Play Mythty For Me? Dr Carrier Carries On

It’s considered bad form for an author or editor to reply to critical reviews of their own work. But as Richard Carrier’s recent attempt to trash the Sources of The Jesus Tradition looks more like a fit of distemper than a serious attempt to assess a collection of essays (and hardly represents “my own work”) I think his “review” is fair game.

Sources, like a lot of anthologies, is an untidy book.  That’s not my phrase; it’s one I learned from looking at reviews of two significant twentieth- century collections–a famous one by Hans Bartsch called Kerygma and Myth, consisting of scattered and not very well focused responses to Rudolph Bultmann’s classic essay The New Testament and Mythology, and a real second-rater, undeservedly famous, called The Myth of God Incarnate.  In fact, it was the editor of the latter, John Hick, who called it untidy.

I’d probably describe each anthology as one or two good essays surrounded by clutter and private opinion.  Most scholars of any experience know that “collections” and anthologies have a very low batting average in terms of popular success and none at all in terms of financial success.  The corollary is that no editor ever became famous on the basis of editing other people’s work, nor probably totally reprobate either.  Richard Carrier wants it to be otherwise.

Anthologies are untidy because unless the contributors agree on every point or disagree on a defined set of them, the essays tend to wander over the predilections of the essayists. Meeting and conference papers are especially notorious in this respect, editor-driven themed collections much less so.

Sources emanated from a couple of conferences associated with an initiative called the Jesus Project, about which I‘ve written far too much. Carrier was invited to become a part of this initiative a few years ago after its “founding” at UC Davis in 2007 and just prior to its suspension by the host organization, the Center for Inquiry, for which he now works, apparently as an advocate,  in 2009.*

Carrier was originally enthusiastic about the aims, even about my leadership.    He now says that on the basis of post-publication (!) conversations he had with me, “Hoffmann was a complete dick to me, and wouldn’t own up even to the mistakes I had actual proof he had made. Rumor has it he’s like this. But this was my first experience of it. His behavior toward me leaves me with no further sympathy for him, so here it goes….” What “goes” is a cyclone of aspersion that even in the sections where his sentences parse looks like the verbiage of an under-trained enthusiast.  (As an aside, New Testament scholarship is getting a lot of amateurs lately, most of them under-trained).

I am still not sure what “mistakes” he’s referring to other than his own, which were as substantial as his contribution was irrelevant, a long discursus on Bayes’ theorem that never once budges above pedantic lecturing to engage the literary material – the New Testament – to which its application is implied to be relevant. A cautious, or less sympathetic editor would have cut it eo ipso as being totally to the left of the topic, though Carrier shows a fleeting acquaintance with some of the methods (and limits) of conventional New Testament criticism.  It does not rise to the level of convincing expertise.

The other essays Carrier finds worthwhile, indeed redemptive, are the contributions of Frank Zindler, head of the American Atheist Press, and Ron Lindsay, head of the organization that employs him (and one suspects, the organization at whose bidding he’s doing this hatchet job). Needless to say, he feels his own essay belongs to this lot.

What these three contributions have in common is that their authors share the conviction that Jesus did not exist.  That’s a fair conclusion, as I have said on several occasions, and one of the areas the Jesus Project was meant to address.  Of the three, Zindler comes closest, tonally, to “fitting” in with the essays Carrier would like to rip away, especially my own. Lindsay on the other hand writes a fairly anachronistic piece using the formulations of modern American jurisprudence as basis for deciding questions of “evidence” in the gospels.  But while naive, it at least (to quote the author) discharges its duty to the subject matter, unlike Carrier’s piece where the subject matter never comes into view.     To be generous, it may be largely the writer’s own sense of the deficiency of his performance that leads him to accuse me of sloppy editing.  There is a lot an editor can do to ensure that an article or chapter is an accurate representation of what its author intended it to say.  There is virtually nothing an editor can do to make an article rewrite itself once it’s been written.

Thomas Bayes. Maybe.

