NCSE Webinar, science denial, Wednesday

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The National Center for Science Education will host a webinar, “Debunking and confronting science denial,” Wednesday, May 28, 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT. Josh Rosenau of NCSE will moderate a panel that includes

Shauna Theel from the climate and energy project at Media Matters for America, John Cook of SkepticalScience.com and the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, and be moderated by NCSE’s Josh Rosenau. Shauna will discuss her work addressing media misstatements and how citizens can correct the record. John will describe the debunking resource SkepticalScience.com and the Debunking Handbook he co-authored, and Josh will talk about the experience he’s gained debunking science denial at NCSE.

More here; register here.

45 Comments

I used to deny anthropogenic climate change, too. Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data have to be rejected in order to hold YEC, and since ice cores are our primary source of information about the feedback mechanisms in the carbon cycle, throwing them out leaves you without a firm basis for saying that human carbon really is going to cause serious warming.

At least that was the idea.

Exactly what is this “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” that you speak of?

KlausH said:

Exactly what is this “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” that you speak of?

Well, here’s a quickie from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_core

Vostok[edit]

Vostok team. Main article: Vostok, Antarctica As of 2003, the longest core drilled was at Vostok station. It reached back 420,000 years and revealed 4 past glacial cycles. Drilling stopped just above Lake Vostok. The Vostok core was not drilled at a summit, hence ice from deeper down has flowed from upslope; this slightly complicates dating and interpretation. Vostok core data are available.[30] (emphasis added)

The Dome C ice cores from Antarctica go back almost twice as far, to about 800,000 years. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/ic[…]ore_co2.html

The Northern Hemisphere isn’t quite so lucky, but with GISP2 ice cores from Greenland we have about 110,000 years of Arctic data. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/ice[…]gispinfo.htm. As an aside, Richard Alley worked on the GISP project and is a fantastic science presenter when it comes to climate science and glaciology. Look up some of his videos if you’re interested!

Slightly less aside, Skeptical Science is a fantastic resource for debunking denialist myths. It’s like the climate version of the old TalkOrigins archives, including an index to common climate denialist claims like the one for Creationsts at T.O., and a database of popular denialists with their favorite talking points vs. reality.

Speaking of ice cores and Creationism, it’s worth remembering that the comprehensive debunking Problems With A Global Flood, 2nd. Edition points out that if there were a literal Deluge, we wouldn’t have ice caps at all. Even if you totally ignored the impossible thermodynamics and assume the Earth wouldn’t become hot enough to boil them off into space, there’s still the problem that ice floats. In my experience it’s become a common YEC fiction that after the Flood there was a sudden “Ice Age,” but this obviously can’t explain the features of the ice cores like the hundreds of thousands of distinct annual layers or the telltale records of volcanic eruptions millennia apart. If you start to even brush up lightly against thermodynamics again it becomes impossible to move heat around fast enough for that kind of weather, too. That’s not even mentioning the utter lack of historical records.

Yeah, the hardcore YECs have to compress human history even further, putting pretty much every civilization not only post-Flood, but Post-Mini-Ice-Age as well. Of course, the Egyptians get a bit of a pass because they wouldn’t have been affected much, being south of the Fertile Crescent and all.

Babel supposedly took place in 2242 BC, give or take a decade. Barely more than 100 years after the Flood. How they expect to get as massive a population as was supposedly present at Babel in 100 years is anybody’s guess, but they are sure about it. The Mini Ice Age follows shortly after Babel and lasts for something like 200 years.

All human history is supposed to have come after this point. All of it. Mind-boggling, I know.

But the idea that you could get more than three miles of ice comprising hundreds of thousands of layers in only a century or two? Please.

They’ll tell you that the layers represent individual snowstorms and that the apparent climate variations are also storm and geography-driven. The match to other climate signals, like benthic sediment and coral? Coincidence and selection bias, of course.

