Friday, December 26, 2008

The Jesus Project

I've finally collated all my notes and correspondence from the Jesus Project conference held earlier this month in Amherst, New York. Titled "Sources of the Jesus Tradition: An Inquiry," it's goal was to work out (through discussing problems with the sources) what the exact aims of the Jesus Project should be and whether it's principal objective was viable: determining, with sound objective methods, what facts (if any) can be known about the historical Jesus. I've already outlined the administrative basics in my previous entry. Today I'll talk about the philosophy of the conference. Next week I'll talk about what actually went on there.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Radio This Friday

I'll be on live broadcast radio this Friday evening, discussing the origins of Christmas and the historicity of Jesus. It's the new Lowwdown show on KCAA 1050 AM (an NBC affiliate), which hits some of the Riverside market in Southern California (but you can also listen online from their website), with hosts Robert and Loredana (The Legal Diva). Normally I don't do call-in shows anymore, but since this one's broadcasting to a major market (albeit on a minor station) and is relatively mellow and the hosts are nice, I'll see how it goes. The show airs Fridays from 6-7pm (and they do take calls during the show). I'll be on this Friday (December 19), probably not for the whole thing, but maybe the first half-hour or so (the show actually starts around 6:06pm and will have a bunch of intro from the hosts, though that may come up later, since I'm the critical one, as you know). For those who miss it, it should eventually be archived for streaming or downloading (to run the mp3 for that specific show click here).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Loftus & Paolos

I've been reading various books on the side, in odd places where I can't do anything else (like the eye doctor or local eatery). These are books fans have sent or bought for me, which can take my mind off the endless attention to all things Jesus. I appreciate that. I get to books that way that I'd never likely be able to read otherwise. Today I'm going to review two books together, because they have a similar aim yet entirely different background and approach.

I finally finished reading Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by John Loftus and Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up by John Paulos. Both were released in 2008, although Loftus' book is a substantially revised and altered edition of his 2006 book Why I Rejected Christianity (with new chapters added, some removed, others improved, but some still the same). I read Paolos all through, but I only read select sections of Loftus and skimmed the rest, because Paolos is brief, while Loftus is vast. The one is a renowned mathematician and atheist who finds religious belief simply illogical, and cuts right to the chase, with enjoyable humor and remarkable brevity, in dismissing twelve common arguments for God. The other is an ex-Evangelist (and William Lane Craig protege) who renounced his faith and now provides the complete guide to why, addressing almost every conceivable argument for Evangelical Christianity in extraordinary and sobering detail.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vote Vetrazzo II

In September I wrote about my Jen's work for Vetrazzo and asked for votes to help them win a Forbes competition for a big cool grant. If you missed that or need a refresher, please hop back and take a look at why I think it's worth your time to do this (Vote Vetrazzo). They have an awesome recycled product, and an even more awesome management philosophy and work environment. They definitely deserve a leg up. They made it through the semi-finals voting round and now there are just five companies competing for the grant. In part thanks to all of you, Vetrazzo is one of them. Now they need your vote one last time. The deadline for voting is November 30.

If you go to the Forbes.com
Vetrazzo page, after a short ad (just wait it through) you'll end up on a page with lots of details about Vetrazzo and what they'll do with the grant and why they deserve it (jazzed up since last time I think), while a video plays of the company president (James Sheppard) making a long but very interesting pitch for Vetrazzo to the Forbes team. At the bottom of that page is the online ballot to vote for Vetrazzo, just like last time (if you want to skip everything and go straight to that spot on the page click here). This will generate a verification email that will be sent to you, and all you have to do is click the verification link in that email (or copy and paste it into a browser and hit go) and your vote will be counted.

James won the privilege to go to New York and do this new video because Vetrazzo made that top five, and those five companies got to make their pitch to a panel of experts in New York. Your votes this time count for 50% of the final score, while the panel's own votes count for the other 50%. In the new video James is speaking before that panel, with a slide show, and goes into a lot of detail, but I actually found the whole thing very engaging, and ended up watching it all despite its length (which is saying something, busy as I am). I recommend it if you have the time. Lots of info there about world and national economics, the surfaces industry, technology, how to run a green factory (using solar power, natural lighting, recycling their own water), and of course all things Vetrazzo. The second half of the video is a very on-point Q&A session. The panel knows their stuff, they ask some good, probing questions, and James totally nails it. It's almost like watching an athlete perform a perfect round of mind-Judo.