Carrier also claims that my own public presentation at the conference does not correspond to what I have included in the book.  As a matter of fact, “On Not Finding the Historical Jesus”  and “The Canonical Historical Jesus” represent the entirety of the handwritten scripts of my presentations at the Amherst conference, edited for publication but not at all substantially different from what was said in 2008.

Whether the essays, meager and merely suggestive as they are, have any merit beyond what Carrier assigns to them, I cannot say.  I can say the “naivety” he curiously assigns to me concerning the origins of the sayings of Jesus, the identity of Paul and (especially) the status of Ephesians reveals a woeful ignorance of my own scholarship in this area, especially in terms of the history of the canon.  Beyond this, what he says is pure tantrum and loaded with the language of a man who strives to be outrageous and appears to be perennially upset.

Do we agree about anything?  Yes, the chapters by Luedemann and Meggitt are very good.  So, however, are the chapters by Trobisch and MacDonald and Chilton. As for Arthur Droge, whose comments at the meeting were also very good, Arthur was not able to get them to me in publishable form before deadline, though a version of his remarks appeared in the journal Caesar, cut by CFI at the same time at the Jesus Project was defunded. As for James Tabor and others, their lectures were not available because they formed part of work already committed to publishers.  They were gracious enough to share their ideas with  the group–as were many others at UC Davis in 2007. I do not think this is unusual, but I recognize that as a full-time self-promotionalist Carrier does not travel an orthodox conference circuit where this protocol would be familiar to him.  He writes primarily for his fans, atheists pre-committed to his view of a mythical Jesus who then pretend to be passionate about evidence and method. Obviously people like me deserve the ire of people like that.

Yet even by my low standards, a 50% rate of good and excellent essays is a “win,” especially since the majority of the losers–my own (3 of 15)–get the axe as “fails.”

Dr. Carrier has spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to separate me out from the group in order to perform a kind of literary assassination, but in a way so crude and bilik that the whole interminable exercise sounds like a whine.

But to recap: The book remains untidy, like a lot of anthologies that begin as conferences and papers.  I wish it could have been tidier. I am guessing, however, that the sore thumb sticking out of the collection in such a way that its author must now wonder what he was doing is an essay entitled “Bayes Theorem for Beginners.”  I certainly wonder what it’s doing there.

__________________________________

*As of April 2011, much of the work of the Jesus Project is subsumed in a new group completely independent of CFI and its agenda. Information concerning The Jesus Prospect is available from its managing director,  S.L. Fisher:  stephanielouisefisher@btinternet.com

48 thoughts on “Play Mythty For Me? Dr Carrier Carries On

  1. Seems to me that this idea of applying Baysian methods to Christian history is one of the actually new ideas in Christian history. So, in my opinion, that type of articles would be of more interest than other more speculative ideas in the industry. This idea that actual scientific tool might be able to be applied to Christian history is intriguing. As I see it, the religion industry has a problem. You almost ever see people with actual degrees in history writing on the subject. Instead you get various collections of people with degrees from theology, and philosophy, religion schools. Now granted, I understand how all these various schools evolved to exist, and understand the history of the evolution of the university.

    For me, I look to find two types of folks for my data on my interest in Christian history. 1) people with degrees in history 2) people in the scientific industry that can provide data on various technical questions.

    For me, I have found that the folks from the religion industry, then to generate a great deal of paper, but don’t actually get much done. I mean, sometimes it seems that very little has been done in the field since David Friedrich Strauss’s _The Life of Jesus Critically Examined_. And when I talk to my friends that are in the religion industry what were the 5 greatest things learned about Christian history in the last year, 5 or 10? … they may say something like “we have really improved the tools of the critical method…” etc. But then I ask, so what have you found with those tools, that would actually fit my question, they tend to kind of lose interest or start getting angry.

    You have various folks in the education and religion industry with somewhat steady jobs due to it. But very little if anything has been learned of major importance regarding the history of early Christianity from this group.

