Monday, April 30, 2007

History Before 1950

All too frequently I run into hacks inordinately fond of quoting obsolete historical scholarship, sometimes a hundred or more years old. I take them to task, for instance, in my summary critical review of the woefully unreliable work of Kersey Graves in my article Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors (2003), whose infamous book is a fine example of how (with a few exceptions) antiquated historical scholarship is simply not to be trusted. Though I do not address there the few aspects of his work that actually have been vindicated by sound scholarship of later years, my generalized critique makes the point that it's only recent scholarship, pro or con, that is worth consulting. Graves shouldn't even be read, much less cited.

Among the many arguments I gave for this conclusion was one in particular about the history of history itself:

Graves' scholarship is obsolete, having been vastly improved upon by new methods, materials, discoveries, and textual criticism in the century since he worked. In fact, almost every historical work written before 1950 is regarded as outdated and untrustworthy by historians today.
I was subsequently asked in feedback what I meant by that. Not, that is, in reference just to Graves, but in apparently condemning the whole field of history even up to the middle of the 20th century. As I have made the same point in many other contexts, I gave a detailed reply to this question years ago. I now realize this is well worth publishing here, since it applies far beyond the case of Graves and relates a point I will continue to make again and again.

So here it is, with some minor editing:

Friday, April 27, 2007

Appearing in Las Vegas

General Notice:

Yes, my blog has been quiet and I haven't been answering email. That's because I'm hell bent on completing my degree this Summer. So I'm working double overtime on nothing else. Things are going to stay that way for a while. I'll be pausing briefly in May to see my sister's wedding and relax and de-stress for a week. But since I'll be in Vegas for that anyway, I've been invited to speak there while I'm in town. That's what the next bit is about. But just so you know, I've already dug up something else I want to post here next week, so my blog won't be dormant.

Event Announcement:

I will be speaking in Las Vegas (Nevada) on Sunday, May 6 (2007) at 2pm, a little over a week from now. I've been asked to give a reprise of my well-received comedy talk, Where the Hell Is Jesus? A Look at the 'Trial Transcripts' of Peter and Paul, which I gave in San Francisco at the last West Coast Regional Atheist Meet, to much applause. I have lengthened it somewhat for the new venue, so it will have more material, but it still focuses only on the book of Acts and why Acts is so odd if Jesus really existed as the Gospels claim. Though the facts presented in this speech are entirely true, and the conclusions are not unwarranted, this is by no means a complete or systematic case for the ahistoricity of Jesus. It's meant more to be fun than convincing.

This event is co-sponsored by the Las Vegas Freethought Society and the Humanist Association of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. It will take place in the new theater of the Sci Fi Center at 2520 State Street, Las Vegas (immediately south, I'm told, of East Sahara Avenue, just west of Commercial Center, and you can park along State Street). This is apparently the first ever event at the new theater.

I will be selling my book
Sense and Goodness without God after the talk and Q&A, but even with that the whole event will probably be over by 4pm.