Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

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Og3
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Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:58 am

I am opening a topic for my analysis of the book On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier.

SEG asked that I read and report on this book, and in exchange, volunteered to read one of my choosing. You should expect a similar thread soon by SEG regarding C. S. Lewis' _Mere Christianity_.

Some notes on Carrier: He holds a PhD. in ancient history, and while raised nominally Christian, that is, having no real devotion to the faith, and later developed Taoist and finally Atheist views.

Thus far, I have not yet acquired a copy of his book for careful reading and perusal, but have had a chance to read a couple of chapters in passing. this first post is based entirely upon a PROVISIONAL and INCOMPLETE reading thus far, and conclusion reached herein may be later overturned should Carrier provide greater balance later.

Carrier first proposes to follow a method that he himself developed in a prior book. It involves taking a Bayesian probability study of the two prevailing viewpoints, which he dubs Mythicists and Historicists. For those of you not familiar with Bayes -- and my own is merely a passing knowledge, having seen him discussed elsewhere -- Bayes took the view that the probability of an event or a fact is only understandable in light of prior events. For example, the likelihood that you might become a baker given that you were a sous-chef is substantially different than the likelihood that you would become a baker given that you were a bail bondsman [my example, not Carriers]. Carrier proposes to form a minimal historical view of Jesus, and to test the Bayesian probability of the historical view against the Bayesian probability of the minimal mythicist view.

This is all well and good, except that Carrier appears to have started with an assumption which may have invalidated his method from the beginning.
Conversely, it's very easy to show that the man depicted in the gospels didn't exist ... [because] ... much of what he does ... [does not] ...correspond to things that really happen (as if walking on water were to be believed; ...
So from the beginning, Carrier has poisoned the well. His starting assumption is that no miracle happened because miracles do not happen. And what do we call that, students of logic? If you said, "Circular Reasoning" then you get a gold star. If you said "Fallacious" you get half points.

Before even beginning, Carrier has defined four areas for the prior probability: Historical Jesus became Mythicized; Mythical Jesus became Historicized; Historical Jesus was not mythicized (and the gospels are true); Mythical Jesus was not historicized (postmodernism). He then assigns a prior probability of zero (or nearly zero) to the latter two areas, leaving the others with 49.9999% of the Bayesian prior probability.

So you see immediately that the Bayesian analysis is invalidated: He has made a prior assumption that invalidates it. Now, if in light of the prior probability, the final probability were 100% -- that is, given that the gospels are true, was Jesus a real historical person = 100% yes -- that is still 100% of .00001%, or a negligible truth value. So his initial assumption that walking on water is not to be believed "poisons the well" by rendering any conclusion he makes deadly.

It's a bit like asking a courtroom witness, "Given that your testimony is perjury and that you're a liar, why should we believe you?" -- there is no good answer. Or it's a bit like asking "Do you still beat your dog?"

As I said, this is a preliminary observation based on incomplete reading thus far, but this seems to me to be a major error in his method.
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Og3
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Digression on Bayesian Probability

Post by Og3 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:08 am

The typical example of a Bayesian problem is the so-called Monty Hall problem.

Suppose that you were given a choice of three doors. Behind one is a new car; behind the others is a goat. You select door 1. Monty Hall opens door 2 and shows you a goat. He offers you a chance to change doors. Do you remain with your choice of door 1 or select door 3?

Most people will say that there is a 1 in 3 chance of picking the right door, and this becomes a 50:50 chance once you see the goat, so changing does you no good. But Bayes (and Marilyn Vos-Savant, to whom this question was publicly posed) says that you should always switch. When you select door 1 initially, there is a 1/3 chance that you have picked the right door, thus a 2/3 chance that you have picked the wrong door. Once you see that door 2 contains a goat, there is STILL a 2/3 chance that you initially picked the wrong door, times a 1/2 chance that you have the wrong door.

Odds of door three, GIVEN the prior probability, is .66 x .5 = .33, versus odds for door 1 of .33 x .5 =.166, thus the odds are twice as good that door 3 hides a car.