Amazing what one gets out of reading the Bible literally, isn’t it? Why, one can find all kinds of things that aren’t even in it!

david.starling.macmillan said:

But the idea that you could get more than three miles of ice comprising hundreds of thousands of layers in only a century or two? Please.

They’ll tell you that the layers represent individual snowstorms and that the apparent climate variations are also storm and geography-driven.

Sure, no problem, let me do the math.

100 years = 36500 days, since the Egytptians weren’t affected, there was still probably “summer” so let’s say that there were 8 months out of the year where snow fell in the north.

That’s about 24000 days.

A three mile thickness of ice is 5280ft * 12” = 63360”.

Lets say that, on average, snow compresses into ice at a 5:1 ratio.

That’s 316,800” of snow.

Let’s say that none of this ice ever melts in the summer. Ever.

That means it only takes 13” of snow falling every single day for a century to make an ice-age glacier in 100 years.

See, when you put it that way, it’s totally plausible.

In fact, it would be so uneventful that none of the plethora of civilizations that had written language in 2000BC would even write it down.

After all, who would bother to make note of a mere 260 feet of snow falling in the northern provinces this year?

But there weren’t any civilizations around yet! Remember, the global population had been 8 just a century before! All these dozens of major civilizations must have just started a bit later and gotten their chronologies mixed up. We’ll just have to revise and compress them ALL. Yay revisionism!

Were there any nice obvious comets flying around just after the dawn of civilization? Say, perhaps, one in 3500 BC? Or 4800 BC? If we had multiple civilizations recording the appearance of the same comet during a pre-Food or even pre-Creation time period, that would be hard to explain away. They’d try, of course, but the mental gymnastics would be spectacular.

ksplawn said:

Amazing what one gets out of reading the Bible literally, isn’t it? Why, one can find all kinds of things that aren’t even in it!

For example: There is no proof-text for “you should read the Bible literally”.

There is no proof-text for “species (or kinds) were created separate and unchanging”.

There is no proof-text for “Moses did not write Deuteronomy 34”.

david.starling.macmillan said:… but the mental gymnastics would be spectacular.

The mental gymnastics are already spectacular. I’d say they would go nova, but I don’t think that exists in the YEC world, since the light takes too long.

david.starling.macmillan said:

Yeah, the hardcore YECs have to compress human history even further, putting pretty much every civilization not only post-Flood, but Post-Mini-Ice-Age as well. Of course, the Egyptians get a bit of a pass because they wouldn’t have been affected much, being south of the Fertile Crescent and all.

Babel supposedly took place in 2242 BC, give or take a decade. Barely more than 100 years after the Flood. How they expect to get as massive a population as was supposedly present at Babel in 100 years is anybody’s guess, but they are sure about it. The Mini Ice Age follows shortly after Babel and lasts for something like 200 years.

All human history is supposed to have come after this point. All of it. Mind-boggling, I know.

But the idea that you could get more than three miles of ice comprising hundreds of thousands of layers in only a century or two? Please.

They’ll tell you that the layers represent individual snowstorms and that the apparent climate variations are also storm and geography-driven. The match to other climate signals, like benthic sediment and coral? Coincidence and selection bias, of course.

The oldest ritten Records go back to 3500 BC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kish_tablet). But why let that spoil things?

KlausH said: Exactly what is this “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” that you speak of?

Regarding AGW, I have a question for those who would deny that the phenomenon exists (which group may or may not include klaush, i dunno).

Background: We know the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide; it’s basically transparent to photons whose wavelengths are in the visible range, and it’s basically opaque to IR. So the visible-wavelength photons of sunlight, and the energy they carry, slip right on through CO2 unmolested. When the aforementioned photons hit physical objects (such as the Earth, cars, pavement, etc etc etc), the energy they carry is transferred from photons to objects. This, of course, is why things get hotter when they lie exposed to sunlight. And when an object heats up, it tends to radiate energy to its surroundings, emitting photons in the IR range… which, being in the IR range, are absorbed by CO2.