    And now with the advent of blogging, and more folks getting interested in it. It looks like we are going to have even more material about the topic. That means that as a percentage, the amount of new discoveries or knowledge RE the history of Christianity per the amount of info generated by the industry is going to go down even further. That is not a encouraging sign to me.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

    • I get so bored seeing the same Rich Griese mantra everywhere he goes, reflecting his own narrow American view of scholarship. I’m not alone in the field of New Testament now, in having never stuck my nose into a “theological seminary”. I’m not alone either, in having never studied “theology” formally although I’ve read into it alot over the years inspired by research into the history and evolution of religions and ideas. I’m not alone in the type of degrees I’ve taken – first in education and music and then in the history of world religions, majoring first in history and classics, as well as taking psychology, sociology, anthropology, art history, world music, philosophy and English literature. I studied these subjects in the departments/schools of education, music, history, world religions, classics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, art history, philosophy and English literature…. in state universities. I’ve had Professors (in the correct sense of the term) in religions departments, with a PhD in nuclear physics, History, and even Botany, as well as Philosophy and Religion – not that they would be dimwitted enough to apply the tools of, for example, nuclear physics to religious source material…. and applying Baysian methods to Christian history is about as speculative as you can get.

      • I do not think it is fair to characterize Rich as “an American view” of scholarship, do you?

      • Swop it round – narrow view of American scholarship. And perhaps interpolate a mythtic between the narrow and the view – or a gnu. Synonymous almost.

  2. Once upon a time, there were three American atheists: a lawyer, a mathematician and a geologist. And they all found their way into an anthology of essays examining the existence of a first century Jewish teacher. I wonder how that happened. Perhaps you might say, ‘”By some might be said of me that here I have but gathered but a nosegay of strange flowers, and have put nothing of mine unto it but the thread to bind them”. (Michel de Montaigne) Fitting response to an incompetent diatribe.

  3. Pingback: Scholars addressing Jesus Myth studies: Richard Carrier’s reviews « Vridar

  4. Joe-

    Strangely enough, I agree with you that anthologies need not necessarily be systematically organized by topic. As I read through Sources of the Jesus Tradition, I really didn’t pay attention to whether or not the essays were related. There’s no rule that states all collections must be linear.

    Although, I did find some essays better researched than others.

    However, I think you might be being a little unfair to Carrier when you say you wonder what his article is doing there. After all, the cover of the book says you were the Editor–so that was ultimately your call–you have to own up to that. Complaining after the fact just seems to be unnecessary and unprofessional, even if you are only attempting to defend your work.

    • Thanks for the comment; it is actually the tone and extent of Carrier’s original post and follow-up that elicited my response. There are too few essays (15 in all, three mine) that deal with the topic. Carrier’s could have been promising if he had spent less time expounding Bayes and more dealing with how it could be applied. But I agree with you in general about taking it on the chin within reason–& if it had been a book consisting entirely of my own work I’d be inclined to follow Sam Harris’s pattern of posting the review and then responding to it. Depending on what “kind” of collection a collection is, editors have varying degrees of authority and responsibility. The other matter is that the book appeared during a fairly awkward period between CFI, the project sponsors, and Prometheus Books, whose Chairman Paul Kurtz (who had left CFI, which he founded, in a battle mode, as many know) was not inclined to permit references to CFI sponsorship of the Project which had recently been defunded. There were very serious questions about whether it would be published at all. Without going into the details of that period, the back and forth certainly affected all aspects of the book’s production–something I felt and still feel the contributors’s did not need to know. Probably more was happening “behind the scenes” with respect to the release of this collection than any I have dealt with in the past. Anyway, Tristan: thanks for the comment!

  5. I posted a comment yesterday, but don’t see it showing up. And I noticed this morning some other comments on this thread. Did my comment get lost? I can repost again if it did, but don’t want to if the post was just hung up in the pipes.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  6. Dr. Hoffmann,

    So, I’m guessing that Carrier won’t be invited to take part in the “Jesus Prospect” then?

    By the way, you may have seen it already, but he commented on this blog post in the comments section of his review.

    • I actually like Richard’s work and as a starting point for some real criticism of NT methods, his Bayes’s approach could be interesting–though it’s also interesting that the theologian Richard Swinburne uses Bayesian logic in his arguments for the existence of God.

