Friday, September 23, 2011

New Clothes for Shakespeare and Sondheim or: THE ARROGANCE OF IGNORANCE

                         “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
                                                                                                Charles Darwin

“There are only two things in the universe worth hating, The Master Provider said, death      and ignorance, ignorance and death. One is inevitable, the other need not be.”
                                                                                       From Traveling in Space

I was once driving around with a colleague, an actor of sorts who I will call Harry Hotdoggen, when the subject of William Shakespeare came up.

William Shakspeare

“Shakespeare is the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’ Harry said in a statement so definitive that I thought I could perceive the stone tablet he was burning the words onto.

“What?” I said, never really liking stone tablets.

“Everybody thinks he’s this great writer, but his plays are really crap,” Harry said, happy to elucidate. “You know, it’s just that English teachers and intellectuals tell you Shakespeare is great, so everybody has to believe it, when, really, his plays are crap, I know, I’ve done some Shakespeare, I’m telling ya, ya can’t understand what the hell he’s taking about.”

“What?” I said again thinking maybe some carbon monoxide had leaked into the car and I was just imagining this conversation.

Stephen Sondheim
“And Sondheim too, he’s also the Emperor’s New Clothes. The only people who like his musicals are effete snobs, and they don’t really like his work, they’re just pressured to say they do, refusing to admit that his tunes are not singable — they’re awful.”

I love Sondheim. I love Shakespeare. I would have said, 
“What?” again, but What? was the use?

Harry Hotdoggen is an actor with a particular talent—some might call it a peculiar talent—and what he does he has wanted to do from a very early age, and he has known success doing it.  Because he was convinced from that early age that he would achieve this success, he paid little if any attention in school, did not achieve any academic standing at all (and is proud of it), and has never considered for a minute wasting time suffering “higher” education—except that which he could achieve through AM talk radio. William Shakespeare has been judged the greatest writer of the English language, and possibly any language; Stephen Sondheim is considered by his fellow professionals and devoted fans as the greatest composer and lyricist of the last fifty years of musical theater. But the ill-educated Harry, a man and talent with his own fans to be sure, but one not destined, I would be willing to wager, to go down in history; Harry, with unshakable conviction in his assessment; Harry has spoken the Word: Both Mister Ss are nothing but frauds and shams. 

Harry Hotdoggen’s greatest role may be as a stand-in for the Great American Anti-intellectual. He is the perfect example.  I do mean anti-intellectual, not nonintellectual; there are people who are nonintellectual but not, necessarily, willfully ignorant. The Harry Hotdoggens of the world are not the type who, when confronted with a complex idea or a challenging work of art, say, “Wow, that’s hard for me to get my head around, I’ll have to give that some thought, but, jeez, interesting if nothing else.” Harry Hottdoggens are the type who immediately resent the idea or work of art.  I have known Harry (and Harriet) Hotdoggens who take other people’s intelligence as a personal insult, as if they (the intelligent) have passed through their (the anti-intellectuals) lives only to diminish them by example. Which, if you think about it, is a bit of a backhanded compliment.

Harry Hotdoggens don’t see it that way, of course, their egos—as strong, individualistic, and inward directed as all of our egos are—will not allow such vision, nor allow that those more intelligent than they may truly be intelligent.  The Harry Hotdoggens are not saying, If you can’t say something stupid, then don’t say anything at all; they are saying, If I don’t get it, it ain’t got nothing worth getting. 

This arrogance of ignorance is especially true if an idea, some knowledge, a few well-established facts, or an intellectually rigorous conclusion goes against a deeply held belief, either social or religious. This arrogance of ignorance rests at the core of the proponents of Creationism and Intelligent Design, and gives spines of steel to homophobes defining marriage as only the type they have or wish to have; shouters for small government who still happily cash their unemployment, disability, and social security checks; climate change deniers who stand in the storm like a million mad Lears and shout, “It’s not our fault!” It is the arrogance of ignorance displayed by all those who would rather take the revelations of ancient, antique, antiquated and inadequate, supposedly written-in-stone, yet much too open to interpretation “sacred” texts, rather than the most current understanding of the workings of the universe that we have wrestled from nature by the scientific method, which is not open to interpretation, but always open to refinement and even — if new data justify it — falsification. 
This arrogance of ignorance leads to ideology not ideas; madness not method; hate not the humane.
Really, Leiva? All this from not liking Shakespeare and Sondheim?  Yes, for that is but a symptom of a greater problem.