With the above paragraph in mind, here’s the question: How, exactly, is it possible to inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping more heat in the atmosphere?

I’ve asked this question of AGW denialists before, and never got an answer—in fact, one of those denialists explicitly, specifically refused to answer this question. Interesting, no?

How, exactly, is it possible to inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping more heat in the atmosphere?

Doing so could increase cloud cover and stabilize the temperature. Maybe the ocean will absorb it, and it will precipitate under the polar ice cap. Any creationist worth his salt could come up with an (wrong) answer to a question like that. I am surprised that climate deniers are so uninventive.

I am surprised that climate deniers are so uninventive.

You can’t have the one without the other?

david.starling.macmillan said:

Babel supposedly took place in 2242 BC, give or take a decade. Barely more than 100 years after the Flood. How they expect to get as massive a population as was supposedly present at Babel in 100 years is anybody’s guess, but they are sure about it.

It requires every single woman to give birth to 3 live children every single year for 20 years of her life, assuming a woman is fertile from age 15 to 35.

No problem, right?

Matt Young said:

How, exactly, is it possible to inject megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere without trapping more heat in the atmosphere?

Doing so could increase cloud cover and stabilize the temperature. Maybe the ocean will absorb it, and it will precipitate under the polar ice cap. Any creationist worth his salt could come up with an (wrong) answer to a question like that.

Matt is right, there are plenty of (wrong) answers we can come up with. For example, as soon as there was any significant warming, wouldn’t the warmer oceans and longer summers mean more phytoplankton, which would work to correct the imbalance? And how do we really know how MUCH effect it’s going to have, anyway? Carbon dioxide is only one of many greenhouse gases and is by no means the most abundant; for all we know, we could triple the CO2 in the atmosphere without making the slightest difference! The world is really big! How can you be so sure you’re actually changing anything? Melting the icecaps a little might actually cool the ocean down because there would be more surface area for evaporation. You can’t really know anything for sure!

Scott F said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Babel supposedly took place in 2242 BC, give or take a decade. Barely more than 100 years after the Flood. How they expect to get as massive a population as was supposedly present at Babel in 100 years is anybody’s guess, but they are sure about it.

It requires every single woman to give birth to 3 live children every single year for 20 years of her life, assuming a woman is fertile from age 15 to 35.

No problem, right?

Oh, but remember, these people lived to 200 or 300 years!

Oh, but remember, these people lived to 200 or 300 years!

Even the ones that had given birth to sixty kids over a twenty year period?

Henry J said:

Oh, but remember, these people lived to 200 or 300 years!

Even the ones that had given birth to sixty kids over a twenty year period?

Of course! Pregnancy makes you live longer, right?

In subjective time, maybe?

david.starling.macmillan said:

Of course! Pregnancy makes you live longer, right?

I consulted my wife on this question, and received the following responses:

1) No, it just seems that way.

2) If you can call that “living”.

Dave Luckett said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Of course! Pregnancy makes you live longer, right?

Mine (being two down as of earlier this month) would likely concur. I consulted my wife on this question, and received the following responses:

1) No, it just seems that way.

2) If you can call that “living”.

Dave Luckett said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Of course! Pregnancy makes you live longer, right?

I consulted my wife on this question, and received the following responses:

1) No, it just seems that way.

2) If you can call that “living”.

EDIT: Oops.

Mine (being two down as of earlier this month) would likely concur.

Just Bob said:

KlausH said:

Exactly what is this “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” that you speak of?

Well, here’s a quickie from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_core

Vostok[edit]

Vostok team. Main article: Vostok, Antarctica As of 2003, the longest core drilled was at Vostok station. It reached back 420,000 years and revealed 4 past glacial cycles. Drilling stopped just above Lake Vostok. The Vostok core was not drilled at a summit, hence ice from deeper down has flowed from upslope; this slightly complicates dating and interpretation. Vostok core data are available.[30] (emphasis added)

I know what the hell an ice core is; I wanted to now specifically what ice core data supported manmade global warming, which is what you were referring to.