      • Yeah, I find that interesting as well. Tim and Lydia McGrew, in an article you may have read (or heard about), use Bayes’ Theorem in their assessment of the evidence for the resurrection.

        What work of Richard’s do you like?

    • A surprisingly large number of people have written in with information about Carrier’s rudeness and incompetence in Bayseian theory. I have to say that Tim and Lydia McGrew seem legit to me after reading this from J R Frazer:

      J. R. Fraser says:
      We all knew Carrier was cocky and overly sure of himself. However, publicly denigrating the paper of professional scholars in an area in which you yourself are a rank amateur with demonstrated incompetence disqualifies you from consideration as a serious intellectual. That’s just what Carrier has done in reference to Tim and Lydia McGrew’s article on the Resurrection which was published in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. The Blackwell Companion series, for those who are unaware, is a highly respected academic press. Carrier, on the other hand, can’t get academic presses to publish his books, but he says that’s just because his latest manuscript on Bayes’s Theorem is too mathematical – or at least he suspects that’s the case. Nobody has actually said that to him.

      But there’s another problem with Carrier, and that is that he’s just plain wrong, and is an amateur hack who doesn’t know what he’s doing but pretends he does. Tim McGrew demonstrates Carrier’s incompetence in probability theory on a thread here: http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2011/01/richard-carrier-on-bayes-theorem.html.

      Lydia McGrew exposes Carrier’s basic error with regard to his bizarre critique of their paper here: http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2011/01/odds-form-of-bayess-theorem.html (and yes, those are my comments on the thread).

      These all stem from an interview Carrier did with Luke Muehlhauser at Common Sense Atheism. To his credit, Luke posted an apology on Lydia’s blog for appearing to go along with Carrier’s vague and off-base criticism of their paper. Notably he said, “When asked to guess at the competence in probability theory between two people who have been publishing peer-reviewed philosophy literature on probability theory for at least a decade [that would be the McGrews] vs. someone who discovered Bayes’ Theorem in the last few years [that would be Carrier], I’m going to bet on the former in a heartbeat.” That’s at least a reasonable starting position. The position that Carrier might actually have a legitimate critique to offer the McGrews on Bayesian probability is just embarrassing. Although I also have to say that I knew as soon as I heard that Carrier had decided to try to write something on Bayesian probability with respect to the Resurrection that he was going to make a fool of himself.

      • It should be noted that Carrier has responded to those “several gaping holes” here: http://war-on-error.xanga.com/738651384/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about-bayes-theorem/ which came to a grand total of three and only one of them seemed like anything beyond nit-picking on the part of an angry husband.

        Muehlhauser’s sentiments aren’t quite a “reasonable starting position” since he presents a false dichotomy. Carrier has had his manuscript vetted by other qualified math people and they found it satisfactory with minimal changes (http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2011/01/csa-interview.html?showComment=1294246207742#c6875328303254714735). McGrew’s contribution to that end only presented perhaps one more minimal change.

        Further, the “position that Carrier might actually have a legitimate critique” isn’t so “embarrassing” after all as what Carrier offered ended up being an accurate assessment of it since it was aimed at what other people were claiming about McGrew’s paper as Carrier pointed out on her blog (http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2011/01/odds-form-of-bayess-theorem.html?showComment=1294516826483#c8684968774214098658).

        So there is a lot of convenient mountain out of mole-hilling going on here.

      • Actually this is not quite true; when I asked him about the status of his essay/calculations (heh!) and why he did not publish with academic presses where his work could be properly vetted he said he was not understood. I did not buy it then and I especially do not buy it now. I will write a more substantial piece on this scam next week.

