Thursday, April 28, 2011

Doubts About Atheist Intelligence (or, Tube Boobs 6)

Over the last 24 hours or so I composed a new vid for TektonTV (link below) in which I addressed a gross misrepresentation by an atheist who had attended my debate with Richard Carrier and recorded at least some part of it (including the Q and A session) on their iPhone. (Yes, this is another story of incompetents carrying around toys they use to the detriment of others – say hi to the Information Age again.)

I’ll let readers see the vid to get the full story, but here is what it boils down to.
In the Q and A, it was noted that many Christians have doubts about the existence of God. I was asked if I had had that feeling before myself (note the critical word). I said no, because such things are not part of my personality makeup.

The atheist, however, made a very simple confusion between the feeling of doubt (an emotion) and intellectual doubting – subjective vs objective (and, a noun versus a verb) and reached the idiotic conclusion that I was saying that I never doubted anything intellectually. They followed this up with a couple of dumb questions like, “Shouldn’t you follow the evidence where it leads you?”

There’s more than one aspect to this display of monumental comprehension incompetence. For one, it seems hardly possible that any such person as this atheist was thinking I was saying I was could even exist, at least beyond the age of infancy (or, due to some mental illness). Who in the world never doubts anything (in intellectual terms)? That kind of doubt is so fundamental to daily life that such a person could never reach a basic level of functioning. They’d be just like an infant.

Second, all that night before the Q and A I had presenting a case for the textual reliability of the NT based on evidence. While one might expect that atheist to disagree with my handling of it, it should have been obvious that I was following a principle of “following the evidence where it leads you” and not engaging an “intellectually doubtless” paradigm at all.

The most gruesome aspect of this charade, however, is that by all appearances, this atheist started his YouTube channel for no other purpose than to publicize his misunderstanding. The debate over textual issues and all other questions were de-contexted from this one question and answer in order to publicize a single, unwarranted character smear which, even if accurate, would in no way have affected any argument made by me on any point. One can envision this pitifully shallow mind having gone away from the debate rejoicing over having captured what they perceived to be a “golden gotcha” quote (oblivious in their bliss of ignorance, of course) which held more value than any details over such matters as manuscripts, interpolations, or textual criticism.

It’s an insult not just to me, but also to Carrier, as well as the church staff, who worked as hard as they did in preparing for and presenting a debate on such a serious topic. We did all that just so you could engage this intellectual masturbatory fantasy, pal? Perish the thought.

One good thing did come of this, though. It gave me an idea for a new TektonTV concept package (the “Dumb Question of the Month”). Long after the Shallow One has passed on to his next fantasy – maybe he has in mind capturing William Lane Craig on tape picking his nose – I’ll still be producing that series.

In fact, maybe someday he can provide me with more material for it.

The Forge will be on hiatus until next Tuesday or Thursday while I attend the ISCA conference.



  1. Interesting. I have a question then. Hopefully it isn't a dumb one from your perspective, since several examples come to mind from having read many of your writings over the years. In "Not the Impossible Faith" Carrier says, "Despite his rather hyperbolic language, even Holding must admit that the odds of Christianity becoming successful without being true could not be zero even on all of his own assumptions. Human behavior is not that predictable..." And then your response would seem to confirm the suspicions of many atheists who pounced on that guy's video: " is not true that even I, as [Carrier] says, 'must admit that the odds of Christianity becoming successful without being true could not be zero even on all of his own assumptions.' I admit no such thing and never will."

    And similar patterns of "apparent" black and white thinking can be found in the back and forth with Carrier's chapter in "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave" called "The Plausibility of Theft" and your response is suspiciously called, "The Impossibility of Theft" rather than something more reasonable like, "The Improbability of Theft." Please explain.


  2. So what kinds of "intellectual doubts" do you have, in what areas? Do any of them relate to your belief in a personal God? Or to your belief that God is the "author" of one particular collection of "holy books?" To what degree would you say they relate?

  3. There's nothing suspicious -- I think you need to read such titles without a fundamentalist eye, and rather with an eye towards hyperbolic sarcasm and parody of Carrier's title (and own assertiveness). Of course theft is not literally "impossible" -- for example, it is "possible" that Mary Magdalene had a mental illness and paid off the Roman governor to give her the body for the setup of a shrine in France, as Baigent and Leigh might have had it in some variation.