Whether you want to stay and watch or read all that, or just go right to the task, please vote Vetrazzo one more time!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pretty


Light fare today. As I already announced, since I graduated, my Columbia home page is soon to dissolve, so I moved everything to my own new domain (see Item 2 in Important News). But one thing I had at the old site just for friends and family were some family photos. They are many years old now, but I like them. They're pretty. So I thought I'd move them here and share with you all. But first a bit of background before each set.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hambone Videos

Hambone Productions recorded a video of my recent irreverant talk at MSU, along with that of PZ Myers who spoke after me. You can find this (in eighteen parts) on their dedicated YouTube Page. My talk spans the first six parts (less than an hour altogether). The rest of Myers' talk (currently up to part fourteen) and the subsequent Q&A weren't up yet when I posted this (but they are almost all up now). The video is a bit jumpy as the cameraman tries to capture me and my slides, and zips back and forth between them. There is also one point where things wig out briefly like a Max Headroom video. But apart from all that this is a really good video, and Rob put a lot of work into it for little return.

I've been recorded by Hambone before. They came to my home to interview me for a documentary they're shooting called Give a Damn? about whether we should give a damn about starving people in Africa. It's hosted by two friends, one a Christian, the other an atheist, who have a strong youth angle and a daring approach.

They want to complete their project in Africa, actually interviewing real Africans while themselves trying to get by on a dollar a day. They've already begun shooting stateside, traveling the country and talking to all sorts of people. But to complete their project they need funding, and I definitely recommend this to those who have the cash to support independent media. See
giveadamndoc.com for more about the film and different ways to support it. I like what they are doing and how they are doing it, and as I told them, I really want to see what they find out. It's a film I hope gets made.

Incidentally, I was also interviewed on camera some years ago for a student film by anarchists, which as somene joked to me probably won't ever appear anywhere--I mean, they're anarchists. When will they find the time? But I was also filmed more recently for a new documentary by a more prominent filmmaker, which I'm not at liberty to discuss, but that should definitely hit theatres (or video stores) in a few years, when I'll be able to say more.


Update: My original Skepticon slideshow is now available for download (as a large PDF).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Appearing in Amherst

It's now official: The Jesus Project launched by R. Joseph Hoffmann under the auspices of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER) will hold its first academic conference this December in Amherst, NY. Though I'm not an official member of the Project, I've been in communication with Hoffmann about it since the beginning, and I will be one of the speakers this December, along with Hoffmann, Gerd L├╝demann, Robert Eisenman, Dennis MacDonald, James Tabor, Hector Avalos, David Trobisch, Robert Price, and many others.

The official Jesus Project website is still under construction, but for those who may have "heard things" there is an old but useful update by Hoffmann on the hiccups in launching the Project. But it's in full steam now. The aim of the project is to seriously evaluate the evidence for the historical Jesus, without prejudging the conclusion for or against historicity, and this year's inaugural meeting is titled "Sources of the Jesus Tradition: An Inquiry."

My talk, "Bayes Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method," will conclude the Saturday "Evidence and Methods" section (the last of three speakers between 9am-11:30am) on December 6 (I meant to say "Relevance to Historicity Criteria," since that's what I'll discuss, but the submitted title is accurate enough). Roundtables and talks run from the eve of Friday the 5th to noon on Sunday the 7th and include many very intriguing subjects, mainly about methodology and how to use our sources. That's much of what my book is about, so I shall get to preview and discuss with scholars some of my book's material and get a feel for what others are doing on the same topics.

This is a formal academic conference, so attendance is by paid registration only, and like other academic conferences, it's expensive--though about half what I've seen to be typical, it's still beyond the means of most ($175, plus another $95 to get all the meals). It will be held at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. I assume you can get more information (including a registration form) by mailing a query to CFI (CSER) P.O. Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226-0664 or calling the Center
(at 1-800-818-7071) or sending a fax (to 1-716-636-1733).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Death to Bond Measures

Okay. Just a parochial political rant today. And it's not even about the Presidency or anything the Network News drones on about 24-7.

