Pharyngula

Canadian poll to crash

The Edmonton Sun asks, “Should God be left out of the University of Alberta’s convocation speech?” I should think so. They should also leave Odin, Zeus, and the Tooth Fairy out of it, unless it’s to make a joke. Surprisingly, though, 67% of the respondents disagree with me so far. Will that have changed when I wake up in the morning, I wonder…?

Comments

  1. #1 Hideki
    October 26, 2008

    52/48 in favour of leaving him out now.

    That was /very/ fast, hardly any voters by the looks of it though, was <100 when I voted just now…

  2. #2 JPS, FCD
    October 26, 2008

    Voted. Currently 55% Yes, 45% No.

  3. #3 Hideki
    October 26, 2008

    … less than 100 responses when I voted, with the number of people here I’ll be surprised if it isn’t >95% in favour of no god by the time it’s done.

    (Excuse double post, scienceblogs decided to eat the end of my message)

  4. #4 drydoc
    October 26, 2008

    Seemed to be evening up when I put in my vote.

    Putting religious messages into public events satisfies few and offends many. Leave them out.

  5. #5 Nerd of Redhead
    October 26, 2008

    Hit it with both browsers, 67% yes!

  6. #6 JoshS
    October 26, 2008

    I have obeyed the will of the Collective. This drone has executed its programming. Poll Pharyngulated (and it appears to be working).

  7. #7 SC
    October 26, 2008

    72% Y
    28% N

    just under 200 votes

  8. #8 Serena
    October 26, 2008

    That was easy. 70% for no.

    Not much work for us to do really.

  9. #9 Alex
    October 26, 2008

    I have voted.

    Not surprisingly, 79% have now responded “Yes”.

  10. #10 Capital Dan
    October 26, 2008

    Yes 81%

    No 19%

    381 Votes.

    That’s a spankin’.

  11. #11 Brian
    October 26, 2008

    Voted. This is a very practical issue for me, I’m a student at the University of Alberta and will be graduating in another year. I’d rather not have the academic focus of 4 years of my life undermined by superstitious drivel during convocation. ^^;

  12. #12 Patricia
    October 26, 2008

    6:24 pm Oregon time: Yes 82%, no 18%, total votes 386.
    We have more work to do.

  13. #13 Ian
    October 26, 2008

    Thanks for the post! Jesusland North is getting a nice old teaching of reality.

  14. #14 Brian D
    October 26, 2008

    The Edmonton Sun has a reputation of lowest-common-denominator reporting. Its sports section is of comparable size to the entire rest of the paper, the letters to the editor allow the editorial staff to act snarky with ‘inline responses’ that they never publish replies to, and they include pin-ups.

    Yes, by the way, this is the same issue that led to this and is currently getting a LOT of press in Edmonton. Tomorrow, the General Faculties Council is meeting on this issue; I’ll be present, but the leader of the charge would be Ian, who’ll likely blog about it after it happens. (Check the link out; he just posted his interview with the Jerry Falwell of Canada. Makes you wish you could choke someone over the phone.)

  15. #15 W. H. Heydt
    October 26, 2008

    88% yes to 12% no when I voted.

  16. #16 dingo
    October 26, 2008

    88% Yes, 12% no at 9:44 pm est. Imagine that, he really does work in mysterious ways!

  17. #17 Henry
    October 26, 2008

    I do sometimes wonder if these poll setters realise their wonderfully scientific polls have been Pharyngulised. I also wonder whether they would consider this fair, and whether they’d consider it fair if a religious website organised poll-crashing in the other direction. Oh well, another day another poll.

  18. #18 Insightful Ape
    October 26, 2008

    There is only ONE true God, and his name is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I find it a sacrilege, that they are considering to choose someone else’s god over mine! At least they should mention both. After all I thought these people are for “teaching the controversy”…

  19. #19 Heather
    October 26, 2008

    89% yes and 11% no at 9:58 pm EST!

  20. #20 rcn2
    October 26, 2008

    So irritating…

    UVic (province next door to Alberta) actually had somebody wave a stick over my head, full prayer, and dressed in full native religious costume. For my chemistry degree. It annoys me to this day, although I take great delight in ripping up the ‘will you please give’ requests from UVic.

    Now that I teach science it’s not much better. The PLOs (government defined learning outcomes) encourage incorporating aboriginal teachings into the curriculum. The textbook written for the curriculum talks about honouring ‘aboriginal science’. As if science wasn’t just ‘science’. At least in my class they not only learn about traditional practices, they also learn about traditional superstition, and I manage to tie it into science being the method by which you tell the difference.

    But so irritating. I don’t know who is at the top pulling the strings, but education in our province is getting very political.