Sorry, “know”. My K key is not working well.

KlausH said:

I know what the hell an ice core is; I wanted to now specifically what ice core data supported manmade global warming, which is what you were referring to.

Vostok, mainly.

Thanks to Vostok, we have an exact trace of the correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature. We see that long-term orbital cycles cause transient insolation increases during certain periods; this is seen (in the data) to heat the oceans overall, leading through a series of processes to increase CO2 levels. These elevated CO2 levels then sustain the temperature increase through positive feedback even after insolation drops off, leading to long warm periods. As the CO2 levels finally drop off, the planet cools, leading to an interglacial until the next insolation cycle comes around again.

Thanks to the extreme detail and regularity of this relationship, climate scientists have been able to develop incredibly precise models to determine exactly how CO2 levels affect the planet’s heat retention. Since the ice cores from multiple sources span multiple interglacials, the model has been refined and tested to a high degree of accuracy. We know exactly what effect each megaton of CO2 will have on the atmosphere.

It is because of this that we can now look at global CO2 levels and realize that they are nearly twice as high as the highest fluctuation ever seen in the ice core data. We can use the model to predict exactly how much heating this is going to cause and how long the feedback loops will last. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that there’s no way this isn’t going to be bad.

Klaus:

What DSM said:

I used to deny anthropogenic climate change, too. Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data have to be rejected in order to hold YEC, and since ice cores are our primary source of information about the feedback mechanisms in the carbon cycle, throwing them out leaves you without a firm basis for saying that human carbon really is going to cause serious warming.

What you said:

Exactly what is this “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” that you speak of?

Sounded to me like you were questioning the existence of “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data”. I don’t think DSM said or implied that “Hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data” was the definitive proof of anthropogenic global warming. He was indicating that it could be used to establish the connection between rises in CO2 and climate change in the PAST. IF there is such a demonstrable correlation, then the ice cores could give us a clue about likely climate consequences of such a rise in the PRESENT. (And reminding us that YECs won’t accept such data anyway, as they can’t allow such annual layers to actually BE annual layers.)

So could you clarify? Are you questioning the existence of “hundreds of thousands of years” (as opposed to YEC’s ~6K years), or the likelihood of AGM, or neither–just curious about the data?

Just Bob said:

He was indicating that it could be used to establish the connection between rises in CO2 and climate change in the PAST. IF there is such a demonstrable correlation, then the ice cores could give us a clue about likely climate consequences of such a rise in the PRESENT. (And reminding us that YECs won’t accept such data anyway, as they can’t allow such annual layers to actually BE annual layers.)

Yeah, that was my main point initially. Anthropogenic global warming is a non-starter for YECs simply because they reject the ice core record right at the outset.

The entirely speculative argument made by ICR is that the deuterium fluctuations which we KNOW represent temperature ACTUALLY represent wind convection patterns in snowstorms caused by proximity to the edge of a given ice sheet and thus reflect the rate at which the ice sheet was growing, or some bogus ridiculousness like that.

Once you apply a quite-smooth compression calibration curve (based on numerous other independent sources in nature such as benthic sediment and coral), the deuterium records fit predicted Milankovitch cycles PERFECTLY. Yet this isn’t good enough for them.

The ice cores unequivocally demonstrate that CO2 can act as a feedback: initial warming releases CO2 (among other things) which enhances the Greenhouse Effect, which sustains/prolongs/increases the warming. That this could happen was already known to physicists going back to Tyndall, and Arrhenius contributed important work to understanding CO2’s role in the Greenhouse Effect. The ice core data makes it plain that this does happen.