I'm sick of bond measures. They're phenomenally stupid and an insult to Americans' intelligence (or an exploitation of their stupidity, take your pick). Oh, right. Some of you might not know what I'm talking about. I don't know how it works in other states. Here in California, invariably every election is choked with bond measures. Bond measures for everything. Boring, stupid bond measures.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Appearing in Springfield

The date has been finalized for the MSU event. I'll be appearing on the Springfield campus of Missouri State University on Saturday, October 11 (2008). The event is a double-header, myself and PZ Myers (some details here). It's scheduled to run from 1pm to 4pm with informal meetups afterward. Sponsoring the event is the MSU chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (see flyer, and for more on the CFSM see wiki, and there is also a good news article about the campus group, with associated video).

The event will be held in the Plaster Student Union Theater (901 S. National, 2nd floor, southwest corner) on the MSU campus in Springfield, Missouri. Contact man for further info is J.T. Eberhard (417-234-1399). If you use FaceBook, you can help the organizers plan for how many will attend by informing them here.

Dr. Myers will talk on his field (biology and creationism and why science indicates naturalism). I'll talk on the history of science and religion between antiquity and the present and "Why Science Is Better than Religion and Always Has Been." I've tentatively abstracted my talk as:

Scientific values have been in conflict with religion for thousands of years. So have the findings of science. Using the ancient Roman debate between science and religion as a starting point and model, Dr. Carrier will show how science has actually won the debate, in both facts and morals, then goes on to prove it shouldn't matter what the Bible says: if there is moral truth it should be evident and demonstrable from the natural facts of the universe and the human mind and body, without any appeal to god or religion. And once we know the truth, we don't need anything else.
Though just so you know, I will be distinguishing scientific religion (which is compatible with scientific values and even promotes them) with nonscientific religion, and it's only the latter that I will argue is and always has been in conflict. Although I should warn the pious: there will be some irreverent humor.

I will be signing and selling copies of my book Sense and Goodness without God at the event.

Update: video of my talk at this event has subsequently become available online (see Hambone Videos). A link is also available there to view the accompanying slideshow.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ignatian Vexation

I've sent a formal progress report to all donors explaining what I've gotten done, what's delayed me, and what I still have to do to complete my book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. If you donated to that project and haven't received that progress report, please email me at once. That's for donor eyes only. But for everyone, here's an expansion on one item in it.

Last entry here I already mentioned one of the issues that came up: my stumbling into several muddles in New Testament studies that I thought had been reasonably resolved by now. Many issues I thought were cut-and-dried are actually mired in complexity, and my research in these areas has absorbed far more time than it should have. The two most annoying examples of this (though not the only ones) are in dating the contents of the New Testament and identifying their authorship and editorial history. There is no consensus on either, even though standard references (like Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and The New Interpreter's Bible) tend to give the impression there is. Even when acknowledging some disagreements, they do not accurately convey the shear number of disagreements and the complexity of determining their relative merits.

In other words, not only is there no consensus, but there are dozens of positions, and arguments for each are elaborate and vast. It was only after over a month of wasting countless hours attempting to pursue these matters to some sort of condensable conclusion that I realized this was a fool's errand. I have changed strategy and will attempt some sort of broader, simpler approach to the issues occupying my chapter on this, though exactly what that will be I am still working out. It will involve, however, a return to what historians actually do in other fields, which New Testament scholars seem to have gotten away from in their zeal to make sense of data that's basically screwed in every conceivable way. For when it comes to establishing the basic parameters of core documents, I have never met the kind of chaos I've encountered in this field in any other subfield of ancient history I've studied. Elsewhere, more often than not, either the matter is settled, or no one pretends it is.

It would bore me (and you) to attempt a thorough account of all I encountered on this subject of late. So I'll just walk you through one tiny example of the countless annoying paths I ended up on. And that only as briefly as I can (which is not very brief at all), since even this one story would bore the bristles off a boar if recounted in detail. It's probably boring enough as it is.