It's very counter-intuitive and takes some head-scratching. But it does make sense in the end.
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Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:23 am

One should also point out here that regardless the result, the conclusion will be moot. Since Carrier has assumed the gospels to be false as a given, then if there was or was not a historical Jesus becomes pointless to pursue. One might as well write a book on whether Captain Cook sometimes wrote his name with an "e" on the end.

Either Jesus of Nazareth was not only a historical figure who lived and died, but also was the Son of God and rose from the dead, or else Christianity is pointless. Read 1 Corinthians 15 if you doubt me on this.

Carrier states in his introduction that he will at best arrive at a probability, so he will not state that Jesus Christ did or did not actual exist as a historical person, and that he is actually fine with either conclusion. So on the historicity, he will not come to a conclusion, and on the deity and resurrection he has already made up his mind. Do I still need to read this book?
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Rian
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Rian » Sat Apr 20, 2019 8:45 pm

Og3 wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:58 am
Or it's a bit like asking "Do you still beat your dog?"
I love that one!

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SEG
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:50 pm

Og3 wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:58 am
I am opening a topic for my analysis of the book On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier.

SEG asked that I read and report on this book, and in exchange, volunteered to read one of my choosing. You should expect a similar thread soon by SEG regarding C. S. Lewis' _Mere Christianity_.

Some notes on Carrier: He holds a PhD. in ancient history, and while raised nominally Christian, that is, having no real devotion to the faith, and later developed Taoist and finally Atheist views.

Thus far, I have not yet acquired a copy of his book for careful reading and perusal, but have had a chance to read a couple of chapters in passing. this first post is based entirely upon a PROVISIONAL and INCOMPLETE reading thus far, and conclusion reached herein may be later overturned should Carrier provide greater balance later.

Carrier first proposes to follow a method that he himself developed in a prior book. It involves taking a Bayesian probability study of the two prevailing viewpoints, which he dubs Mythicists and Historicists. For those of you not familiar with Bayes -- and my own is merely a passing knowledge, having seen him discussed elsewhere -- Bayes took the view that the probability of an event or a fact is only understandable in light of prior events. For example, the likelihood that you might become a baker given that you were a sous-chef is substantially different than the likelihood that you would become a baker given that you were a bail bondsman [my example, not Carriers]. Carrier proposes to form a minimal historical view of Jesus, and to test the Bayesian probability of the historical view against the Bayesian probability of the minimal mythicist view.

This is all well and good, except that Carrier appears to have started with an assumption which may have invalidated his method from the beginning.
Conversely, it's very easy to show that the man depicted in the gospels didn't exist ... [because] ... much of what he does ... [does not] ...correspond to things that really happen (as if walking on water were to be believed; ...
So from the beginning, Carrier has poisoned the well. His starting assumption is that no miracle happened because miracles do not happen. And what do we call that, students of logic? If you said, "Circular Reasoning" then you get a gold star. If you said "Fallacious" you get half points.

Before even beginning, Carrier has defined four areas for the prior probability: Historical Jesus became Mythicized; Mythical Jesus became Historicized; Historical Jesus was not mythicized (and the gospels are true); Mythical Jesus was not historicized (postmodernism). He then assigns a prior probability of zero (or nearly zero) to the latter two areas, leaving the others with 49.9999% of the Bayesian prior probability.

So you see immediately that the Bayesian analysis is invalidated: He has made a prior assumption that invalidates it. Now, if in light of the prior probability, the final probability were 100% -- that is, given that the gospels are true, was Jesus a real historical person = 100% yes -- that is still 100% of .00001%, or a negligible truth value. So his initial assumption that walking on water is not to be believed "poisons the well" by rendering any conclusion he makes deadly.

It's a bit like asking a courtroom witness, "Given that your testimony is perjury and that you're a liar, why should we believe you?" -- there is no good answer. Or it's a bit like asking "Do you still beat your dog?"