With that context, that CO2 is a crucial climate FEEDBACK, we can look at what’s going on today: the release of CO2 into the atmosphere isn’t a feedback to some kind of initial warming. Instead, humans are digging up hydrocarbons from their geological lockboxes and freeing the CO2 through combustion. The extra, anthropogenic CO2 emissions pile onto all natural background emissions. It turns out that the carbon cycle was removing natural CO2 emissions from the atmosphere at just about the right rate to keep the concentration of this gas at a very steady, even level for thousands of years. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 was roughly 260-280 parts per million. After the Industrial Revolution, when we started digging up hydrocarbons and burning them on an unprecedented scale, suddenly atmospheric CO2 shoots up to its present levels of about 400ppm, increasing by ~40% over a (geologically) extremely short span of time. This rate of increase is unprecedented in our records or in the geological data.

The natural carbon sinks can’t eliminate all of our extra emissions on top of the natural emissions, it can only scrub about half. Consequently, the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 has been roughly half of our total human emissions over that time. Nature is taking all of its carbon out and half of ours, but it can’t keep up with us. So CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere like interest accumulating in a savings account. At a rate of about 1-2 ppm per year, every year, for the past hundred and fifty or so years. And we can tell that its our CO2 specifically because the isotopic signature of the excess carbon building up matches what we’d expect from fossil hydrocarbon deposits. Its coming from coal, oil, and natural gas more than anything else.

What we’re doing is going way beyond the climate feedback effect of natural carbon dioxide emissions that we see in the ice core records. We have short-circuited the usual cycle of warming->emissions->warming and gone straight to emissions->warming, turning CO2 into a primary climate forcing. We are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere so fast that the natural sinks can’t keep up, the oceans can’t store all of it (and their attempts to do so cause a decrease in their pH; the process of ocean acidification), and so the Greenhouse Effect runs on steroids. More Watts per square meter of solar energy is trapped in the atmosphere instead of being re-radiated quickly out into space. The simple consequence of this process is that the climate system stores more heat, meaning things get warmer. You can’t increase the amount of energy retained by a few Watts per square meter and NOT have this happen. The atmosphere is getting warmer (which we noticed first), the world’s stores of ice are melting (north pole, south pole, and almost all glaciers around the world), and the oceans themselves are heating up (in addition to acidifying).

Moving beyond the context of ice core records shows us reasons for concern. It’s becoming increasingly clear that large and fast climate swings are tied to previous periods of mass extinction. The most drastic climate-implicated die-off happened at the end of the Permian period about 250 million years ago. Our geological record for these kinds of things goes back about 300 million years, capturing this and other mass extinction events and many relevant indicators of what the climate was doing at the time. We have proxies for atmospheric CO2 and for ocean acidification, and over our entire record we have never seen these things happen so fast. Even during the extinct events, things played out at least an order of magnitude (and typically two or three) more slowly than they are happening today.

The climate of the last 10K years or so has been one of of relative stability, without huge ups and downs on a global scale (regional variations can be a bit more extreme). It’s likely that this period of stable climate helped enable humankind to settle down and form civilizations, which even today depend on a stable climate to function. It wasn’t until this stable period that we developed mass agriculture, and it wasn’t until recently that we began to depend on industrial fishing to meet our protein needs. That could be a problem, because under any kind of real-world emissions scenario we are leaving (or have already begun to leave) the bounds of the last 10K years of climate behind. Under an entirely plausible “business-as-usual” scenario for future emissions trajectories, we can expect about as much warming over the next century as we had between the 20th century and the depths of the Last Glacial Maximum, when Chicago was buried underneath ice sheets a mile thick. That’s “only” a difference of 3-5 degrees C, which is what we can reasonably expect to be in for if we don’t take immediate strong actions to mitigate climate change. Keep in mind that the change from Ice Over Chicago to 20th century Chicago happened very gradually, over several thousand years instead of several human lifetimes.

