat said:

Yet you still fret over it. It is a book that does have a message, and it oft repeated, and it really would not matter if the words are attributed to a fictional character. 

 

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear what I say"

You mean a message like that one Hab?

I have always wondered (when it's the case) who is not letting those with ears, to hear?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Habitat
10 minutes ago, Sherapy said:

Did you read the book, Habs?

Love to hear your thoughts on it.;)

Carrier ? No, I am not really thinking it would interest me that much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Habitat
Just now, Will Due said:

 

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear what I say"

You mean a message like that one Hab?

I have always wondered (when it's the case) who is not letting those with ears, to hear?

 

 

It's "the world", Will. I often think the modern world is even more formidable a distraction than former times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Will Due
Just now, Habitat said:

It's "the world", Will. I often think the modern world is even more formidable a distraction than former times.

 

Nah, that's just the excuse.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 
eight bits
5 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Edit: btw I just sent that page to Dr. Carrier. Hopefully he blogs about it?

I'm sure that would be interesting. The Uncertaintist series is different from many of the things Carrier has blogged about in the past, since it really isn't a review of Carrier's last two books. Plus, the series' premise is that Carrier has paused or finished with addressing the academic guild in order to  focus on what has always been his strongest base of support: secular non-academics. The new book suggests that.

Which is fine with me. The pressure on academics to take the problem seriously is coming from ordinary people, like those surveyed in that high-quality poll a few years ago. About 20% of English adults thought that Jesus was a mythical or fictional character rather than a real person who actually lived, plus maybe another 10% or so who knew that Jesus was a reputed divinity or a prominent teacher, but preferred not to choose between mythical or historical.

That's huge. If Carrier wants to ride that wave, I think it's fantastic - for him and for everybody.

 

4 hours ago, Habitat said:

Still that risk, eh ?

That's how Bayes works. Except for the kind of problem where you're guessing what's in an envelope or the outcome of a well-defined future event, like what you personally do with horse races, evidence never takes you all the way to certainty unless you start there from the outset.

The evidence in this case isn't great, and personal interpretations of it play a big role in opinion formation. Even if it were theoretically possible, rigorous certainty about Jesus is out of reach as a practical matter.

Carrier professes to be pretty close: 11999/12000: 99.99%. The range @Davros of Skaro quoted, with a low of 2/3 or 66.67%, comes about because Carrier also estimated what he thought might be reasonable likelihoods for somebody more sympathetic to the historical Jesus hypothesis.

 

2 hours ago, Sherapy said:

Did you read the book, Habs?

If you mean the new Carrier book, it's not out yet (1 September 2020, according to Amazon). Apparently, some people got pre-publication copies (anticipating a release date late last year, now rescheduled?), and you can see two reviews at goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45157868-jesus-from-outer-space

 

Edited by eight bits
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
third_eye

Hmmmm... Now the newly formed US Space Force makes a lot of sense... 

Quote

The antecedent of the Space Force, Air Force Space Command, a major command of the U.S. Air Force, was formed on 1 September 1982 with responsibility for space warfare operations.[5] The National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 redesignated Air Force Space Command as the U.S. Space Force, and established it as an independent branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 20 December 2019.[6]

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Space_Force

~

  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eight bits

There are some interesting parallels between Jesus mythology and tales of the Swiss political hero William Tell. Apparently, if one were to take a poll in Switzerland today, you might get results comparable with the recent English Jesus poll. That is, a popular majority might idenify Tell as a real person who actually lived (active 1307-1350's), with a substantial minority calling him mythical or fictional.

Academic attituudes are especially interesting, I think. In the case of Tell, the complete absence of contemporaneous mention receives great weight; in the case of Jesus, it is often "explained away." There are reasons to believe that there was an "oral tradition" spanning the 120 years or so between Tell's death and the earliest extant writings about him, but little or no learned BS about how these oral stories and songs would faithfully preserve nuggets of history.

Most striking is the scholarly weight given to the appearance of Tell's signature hero-deed, the masterful crossbow shot cleaving the apple atop his son's head, in other mythical stories throughout northern Europe. In contrast, that Gospel Jesus is a rewite of older Jewish Bible tropes? Nothing to see here, move along.

The final parallel I'll mention is that one factor which keeps the historicity issue alive today is a powerful institution with a vested interest in a favorable PR attitude about its origins: the Swiss Confedration. Without that instiutional support, William Tell is pretty much in the same boat as Robin Hood or King Arthur. As Jesus would be, too, except for his well-off supporting organizations, IMO.

