Long Richard Carrier Interview on Ethics and Aid to Africa

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 12, 2011 in Ethics,Video

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex February 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm

The only problem with Richard Carrier is that he’s a total idiot who thinks he is competent in just about every area out there. His historical work is total garbage and that is his specialization.

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Drj February 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Wow man, why so harsh? What in particular makes carriers history so bad in your opinion?

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Alex February 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

He misrepresents his sources like crazy. You simply cannot trust his source-work and have to trail down every footnote.

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Adito February 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I agree that Carrier overreaches a lot in the topics I’ve seen him discuss. He seems to have a pretty simplistic view of religion, how we ought to see it, and exactly how obvious that “ought” is.

I can’t comment on his historical credibility.

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Tristan D. Vick February 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

@Alex

I’ve read Carrier’s works, and I have no idea what you’re talking about. Hist history is highly scholarly and well researched and I have followed many of his references and have read them as well, and have found no discrepancies or misrepresentations.

If you can cite a single example, I’d like to know what you have found exactly. Otherwise, I think you’re generalization is way off.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Alex,

I’d love to hear some examples. And not because I’ve decided in advance to try to rebut you.

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Derrida February 12, 2011 at 7:59 pm

The only problem with Richard Carrier is that he’s a total idiot who thinks he is competent in just about every area out there.His historical work is total garbage and that is his specialization.  

Interesting use of the word “only”. I think it’s only fair that defamation of this kind come with a “because” and several examples.

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Alex February 13, 2011 at 7:10 am

LOL. “highly scholarly”? Really? Well, let’s start with his use of Josephus with regards to Jewish resurrection belief in his article in _The Empty Tomb_. It is pretty much common knowledge within the academic community (indeed whole dissertations have been written on this subject alone) that Josephus is couching Jewish bodily resurrection belief within Greek philosophical terms. Not only does Carrier give us a straightforward reading and fail to disclose this to readers, but indeed Alan Segal, one of Carrier’s most cherished sources, deals with this at length in one of his main works which Carrier sites in _The Empty Tomb_:

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/04/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about-what_27.html

Also see here:

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/01/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about.html

and here:

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/02/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about.html

These are just a couple of examples though. His “Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire” essay is probably one of the worst examples of historical writing I’ve ever seen. Its a great example of what happens when skepticism takes over your brain though.

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Jugglable February 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I am not an expert in anything Carrier has talked about.

But looking at some of his work from the perspective of a lay person, when I see him mocking Christianity so viciously and then trying to say Jesus didn’t exist it makes me think he has an axe to grind and that he’s pretty rabid about attacking faith tooth nail and claw.

And from my lay perspective I just don’t take seriously the idea Jesus didn’t exist. I have the same contempt toward that attitude that Bart Ehrman expressed on the radio show with that infidel guy.

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drj February 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

From what I know, Carrier isnt out claiming Jesus didnt exist per se. He’s been out there saying he [i]thinks[/i] he might have a case, but of course, that case is still forthcoming. And he doesnt expect anyone to take his word for it.

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Alex February 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Jugglable – then you’re in good company. Ironically, it is only the kooks and quacks of academia that take mythicism seriously, and for good reason. Carrier will not be the white knight of mythicism as some of his followers eagerly anticipate. You need look no further than the archives of this very blog to see that he is woefully ignorant of the proper usage of Bayes Theorem, which he has nonetheless chosen as his main investigative tool! He should thank God that at least *some* of that was exposed prior to publication. And if the hearts of the faithful followers didn’t sink upon seeing what happened there, and cause them to consider deconversion, then unfortunately there are going to be *alot*of intellectual martyrs starting with Richard.

For the record, Carrier seems like a cool guy to have a beer with and discuss worldviews in a somewhat superficial pseudo-philosophical manner, but as a serious academic, he is an embarrassment.

