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On the historicity of Jesus

Monday, March 28th, 2016

I have all respect in the world for historians and what they do. It’s not my cup of tea, but I appreciate that someone is willing and able to dig through mounds and mounds of archeological data and obscure texts to determine whether Napoleon was truly short or who won the War of the Roses and how.

That being said, I want to say something that’s apparently controversial to some: historians are not qualified to adjudicate the question of Jesus’ historicity in its entirety. Yes, historians might tell us whether there was actually some real person or even persons on which the myth was based, but historians cannot declare as true what we have ample independent reasons to know as false.

So if a historian wants to convince me that there was indeed a Palestinian Jew called Yeshua, son of Yosef, who started a little personality cult loosely based on Judaism some 2000 years ago, sure. That’s all well and good. However, it falls far outside the purview of historical research to settle questions of whether said Jew was born of a virgin, walked on water, broke the laws of thermodynamics by creating fish from nothing and turning water into wine, literally rose from the dead etc.

These are not open questions for historians to dig into. The question of whether these things happened is well and thoroughly closed with a resounding “no” and maybe even a slightly concerned “don’t be silly.”

There might or might not be a historical Jesus on which Jesus-as-told was based, but we know for a fact that Jesus-as-told is mythical on the same grounds that we know Hercules or Superman is. If someone is said to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or cure leprosy by magic touch, it’s ok to dismiss said person-as-told’s existence without ever bothering to check eyewitness testimonies or artefacts dug out from ancient ruins.

I promise.

Happy Easter!

Freedom will be defended at the cost of civil liberties

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Why do the prominent people I like keep munching on their feet? I’d only just finished dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ignorant condescension toward philosophers, (basically philosophers are bad scientists because Neil doesn’t understand philosophy) and now I discover that Sam Harris is proposing that muslims are profiled at airport security screenings.

Sam HarrisWe should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it. And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?) But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.

PZ Myers was, as is his habit, a little too fast on the draw and immediately jumped to the conclusion that (more…)

Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a bad philosopher

Friday, April 27th, 2012
Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of days ago there was a minor kerfuffle between Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, and Neil daGrasse Tyson, the equally friendly astrophysicist, over the correct usage of the term ‘atheist.’ It wasn’t very interesting to me. Neil can call or refrain from calling himself whatever he wants. To me anyone who lacks a belief in gods is an atheist, but that’s how I choose to use the word. Some people use it differently. That’s fine. If they object to be called an atheist, I will respect their wishes even if I personally happen to think they are one. I share Neil’s disdain for arguing semantics. If both parties have (more…)

Plantinga’s Naturalism Defeater

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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Way back in the distant past of 2010 Justin Brierly over at his show ‘Unbelievable?‘ moderated a discussion between philosophers Stephen Law and Alvin Plantinga. The topic of debate was Plantinga’s infamous argument that the conjunction of naturalism and evolution renders cognitive reliability improbable. The conjunction is therefore supposedly a defeater against believing in the truth of beliefs produced by our cognition; including the belief in naturalism and evolution. Naturalism, says Plantinga, thereby undermines itself.

Image of Alvin Plantinga released by Plantinga...

Alvin Plantinga - Image via Wikipedia

The discussion is interesting and well worth a listen. Although I think both sides could have made a stronger case. The moderation was mostly fair. However, I couldn’t help my bemusement that Plantinga was consistently ‘Plantinga; one of the world’s greatest philosophers of religion etc. ad infinitum‘ while Stephen Law had to make do with being just plain old ‘Stephen Law.’ I mean, sure, what do I know? Perhaps Plantinga just has these Übermensch qualifications to rival even The Stig while poor Law is inexorably left behind in the dust of mediocrity. But it did become increasingly comical in iteration as the show progressed.

The first part of the show was naturally dedicated to (more…)

Let’s Flog the Anthropic Mare!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I just found this magnificent case of bad philosophy on Youtube. (Yes, I know! Who would’ve thunk it, eh?) While I would flatter myself unjustly were I to fancy myself a philosophical equivalent of the Bad Astronomer, (I wish!) my website is hardly about debunking bad philosophy. However, it is a guilty pleasure of mine because it gives me something to talk about. Especially when it’s a topic I’ve written about before.

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I have no idea (more…)

Interview with Robin LePoidevin

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Robin LePoidevin

 

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I had a chat with the always impeccably dressed Robin LePoidevin about atheism, agnosticism, and some of his books on behalf of the Faroese Atheist Society, ‘Gudloysi.’ Despite the anger of the thunder-gods outside, it was both interesting and quite illuminating to take a peak into the mind of such a distinguished professor of philosophy.

 

A soap opera star is a better philosopher than you

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

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Where’s your God now, William Lane Craig?

What if…

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

…the rapture actually did happen as Harold Camping foretold but we were all left behind?

Although take a look at this video and tell me you wouldn’t rather be in this world than the next.

Also rapture-happy Christians should read this website before issuing their next prediction.

Happy Draw Mohammed Day Sequel!

Friday, May 20th, 2011

MohammedThere’s nothing much to say to this that I haven’t already said last year. Although I must say that oddly enough almost only Christians took offence when I last drew Mohammed.

As you can see, this year’s Mohammed has had his bomb-fuse extinguished because his anger has become diluted through the repetition of us drawing him. Also he’d rather play video-games. What is he playing? Mortal Kombat? My Little Pony? We’ll never know, but he seems much happier, bless him.

As I was drawing him it struck me how odd it is that anyone would be offended by my act of so doing. If only they knew how much I care about all of my cartoon characters. I think it’s because to draw an emotion I have to empathise with it, so Mohammed’s indignation or apathy becomes my own to an extent. Besides, Mohammed is just downright cuddly, really.

Heini

P.S. If anyone is interested in a thorough and passionate explanation of why it’s important to draw Mohammed, I recommend the following video by Thunderf00t:

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Edit: I was featured on Friendly Atheist again this year. As last year I am very honoured to be among good company.

Talk at A-Soc on Intelligent Design

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

http://www.dissectingthoughts.com/video/IntelligentDesign2011.flv

A while back I held a little talk loosely based on my Intelligent Design essay for the Leeds Atheist Society. I’ve had the video cluttering up my hard drive for a while but only now figured out how to convert and embed it, so there you go. The sound quality is shoddy and my accent is thick but hopefully I’m understandable.

If, for some unfathomable reason, you want, you can download the slides from the talk here.