We talk often about how America is divided between the Right and the Left, the Red and the Blue, the Conservative and the Liberal. But is that the true divide that is doing us harm—if it is doing harm and is not just a reflection of a division in human nature?  Could the real harm possibly be coming from the divide between the ignorant and the knowledgeable? 

I am not implying by placement that all Red Right Conservatives are ignorant and all Blue Left Liberals are knowledgable; neither ignorance nor knowledge discriminates, especially regarding specifics. Certain conservatives may reject the facts of climate change; certain liberals may reject the facts of the benefits of animal experimentation. I have very consciously not used the words “Stupid” and “Smart.”  Stupid and Smart come with each individual’s biological territory. Ignorance and knowledge come from actions taken and not taken; effort, or the lack thereof, is the telling factor here.

By ignorance I mean the willful ignoring of facts. By knowledgable I mean quite specifically, as I indicated above, that which we have learned by the application of the scientific method.

I’m specific in the type of knowledge I’m speaking about here because not all knowledge is equal, although all knowledge comes from experience.  I can best illuminate this point by defining the difference between information and knowledge, which are not the same thing, as information comes from the outside and knowledge is born on the inside. For example: When you tell your young child that the stove is hot and that if she touches it she will burn her fingers, she now has that information.  But it is not until she, despite having the information, touches the stove and burns her fingers that she has the knowledge. Information, though, can be wrong—you could be lying to your child, or be misinformed yourself. And knowledge can be subjective and biased—the stove may only be warm, but the child may have a low threshold of pain, or desire the sympathetic soothing of a parent, and therefore reports a burn where none has occurred. 

Jacob Bronowski

In his book of essays, The Identity of Man, Jacob Bronowski speaks about self-knowledge or, better said, knowledge of the self, and how such knowledge can be engendered by each of us living with (experiencing) our own consciousnesses, and, interestingly, through art, whether music, pictorial or, most ideally, literature.  For art is, after all, nothing but manufactured and manipulated experience that, if it is honest and true, can speak to us by allowing us to share the experiences it provides, giving us a possibly more refined, if generalized, knowledge of ourselves, although rarely, if ever, particular and actionable knowledge of the world around us. But if that art is either difficult (Shakespeare, writing in an English that is now archaic, can be extremely difficult upon first reading), or challenging (Sondheim made a career of challenging the conventions of musical theater), then it can, if no effort is made to appreciate the art, be a bad experience that leads to no knowledge of the self but does become a highly biased knowledge of the work of art itself.  Unfortunately such knowledge is often expressed as an opinion that demands to be taken as fact — and so the artist is “crap” and wears the Emperor’s new clothes. 

This is just that way things are concerning us as individual selfs with our individual tastes, and it may always be this way. 

While it really does no harm for people to have their personal biases regarding art, in the larger context, in a world we all share as members of the same species, and in communities we share, from townships to cities to states to nations, toxic ignorance, false information, and highly subjective and biased knowledge can do much harm both locally and globally.
"This boy is ignorance."

To stave off ignorance (and to combat it when we haven’t) it’s not just information we need, but accurate information; it is not just knowledge we require, but knowledge as objective and true as we can achieve. Such information and knowledge can only be derived from the scientific method, which, like art, manufactures experience, but unlike art, does not or should not, ever, manipulate it. This is true because this method of inquiry (through observation, exploration, and experimentation) into reality, into nature, into, as Douglas Adams put it, Life, the Universe and Everything, guards against false information and is intolerant of biased and subjective knowledge. It is a method that reveals information and knowledge that, unlike ancient, antique, antiquated and inadequate information and knowledge revealed in “sacred texts,” are revelations that beg to be questioned, challenged, put on the spot, and tested.    Science does not look for sacred truths, but elegant truths that effortlessly fit the facts no matter what one may prefer the truths to be.

The scientific method is not arcane, even if it takes much hard study to master the details of any one science, and a great deal of patience, thought, attention to details, and often mind-numbing, even back breaking grunt work to rigorously apply the method.

Here’s an explanation of the method from the website Science Made Simple ( 

The steps of the Scientific Method are: 
The observation is done first so that you know how you want to go about your research. The hypothesis is the answer you think you'll find. The prediction is your specific belief about the scientific idea: If my hypothesis is true, then I predict we will discover..... The experiment is the tool that you invent to answer the question, and the conclusion is the answer that the experiment gives.