As I said, this is a preliminary observation based on incomplete reading thus far, but this seems to me to be a major error in his method.
Oh, but Brother Og, you are not reading this in context, lol! Carrier is making a very good point here. He is saying that Jesus and his disciples don't act like real people in the narrative. Who walks on water or turns water into wine? I say magicians who are deceptive persons, like C.S. Lewis for example

This is what I found in the preface: “You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic”

Lewis says that he will not discuss the differences in doctrine between the various Christian sects for two reasons: the second reason, is this:
And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son
Lewis confesses that the doctrinal disputes between Christian denominations are more likely to turn someone away than cause him to convert – so hide these disputes from people who are considering Christianity. This behavior is just deceptive.

This is analogous to a person who buys a house because a real estate agent failed to disclose that it was built on the site of a flood prone area or was riddled with termites. This guy is lying already, I hope it gets better than this.
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:58 am

Actually, as you read the introduction, you will find that Lewis considers doctrinal disputes to be a distraction from the actual point. That is why he calls the book "Mere Christianity," that is, Christianity without all of the peripheral distractions. It is the same sort of thing that Carrier says when he talks about using the "minimal mythicist view" and the "minimal historicist view." If the minimal view cannot be supported, then no more complex view can be supported.

Likewise, if "Mere Christianity" is not true, then the details of doctrinal positions are also peripheral. Lewis compares Christianity to a large house, in which all Christians reside. Which room they choose to inhabit (that is, which denomination) is entirely between that Christian and the Master of the house. His stated goal, then, is not to convert a person to his exact view, but merely to bring that person to the house of God, from which they may then choose the room and the company that best suits them.

Consider this proposition: If Jesus is God, then everyone ought to worship Him; and if not, then no one. Is that proposition altered by the knowledge that there are many denominations, and that at times those denominations have held murderous hatred for each other? Well, no. It may affect your assessment of the specific premise to follow, but it does not affect the truth value of those general premises.

As for as "reading in context" I did read it in context, and he had me with the Bayesian approach up until that point. Lewis does not make an illogical leap, nor does he hide what he is doing. Carrier makes an illogical leap -- he begs the question -- and he poisons the well. There is no hope of drawing untainted water once we accept his proposition.

Do you see the difference?
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:27 pm

Og3 wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:58 am
Lewis does not make an illogical leap, nor does he hide what he is doing.
Bullshit, he is absolutely hiding what he is doing! He is saying the main aim is to bring people into the fold, so don't show them our squabbles.

-hide these disputes from people who are considering Christianity. That's outright deceptive. CS Lewis stuff should have its own thread, so I will continue it there from now on. I am having some major concerns with him btw.
Carrier makes an illogical leap -- he begs the question -- and he poisons the well. There is no hope of drawing untainted water once we accept his proposition.

Do you see the difference?
Yes, but that doesn't form his main argument, it's an observation that Jesus and his disciples don't act like normal people. He's correct, they don't.
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:35 pm

SEG wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:27 pm
Og3 wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:58 am
Lewis does not make an illogical leap, nor does he hide what he is doing.
Bullshit, he is absolutely hiding what he is doing! He is saying the main aim is to bring people into the fold, so don't show them our squabbles.

-hide these disputes from people who are considering Christianity. That's outright deceptive. CS Lewis stuff should have its own thread, so I will continue it there from now on. I am having some major concerns with him btw.
Carrier makes an illogical leap -- he begs the question -- and he poisons the well. There is no hope of drawing untainted water once we accept his proposition.

Do you see the difference?
Yes, but that doesn't form his main argument, it's an observation that Jesus and his disciples don't act like normal people. He's correct, they don't.
Oh, well, so long as he merely poisoned the well in passing, that's completely okay then. Because if he didn't mean to... Well, you know, if he meant to, and did it, but you know, didn't... Ah, so what was your point, exactly?
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by SEG » Wed Apr 24, 2019 9:14 pm

My point was is that he was factually correct. You may not like his observation, but that doesn't make it wrong.
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Observations and notes regarding On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Post by Og3 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:32 pm

If he were making the observation in vacuo then I would have no objection. But as a basis for a calculation of probability, it is quite improper, and borders on dishonesty.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

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