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.
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.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; ...
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.