None of this is scientifically controversial, though the causal link between climate change and several past extinctions is currently a bit more tentative than the basis of anthropogenic global warming (that’s not saying much, since AGW is pretty well “factual” by this point). With more than 97% of practicing climate scientists in broad agreement on the IPCC’s conclusions that recent warming is mostly us and needs to be dealt with, a conclusion reached only after about a century of debate and analysis, there isn’t any reasonable room for doubt on what we have to start doing if we want to avoid a series of CO2-related disastrous shifts in our nice, stable little world.

ksplawn said:

None of this is scientifically controversial… there isn’t any reasonable room for doubt.…

Unless you’re Rush Limbaugh. Or a Tea Partier. Or a Republican. Or a YEC. Or like to think you’re “conservative”.

Oh, sorry, you said “reasonable”.

We stole the winds, rains and the thunder from the gods. Now, with all the gods rolled into one, they want it all back. With YHWH back in the saddle we can do without the natural sciences. God rules!

They denigrate science without an inkling of what their lives would be without it.

YEC creationism is an enrageous, abominable insult to the the human intellect.

Galileo Letter to Grand Duchess

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.

Paul claimed:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Wait a minute, where’s the “and is infallible for the purposes of fabricating wholly specious alternate histories and sciences which can then function as pseudoscientific dogmas for prejudiced white American evangelicals nineteen centuries from now”?

david.starling.macmillan said:

Paul claimed:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

The trick then is in determining which writings are inspired scripture, which aren’t, and which are maybe even inspired by demonic powers or something.

It’s a pretty easy trick. Anything that justifies Paul’s particular prejudices, morals, and bigotries are obviously the inspired scripture.

Just Bob said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Paul claimed:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

The trick then is in determining which writings are inspired scripture, which aren’t, and which are maybe even inspired by demonic powers or something.

It’s a pretty easy trick. Anything that justifies Paul’s particular prejudices, morals, and bigotries are obviously the inspired scripture.

I don’t recall there being much controversy in any of Paul’s scripture selections. The OT canon was much less disputed than the NT canon, and the NT canon wasn’t nearly so disputed as the History channel makes it out to be.

The idea of a “canon” itself was pretty radicalizing, compared to most other contemporary religious traditions which didn’t include such a focus on literature or orthodoxy. Even the Old Testament wasn’t fully “canonized” by the Jews until some centuries AD.

Marcion was one of the first Christian leaders to propose a canonical list of Christian texts. He rejected the sacredness of the Old Testament for Christians (because he believed the God of the Jews and the God of Jesus were different beings, with only the latter bringing salvation from the cruel and imperfect world of the former) and much of what’s now in the NT, as well as some of the bits of Paul’s material he thought was corrupted by other sectarians (he had good reason to be suspicious; some of those he rejected and even some he accepted turned out to be forgeries or were later tampered with). Basically he accepted only a partial (preliminary?) version of Luke and some of the Pauline epistles.

Of course, Marcion was a “heretic” whose sect was viciously attacked by the sects that came to compose the early Orthodoxy. It was about the same time or a little later that they started to focus on creating their own version of canonical Scriptures to be accepted as authentic, informative, or uncorrupted. The list of books that we now know as the New Testament didn’t really gel until well after Marcion’s day.

It’s worth pointing out that today’s Christian canon, both Testaments, definitely includes forgeries, as well as books of anonymous and unknown provenance that were simply accepted to be Apostolic. The process of canonizing Scripture was carried out at a time before our modern state of Textual Criticism, and when professional (or even fully literate) scribes were not the normal means of preserving and transmitting the documents available. Demonstrable mistakes, incontrovertible corruptions, and internal contradictions abound.