In the search to understand Life, the Universe and Everything, this is a method that has proven over the last three hundred or so years to work remarkably well. Our understanding of L, U and E has grown rapidly if not exponentially, the highly technological world we live in being only the obvious manifestation of that growth, the one most happily embraced. The copious number of successes science has had in unlocking Nature’s secrets has made it worthy of a high degree of confidence, in contrast to strictly opinion-based belief systems or philosophies, and certainly to the irrationality of faith, whether in the tenets of one of the three major Abrahamic religions, or any of the many smaller religions that dot the face of our planet.

When faced with such advocacy for the scientific method over belief systems or faith, people often accused the advocate of being, “Just the same as us, you just believe in science; you just have a faith in science.”  But the hallmark of science and the method that makes it strong is neither belief nor faith, but trust.  Science relies on dispassionate and objective (as far as it is possible) evidence and proofs and therefore has proven itself.  Beliefs and faith rely only on the passions of their adherents. As passions can and often do differ, no one belief or faith has universally proven itself, even if certain beliefs and faiths may claim they have simply by the number of their adherents. 

Since the core of beliefs and faith is opinion and not an evidence seeking method, any strength they have can come from only one thing: authority.   In most of human history authority has been derived from either one of two methods, or often a combination of both: Convincing people that you are tapped into the mind of the Divine, or demonstrating for them the strength of your armies.  Emperors, popes, priests, monarchs, dictators, and the self-deified have relied on these two methods for millennia. In recent history a third way has been added, authority derived from “the people.”  Democracy, it is called, although it has never really been pure, and so we have constitutions to codify and politicians to execute that authority, relying on a majority to keep it intact.  The good or bad exercise of that authority, then, depends on the quality of the majority.  The quality of the majority relies on the information and knowledge it has.  If the majority consists of Hotdoggens, the willfully ignorant—for false information and biased and subjective knowledge amounts to the same thing as ignorance—then the exercise of that authority has a good chance to be bad.  But if the majority has information and knowledge that can be trusted, because it has come from a method that can be tested, then the exercise of that authority has a much better chance of being good.  To put it another way: Information and knowledge should not come from authority; authority should come from information and knowledge.  

It seems simple. Reliable and workable information and knowledge could, I suppose, come from a biased and objective “authority,” but it is not likely. Information and knowledge that can be trusted because it has come from a rigorous method that has no room for biases and will not tolerate subjectivity, seems much the better basis for an authority and the decisions it needs to make, especially in this world of ours that is currently facing so many obstacles. And yet, so often, the Harry and Harriet Hotdoggens of the world seem to rule it.

Why? The arrogance of ignorance.

What can be done about it?  Now there is a question to contemplate.


  1. Where to begin, with a diatribe first aimed at ignorance in general, then at faith in particular?
    Let me first begin with your example, Mr. Hotdoggen. Whether he is truly ignorant of Shakespeare or not, I do not know, but it seems that ignorance is not the real issue. Art and literature are a matter of taste, and Harry is assuming that what he dislikes is applicable to everyone. He is taking a subjective view and assuming it is universal, without any basis for doing so.
    Let me continue with a brief discussion of “Life, the Universe, and Everything”. Science can certainly help us understand the universe, and aspects of life, but it cannot now nor ever help us to understand Everything. I am almost certain you know this, and am surprised that you would even suggest science could do so. If you or anyone disagrees with my statement, let me give an example using a quote from the blog: “authority should come from information and knowledge.” Show me the scientific study which verifies this statement and I'll be forced to reconsider my position. Science cannot answer questions of morality, only those of the physical world.
    Now I come to the thorny issue of faith and Christianity (you spoke of other religions, but I am not qualified to speak authoritatively for them). Since you have such strong feelings about arrogance and ignorance, I hope you can humbly read and understand, and so reduce your ignorance on matters of religion.
    To say that Christianity is based solely on opinion or passions is a gross misrepresentation. You need only spend a few minutes reading the Bible to see that this is so. When asked where his authority came from, Jesus points to his miracles as evidence, not simply “I said so.” Paul also writes in his letters of the many people who were witness to the resurrection, including himself. Over and over the Bible appeals to the testimonies of witnesses, not simply opinions. Any study of history appeals to eyewitness testimonies, and the accounts contained in the Bible have stood up to intense scholarly scrutiny for hundreds of years. Before anyone responds with some of the questionable alternate theories of what “really happened”, let me point out that many of the early Christians went to their deaths for their beliefs, and all underwent some form of persecution, which could have been easily avoided by recanting.
    Let me finish with a critique of this statement. “Since the core of beliefs and faith is opinion and not an evidence seeking method, any strength they have can come from only one thing: authority.” Since you are so certain of this, and also know that evidence is crucial, you must have researched the evidence yourself? Certainly you did not repeat this statement based on some other person's authority? So please, share your evidence on why the core of beliefs is opinion and stems only from authority. Enlighten me in my ignorance.