    In practical terms, that has zero chance of being terms of absolute math, I suppose someone might want to argue that it has some .5% chance of being true, or 1%, or whatever; but who's done the math in the first place? No one did; I took Carrier's statement (and implication of some alleged failure in not providing a "statistical argument") as little more than empty rhetoric, and replied in kind.

    In any event, even if this were a real issue, it would remain the same that the reading of "doubt" was wholly misinterpreted in terms of the context of the question asked. I will have more to say on this on TWeb today since it seems "FreeFromAllGods" doesn't want to show people my reply.

  4. @Edski: What kind of intellectual doubts? None that are caused by you or anyone you know, that's for sure. And none that concern any major issue. Your side hasn't produced a respectable, informed argument in more than a decade, so if you want to cause problems for me, you'd better improve your serve.

    I won't be around for a few days, so don't spam my blog while I'm gone.

  5. Um, Carrier is writing an entire volume on just the math of his mythicism argument, which will probably bore most people to tears (including myself), so I think he probably meant what he said in NIF.

    You are claiming hyperbole and yet that's what you seemed to be "rebutting" with your statement when Carrier claimed he was trying to "boil away" the hyperbole. So your "responding in turn" is a little confusing to say the least.

  6. @Ben: That's nice re math and mythicism. But who did the math on the subject I was writing about? No one yet? In any event, color me suspicious (doubtful!) about such applications or their usefulness. I didn't find it that useful from Swinburne either; the main problem I see is failure to plug in all the integers.

    And I'm sorry you're confused, but that's the way it is. You shouldn't read texts like a fundamentalist, not even mine, and you should also not make judgments about me based on what you hear from others. It might also help you to realize that when I modified that material for my book, I didn't carry the heading over -- it was a different audience, and I addressed the theft thesis generally, not from any one person.

    See my comment above re not being around...I'll ask you not to spam either, or anyone else for that matter. I'll be back Tuesday.

  7. I find it befuddling that a Christian apologist would choose for his responses to his critics to lack the grace and tact which is becoming of Christ's example. Unmitigated condescension betrays your frustrations and your Christ. Why so vehemently defend a faith with which you are existentially at odds?

  8. @Dan the Whiner: Yes, ignorant people do tend to be befuddled easily. "Christ's example" also included insults and public shame for those publicly oppposed to the truth. Sorry, but you'll need to toss that edited Bible and get a serious education. And while you're at it, see about getting a degree in psychoanalysis to replace the one you got out of tht gumball machine. Your reaction indicates massive insecurities and an addiction to high fructose corn syrup.

  9. It's certainly appropriate to point out the errors in this or that individual's thinking and thus behavior, including the person who posted that video. Jesus frequently did his own rebuttals publicly whilst teaching on the Temple grounds, in response to the tests of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And for them, to be found in error would be a form of public shame. But it's not clear that Jesus also resorted to a volley of petty insults such as "you're dumb" or "get an education" or even "you're high on corn syrup." It appears that you have demoted your own discourse to the level of the uneducated whom you intend to attack.

  10. So Carrier is now planning on abusing math along with history and philosophy. What did all these poor subjects do to Carrier.

  11. @dan the Whiner: Nice try. But the Pharisees would no doubt say they thought Jesus was "resorting to a vollry of petty insults" when he labelled them vipers and tombs. ASnd as a matter of fact, when he said to them, "Have you not read...?" it was the same as saying "get an education" -- and very insulting to them as the scholars of the day.

    Like I said, nice try. But you're in over your head and demoting yourself with every comment. You're proof that it's the gored oxen that bellows loudest.

  12. Jesus did indeed reserve a few choice titles for the religious elite of his day, including sons of Satan, white-washed tombs, and vipers. The teachers were knowledgable and cunning, but evil with their intentions, making these apt analogies to bring to light before the listening crowds. They were not personal insults driven by Jesus' own sour outlook and character, but words of wisdom to his listeners, just as he said to avoid the yeast of the Pharisees.