In most standard references or scholarly discussions, it's routinely claimed that the early Christian martyr Ignatius quotes the Gospel of Matthew in his letters, and Ignatius wrote those letters in the year 107 A.D. (or so), therefore Matthew was written before 107 A.D. That would be a fine example of establishing what we call a terminus ante quem, "point [in time] before which," the latest year a particular document could have been written. If either premise were a settled fact, that is. Unfortunately, they aren't. Yet typically this little problem isn't mentioned or explained, and these premises are declared in some form as if no one doubted them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Important News

A brief report on four developments of note for all my fans and friends:

1. Blogger now lets me add a widget for Followers (a new feature explained here). I've added it down the right margin, just below the Subject Index. It will show the avatar and link to the profiles of anyone on Blogger who joins my "followers" list (which means people who follow my blog, not my international coven of cultists). Just click "Follow this blog" to join.

2. Since I have now graduated, my Columbia University home page will eventually cease to exist (as will my old CU email address). So I have bought my own domain and set up a permanent official website at www.richardcarrier.info. Some Canadian businessman owns the .com domain even though he isn't doing anything with it (at least not yet), and he never replied to my request to buy it from him (
and I have no international coven of cultists to cast dark magicks on him). But no matter. The new .info domain is fine. With a simple redesign, the new site is much updated from my old "Office" pages at CU. So go explore a bit if your keen. If you have any links to any of my personal pages, just replace the old domain www.columbia.edu/~rcc20 in the URL with www.richardcarrier.info, and leave any file names and subdirectories the same.

3. About a year ago I agreed to begin a formal online debate with theology scholar Jake O'Connell this very month. I'm behind in my other work so ordinarily I wouldn't undertake this or any other task, but this was a prior obligation that's been planned for some time (complete with genuine Ph.D.'s as official judges). In any event it should prove interesting. The topic is whether Paul believed Jesus rose from the dead by swapping bodies rather than rising in the same body he was buried in (the thesis of my most detailed chapter in The Empty Tomb). This debate repeats the format of my Carrier-Wanchick Debate (on naturalism vs. theism). Our joint statements are now up, along with our bios and those of the judges. Our opening statements will go up in a couple of weeks, then it will be 2-3 weeks between entries until we're done, then the judges will weigh in. I'll announce this debate on my blog again when the whole thing is completed. But you can take a look now at: On Paul's Theory of Resurrection: The Carrier-O'Connell Debate (2008).

4. My book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ is making exciting progress (I'm very happy with it so far--it will be unlike any book you've read on the subject before), but taking longer than I predicted. I will produce a formal progress report for all donors who asked to receive a pre-publication draft (which they will also get later) and email that before the end of this month, so you can see what I've done so far and what's ahead. This will be for your eyes only, a privilege for donating to the work. But I'll also blog some highlights for everyone around the same time, even if only to share my grief. New Testament studies is in a worse state than I thought, a fact that standard references often whitewash (out of their own desperation, I suspect), and trying to untangle that mess is what's slowed me down.

Ironically, though, I already have too much and not enough--I've accumulated these past months more material than I can use for the book, yet important gaps remain in specific places where further fact-checking is needed, so I have to accumulate yet more, while cutting the fat from the rest. It's that fact-checking, though, that's uncovered some messy skeletons in the closet of New Testament studies, and I'm buried in skeletons enough as it is. But I'll say more in my next report.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Need to Believe


P1 = I do not need to believe in God. I only need (at the very most) to live up to my own expectations of others, being in myself what I would want from anyone else.

This premise is necessarily true, if the following premises are undeniable. And they are. The following premises consist of two kinds: those that are necessarily true (as logically necessary truths, they cannot be denied by any consistent person) and those that are very certainly true (since the evidence I have for them is overwhelming and thus beyond any reasonable denial). The latter will be printed in bold (blue if they are facts I know first-hand and green if they are public facts anyone can confirm). If these premises are as true for you as they are for me, then you must also agree that P1 is necessarily true.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vote Vetrazzo

Please vote Vetrazzo. Huh? I'll explain in a bit.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Are Women Just Stupid?

A friend of mine posted the following on a policy blog, and as I was meeting his request for a response by email I realized I was basically just writing my next entry for my own blog. So why not just post it all here?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Men or Women: Who’s More Intelligent?

The other day, having my evening tea with friends in the university’s fast food restaurant, one of my well-read friends claimed women to be intellectually inferior to men. Though calling himself a feminist, he went on to assert that women were simply unable to create good literature or make some groundbreaking scientific or intellectual achievement. ‘Why’, said he, ‘are there so few women’s names on the historical records of human intellect? They were, in the 20th century, given complete freedom to pursue education and have other rights.’ I readily came to the defense of the opposite sex by mentioning names of great women writers and scientists, reminding him that a mere half-century of freedom (if really given) should be considered as a factor in contrast to thousands of years of slavery and confinement of women in all human societies.