  2. Chris --

    I’m sorry you saw my essay as a diatribe, which is defined as, “A forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone of something.” I will accept that it was forceful, but I truly don’t think it was bitter, and as it was written, it certainly wasn’t verbal. I admit to it being an attack on ignorance, irrationality and faith.

    To counter my argument you bring up miracles, testimonies of witnesses, and martyrs, all of which, If I may use a slightly religious image, can’t hold a candle to evidence derived from the scientific method.

    To accept miracles -- which I don’t and you obviously do -- one must have faith.

    The testimony of witnesses are notoriously unreliable, as the recanting of witnesses in legal cases have shown; as the disproving of such accounts by DNA evidence has shown. Eyewitness accounts are nothing but anecdotal “evidence,” which is to say, not evidence at all. Anecdotes may be biased and are certainly, always, subjective.

    That a martyr will die for his and her belief does not prove that belief, it only proves that they were willing to die for it. It is, indeed, the worse -- and rather deadly -- case of subjectivity.

    As to Paul and his letters -- you wish to take his word for it, and I don’t. They are, of course, nothing but anecdotes.

    None of your three examples provides evidence not derived from opinion, bias or subjectivity. To accept it you must have faith, which is another way of saying, “I’m going to ignore that it was arrived from opinion, bias, and subjectivity.” As a method of discovery of Life, the Universe and Everything it is sorely lacking as it cannot be tested and retested and falsified; opinion, bias and subjectivity can never be taken out of it. On a simple pragmatic level, it is useless.

    Science has much to say on morality, and will have much more to say in the future, as even a cursory look into the current research in neurobiology and evolutionary psychology will show, research started in the 1970s by Robert Trivers and continuing today with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Edward O. Wilson, among others. Indeed, it is one of the most exciting fields in neuroscience right now, and is demonstrating that human morality -- which existed long before the anecdotal accounts in the book you place your faith in -- is very much part of the physical world.

    And yes, I have not done this research myself, and I am accepting it’s authority. But as I pointed out, for me it is not a matter of faith in revelation, but trust in a method.

    Your comment has proven my point, not countered it.

  3. Since you want to argue definitions, I'll appeal to Merriam-Webster: di·a·tribe- a bitter and abusive speech or piece of writing.

    By your reasoning, no testimony could ever be trusted to any degree. Any account, including scientific ones, is based on eyewitness testimony. I will also mention that to say that anecdotal evidence is not evidence is incorrect. It may not have the force of a repeatable double-blind scientific study, but that does not mean it has no force at all. The study of history is of course almost completely dependent on eyewitness accounts.

    Let me also critique this statement, “To accept miracles -- which I don’t and you obviously do -- one must have faith.” Wrong. Let me explain. Someone I know personally who is a rational, reasonable and trustworthy person tells me they have personally witnessed a miracle, then I can say I trust their statement based on their trustworthiness. To approach the critique from another angle, if I have a belief in God based on a thorough examination of the evidence, then my belief in God allows for the existence of miracles (I'm not going into all the evidence here, if you want I can recommend any number of books). Your rejection of miracles is based on the assumption of a naturalistic world view, to which you are entitled, but do not be so arrogant as to expect that we all must share that world view.

    All this talk about the reliability of eyewitnesses clouds the issue. You say that Christianity is not based on evidence, but on opinions and passions. I tell you it is based on evidence and here are a few examples. Your response is that my examples don't count. My point was not to argue whether the evidence for Christianity is enough to convince you, but to show you that your description of Christians is incorrect and based on ignorance.

