Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All's Well That Ends Angrily, Mr. Loftus

I have tried and failed to communicate to John Loftus what I think are very important criticisms of his rather cavalier attitude towards serious history.  For my own peace of mind and for the edification of any readers, I'm going to reprint our entire discussion, unedited.  John has elected to selectively cut and paste my correspondence to him without posting it fully for context.  I find that to be rather dishonest, and I am disappointed, but I suppose there could be other reasons for his editing.  I am at a loss to think of what they might be.

In any case, I have heard it said that insult is the last refuge of the defeated, and I think Mr. Loftus' last sentence says all that I need to hear.  I will leave this exchange feeling justified in my criticism and yet... sad.

In chronological order, I give you the whole exchange:

*******
HAMBY'S POST:

John, I have some things I'd like you to think about. I don't know if you've noticed my comments about your discussion with a "blog site owner" but I come down on the side of that certain blog site owner, though not without some caveats. You really should read my comment on the blog in question, but I'll explain it here, too.

I've read your arguments rather thoroughly since my initial response to you (linked below) and I think you're making two very serious errors.

First, you've admitted that you are not well versed in mythicist arguments, and you display this lack of knowledge when you get into spats with mythicists. I'm not going to validate your exchange with a blog site owner by calling it an argument because that implies the logical exchange of ideas. No ideas were exchanged because you didn't address or refute any of his arguments. You just restated your opinions.

Please bear in mind that I'm saying this to you in a spirit of constructive criticism so that we can all get along and get on with the business of finding true answers to legitimate questions. I hate it when people have ego spats, and from where I sit, you threw the first stone in the fight you're talking about.

I don't know who's right in the question of Jesus mythicism, but I have a question for you and others who come down hard on either side. How much does it really matter?

Think about that before you jump to a conclusion. We're all atheists and skeptics here, right? Would the existence of a historical Jesus change our minds about God? Would the nonexistence of a historical Jesus change our minds?

Your second mistake, in my opinion, is a matter of broad perspective. The fact is, this is an issue dripping with angst and ego, and I can't for my life figure out why a bunch of atheists would get into such a huge snit about it. If there is or is not enough evidence for a historical Jesus, so be it, but everyone reading this knows that a Christian can be logically and philosophically whipped into a Self-Pwnd Frappe with or without even cracking a bible, much less mentioning Jesus.

John, if you want to get into academic history and make a case for a historical Jesus, please do. However, I have to ask you in all seriousness if you are prepared to stake your professional reputation on what amounts to your feelings about the interpretation of academic arguments. Do you really have the epistemic right to make the proclamation? Please remember when you were a Christian how hard it was to see logic when someone talked to you about the very emotionally charged issue of God. You weren't that way just because you were a Christian. That's human nature, and you're still subject to it.

John, you and the blog site owner had a temper tantrum playground fight. Both of you are at fault for letting your emotions get in the way of reason. However, he has reason on his side. You haven't dealt with (or apparently read) what he's said. I'm not saying his position is right. I'm saying you haven't done anything to prove it wrong. Please remember John that the most well meaning of people have spread opinion to the point that it became perceived as fact. Please, unless you're prepared to make an academic issue of it, don't muddy the waters of Jesus' historicity with less than scholarly analysis. Your voice is too loud. Do the right thing and just shrug your shoulders when someone asks what you think about it.

I offer you the following link (http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2008/11/thoughts-on-jesus-historicity.html )to my own thoughts on Jesus as a historical figure, and I invite you to consider them, particularly since they come from someone much like yourself -- a former Christian apologist who has devoted much of his life to study -- and more importantly, someone who knows when he has the epistemic rights to make a claim, and when "I don't know" is the only acceptable answer.

You'll notice that I've also addressed as many of your arguments as seemed relevant in a detailed post here: http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2008/12/response-to-john-loftus-historical.html

12 comments:

Hambydammit said...

By the way, just to prove my own epistemological right to say that John is unqualified to offer a scholarly opinion on Jesus, I offer this as evidence:

John Loftus said: "I have stated my present understanding as best as I could without doing the research needed in writing one. I think my conclusion would hold up if I did the needed research…"

http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/12/jesus-project.html

John W. Loftus said...

RE: The comment directly above mine:

What's the big deal? Have you wrote a book on this issue? You seem sure of yourself and you act as if you are informed. Can't make the needed distinctions here? Didn't think so.