  21. #21 Kobra
    October 26, 2008

    Poll crashed!

  22. #22 TinyBigBeaver
    October 26, 2008

    Oh the shame…I don’t know what it is with Canada these days. I’ve lived here about nine years now and I notice a subtle trend backwards from the live and let live, pro-science and immanently reasonable attitude towards life to craziness over a disturbingly short time. The poll is crashed, and when I get the time, I’m going to dig up some more info and blog about this incident, but in the meantime, Albertans, please don’t let this silliness get a foothold in Canada!

  23. #23 Notorious P.A.T.
    October 26, 2008

    Mildly off topic, but not too long ago someone here linked to a website called “X Proofs of Evolution” or something like that. Remind me, please, was the name of that again?

  24. #24 Andrew
    October 26, 2008

    @ #14 – I fully agree with you. I’ve lived in Western Canada, and I can vouch for you that this publication is nothing more than a tabloid. Please don’t judge us Canucks by it =).

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish this balogna sandwich, get out of my igloo and ride my dog sled to the hockey game, eh?

  25. #25 Monado, FCD
    October 26, 2008

    It’s called the religio-fundies in power… Bush Lite,

  26. #26 SC
    October 26, 2008

    Index of Creationist Claims?:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html

  27. #27 chancelikely
    October 26, 2008

    90%-10% w/1121 votes.

    I’ve been told that Alberta is the Fundiestan of Canada – is that so?

  28. #28 Shawna
    October 26, 2008

    First, the poll – voted against god. Second, despite what Ian keeps saying, AB is not jesusland north. Third, @14 and Andrew @24, agree 100% – the Sun is absolutely a tabloid. But Andrew I have to call you out on this one – any true Canadian would know that there aren’t any games today. Now, back to my beer.

  29. #29 Evolving Squid
    October 26, 2008

    I’ve been told that Alberta is the Fundiestan of Canada – is that so?

    Yes.

    Alberta, and a swath of southern Ontario from Niagara Falls to somewhere near Windsor.

  30. #30 Peter McKellar
    October 26, 2008

    Enjoy your morning PZ – 90% yes to 10% no on about 1200+ votes.

    Amazing what can be achieved when you sleep on these polls. The Oceania branch of Phyrangula rules this time zone ;)

  31. #31 Paul Lundgren
    October 26, 2008

    91 to 9 as of this writing.

  32. #32 BobC
    October 26, 2008

    Surprisingly, though, 67% of the respondents disagree with me so far. Will that have changed when I wake up in the morning, I wonder…?

    Not to worry. Only 9% disagree with you now.

    Should God be left out of the U of A’s convocation speech?

    What a dumb question. An equivalent question would be should the Easter Bunny be left out of the U of A’s convocation speech?

  33. #33 Diurnal Splash
    October 26, 2008

    This U of Eh grad sincerely hopes the only way God or Jesus or Thor gets mentioned is if he is there to receive his own damn degree. And no honorary degrees please!

    What up UofA? Cripes, I leave ya for five minutes and the whole damn thing goes to hell?

  34. #34 Notorious P.A.T.
    October 26, 2008

    Here’s what I was looking for:

    29+ Evidences for Macroevolution–The Scientific Case for Common Descent

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    Now, go back to messing with the poor Canadians’ poll.

  35. #35 Tyler
    October 26, 2008

    If you delete your cookies for edmontonsun.com, you can vote again. It’s tedious, but it just goes to show the pointlessness of the poll.

    I hope we can get the god thing out of the speech. It’s only my first year at the Ewe of Eh, so I have a few years to wait, but it would be nice to get it over with now.

  36. #36 Jordan Fett
    October 26, 2008

    This is the most traffic that little newspaper internet thingy will ever get…
    http://jdfettblog.blogspot.com

  37. #37 Crudely Wrott
    October 26, 2008

    What a wimpy poll! All I had to do was vote once for Yes and it’s up to 91%.

    Where is the challenge?

  38. #38 amphiox
    October 26, 2008

    Alberta is indeed the Fundiestan of Canada. But Edmonton is (or was?) supposed to be a little liberal island in the conservative sea.

    Of course, this being the Edmonton Sun, it’s not so surprising, in the end.

  39. #39 Crudely Wrott
    October 26, 2008

    Some 280 votes have been cast since mine. Still 91 to 9, Yes over No.

    Is there a competing cohort whose efforts are preventing Yes from reaching 99?

    Stay tuned.

  40. #40 Ian Andreas Miller
    October 26, 2008

    Voted: Yes 91%, No 9%!