  4. To clarify, my comment about martyrdom of early Christians was to simply point out that some of the more common theories I hear do not account for the sincerity of early witnesses' beliefs. As you well know, when formulating a theory (such as the best explanation for historical accounts) one must examine all the evidence and seek an explanation that best accounts for it all.

    As for science and morality, it seems you are confused. Science can speak to the nature of human morality, such as how it works. It cannot tell us whether an action or behavior is right or wrong. To believe that it could do so is to put far more faith in the scientific method than even most scientists do. That you would even try to suggest it can tells me you are either grossly misinformed or unwilling to admit a mistake in your argument. (Since the scientific method is so important to you, I might also point out that one of the major criticisms of evolutionary psychology is its untestability.)

    Very well, since your trust is in the scientific method, please show me the scientific studies that support your statement that the “core of beliefs and faith is opinion and not an evidence seeking method.”

    My point in all this is not to argue you into being a Christian but to dispel misinformation. If you can understand that you are not as knowledgeable about religion and people of faith as you like to pretend you are, then perhaps there might be an opportunity for true dialogue. Nothing is more insulting to a person than having some crude caricature of your deeply held beliefs trumpeted by others.

  5. Chris -- I simply disagree with all your points, especially your assumption that I feel that everyone must share my worldview. That is not a postion I have ever held. I have simply stated my point of view on my blog, which is what it exists for. You are welcome to disagree as you have. That anyone would consider that by stating my position I am saying others must accept it, is rather disconcerting. Surely that is much more the postion of people asking other people to accept things on faith.

  6. You categorically disagree with all my points?

    Let me also clarify my statement, my meaning would have probably been better understood had I left the word “must” out. A poorly chosen, ambiguous term on my part. I was trying to say that in order to make sense your argument assumed a shared world view.

    Despite all your talk about the importance of the scientific method, you ignore my request for scientific evidence for your statement regarding the core of religion. Interesting.

    Let me finish by once again critiquing your idea that religion expects people to accept things on faith (which, for the purposes of this debate I use as you do, meaning “blind faith”). I have already mentioned in passing the written testimonies of early Christians, and like it or not these are evidence. You may not find them sufficient to convince you, but that does not mean that somehow they cease to be evidence. Testimony is evidence both in a court of law and society at large, regardless of what you think of it. All your vague references to its unreliability do not change that either. I have mentioned that there are numerous books on other evidences beyond the accounts in the Bible (if you want to learn about them I will share them with you), but do not assume that because you are ignorant of these other evidences that they are inconsequential. To sum up, stop sneering at Christianity as expecting “blind faith” when you clearly do not understand what you are talking about.

  7. Chris -- I'm amused that you keep thinking testimony is evidence. It is not, it is anecdote, which is not evidence, despite our legal system, which is beginning to rely less and less on testimony because it knows how unreliable it can be. This is especially true in ancient accounts reported in a text that has been translated more than once, and edited on several occasions. How else can you accept it except through “blind faith.”

    All personal testimony is by nature subjective, and possibly prejudiced and/or biased. As I stated the scientific method is. “...intolerant of biased and subjective knowledge.” That makes it a superior method of, “...inquiry (through observation, exploration, and experimentation) into reality.” This is the crux of what I am saying.

    I’m sorry if you consider that as, “...sneering at Christianity,” no matter how much it, it’s tenets, and it’s history may deserve to be sneered at. I think of my essay as a challenge to all faith-based explanations of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    We are obviously never going to agree on any of this. Life allows you to have your faith, blind or not, and it allows me my trust of the scientific method.

    I’m afraid I cannot comply with your command that I stop, “...sneering at,” as you would put it; “challenging,” as I would put it, Christianity -- or any religion or faith for that matter.

    But what I can do is stop responding to your comments.

  8. Since you ignore my repeated requests for scientific evidence of your conclusions, it is probably best you do stop.

  9. Having looked back at my final statement, I realize it came across more harshly than I would like. Many of your comments could be interpreted as sneering, but that does not mean they were so intended. I apologize for my rudeness.

    I'm curious to know how many times you think the texts of the Bible have been translated. Since you probably won't reply, I may ask you at a later date.