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Derrida February 14, 2011 at 12:51 am

I’d like to see Richard Carrier respond to Alex’s examples of scholarly misconduct, but in his absence, here are my thoughts as someone who knows almost nothing about NT scholarship or ancient history. The three examples cited allude to Chapter 5 of The Empty Tomb.

1) Was Carrier wrong about what Josephus and the Pharisees believed?

On Josephus Carrier says, quoting a passage from “The Wars of the Jews”, that it is clear that Josephus is espousing a “two body” view. In response, Theologician states that the passage is perfectly compatible with the “two stage” view. But isn’t this a retreat to the possible? Even if e is possible given not H, e could still be more likely given H. When Josephus says “another body”, I’d tend to interpret that as a quantitatively different body, rather than a qualitatively different, or enhanced body. If a friend told me that they had gotten another car, I’d assume that they’d bought a second car, rather than refurbished their old one. If Josephus had said “an enhanced body”, then I’d think he meant qualitatively different.

Theologician goes on to argue that Josephus is being intentionally ambiguous, by expressing resurrection in Greek philosophical terms. Josephus emphasizes Greek values. But there’s an important difference, I think, between emphasizing the virtues of temperance, or hospitality when alluding to Biblical figures, and not being honest about what your sect believes, for fear of looking ridiculous. Implying that you believe in spiritual resurrection when you actually believe in bodily resurrection just isn’t going to work; you’ll be found out. So I see no good reason for Josephus to be ambiguous about the nature of resurrection. If there is one, I’d be glad to learn it.

2) Was Carrier wrong about the Assumption of Moses?

Theologician states that Carrier is arguing that the Assumption of Moses refers to a two body view (“The main problem with Carrier’s use of this passage to support his “two body” theory…”). But Carrier states otherwise (http://www.richardcarrier.info/SpiritualFAQ.html#moses). He was in fact arguing against the view that a Jew could not conceive of a life separate from their earthly body. Talk about misrepresentation.

3) Was Carrier wrong about the meaning of paliggenesea?

Here, Layman argues that paliggenesea means “rebirth”, “reproduction”, “renewal”, or “recreation”, but not “resurrection”. The term resurrection means “rising again”. The term rebirth means “being born again”. The two are often used synonymously. Just what is the difference, I wonder, between being born again, and rising again? Surely the two just mean coming back to life. Indeed, the two stage view of resurrection is that Jesus’ body was renewed.

I defer to the appropriate experts, but I don’t think that a case for Carrier’s dishonesty or ineptitude has been made.

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Alex February 14, 2011 at 4:20 am

Derrida – thx for the feedback. On 1), the fact that the verse is ambiguous and the traditional and elsewhere-attested “two stage view” is *possible* is the whole point. Its just common knowledge that the verse is intentionally ambiguous as the scholars cited show. And Carrier is arguing that his *two body view* is ***clearly*** attested here; It isn’t. Carrier is trying to introduce what is a novel view with regards to *Jesus’* resurrecton body, by way of citing background evidence in Jospehus, so saying “Josephus *could* mean two bodis here” gets him nowhere, esp. in light of the evidence the J is using accomadating language. But Carrier is saying more than that; he’s saying the two-body view is clearly taught here (see p. 112 of his book). Josephus fearing to be found out is a terrible argument. He didn’t expect Roman aristocracy to go and investigate the intricacies of Pharisaic resurrection belief. Indeed he straight lies about what the Bible says and that is much more readily verifiable.