I think it’s important for people who take the Bible seriously as a divinely inspired and spiritually empowered source of Truth to consider these facts. Most serious scholars do. In the US, I’m afraid, most of the laity are entirely ignorant of the facts, and there are plenty of insular “bible institutes” churning out supposedly learned “scholars” who never acknowledge them, or are also kept ignorant themselves. In a way it’s like the Statement of Faith issue from AiG: their sectarian beliefs preclude any consideration that the Bible they rely on might be imperfect in some way. So just as homeschooled Creationist children never learn biology, many Christian leaders never learn the Bible.

Maybe the quality of a canon depends on its caliber…

ksplawn said:

It’s worth pointing out that today’s Christian canon, both Testaments, definitely includes forgeries, as well as books of anonymous and unknown provenance that were simply accepted to be Apostolic. The process of canonizing Scripture was carried out at a time before our modern state of Textual Criticism, and when professional (or even fully literate) scribes were not the normal means of preserving and transmitting the documents available. Demonstrable mistakes, incontrovertible corruptions, and internal contradictions abound.

The single-biggest paradigm shift in my faith was the realization that the Bible we have can contain forgeries, mistranslations, pseudepigraphs, and inaccurate or even immoral statements, while still being precisely the body of work God intended for us to have, study, and learn from. After all, human beings learn better from mistakes than from anything else. Once I realized this, everything changed.

The single-biggest paradigm shift in my faith was the realization that the Bible we have can contain forgeries, mistranslations, pseudepigraphs, and inaccurate or even immoral statements, while still being precisely the body of work God intended for us to have, study, and learn from. After all, human beings learn better from mistakes than from anything else. Once I realized this, everything changed.

Do you suppose that the people who wrote it had that in mind while writing it? If so it would explain the internal inconsistencies that have been pointed out around here and elsewhere.

Henry

Henry J said:

The single-biggest paradigm shift in my faith was the realization that the Bible we have can contain forgeries, mistranslations, pseudepigraphs, and inaccurate or even immoral statements, while still being precisely the body of work God intended for us to have, study, and learn from. After all, human beings learn better from mistakes than from anything else. Once I realized this, everything changed.

Do you suppose that the people who wrote it had that in mind while writing it? If so it would explain the internal inconsistencies that have been pointed out around here and elsewhere.

Henry

I suppose that the people who wrote the Bible had many many different mindsets. Some were writing personal letters. Some knew their writing would be taken as authoritative. Some probably had no idea they were doing anything more than recording mundane events. Some were writing what they had heard, some were pulling together fables, some were trying to sound like they knew more than they did. All of them were telling a story, whether they knew it or not. None of them (or only very few of them) knew the whole story.

Certainly there would be plenty of disagreements between one point and another – how could it be otherwise? But those, too, tell part of the story. Mistakes are how we learn.

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And supposing that’s true, what’s it really saying? Not, it would seem, that Scripture is a series of propositional statements to be used as proof of whatever beliefs your church tells you you’re supposed to believe. Rather, that the Scripture we have is the Scripture God intended us to use for all of those purposes. It is written by men because it speaks to men. Before we learn about God, we have to learn about ourselves.

david.starling.macmillan said:

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And supposing that’s true, what’s it really saying?

We had a lively afternoon in my Greek class in seminary determining whether the text meant “all scripture is given by inspiration…” rather than “all scripture that is given by inspiration…”

shebardigan said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And supposing that’s true, what’s it really saying?

We had a lively afternoon in my Greek class in seminary determining whether the text meant “all scripture is given by inspiration…” rather than “all scripture that is given by inspiration…”

Haha, nice! Obviously there was no settled canon of the Old or New Testament when Paul was writing this to Timothy, so he very well could have been making exactly that distinction between “inspired Scripture” and other scriptures.

See, that’s where this particular aspect of literalism is vulnerable. I remember always thinking, “Okay, so…what if this one particular verse is the only that isn’t inspired?”

But more importantly, the jump from “given by inspiration of God” to “the exact thoughts of God and therefore inerrant and infallible” proves too much.

shebardigan said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And supposing that’s true, what’s it really saying?