The Tell case is simpler than Jesus, since there are no complications like:

- If Tell really did live, then whatever he accomplished was achieved during his natural life,

- There is no competition between a hypothetical "real life" William Tell and a more powerful, spiritual, celestial William Tell who visited the living and told them to get to work doing what he himself never got around to,

- The rise of the Swiss Confederation probably doesn't signal the imminent end of the world (although, so far, so good with Jesus, too)

Nevertheless, I think there is enough precedent in the Tell case that someday academic acknowledgment of uncertainty about Jesus' historicity will be normal.

A summary of William Tell's story and its current status:

https://dailyhistory.org/Was_William_Tell_a_real_person%3F

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 3
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Will Due

Rube_Goldberg's__Self-Operating_Napkin__(cropped).gif

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Habitat

I very much doubt that there are as many  William Tell "scholars" (ahem !) exhibiting the zealotry of the JC "no show" brigade, who constantly put me in mind of Wile E Coyote and his endeavours to put an end to the Road Runner. We await the Acme Supernatural Squelcher.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eight bits
7 hours ago, Habitat said:

I very much doubt that there are as many  William Tell "scholars" (ahem !) exhibiting the zealotry of the JC "no show" brigade, who constantly put me in mind of Wile E Coyote and his endeavours to put an end to the Road Runner. We await the Acme Supernatural Squelcher.

The matter is of current and recurring interest in Switzerland. Granted that Switzerland is not evangelical (on the contrary, it is reluctant to extend citizenship to non-residents, and not so hot about welcoming non-citizens to reside there). So, the universe of scholars interested in the Tell matter is more limited than those who study the icon of Christianity and the forerunner of the Prophet.

It is interesting, though, that when a folklorist does examine the Tell problem, we seem not to hear historians complain about turf invasion. The guild, in contrast, is very sniffy about which credentials a scholar must have (although I can find no guild complaints about when mere physicist Einstein weighed in on the question, enthusiastically in favor of the historicity of a well-spoken teaching Jesus heavily indebted to his predecessors).

I do like the Road Runner analogy for some part of the Jesus myther community. Beep beep.

The issue here isn't supernatural. We're looking for a single hypothetical flesh-and-blood man whose surviving friends remembered him fondly. Happens every day. That it happens every day is the best argument the histrocists have. Given the time and place, maybe this fellow mixed preaching and practical magic. If we ever find the guy, then we can argue over whether his brand of practical magic in any way suggests the supernatural, or whether his teaching displayed unearthly insight. But right now? It's all we can do just to find him. First things first.

 

Edited by eight bits
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eight bits
On 2/14/2020 at 3:28 AM, Davros of Skaro said:

Edit: btw I just sent that page to Dr. Carrier. Hopefully he blogs about it?

An update. Nothing on the OP article in this thread, but Carrier did post this week about a commentary raising a different issue about Bayesian practice.

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/16374

The target article in that case was highly technical (apparently a contibution to a meeting about Bayesian methods applied to subatomic physics, yum).

Carrier's response was lengthy, and I'm unsure he didn't adequately resolve the matter with his opening paragraph:

Quote

I often encounter people who confuse “Bayesian statistics” with “Bayesian epistemology” or even just “Bayesian reasoning.” I’ll get critics writing me who will assert things like “Bayesian statistics can’t be used on historical data,” or “you can’t do philosophy with Bayesian statistics,” which are both false (there are rare occasions when indeed you can) and not answering anything I ever said. Because “Bayesian statistics” is not “Bayesian reasoning,” much less “Bayesian epistemology.” I have only been an advocate for the latter (though I also agree those scientists advocating the former are right). Yet many people will still take issues they have with Bayesian statistics as evidence against Bayesian reasoning or Bayesian epistemology. This needs to stop. Here is a curative

Anybody sophisticated enough to read the target article (Carrier links to it, if you're interested). is likely sophisticated enough not to confuse inside-baseball applied statistical controversies - where often enough the participants on both "sides" are Bayesians in whole or part - with criticisms of the Bayesian ideal overall.

The authors of the target article are themselves Bayesians. That should be a tip-off as to how little is at stake here.

None of this is why Richard Carrier hasn't budged the guild, few of whom plausibly have much statistical background, and why he is wise to devote his energies to where his efforts have been successful. That is, raising public awareness that there is a serious problem with smug assurance about Jesus' historicity.

'Cause there is.

 

Edited by eight bits
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.