      • It is pretty clear that Carrier has decided to be the Sarah Palin of atheist biblical scholarship, the outlier, the one who’s got the key to the kingdom, except his credentials are totally unproved and even in the areas he has chosen to take a stand he shows nothing but a commitment to being extravagant. Is it really likely that no one can assess his work, or that everytime he goes wrong it is someone else’s fault? To be blunt, Bayes doesn’t work with the NT because it can’t be applied to the assumptions of source criticism. I say this not just in relation to Carrier but also in relation to others who try to use it on the contrivances of “events” like the resurrections (sorry McGrews) and principles (Carrier’s fetish) like dissimilarity (which he calls as a few others do embarrassment). It’s fit for debating fodder on abstruse issues like the existence of God, viz. Swinburne, but ultimately fails there too. Like a bad suit, it can be made to fit but Carrier does not show any mastery of the literary and hermeneutical background of the texts he is considering, let alone of the methods that have been developed to assess them. One suspects he thought he could bypass this and go straight for the razzle dazzle, except in deciding his MO was simply to call all senior scholars who have no patience with his witchcraft insane or unable to grasp his calculus, he’s probably destroyed any chance at credibility he might have had. This is certainly not about a book–it’s about whether Carrier knows anything about the subject he professes to be expert in. What he does in in the Kingdom of Blog will not decide his future.

  7. Perhaps we are referring to different things. Carrier is talking about his forthcoming book in that link which was the ultimate issue from that McGrew situation (even though that technically focused on an online PDF) and you seem to be talking about his chapter in Sources of the Jesus Tradition.

      • If you are trying to say that the people who reviewed the manuscript of his forthcoming book just so happened to be (as you put it) “atheists pre-committed to his view of a mythical Jesus who then pretend to be passionate about evidence and method,” (or in this case math, I suppose) I think you are far from demonstrating that.

      • Dr. Hoffmann,

        I asked a while back which of Richard’s work you like, since you said you like his work. Have you read anything of his other than that Bayes paper? If so, I’d be interested in hearing what stuff you liked.

      • Landon: I am liking less and less; frankly while I have been pretty gentle with mythtics, I am becoming less patient now that I see that Carrier has slutted his paper around to multiple would be publishers with very little revision. He was recommended to me by another mythtic, Robert Price, who I like personally but cannot say much for his choice of disciples. Let me be really blunt: Carrier has been under my radar until now, but he is ALL wrong and his methods are risible.

      • His contribution to the Price anthology on the resurrection [The Empty Tomb], which I reviewed and you may have seen, was credible enough. No one said he was all wrong, did they? I think the jury on Richard Carrier will be out until his work can be subject to peer review, which will mean publication by a serious press, and he learns how to write critical reviews of other scholars’ work without the fatal tendency to vilify people personally as insane or “paranoid.” So far he has shown himself completely unsuited to the scholarly arena–and I think that is the view shared by a great many people who might otherwise be useful to him. What do you like?

  8. If you have a problem with the peer review process that Carrier’s book has and will go through, then be specific and constructive with your “scam” theory. It makes little sense to me to praise a publisher who puts out there something like the Blackwell Companion to Theology as though the entire field of theology isn’t dubious to begin with (unless you’d like to disagree with that) and then put down another publisher like Prometheus if it actually manages to generate credible material that has been properly peer reviewed.

    Ben

  9. I think you responded to my comment without publishing it. Was that an accident? Or maybe this is just your response to my earlier comment, and my most recent is being held for moderation?

  10. Dr. Hoffmann,

    Evidently you won’t be approving my other comment for moderation. (Either that or it somehow got marked as “spam” or something.) That’s interesting.

    To reply to your most recent, it should just be pointed out how bizarre it is that you say at 10:20pm that Carrier “is ALL wrong and his methods are risible.” Then, in your very next comment, less than two hours later, you say about Carrier: “No one said he was all wrong, did they? I think the jury on Richard Carrier will be out until his work can be subject to peer review…”

    Do you realize how bizarre this sounds? It’s as if two different people are posting contradictory messages from your account, one right after the other.

    • @Landon: I think the thread rather than my comment is a bit bizarre, but in the interest of fair play maybe you could re-send the comment in question? The all wrong/no one said comment relates to what literary folk sometimes call “irony” and I thought you might have picked up on it that way since you caught its “bizarrenes” and since both comments I believe were directed to you? But you still have not told me what you admire in Carrier’s work, or why this discussion matters?