We had a lively afternoon in my Greek class in seminary determining whether the text meant “all scripture is given by inspiration…” rather than “all scripture that is given by inspiration…”

There is a brief discussion of the possible meanings of this passage of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in the Wikipedia article on “Biblical inspiration”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblic[…]ration#Basis

I must have mentioned “The Jesus Mysteries” and “The Lost Goddess” before, but again:

Those two books are very good and interesting reads regardless of whether one wants to follow the road the authors have paved.

I found that maybe the most interesting part was the comprehensive notes section and the many sources quoted. One may disagree with the authors, but the sources speak for themselves.

And for people who really want to dig into the roots and history of Christianity, the origins of the texts et ceterea, their sources are referenced, some of them maybe not easily accessible, but they really have done their homework.

“Our” religion didn’t begin with the Jews, Moses or the gospels - it all began thousands of years before, maybe we ought to be more aware of the world in which it originated?

Reading the Bible one may think that that’s all there is and forget the history?

The portrait of Dorian Grey comes to mind.

With the hope that some of the controversy may be resolved I have taken the liberty of displaying a few pages from “The Jesus Mysteries” here

I hope FL and perhaps others as well may seize on the opportunity. The page will be available for a few days only!

Rolf said:

With the hope that some of the controversy may be resolved I have taken the liberty of displaying a few pages from “The Jesus Mysteries” here

I hope FL and perhaps others as well may seize on the opportunity. The page will be available for a few days only!

I’m not unfamiliar with these lines of reasoning, having studied the various Mystery religions in some detail while I was getting my minor. It’s mirrored in a lot of Richard Carrier’s work.

I reviewed a good deal of Carrier’s stuff in detail pretty close to the time when I was most agnostic, but I can’t say I was particularly convinced. Even if I abandoned Christianity and theism and the historical resurrection, I would still insist on a historical Jesus on purely academic grounds. It’s a neat thought experiment, but there are too many glaring holes, too much overreaching. Even allowing the pseudoepigraphical nature of many of the epistles, I really don’t think the “mystery spiritual resurrection Jesus” is at all consistent with Paul’s writing. Arguments to the contrary tend to cherry-pick and avoid context to a startling degree.

For example, it doesn’t particularly bother me that Paul doesn’t mention various relevant statements from Jesus, simply because we already know Paul’s epistles predated the widespread publication and dissemination of the gospels. The purported parallels to mystery religions are weak and unsubstantiated.

The claim that Paul’s reference to “James the Lord’s brother” is referring only to a spiritual brotherhood is contradicted by the actual passage itself, which actually says, “I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother,” which can’t really be read as anything other than a physical relationship.

I also don’t buy the claim that Mark 16 originally ended at verse 8. Granted, it’s possible to make that argument, but the authors of The Jesus Mysteries simply assert it as uncontroverted fact when in reality it’s an open question. The ending we now have is definitely an interpolation (witting or otherwise), but that doesn’t mean there was no ending in the original at all.

There are serious problems with placing Acts in the latter half of the second century CE; at the very least, there is no inconsistency in placing it much much earlier, which in turn places the original formulations of the gospels even earlier still.

The common assertion that the Testimonium Flavianum is a “forgery” completely fail to mention that while there was fraudulent editing of the passage, it has an easily-reconstructible kernel that is almost certainly authentic.

In my opinion, Jesus-myth hypotheses suffer from a lack of historical context, not dissimilar to the problems with the moon-landing deniers (though of course moon-landing denialism is many orders of magnitude more ridiculous). Moon-landing deniers typically assume that the moon landing footage could have been faked in the 1960s because it could be so easily faked today…but the technology to fake it simply didn’t exist back then. Similarly, while it would be easy to forge the more historically-set NT documents today, the modes of literary criticism and historical/geographical understanding required to do the same in the 150-250 timeframe simply didn’t exist.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on May 25, 2014 4:33 PM.

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