On 2), in the book Carrier is arguing against scholars whose position it is that the Jews did not conceive of their *ultimate* fate of their *resurrected* selves for *eternity* as disembodied. That is CLEARLY what the scholars he cites and argues against are taking as their position. On his website now, we see him making a really weak claim that is common knowledge (e.g. Jews conceived of a disembodied state). If this is now his stance on the relevance of the Assumption, it is even more useless of an argument. The *two stage* view he’s arguing against actually entails that there is a FORM of existence of the soul in between death and the resurrected body, it is just not how Jews preferred to conceive of the ultimate fate of the righteous. He states, at the link, that “It was uncommon for anyone in antiquity to imagine a bodiless existence”, but as he states in his book, “already in the Old Testament the idea of a disembodied life separate from one’s body is well-established” (p. 107). So a) he’s entirely missing the point of what the scholars are arguing if that’s his view now or then, b) the point he makes on the Assumption is neither here nor there, common knowledge, and does not help his thesis in any way whatsoever, and further, c) his point about the low “likelihood” of an ancient author reporting the sighting of a bodiless person is very weak. Ancient theories of vision aside, in the passage he himself cites in 1 Samuel 28, Samuel’s “spirit” is conjured by the Witch of Endor and she sees him well enough to describe his clothing to Saul. Further, people were seen in visions all the time who were not presumed to be *bodily* present, and that is exactly what this incident is as Joshua and Caleb were “elevated by the spirit” to witness it. So again, nothing in the Assumption helps Carrier’s case at all.

Do you own the Empty Tomb book btw?

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Derrida February 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

Alex,

Alas, I don’t own The Empty Tomb. So many books, so little money.

1) I tend to agree that Carrier’s interpretation of the Josephus passage isn’t wholly clear. I don’t necessarily know what counts as clear or obvious when it comes to interpreting ancient languages. I think that the two bodies interpretation is the clearest one of the two, but I leave it to Carrier to provide more evidence or explain why he thinks that the two stage interpretation is obviously false.

2) Perhaps you could tell me whether any biblical scholars or historians argue that the Jews could not conceive of disembodied state, in which case Carrier’s point would make sense. Otherwise, I don’t know why he included this. But even if the point isn’t relevant, it isn’t mis-representative or idiotic.

To go back to your original claim, that Carrier is a complete idiot whose historical work is garbage: you’re raising several fairly technical points against him, some of which may stick, but I don’t think this is strong evidence that Carrier’s work is completely without merit. And the claim that he thinks he’s “competent in just about every area” remains to be seen (especially given what he says in the video above).

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Patrick who is not Patrick February 14, 2011 at 7:31 am

As for mythicists in general…

They tend to do an AMAZING job of pointing out how terrible biblical history is as a discipline. Its just plain awful. This has the effect of undercutting many arguments in favor of a historical Jesus.

But making a positive case for mythicism, instead of just a negative case for historicism, is a lot harder. I’m not sure about this aspect of the mythicist movement.

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Alex February 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Derrida – I don’t think there is any clear evidence of any two bodies resurrection anywhere, and that’s why no scholar who actually specializes in this field has put this forth. Carrier is creative and all that, but unfortunately he seldom has the data to back up his bold yet clumsy endeavors into these areas. I think I make several points about Josephus that tell against Carrier’s ability to either represent his sources properly or read them critically. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that though. On 2, I know of no scholar who would say the Jews could not conceive of a disembodied state. Any such scholar would obviously be completely ignorant of the intertestamental literature. I agree with your last paragraph and confess that I was being a cranky SOB. I shouldn’t have said those words. I find Carrier to be sloppy and reading his work is truly frustrating bc there are so many instances where, when I track down his sources, I see some fairly large issues of misrepresentation.

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TruthOverfaith February 20, 2011 at 2:16 am

@Alex

In Carriers debate with Jake O’Connell on Pauls idea of the resurrected body he lists several authors who support the belief that Paul seems to be speaking of a two body resurrection.

Your examples of Carriers supposed “sloppy” work are weak, as Derrida shows.
Do you have a website where you have detailed examples of this? Or does Carrier just get under your skin for some reason? Have you ever attempted to engage him on a matter that you find “sloppy”?

I’ve e-mailed him a couple of times regarding something that he’s written and he responded promptly both times. And I’ve never met him nor do I have any academic credentials.

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