However, my friend weaseled himself out of the discussion by claiming that the brain characteristics of men have evolved for more intelligent and creative thinking. After the session, I searched the internet and failed to find any study that would definitely prove my friend’s claims. However, I thought of this issue as interesting and important enough to be brought to contemporary writers/readers’ attention. I would love to get everyone’s opinion on it. Please send your brief opinion (up to 300 words) via e-mail (to me at dempsey87@yahoo.com) on the question: Are Men more Intelligent than Women?
I’ll include the responses in our next issue of The Audience Review. Please include the following information with your opinion: Name, Age, Sex, Profession, Location (City and Country)
Looking forward,
Ernest

At his request, here is my own reply:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ancient Science Podcast

The San Francisco Exploratorium has launched a new website on "Evidence: How We Know What We Know." I was interviewed some time ago for this new launch, and elements of that interview are now available on their site as a podcast. Go to their new project page (above), click "Enter the Site" and select the Podcasts option down on the right side. I'm the second guest. It's about eleven minutes on "Why do Nutcrackers Work? (and other historical questions of science)," where I talk about the ancient origins of modern scientific values and the meaning of this for today.

There was perhaps an hour of Q&A recorded, but only ten minutes were used. Though I understand the need of that, this did create some problems. The editor stitched together elements of my answers into a continuous lecture. So you don't hear the questions I'm answering, or the entirety of my answers, so it sounds like I'm just rambling from topic to topic. Hearing it back I found it a little confusing at times. For example, in the full discourse I would quicken my pace at points to emphasize certain things before and after, but if you just keep the middle bit it sounds like I'm just arbitrarily talking too fast. And the change of topics can seem odd this way, there being no context or explanation of why suddenly I'm talking about something else. For example, my explanation of who Ptolemy was and when he lived wasn't included, until later on in the podcast, so at first it sounds like I just out of the blue start talking about this Ptolemy guy.

But otherwise there are some gems in there, and in the other podcasts. There are also other cool things on that site that are great, though it's all mainly for kids and teens. Currently the site is about the introductory basics of evolution science, but emphasizing the neat cutting-edge stuff scientists are now doing in the field, and how they learn from it, rather than just giving you a class on evolution. The aim of the Exploratorium is to get people excited about science. So it tries to spy out what's exciting, rather than merely lecturing at you. And the How Do You Know? project is about how we know things, the basic underlying methodology and way of looking at data. Its inaugural test case is evolution (though my podcast isn't about that, just science in general). But cases from other sciences will be added over time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And So the Lying Begins

Right wing pundits have begun the game of shamelessly lying about Barack Obama. The story they want you to believe (by repeating it over and over again and assuming you won't check the facts--and be honest, bow your head in shame: you weren't going to) is that Barack Obama is a "flip flopper" who is abandoning his principles to appear centrist. In actual fact Obama has always been centrist and has never espoused the radically liberal views he is supposed to be abandoning. However, unlike John McCain, whose reversals of course are so public and undeniable that we even have them on video (and any further fact checking in news archives would confirm them, and more), Obama actually hasn't done what he is accused of, hence there are no records or video to back up what the right is claiming about him.

Of course, they also attack principled reversals as flip flopping, an equally despicable tactic I already denounced (later in my post on McCain's YouTube Problem). For example, Obama has explained quite well why he has reconsidered the offshore drilling problem and is willing to make some compromises on it, just as he has been willing to do on other issues (an example of the very bipartisan compromising we have always been asking for, so it would be rather lame to complain about it). But today I'm talking about flops that in fact were never even flipped (something I mentioned in comments on my previous post on Obama's New Solution, where I also discussed the very similar compromise Obama worked out on FISA, when he once again explained to the public calmly and reasonably why he did that and how he felt about it).