    Whether we agree or not is not the issue. I am well aware we will not agree. The difference is that I am not posting blogs about how ignorant and irrational you are(not to mention your family, friends, admired colleagues, etc.), or how dangerous your beliefs are. Before you try to turn that back on me, keep in mind that my statements of your ignorance were in regards to your assumptions (I have no reason to believe they are anything but assumptions since you won't provide evidence) about the nature of my beliefs and my knowledge regarding them.

    I can also finish by pointing out that I have now three times offered to provide you with the names of books that can more thoroughly and clearly offer evidence of the reasons people might believe in the Christian God, and have been ignored so far. If you are truly interested in understanding rather than just promoting your own view without any understanding of what you oppose, then please let me know. If not, maybe you can tell me what separates you from “Harry Hotdoggen”? I can't tell the difference.

  10. Thanks for stopping that war of words with one who obviously has no ammunition, Steven. The tedium was palpable.


    Reply by Sam in WV 3 hours ago
    I cannot respond with a comment to your blog, so I write you my response to another commenter,. Whether you choose to relate it as a comment to your own blog is up to you. Good luck with your novel.

    In your most recent comment, your question about numbers of translations carries with it the logical fallacy of "ad populum".
    Living in the Bible belt, I have on occasion responded to the challenge of understanding the Christian paradigm and such issues as evidence for "witness" for validatinng many of its tenets. The issue of the witness of a religion's founder's ministry, miracles, and unlikely resurrection suffers for a paucity of sufficient evidence to buttress extraordinary claims in the historic record.
    Best Christian scholarship notes no documentation of such "witness" until about 68 CE/AD (up to about 80) in the composition of gospel Mark. (The other gospels are later, with the earliest date for Acts of the Apostle about 95). Most of the Epistles were written before gMark according to Christian scholarship, including all 7 of the authentic Pauline Epistles. The corroboration of biographical and alleged historical detail from the gospels in the mostly earlier 80,000 + word Epistles is stunning for its parsimony. The one reference to witness of the resurrection in Corinthians 1: 15 is devoid of narrative context, rendering claims for its timing impossible. the scanty details mostly which are not supported in the gospel accounts.
    Details and personages to "witness" for the resurrection in matters such as the discovery of the empty tomb are widely varied among the gospel accounts. There are no surviving affadavits among alleged witnesses or even contemporaneous hearsay attestations to oral or written testimony to any of these events. The events themselves are almost routine in character to mythologies that flourished at the time.
    There is much dispute let us say in the eyewitness testimony of JFK's assassination in 11/63. But eyewitness testinmony was recorded as early as the evening news that night. Testimony was gathered by the FBI and then the Warren Conmnmision within weeks and months of the event. The Zapruder film seems to corroborate multiple testimonies that shots were fired from the "Grassy Knoll", but forensic specialists are still divided on these points decades later.

    Evidences for events that serve as a catalyst for Christian belief, mostly documentation of much later provenance are far more flimsy and of circumstances much more fanciful. The first extra-Christian document of very loose and small confirmation is not until 93 CE/AD and is a contentiously disputed evidence, as is true for others. The comparative certitude among Christians for the soundness of multiple hearsay "witness" in its alleged events of foundation hardly seems scientfic or in accord with any known reliable methodological epistemology.
    To paraphrase astro-physicist, Carl Sagan, extraordinary conclusions require a greater and more profound extraordinary body of evidence than might otherwise be the case. Considering Christian claims beyond what we know to be beyond natural norms, the weight of evidence for "witness" holds nowhere near the reliable profundity or gravitas to validate extraordinary claims that are at the heart of Christian belief.

    Reply by Joseph P 1 hour ago

    The first extra-Christian document of very loose and small confirmation is not until 93 CE/AD and is a contentiously disputed evidence, as is true for others.
    That's Josephus's 'Antiquities of the Jews', right? Yeah, the line in there is a blatant interpolation (forgery, in other words).

  12. @ Blue
    Should I mention that Steve started the "war of words" by sending his blog post (which he knew would be offensive) to me and my family?