[Lest you have written one then let me ask if you have any epistemic rights to make any claim at all on any subject that you have not done so].

In my opinion you are clearly expressing idiocy with regard to my right to speak even though I have not written a book on the topic. So why should I accept anything else you say?

I see you have lots and lots of visitors. Looks like you are just talking to yourself.

Hambydammit said...

What's the big deal? Have you wrote a book on this issue?

No. I don't intend to. Have you not read how many times I've said I know my own rights to claims? I am not a mythicist, John. We're not talking about whether I have a right to make the claim that Jesus did or did not exist. We're talking about whether or not you have that right. In your own words, you do not.

To be perfectly fair, I do state one thing firmly, and you can read my previous blogs to verify this. The Jesus of the Gospels is a mythological character. Whether or not there was a real life inspiration for the Gospel, I can't say, but if there was, he did not walk on water or heal the sick or curse fig trees. So I can say, just from my knowledge of logic and nothing else, that the Gospel Jesus did not exist. As to earthly inspirations, I have no firm position. I only make observations about which arguments seem valid and which do not. Validity is something I'm quite qualified to talk about.

You seem sure of yourself and you act as if you are informed. Can't make the needed distinctions here? Didn't think so.

Why is this suddenly about me? I have asked you to please not make claims to knowledge you don't possess. You've stated, on Richard Carrier's blog, that you don't possess the knowledge to make the claim, and yet you make it.

[Lest you have written one then let me ask if you have any epistemic rights to make any claim at all on any subject that you have not done so].

What is it with this? Am I required to be a Jesus scholar to recognize that you are not one? I am a student of knowledge, Mr. Loftus, and of critical thinking, and of epistemological rights. In this blog, I have pointed out errors in your thinking -- errors which have been pointed out by others, and which you have not refuted. You have simply restated your own opinion.

This is why I take issue with you. You want to play with the net up for mythicists and down for you. A properly defended position is one that has refuted competing claims, and I can find no evidence that you have ever produced a scholarly rebuttal to a mythicist claim. You have just disagreed with them. That's not history, John. It's just arguing.

In my opinion you are clearly expressing idiocy with regard to my right to speak even though I have not written a book on the topic. So why should I accept anything else you say?

Again, you are free with your opinion, but you have not refuted my accusation. Do you, or do you not have the requisite knowledge to write and defend a position of Jesus' historicity against qualified scholars, including scholarly refutation of their position?

If you do not, why do you make claims you cannot defend? Was it not you who wrote a book about how wrong it is for Christians to claim knowledge of God that they can't defend?

Net up for them, down for you?

I see you have lots and lots of visitors. Looks like you are just talking to yourself.

I see you resort to insult again. Mr. Loftus, insult is the last resort of the defeated. If you'd like to have a constructive dialog, I'm more than happy, but I'd appreciate it if you stopped insulting me. I've been nothing but polite with you.

I apologize that I have not been blogging or writing as much as you. Is there anything you are trying to say here, or are you just trying to hurt my feelings?

Are you saying I'm wrong because I don't have a lot of visitors? You wouldn't be that foolish.

Are you saying I'm unpopular? You might be surprised. This blog is a new project for me, and I've done next to nothing to advertise it. It is not my only project.

So please, Mr. Loftus, tell me exactly what you're trying to accomplish by insulting me. I would like you to be honest. Trust me. I can take it.

Hambydammit said...

Just to be perfectly clear, John. I'm not asking you to be silent. I opine on Jesus historicity, and you have a right to do the same. I, however, do not make pronouncements about Jesus most likely existing or not existing to thousands of people who trust me as an authority, and I don't overstate my knowledge on a subject.

Hambydammit said...

Oh, for crying out loud, John. Stop going around editing out your insults. Just apologize like a grown up.

Sheesh.

Hambydammit said...

It appears that I have to document everything Mr. Loftus says because he has a tendency to spew insults, erase said insults, and then cry martyr.

On his blog:

Apparently no one took to heart what I said originally here:

What grates on me to no end is people who don't give a damn to do likewise with my arguments. These people, on both sides of the fence, get little more than my distain. I have been known to berate them, ridicule and taunt them. I probably shouldn't do this, but sometimes I cannot resist. That's just who I am. That's what I sometimes do with people who are intellectually dishonest with what I say.