A good general example of this dishonest tactic in full force is in the Washington Post, where right-wing editorialist Charles Krauthammer claims the following (in "A Man of Seasonal Principles" and "The Ever-Malleable Mr. Obama"), which I've broken down item-by-item:


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Appearing in Indianapolis II

The date has been finalized for Indiana. I'll be appearing in Indianapolis on Sunday, October 26 (2008), at 2pm, in the IUPUI Student Center CE Room A (4th floor), 420 University Boulevard (Indianapolis, Indiana). My talk will be on "Why Naturalism? Six Reasons We Need a Well-Thought Worldview," which will be based on a talk I gave for Atheists and Other Freethinkers in Sacramento that went over really well many years ago. The gist of it is that all the questions that (when answered) comprise a worldview, directly matter to everyone in ways they might not have realized (especially in politics, but even in everyday life), and once we understand why naturalism is the most probable worldview (given current evidence), consequences follow in every area of our life (even in how we vote). Though this draws on my book Sense and Goodness without God, the material is new. I will be selling and signing copies of the book as well.

NOTE: Entry to the event will cost $10.00 per person (or $15 per family), although Friends of the Center get in free (show membership card), as do all Students (show valid student ID). A reception will also be held after the event at the Center for Inquiry Indiana (350 Canal Walk, Suite A, Indianapolis), but reservations for the reception must be made a week in advance with a payment of $10.00 per person ($5.00 for children 5-12, younger children free). There will be enough food for a light evening meal.

P.S. I'll give similar details for the MSU event when I know them, but I can say this much: I will be appearing on the MSU campus in Springfield, Missouri, on the weekend of October 11 & 12 (the exact day is not finalized yet).

 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Appearing This Fall

Just a teaser for now, but I will be appearing in Indianapolis (Indiana) this October and possibly MSU (Missouri State University in Springfield) also sometime this Fall. No other details have been finalized. I'll blog these upcoming events when I know more.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama's New Solution


Last week I blogged about my lost faith in McCain, as well as the fact that I see two indications this may be the year the People began to take back the political process, if not their country (see McCain's YouTube Problem). There I discussed the first of these indications, the rise of a citizen media, especially using YouTube as a national television network not under the control of the wealthy elite and the incompetent networks. This will forever change politics and public discourse. But there are two pillars of power: knowledge and money. YouTube and the Internet have allowed people to take back control of the dissemination of information. Knowledge is now available. All we need are the skills to separate the wheat from the chaff. But what about money?

Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain's YouTube Problem


I was an Obama man even before hardly anyone knew who he was, back when he was a state senator in Illinois and hadn't even run for U.S. Senate (much less President). He was already so inspiring with his knowledge, candor, and level-headedness, I pegged him at the time as someone I wished would someday run for President. Yet I dismissed that as fantasy, because he was black--as one of my friends said (a police officer in California basing his judgment on a lurking racism evident throughout even his department), "this country will never elect a black man for President."

That was years ago. Imagine my surprise when Obama actually did start a run for President! And his win, though by no means guaranteed, actually looks plausible. Except for the fact, of course, that the Republicans are Evil and will sell any lie to win, as they did in 2004 against Kerry (the Swift Boat debacle) and even against McCain, one of their very own (the Black Baby debacle--even more disgusting than the Swift Boat campaign...with friends like that, who needs enemies?). The American people shamed me with their readiness to fall for such obvious crap--are we such a nation of idiots? More recently, the racism discovered by the press even among Democrats in West Virginia this season was shocking beyond even my cynical expectations, and does not bode well for the upcoming election (see the DailyShow clip, and for more disturbing examples see this video from TheRealNews). In Georgia they even sold out T-Shirts depicting Obama as a bananna-eating monkey (I sh*t you not). Sad to say, Hillary Clinton's campaign wasn't entirely innocent of race-baiting either (intentionally or not).

But come what may, this may be the year the People took back the political process, if not their country. There are two indicators converging on that conclusion. The first is in respect to the media. The second is in respect to campaign financing. The two pillars of power: knowledge and money. I'll blog about the first one now. I'll cover the second later this week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Music of Late


Okay. Light fare today. I've run into a few more groovy tunes that I've added to my library. Yeah, this is yet another appendix to my ongoing series on the cultural aesthetics of 21st century music (The Postmusical Age and The Postmusical Age II). But you can go there for the background. This time I'll just survey my latest faves, and that right quick.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Davis and the FAQs

I will "officially" begin work on my sponsored book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ next Monday (May 26). I've already begun writing and spent a few related days at the library, but the big push starts next week.