  13. I'm not sure how the "ad populum" argument applies. First, I was asking for clarification, not making a statement. Second, I usually look to experts in the field, not the majority. If you care to clarify what you mean, feel free.
    I will first point out that a resurrection is only unlikely if we a assume a naturalistic viewpoint.
    First, when considering any account of a historical nature, 30-60 years is far to soon for legendary influences to corrupt the accounts. There would be far too many people still alive for the accounts to be corrupted to that extent.
    The account you refer to is in 1 Corinthians 15, and you are correct that it contains no narrative. However, this does not automatically render it useless. (By the way, when you say its timing, I'm not entirely sure whether you are referring to the timing of the resurrection, or the timing of the origination of the account.) We can gather important details, such as that this portion of the epistle likely predates the epistle itself. The form and preceding verses show that this was an early creed or statement of faith that was passed first to Paul (most likely during his first visit to Jerusalem), then he passed it to the Corinthians on his missionary journey. From this we can see that Jesus' death and resurrection were indeed taught from a very early point in church history, and corroborate the gospel accounts.
    The differences among the accounts of the discovery of the tomb can be troubling, but are not without explanation. None of the accounts claim to have a complete list of who went to the tomb, and so each may be describing a few members of the larger group. They may also be describing different portions of the narrative from different persons' views. It is also important to note that perfectly identical narratives would be more a sign of fabrication than slight variances.
    You mention the routine character of the mythology, as you put it. I can only guess that you are referring to the “mystery cults”. To my knowledge, the mystery cults were popular in Egypt, Greece, and other areas, but not among Jewish monotheists.
    The analogy to JFK's assassination is an imperfect one. The dispute among witnesses was regarding actions that took place in a fraction of a second and are at the limits of human senses to distinguish. These factors did not play a role in Biblical accounts.

    To conclude, Sam, I have no issue with someone (such as yourself) debating whether what I believe is correct. What I do object to is someone telling me what I believe and why I believe it, and on top of that insinuating that I am somehow destroying society. Can you at least understand my frustration?

  14. @Joseph P
    No, I'm not referring to extra-Christian documentation. I'm referring to philosophical and scientific evidences of which I am not going to debate at this point (This is taking enough of my time as it is). I will be happy to provide the names of books and if you have some material (books, articles) that specifically answer that material let me know and I can put it on my reading list.

  15. Actually, Chris -- Because I know of you and the family's postion on the matter we've been discussing, I had taken you all off my email blast list, as, with the promotion of my novel being a current activity, I knew I would be writing on such subjects in the future. Unfortunately, I must have included some of your address twice on the list, and so when I deleted the one address, I assumed that took care of the matter. I apologize for not double checking the list. I believe everybody is off it now. Please do understand that it is, and was not, my intention to offend any of my family. Nor should you take my writing so personally -- the issue being discussed is much larger than you or I or our loved ones. I have never personally been offended by my family's rather strong professions of faith. I believe you must agree to that given all the holidays we have shared.

  16. I believe I should also apologize for not being clearer about what bothered me from the outset. I should have first emailed you to inquire why I was receiving an email notification of this post. I was also under the assumption that Mom was receiving these as well.

  17. To lighten the tone. I also hate Stone Tables.

    They're so damned hard to swallow.

  18. John -- Much too funny to abbreviate -- LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!!

  19. There are at least three fundamental fallacies in Christian (or similar) belief.

    1. There is no way to be certain of the existence of a 'God';

    2. There is no way for finite and fallible minds to confidently distinguish between a 'real' experience of some form of contact with such a being and a fantasy/hallucination/imagination.

    3. The actual existence of such a being would remove any certainty of knowing anything, since It could change everything at any moment, and could deceive us utterly about anything.

    Only empirically based investigation of reality has any prospect of establishing anything about reality with whatever relative confidence is available to us.


    Reply by Sam in WV 14 hours ago
    30-60 years is far to soon for legendary influences to corrupt the accounts. There would be far too many people still alive for the accounts to be corrupted to that extent.

    Anyone ever heard of the game of "telephone"? Urban legend can alter truths about events and circumstances in the very near past. Suetonious, Tacitus, Arrian (referencing a source contemporary to his subject) noted legends began circulating about Alexander the Great, Julius, and Augustus Caesar while they still lived. Life spans were markedly shorter at the time. An additional 50 years to an adult life was rare. Eyewitness accounts are generally regarded more reliable clsoer to the event in question by professional investigators. Sources for the 4 gospels are never identified. Why did not Paul or other earlier authors of Epistles seek out "witnesses" for details of events and circumstances prior to the composition that surely would have interested the parishioners of the recipient churches, and later been verified in the gospels?