    "Have you not read...?" is actually a rhetorical question, seeing as they likely had read, and a particularly polite way to phrase a rebuttal without resorting to a shouting match of "fool!" and "idiot!". Jesus' point was that they had not understood, and he then explains what they did not understand, using scripture. Telling someone "You don't understand, you missed this something in scripture, and this is what it is" is only insulting to prideful persons, and quite different from revealing one's own prideful intellect by showing a favoritism for snarky descriptions of people.

    Now, if you had said, "everyone on the blogosphere, avoid this scheming viper on youtube! This was his error...and this deserves no more dwelling," then you would have communicated not prideful condescension but servanthood to Christ, a blog post worthy of Paul's epistles. You are knowledgeable and cunning, but have left the moral high ground for mere retaliation of like with like (video with video, gumball with gumball). In this respect, you shame yourself without my words directing your attention to it. I would not mind this behavior from an amoral atheist, as I would not expect better of him. But I do expect much better from any self-proclaimed Christian, and they should be aware that people are watching their character.

  13. @Dan the Dumb Bell:

    "They were not personal insults driven by Jesus' own sour outlook and character,"

    Nor are mine. But you sure are a judgmental hack with a heart of a Pharisee to think that is what they are.

    "but words of wisdom to his listeners,"

    That is what I am aiming for as well. Nice try, but as a judge of others' motives and intentions, you are a miserable failure. Keep trying --maybe you'll find something you're good at someday, like basket weaving.

    "is actually a rhetorical question, seeing as they likely had read, and a particularly polite way to phrase a rebuttal"

    PLEASE! It is NOT polite; because they HAD read, and everyone knew it, it was a grave insult to their scholarship. It is like denying a thesis of Einstein by asking if he has ever taken Physics 101. Are you truly this ignorant? (Now THAT is a rhetorical question!)

    The fact is, you are ALSO ignorant of the honor-shame component here; the Pharisees' personal honor and status rested almost entirely in their position as brokers of Scriptural interpretation. So indeed, it is far STRONGER than addressing them as prideful people; it is cutting to the very heart of what they considered their social and personal identity.

    No, sorry again -- you've remade Jesus in your own image as a modern wimp. "Polite" -- now THAT was funny!

    "without resorting to a shouting match"

    And who's shouting? Not me. I'm finding your ignorance very entertaining, as I find all ignorance entertaining. :D

    "communicated not prideful condescension"

    I communicated no such thing except to a grasping, ignorant, and projecting scoundrel like you who pompously presumes to speak for Christ even as you hypocritically engage in a passive-aggressive form of the very behavior you condemn.

    "In this respect, you shame yourself without my words directing your attention to it."

    Being shamed in the eyes of someone like you is an honor!

    "and they should be aware that people are watching their character."

    Yeah I don't know and haven't known for the past 15 years I've been at this. Fortunately, there are plenty of intelligent, open-minded Christians who know why I do what I do and don't arrogantly, pompously assume to judge the way you do, as though having Christ in their back pocket.

    Frankly, it's people like you that make Western Christianity such a disgrace and ensure that it will die a well-deserved death in about 30 years unless there are major changes.

    That will be all -- I have a 3-post limit here for trolls. If you have more to say, see us at -- we find pompous people like you very amusing there, and you'll be winning a Screwball Award for that screwy reading of the "have you not read" passage.

  14. It's now after Tuesday and I suppose this will be my final comment here.

    "the main problem I see is failure to plug in all the integers."

    This is a common objection to the use of Bayes' theorem to history, and I'm not expert on it, but I do know that when you plug in numbers to the equation, you plug in the range of certainty to the best of your ability. And this level of uncertainty doesn't go away because you aren't using numbers. Our ignorance is persistent, whereas the mathematical modelling allows us to be more precise with the levels of our ignorance in an intellectual community of peers.

    Obviously people interested in history first and math not at all will continue to find all sorts of "issues" with the application. I'm hoping that the Bayes' enthusiasts will get together with some computer programmers and create easy to follow software that takes historians through the steps "Bayes' theorem on history for dummies" style. Not sure if that'll work out or not.

    I was aware of the basic changes made to your documents, though I have yet to go over all of them with a fine toothed comb. Not sure that changes anything.

    take care,

  15. @Ben: Well, I can respect people working to the best of their abilities, certainly. But the more complex the issue is, the harder it is for that to be sufficient. So more or less, this confirms my reservations.

    Have fun.