The mythicists and those sympathetic to them that I have met on the web behave like some of the most fervent believers I know. They are not objective with the facts; they treat people who disagree as if they are ignorant; they fail to listen; they twist and turn the statements of those who disagree; and they act like a cult in that they personally attack someone who disagrees just because he disagrees.

If you who are mistreating me were in a forum that was representative of what scholars think you would all be laughed at. As it stands I alone must bear this treatment because this is not a representative forum. I'm sure there are many historical examples of a person who was on the right side of history who was ill treated for not bowing to pressure to conform. I think Carrier is probably going to hurt himself in the eyes of the scholarly community and that's too bad. He might forever be known as a freethinker, not a scholar. I alone seem to be concerned about this for I think a lot of him.

I'm content though to have my informed opinion on this issue, one which very few people criticizing me could dispassionately tell me what that is. It's a non-issue to me.


This is interesting in light of the fact that he deleted this comment from me shortly after posting it:

Hambydammit said:
Gee, John. Most people would look at the argument and weigh it critically using logic. Would you like to print the rest of that post? The one that's on my blog? Why don't you send me a few viewers so I don't have to feel so bad about myself?

Seriously, John. I don't care if you print this or not. I've gone out of my way to defend you and give you every benefit of the doubt. I've been polite and offered constructive criticism. You haven't addressed any of it. You've just insulted me.

John, surely you understand the difference between commenting on the coherency of an argument and espousing a full fledged proposition. I dunno... Maybe you don't.

I will continue to support your book because I believe in a higher cause, and I don't really care if you like me or not. I hear your book is good, and I'd like to see more people become atheists from reading it. However, I'm not going to sugar coat the fact that you've been incredibly unreasonable here. You're overstepping your bounds. You're apparently a good anti-apologetics writer, and I commend you for that. That doesn't make you a Jesus scholar. Please consider backing off this little emotional thing of yours. I'm not asking you to be silent with regard to Jesus. I'm asking you to say only what you have the right to say.


Yeah... Abuse.

Ever the martyr, eh, John?

Eliyahu said...

J-esus existed, no. Ribi Yehoshua existed, yes. www.netzarim.co.il

SirMoogie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SirMoogie said...

This is depressing display from Mr. Loftus. I too am a student of knowledge, knowledge representation and reasoning. Just letting you know that you aren't talking to yourself.

Hambydammit said...

This is depressing display from Mr. Loftus. I too am a student of knowledge, knowledge representation and reasoning. Just letting you know that you aren't talking to yourself.

I appreciate your support. For what it's worth, everyone I've asked (both online and off) who has ever studied epistemology agrees with you (and me). Either John simply doesn't understand epistemological justification or he's ignoring it because he really wants people to know his opinion.

Either, in my humble opinion, is inexcusable.

SirMoogie said...

I'm not an expert on historical methodology, but I think I'm capable of recognizing bad methodology, which really is a question about epistemology. I'm eager to see Richard Carrier's book, as he is proposing a consistent methodology for establishing the probabilistic existence of historical figures. It seems to me that when it comes to the existence of Jesus double standards are employed. For example, some scholars utilize the criterion of embarrassment to establish Jesus' existence, but I can't find its use outside of Biblical Scholarship.

Hambydammit said...

It seems to me that when it comes to the existence of Jesus double standards are employed.

It's almost as if they're lowering the bar to make the desired conclusion seem more plausible. Funny, that...

For example, some scholars utilize the criterion of embarrassment to establish Jesus' existence, but I can't find its use outside of Biblical Scholarship.

Have you read my other blog about this? http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2008/11/thoughts-on-jesus-historicity.html

Have you noticed that Jesus historians seem to get really defensive when you question their methodology? If they don't get defensive, they avoid the question (see my debate with James McGrath). In what I've seen and read of Richard Carrier's research, he's happy -- nay... ecstatic -- to explain his methodology and to point out the need for consistent objectivity through solid methods.

Epistemologically speaking, this doesn't "prove" anything, but it sure does cast a lot of doubt on historians.

What a lot of people like John Loftus fail to recognize is that people like me are not interested in promoting a particular position. I don't care if Jesus existed or not. What I care about is that the research is done objectively and that the conclusion is justified. I hate that history is given a free pass with certain subjects because of their cultural impact. I really hate that.

Hambydammit!

Hambydammit!
Rationality through Fluffy Fur and Pointy Claws

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