  41. #41 Annick
    October 26, 2008

    I graduated from the francophone campus at the U of A, the Faculté St Jean. There, they have a giant altar to Mary right outside one of the dorms and a statue of Jesus perched on the balcony one one of the admin buildings. True, it use to be training centre for priests, but apparently religious paraphenalia is appropriate to French Canadian culture. I just wish they would have done what France did and eliminate all religious references in public buildings.

    And yes, I had to endure the references to god during the convocation and the cerémonie de lumière.

  42. #42 chancelikely
    October 26, 2008

    So would that make Edmonton the Austin of Alberta?

  43. #43 Allt
    October 26, 2008

    91%-9%

    I always end up voting late. D:

  44. #44 Lorne
    October 26, 2008

    I wouldn’t say Alberta is the Fundistan of Canada, only parts of it. I at least tend to think of the Red Deer area being the bible belt of Alberta.

    Alberta is indeed the Fundiestan of Canada. But Edmonton is (or was?) supposed to be a little liberal island in the conservative sea.

    Of course, this being the Edmonton Sun, it’s not so surprising, in the end.

    Of course the Edmonton Sun is only a couple of steps up the food chain from a tabloid, and even that is being generous.

    Edmonton being a liberal sea is sort of true, although most conservatives refer to Edmonton as Redmonton. (For those of you in the States the colours are reversed.) Sometimes Edmonton will vote conservative at the provincial government level to try and get a voice but even then we get hosed. But at the federal level we’ve been going conservative instead of liberal. Or is it the other way around…… Too many damned elections in the fast few years to keep things straight.

    Overall I think most Edmontonians lean to wards liberal. Which is kind of nice IMHO.

  45. #45 Brownian, OM
    October 26, 2008

    Alberta is indeed the Fundiestan of Canada. But Edmonton is (or was?) supposed to be a little liberal island in the conservative sea.

    And my riding of Edmonton-Strathcona voted in the only non-Conservative MP in the province.

  46. #46 moo
    October 26, 2008

    Pharyngula: Changing the world one online poll at a time =)

    Holding at 91% Yes

  47. #47 Brian
    October 27, 2008

    Brownian, OM @45
    And not just Liberal, NDP! Only way we could’ve been further away from the Conservatives is if a Marxist-Leninist candidate was running. :P

    Brian D @ 14

    Tomorrow, the General Faculties Council is meeting on this issue; I’ll be present, but the leader of the charge would be Ian, who’ll likely blog about it after it happens.
    Is this something that other students can have an effect on? Or is it open to the public? I’d love to come give my support.
    (great name by the way)

  48. #48 Brian
    October 27, 2008

    Huh, failed blockquote. Looked fine in the preview… sorry.

  49. #49 Crudely Wrott
    October 27, 2008

    2037 votes and still 91 to 9.

    Cohort, shmohort. I’ll take them odds.

    Even if they are skewed, pharygulated, or influenced otherwise. After all, these are the votes cast by those who chose to vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the results. Or brag, for the same reason.

    But, still, it is nice to know that we have a voice.

  50. #50 David
    October 27, 2008

    Sat through my daughters convocation at U of A this spring. I thought that both the native and christian religious doctrine was out of place. If you want religious fruit cakes just leave the big cities any where in Canada.

  51. #51 philosoraptor
    October 27, 2008

    If anyone feels like providing their immoral, liberal, atheist opinion on this matter to one of the reigning right-wingnuts of the Canadian blogosphere, please do drop by Hunter’s blog:

    http://climbingoutofthedark.blogspot.com/2008/10/enlighten-us-all-you-non-believers.html

    I only send people to her slimy little corner of the web because I find nearly everything of hers that I read objectionable, so I feel no guilt about sending educated, liberal atheists over there to clog up her blog with opposition to drown out the crazy.

  52. #52 Some Canadian Skeptic
    October 27, 2008

    The Sun is a rag. Doesn’t matter what Canadian city. It’s a rag. Always has been. It’s the Fox News of Canada.

  53. #53 Patricia
    October 27, 2008

    No vote – no bitch.

    Goodnight sweethearts.

  54. #54 Nicole
    October 27, 2008

    Ok so this talking about Alberta being the bible belt for Canada is kinda annoying, I have lived here in Calgary for all of my 23 years and for the last 3 I have worked in the theater and I really haven’t seen any of the rabid Fundie hate that characterizes the god-centric of the fundie Americans. But most Americans don’t realise that our conservatives are a little diffent then the ones you deal with, verry little was said in our elections about god or Christianity. And not everyone in Alberta votes conservative, I voted NDP.