      • I’ll reply to this comment, and then I’ll re-post the one from last night. I agree with you that the thread is bizarre, and I apologize for anything I did to help bring that about.

        I certainly didn’t pick up on the “irony” of your contradictory comments. It strikes me from reading your comments that you just don’t have your mind made up about Carrier. You say one thing, and then something completely different, and then the opposite, etc. If you were intending to do all of that for the purpose of irony, all I can say is that it struck me as more confusing than anything else. But that may be a mark against my ability to pick up on these things, rather than a mark against your ability to express your ideas.

        I never said I “admire” his work, either. I was just curious about what work of his you had read and liked, since I don’t know what actual scholars think about him and I’m not qualified to judge his work in this area myself. (I do know what Christian apologists think of him, however.) I will say that I read his book Not The Impossible Faith and thought it was pretty good, but I don’t know what actual scholars think about it. When you said you liked his work I was interested to find out if you had read it and would endorse it as a scholar in that field.

        Alright. Below I’ll post my comment from last night. It might make less sense now, and seem like it’s beating a dead horse at this point.

      • All good, all posted. I also saw your comment on Carrier’s blogspot. Thank you for your kind comments on the “cover.” Always judge a book by that. I also happened to notice a resounding and deafening lack of response to his screed. Did you?

      • Not the Impossible Faith? Did I “like” it? What difference would that make? Where was it reviewed? Carrier is a debater and atheist apologist–not a serious scholar.

      • Wait a minute. This afternoon you said: “I actually like Richard’s work…” (3:46pm)

        I asked which work you liked, to which you didn’t respond. You then posted that diatribe from Christian apologist J.R. Fraser, and apparently learned about the old controversy between the McGrews and Carrier. I asked you again which work of his you liked, and now you’re saying “I’m liking less and less.”

        Did your opinion change in the course of a few hours? How did that happen? This seems strange to me.

        Perhaps you liked the Bayes stuff, and then you found out that Tim McGrew claimed to find some errors in Carrier’s online pdf, and now you don’t like it anymore. Is that it? (Was there anything McGrew pointed out which disproved any part of what you specifically liked about Carrier’s case? Perhaps you liked this one particular calculation, and McGrew pointed out that the calculation was botched, and now you find yourself liking his work less and less?)

        Or did you in the past read some of Carrier’s other work, and then go back today and re-read it and find that you don’t like it much anymore?

        What paper are you talking about which you say Carrier “slutted around… with very little revision”?

        I’m just finding it bizarre, frankly, that this afternoon you said you liked Carrier’s work, and now you’re saying: “he is ALL wrong and his methods are risible.” Perhaps you could clarify.

      • Dr. Hoffmann,

        Thanks. Yes, the cover is good. I saw it at Barnes and Noble a couple of months ago and was tempted by how nice it would look on my bookshelf.

        As for the lack of response to Carrier’s screed, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what would be a normal response in that case. I couldn’t correct him on anything myself, since I don’t know you, haven’t read the book, etc. I will say that it would be better of him to actually explain in detail why he thinks all of those papers are crap. (That’s something I feel like you should have said in response to him.)

        Alright, I understand now that you don’t think he’s a serious scholar. The question about Not The Impossible Faith was just whether you thought it reflected good and accurate scholarship. Apparently you haven’t read it, and I don’t know if any scholars in your field have (it’s self-published, after all–and I know, you don’t have to say it, this just goes to confirm your conclusion about him not being a serious scholar…).

        Thanks for your replies. I look forward to checking out your blog more.

  11. Landon : the definition of irony – the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. Compare perfect irony above.

    Serious scholarship does not refer to receptive readers as “my fans”. I thought it was odd enough just once, but scrolling through his ‘stuff’ I see he refers to “my fans” alot. Even William Lane Craig, who also tries to present himself as a “serious scholar” does not, as far as I know, refer to his readers as “fans”…

    • Steph,

      Thanks for the comment. I wonder if I was the only one who was confused by the bizarrely contradictory things Dr. Hoffmann has been saying about Carrier.