This will put on hold a revision of the FAQs for my chapters in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave. These have been up for years now, though not many people know they exist, since they haven't been catalogued anywhere but at the very bottom of my Naturalism as a Worldview page (and more recently in the margins of this blog), and on the official website for the book set up by Jeff Lowder--though not many people even know that exists, either (see: The Empty Tomb Official Companion Website).

As of last week I was half-way through an update of these FAQs. So I have posted the updated pages now (see Richard Carrier's FAQs). There are many additions planned, but you can at least benefit from those completed so far. The most notable update is a reference and link to my response to renowned Christian scholar Steven T. Davis, who published a respectable critique of The Empty Tomb in the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Philosophia Christi, two years ago (so far the only critique in print worthy of a reply). I've had my response to this up now for nearly two years, but since it isn't catalogued anywhere (not even on my FAQs--until now), very likely few even knew of it.

Since this may be news to many of you, I invite everyone who is interested to read it, especially if you've read The Empty Tomb and are wondering about the Christian response (apart from the lambaste of hacks and demagogues), but even those who haven't read Empty Tomb might be able to follow along and gain something from my reply. See: Stephen Davis Gets It Wrong (2006).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From Catapults to Cosmology

This year I've read several really excellent books in my field. Three I'd like to share with you. Here in the past I wrote about my recommended Books on Ancient Science. The following are somewhat related to the same topic. All are highly recommended, at least if the subject material interests you in any bit. But I doubly recommend them not only because their scholarship is superb and thoroughly up-to-date (they currently have no peer), but also because they are so well written they read like a dream. Though all bog down occasionally in technicalia, those bumps and boggles are relatively scarce. Most of their content is easy to read, even delightful to read, and full of fascinating stories and facts. These are the kinds of authors I wish I were, and strive to be. All three books are entirely approachable to laymen, yet all are advanced, cutting-edge works, and will be required reading for experts in their respective subjects for decades to come.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Calling All Benefactors


I completed my dissertation defense, and passed with revisions, which I've just completed and delivered. Now it's only a wait for signatures and paperwork (with maybe tweaks to the revisions if the subcommittee desires). I'll blog on all that once I've deposited my dissertation (the last step in the process, probably in June). At that point I'll essentially be a Ph.D. (since nothing else has to happen after that), though the actual diploma will be dated several months later, and then it will be official. But in practical terms I'm already done.

Now I need a job. Even at best there won't be any academic positions available until Fall (and more realistically I might not find a position until 2009), but we've been stuck in debt for several years now and I'd like to clear it sooner rather than later. Our monthly expenses would drop immensely if we did, and this would substantially improve our situation. My wife would be very happy. And so would I. So I have an audacious proposal. It probably won't happen, especially in this present economy. But as Jack Burton said when he took a futile shot at the psychic eye monster in Lo Pan's underground lair, "Well, you never know until you try!"

Here's my proposal. In the past, generous private benefactors, on their own initiative, have paid me substantially to research and write various online works (such as Why I Am Not a Christian and Was Christianity Too Improbable to Be False). Could there be anyone else out there willing to fund my work? I'd like to find several benefactors, like those who've approached me before, with similar resources and interests, who would love to pool together to pay me to undertake a serious project over the next four months. That project can be anything, whatever this group most wants to see me complete this year. I'm open to suggestions (from those who really do have a mind to fund a project). But I'll use the following as a prominent example.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Getting Well

I am getting well now. I feel like I've been through a war. Physically weak. A persistent cough. A little out of it. But all the other symptoms have diminished considerably. Now it feels more like a regular head cold. The worst of it was Monday night and Tuesday, then Wednesday night was almost as bad, but since then it's been growing milder. Now I'm just resting and trying to get my strength back. But no hospital needed and no funeral pending. I can't really shout. But imagine me shaking my balled hands back and forth and whispering "Yay!"
 

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Severely Ill

I caught a severe case of the flu this week. It's getting progressively worse and has come near to hospitalizing me. This is the second worst illness I've ever had in my life (the first being botulism, so you might have some idea of what I mean). Unfortunately, as a result, there is no way I can make the Indianapolis event. My speech will be shown there as a video (no, it can't go online, due to issues of copyright law). My voice is recovering, so I'll be narrating.