    The account you refer to is in 1 Corinthians 15, and you are correct that it contains no narrative. However, this does not automatically render it useless. . . . . We can gather important details, such as that this portion of the epistle likely predates the epistle itself. The form and preceding verses show that this was an early creed or statement of faith that was passed first to Paul (most likely during his first visit to Jerusalem), then he passed it to the Corinthians on his missionary journey


    Reply by Sam in WV 14 hours ago

    The verse in Corinthians makes no mention of Mary Magdalene or specifically the Cephas (Peter) and James of Jerusalem. "Witness" of the 500 is not corroborated in the gospel accounts. The reference for the continuity in time could be less than a year, or over 100 years. Why did he not speak of resurrection revelation in this detail in his epistle to the Galatians? Yet in this epistle he leaves out the detail of his visit to Jerusalem. If the "pillars" of Jerusalem were important as witnessing Apostles to the resurrected Christ, it would only make sense that he would have a complete explanation in embellished detail to one of the recipient churches. Perhaps the fact that the details are a patch work in different epistles is because there is little or not connection between them. This identification of the verse here as having "creedal" significance has never been granted a sound exegetic explanation. Even if it does, no reason has ever been proffered by Dr. Gary Habermas or Dr. William Lane Craig or other evangelical scholars how that lends itself to any historical authenticity. Authorities on 1st century Palestinian Jewish and other Israelite observance such as Geza Vermes, Robert Eisenman, and the late Hyam Maccoby who have been very familiar with the NT Epistles have never made such an observation. There is far too much varied opinion here on a matter that concerns an allegation of human reanimation.

    To my knowledge, the mystery cults were popular in Egypt, Greece, and other areas, but not among Jewish monotheists.

    But was Paul and other Apostles only preaching to "monotheists"? Both in the Acts of the Apostles and some of his Epistles it is clear he was not. It is perfectly plausible that evangelical preaching occurred with an understanding of the competitive environment of Hellenistic mystery religions seeking inductees. Early church fathers such as Justin Martyr admitted parallels in the narrative of Christian tradition to the mythic detail that prevailed among pagans in the Mediterranean basin.

    As brief as was the murder of a President, it would render a profound impression. The trauma of witnessing any homicide, regardless as to the length of time of the experience will be a profound imprint on the senses. This is the sort of thing that leads to PTSD. The profundity of the experience has import to human recollection that should not be underestimated. As an event in multiple eyewitness it is an appropriate analogy for consideration to any allegations of eyewitness to human resurrection.

    The painstakingly stringent standards that should be applied to investigating allegations of supernatural occurrences, such as human locomotion on liquids as if terra firma, healings with human saliva, accounts of resurrection and reanimation of human cadavers and others equally implausible and outlandish are not evident in Christian notions of "witness". At the very least, the evidences should be pristine in their timing and consistency. The physical sciences are the best known methods for investigating extraordinary claims that we know of among humankind to our current time. To eschew those best methods that cumulative experience demonstrates the veracity or falsehood of allegations about anything, in favor of something that posits conclusions that adhere to desired beliefs does not serve the best interests of civic society. While there may be some emulation of standards of critical thinking going on here, accepted conclusions do not come close to being the product of viable process and objective examination.


    Reply by Jim DePaulo 4 hours ago

    "To my knowledge, the mystery cults were popular in Egypt, Greece, and other areas, but not among Jewish monotheists."

    I think the Jerusalem church's (the Jewish monotheists) admonition of Paul for teaching to the gentiles had nothing to do with excluding non Jews, but rather, that Paul was couching the message and teaching to their religious mind set – Mystery Cult framework .
    The “truth” according to Paul (a Greek from the Greek city of Tarsus and no doubt knowledgeable of the Tarsus Mystery Cult) fits the Mystery Cult format like a glove.

  23. Sorry for the delayed reply, things have been a little busy lately.

    To respond to your first two points: If you want to carry it to the extreme we can doubt all things, including our senses. After all, if we are the product of the blind forces of evolution, then we have no way to be sure of our reason or any of our senses. Our minds and senses would have developed purely for survival, not necessarily to discover truth. Keep in mind that this is only true if one assumes a naturalistic viewpoint.
    My response to your third point also continues with this thought. The idea that God created the world in an orderly fashion and that we were given rational minds to understand it is a cornerstone that allowed the growth of science. God from the very beginning is understood as creating order from chaos, not the reverse.

  24. If I have time tonight I'll post a reply to Sam. We'll see.