      Well, if nothing else, the “fans” comment certainly rules out Carrier as a serious scholar! That’s the nail in the coffin. As you pointed out, not even William Lane Craig says that about his fans. (By the way, did you take this criticism of Carrier straight from Craig himself?)

      • I doubt that many people were confused by the use of blatantly obvious perfect irony in the context of this post. Only people who don’t understand irony, or steadfast “fans” of Dick Carrier who probably don’t own a sense of humour anyway.

        Many, many things rule Dick Carrier out as a ‘serious scholar’. Never judge a book by its pretty cover. Not that he’s pretty, but he’s currently asking for pretty photos of himself from “fans” I notice. And what on earth possessed you to think I took this criticism from Billy Craig? I scrolled Dick’s ‘stuff’ and it wasn’t hard to pick. I haven’t a clue what Billy Craig thinks of Dick Carrier and I wouldn’t believe anything he said anyway. I just picked Billy out because he represents the other end of the apologist pole from Dick Carrier, neither of whom are serious critical scholars, and both of whom have seriously uncritical readers.

    • Hey steph, maybe you need to lighten up!

      Many authors/writers have “fans” of their work. Why should it matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction?

      If you ever manage to have anything published, perhaps you’ll have fans yourself.

  12. Hello Professor Hofffman. I was one of your students at LUMS.

    Anyhow, my comment on this issue is this:

    Is this insistence on trying to invoke Bayes’ theorem in such contexts a manifestation of some sort of Math or Physics envy? Or is it due to the fact that forcing mathematics into one’s writings apparently confers on them some form of ‘scientific’ legitimacy?

    The fact of the matter, as far as I know, and as I thought anyone would realize is that Bayes’ theorem is a theorem which follows from certain axioms. Its application to any real world situation depends upon how precisely the parmeters and values of our theoretical reconstruction of a real world approximate reality. At this stage, however, I find it difficult to see how the heavily feared ‘subjectivity’ can be avoided. Simply put, plug in different values into the theorem and you’ll get a different answer. How does one decide which value to plug in?

    Secondly, is it compulsory to try to impose some sort of mathematically based methodological uniformity on all fields of rational inquiry? Do there exist good reasons to suppose the the methods commonly used in different areas that have grown over time are somehow fatally flawed if they are not currently open to some form of mathematization?

    If this kind of paradigm does somehow manage to gain ascendency, I assume history books will end up being much more full of equations and mathematical assumptions etc. While that will certainly make it harder to read for most (even for someone like me, who is more trained in Mathematics than the average person) I doubt that it would have any real consequence beyond that.

  13. Let us prostrate ourselves at the feet of the mighty Steph: the world-renowned expert and arbiter on who does and doesn’t count as a serious scholar. I’m being ironic of course…

    • Just as well, because I’m just reflecting the view of critical scholarship, which does not consider that apologists like these, represent serious critical scholarship.
      – steph

  14. Top NT critical historical scholar Schubert M. Ogden makes the claim that none of the writings of the NT, the letters of Paul, the Gospels as well as the later writings of the NT is apostolic witness to Jesus. The sufficint reason for this point is that they all have been shown to depend on sources earlier than themselve and thus not to be the originating and original eye witness sources the early church mistook them to be. Thus not reliable sources for reconstruction of the Jesus tradtiion. The apostolic witness is located in a non-traditional canon, the earliest stratum of the Gospel sources. His position is shared by James M. Robinson, Hans Sieter Betz and Patrick Hartin to name a few. It is a matter of where to start in NT critical studies. “If you begin with Paul you will misunderstand Jesus, if you begin with Jesus you will understand Paul differently”. To begin with Paul is to begin with the writings of the NT, to begin with Jesus is to begin with the Jesus sayings tradition – before Paul, before the
    Gospels, before Christianitn, the apostolic period, 30 Ce – 60 CE.

  15. Pingback: π -ness Envy? The Irrelevance of Bayes’s Theorem? | The New Oxonian

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