Since this video-talk will contain material I probably won't speak on anywhere else (nor probably ever write about), fans might not want to miss it, even though I won't be in attendance to take questions or join the panel (or to sign books, though they should still be sold there, and cheaper than you'd get online). I know this is an inconvenience to many, and I apologize. But there will be the video, and two other excellent speakers, and a show of support would still be nice!

In fact, I am hoping fans will show their support for CFI's choice to have me as their keynote speaker by showing up. I'd rather see my reputation reflected by the number of fans who supported me and CFI by showing, than by the number who bowed out just because I was too sick to be there.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Appearing in New York

Important Changes Below!

A last-minute event has been finalized after weeks of uncertain planning. In less than two weeks I will be debating the possibility of ethics without god at NYU on Monday night, March 3 (2008), at 7pm. This may be my last time in New York City for a great long while. The event is sponsored by a new group there formed by Zachary Novetsky called The S.H.A.R.P Lecture Series (Science, History, Arts, Religion and Philosophy). They don't yet have a website.

The event was to be held in a reserved room at the NYU student center (in lower Manhattan), better known as the Kimmel Center, but the buzz is now so enormous it was moved to a much larger venue: the new NYU Philosophy Building (at 5 Washington Place near Mercer Street in room 101. Attendance will be free to all. Just explain why you are there and you will get in (though a valid government photo ID might be required).

I will defend the position that there are true moral facts without God, drawing on material from my book Sense and Goodness without God and my Michigan Talk.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna will argue that we cannot discover true moral facts (I know, I thought that was weird too). I will be selling and signing my book afterward.

To get to NYU see the NYU Travel Guide. To navigate the campus see the NYU Campus Map. The Philosophy Building is on the corner of Washington Place and Mercer Street (with the entrance at 5 Washington Place), as indicated on the map here (the old venue, the Kimmel Center, is below Washington Square Park, but the new venue is east of the Park).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Darla the She-Goat

I'm still too busy to blog anything serious this month, so here's something easy. The following appeared in the December 2007 issue of the Atheists United newsletter, Rational Alternative (whose tagline reads: "Defying the idea that ethics come from God since 1982"). I punched this out in my spare time at the special request of the editor (who happens to be kin), as an essay entitled "Ethics Begins with Metaethics (Say What?)." It was scattered over pages 4, 12, and 13. It's obviously written in humor, and barely touches on many issues my book explores in more serious and complete detail. But for now, enjoy...


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Postmusical Age II


Last year I wrote about what I mean by our living in a Postmusical Age, and then listed a lot of my favorite new music to exemplify the trend. I have a really hectic month coming up and won't have much time to blog (indeed I won't even be home most of the time), so one thing I thought I'd do is talk about some more new music I'm loving lately. Light fare, you know. Just consider this an appendix to my earlier blog on this same subject...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Appearing in Indianapolis

In addition to my upcoming appearances this February in San Francisco, I will also be appearing as the featured speaker for the Third Annual Darwin Day Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, sponsored by the Center For Inquiry Indiana and the IUPUI Freethinkers on Saturday, March 8 (2008). The all-day event runs from 8am to 4pm in the IUPUI Campus Center (420 University Blvd.) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Registration fee is required (plus additional if you want the meal), and early registration is highly recommended, as the event is going to be well advertised and space will be limited.

I will speak at 9am on "Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans vs. Armchair Christians," expanding part of my previous San Francisco talk on the comparison between scientific creationists like Galen (who actually did science to confirm their theory of intelligent design) and early Christian creationists (who did no science at all), with some comparisons with ancient evolutionists (yes, evolution theory is that old) and modern creation "scientists" like Behe. Two other speakers on evolutionary subjects then follow, and then I will join them at 2:30pm for a panel discussion on "How to Respond to Creationist and Intelligent Design Advocates."

For more details see the Conference Website. They will also have a table at which my book Sense and Goodness without God will be sold (along with other CFI products) throughout the convention, which I'll be happy to sign whenever I'm free.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Saw a UFO

I saw Kenneth Arnold's flying saucers. No kidding. Don't believe me? Here's my story...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dissertation Done


Evidently good news to some, a horror to others, but...