Thursday, March 1, 2007

Grave concerns

James Cameron's "discovery" of Jeebus's resting place has sparked a bit of talking-head controversy. Naturally, anyone with an ounce of brain dismissed the whole thing as bollocks at first glance. It's not even new news. This rubbish has been out there in the conspiracy world for a long time. Still, that didn't prevent Teh Graun from making it front-page material, and hiring a fundie believer to whine about it.

What struck me hardest about Dr Thacker's whinging about Cameron's "twaddle", apart from his complaint that it wasn't "theologically sound" (Cameron was a bit silly to claim that his discovery didn't negate the NT, when of course that's precisely what it would do if confirmed -- not that it is or ever could be confirmable), was this:

These truths are self-involving narratives. In contrast to most archaeological or historical discoveries, whether Jesus actually rose from the dead or not is an event that one cannot take a dispassionate view on. If he did not rise bodily then, to paraphrase St Paul, the Christian faith is utterly pointless. If he did rise bodily, then this vindicates all that he said, and demands that we acknowledge his Lordship over us.

A neutral stance over the bodily resurrection of Christ is not a fair-minded, rational approach; it is a mark of intellectual and personal cowardice.


He is wrong in every part of it.

First:

These truths are self-involving narratives.


By truths, he means "theological truth claims". I have no idea what this sentence is supposed to mean. I had to look up "self-involving narrative" to see whether it was a fundie concept. The few hits you get on Google didn't make it much clearer, but it seems he means to say that they are not true or false on the facts but on whether you believe in them. Or something like that.

Hmmm. Well, I suppose that that is right, in that the truth of a narrative is a question of belief in it rather than its factuality. But narratives are overlays, not things in themselves. There are, one presumes, facts about Jeebus. He did or did not have a life, a mission, a death and a resurrection. Finding his grave would not disprove the narrative of the resurrection, but it would certainly make that narrative more clearly a fairy story.


In contrast to most archaeological or historical discoveries, whether Jesus actually rose from the dead or not is an event that one cannot take a dispassionate view on.


Isn't it? Can I not take a dispassionate view of the facts and then decide which narrative to believe in that fits them?

Clearly, this is not what Christians do (and it's the thing they are criticised for). The scientific method puts ideas to the test with observations, and abandons the ideas if they fail the test (at least, in theory it does; I take a slightly more Feyerabendish view of how science actually works). Believers puts ideas to the test and abandons the observations if the idea fails. (Which is one reason Christianity, chockers with ideas, is so contradictory and fragmented.)

The mistake Dr Thacker makes is common -- it's the same one Dawkins, whom he cites, makes, and is an item of faith in the creationist sector -- that the struggle between Christianity and science is a war of beliefs, that one must necessarily take one position or other out of faith and then make one's defence of one's position using the available facts. This is a gross misunderstanding of what science is and how it works. An "evolutionist" does not believe in evolution and then try to shoehorn the facts into that belief: they believe in evolution because it fits the facts. The difference is difficult to grasp for fundies because they believe reality fits their beliefs (mostly because they reject or ignore a lot of reality).

f he did not rise bodily then, to paraphrase St Paul, the Christian faith is utterly pointless. If he did rise bodily, then this vindicates all that he said, and demands that we acknowledge his Lordship over us.


While the first sentence is quite true, the second is not. It does not follow that if Jeebus was resurrected, everything Dr Thacker believes is true. This is a fallacy of belief, in that he believes that he must believe all that he believes and surrender none of it, so others must too. The fallacy lies in not understanding that while it's true that the failure of one item opf your credo means you must surrender the credo, it is not true that proving one item will prove it all.

I say it is true that the failure of an item of belief entails the surrender of your entire credo, but this is only true for those who believe that everything they believe depends on everything else they believe. Evolution is not destroyed by a counterexample (although it will have to be adapted). (Actually, this depends on the counterexample. I subscribe to the "rabbits in the Cambrian" view of what it would take. And a further fallacy is involved in believing that fundie belief and science are contesting beliefs, because it is not true that if evolution had to be abandoned, one would have to accept creationism: blackandwhiteism is an outcome of Christian belief (good vs evil; Jeebus vs Satan; saved vs damned) not a universal law!)

Curiously, most fundies do not subscribe to this "believe one part and all the rest must follow" notion for the obvious reasons.

A neutral stance over the bodily resurrection of Christ is not a fair-minded, rational approach; it is a mark of intellectual and personal cowardice.


I simply cannot understand how a person can say this. It seems that a neutral stance is precisely what he says it is not. Why can I not say "I do not know whether Jeebus rose from the dead -- although given what I do know I think it very unlikely -- but if he is proved to have done so, that will open up further questions"? I guess the reason is that he already has the answers to those questions. (I am wondering whether "self-involving narratives" are not "self-fulfilling narratives" in his conception.

I'm not keen on the whole "Jeebus did miracles, so he must be magic". I've seen Derren Brown do some pretty cool shit, but no one that I know of has him down as their personal redeemer. Maybe they should. (Check out Derren's site by the way; it's brilliant.)

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

boots sez:

"Curiously, most fundies do not subscribe to this "believe one part and all the rest must follow" notion for the obvious reasons."

It's the inverse of the ad-hom attack innit.

"I simply cannot understand how a person can say this. It seems that a neutral stance is precisely what he says it is not."

Fundies lust for armageddon, same reason the Catholic church forbids birth control, they want things to get so bad that armageddon happens and then everything will be all swell. Of course they're betting on their side winning.

WTF, I think Mad Max had a cool set of wheels. Insert that eyetalian phrase here, the one that means what will be will be. Meanwhile, pass the bong.

March 1, 2007 at 9:03 PM  

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