  55. #55 Monado, FCD
    October 27, 2008

    My opinion of the Sun, even as a tabloid, dropped through the floor when the Toronto office (the original rag) published front-page pictures of a murder victim from a video made by her murderer, because she was in lingerie. In effect, they were creating their own snuff porn. I will never buy a so much as a single copy.

  56. #56 Heather
    October 27, 2008

    I looked in the poll archives. The number of votes in the past daily polls have ranged from 771 votes (Sat., 10/25) to 1988 votes (Sunday, 10/19). The last I looked there were 2224 votes for today’s poll about god and the convocation speech. It still was 91% yes and 9% no.

  57. #57 Interrobang
    October 27, 2008

    91 to 9 still by the time my poor benighted ass got here, late to the party again.

  58. #58 Rick Schauer
    October 27, 2008

    And with halloween so close, here’s a blog to haunt:
    http://ww3.startribune.com/kerstenblog/?p=539

    What an opportunity to troll amongst the faithful.

  59. #59 Peter McKellar
    October 27, 2008

    I agree with Nicole #54. I have family in Calgary and I have been travelling there on and off for over 30 years.

    I may have only got a limited snapshot but Calgary at least seems pretty open.

    Having said that, my brother has been snared by fundies that have him by the short and curlies. This happened through a shotgun marriage and now he is forced to bring his kid up with this nuttery and live under their wacko rules or lose access to his child.

  60. #60 Anhomoioi
    October 27, 2008

    How about the Expelled! poll:

    http://www.expelledthemovie.com/home.php

    Poll as of 10/27/08:
    Do you think Darwin’s theories are outdated?

    Yes 72%
    No 23%
    Maybe 5%

    That well of intellect Ben Stein is at it again!

  61. #61 Capital Dan
    October 27, 2008

    Anhomoioi | October 27, 2008 1:28 AM

    How about the Expelled! poll:

    That poll is actually rigged. ERV pointed that out not too long ago.

  62. #62 Tabby Lavalamp
    October 27, 2008

    Alberta as fundie central? We do have an overabundance of them. However it’s not just fundies but a mix of conservatives who hold sway here. There are neocons too, and the rugged individual gun owner slash oil-loving climate change deniers.
    They have enough numbers to keep handing the “Progessive” Conservatives a majority in the provincial legislature in ever election for the past forty (yes, 40) years or so. Majorities that come nowhere near reflecting the true numbers in the popular vote, which is one of the reasons why democracy is broken in Alberta and we need some form of proportional representation – which I’m realistic to know that a party that can do anything short of eating live babies (and maybe they can even do that) and still be re-elected to a majority of seats will never change the structure of our elections. Outside of a little gerrymandering to increase their numbers even more, that is.
    I live in Edmonton which I’d like to think is more liberal than the rest of the province, but I suspect is just contrarian. We overwhelmingly send Conservatives to parliament (federal government), but at times had the only opposition MLAs sitting in the legislature (provincial government).

  63. #63 Kaela Mensha Khaine
    October 27, 2008

    Ohhh, Master, look what Minions have done.
    Is Master pleased?
    I can have fluffy thing what goes “meow” now?

  64. #64 LTerminus
    October 27, 2008

    As a student of this University, I thank you for crashing this poll. Its rather ridiculous that this is still an issue, even in the most conservative province in Canada.

  65. #65 Daniel
    October 27, 2008

    Alberta does trend conservative, but keep in mind it’s Canadian conservative. That makes it roughly comparable to Massachusetts.

  66. #66 Rafe
    October 27, 2008

    I find it really disparaging that Alberta continues, without remorse, to be Canada’s version of the USA’s “bible belt”. I mean, granted, our version of “fundie” pales in comparison to the south’s version, but it’s still a thorn in our side. [ha]

    It used to be we were a country where religious party leaders were considered liabilities, and not assets. However, starting with Ralph Klein and continuing on with Stephen Harper, it almost seems like we’re taking a frighteningly conservative turn. I’m not a fan of it, and as a Canadian citizen and long-time reader, I thank you for bringing this poll to light in front of your supporters, so that even a small difference can be made.

  67. #67 Albert Yome
    October 27, 2008

    91% ‘Yes’ just now!

  68. #68 Jay
    October 27, 2008

    Remember the Baptist Homeschooling blog? It’s invite-only now, PZ. Guess she didn’t want to spread God’s message to more people–isn’t that against their fruitcake rules?

  69. #69 Spencer
    October 27, 2008

    Finally got to vote yes after taking the scenic route through the Sunshine calendar :)

    I blame evolution!

  70. #70 wil
    October 27, 2008

    Over 3000 votes and it is holding at 91%. Truly Pharyngulated!

  71. #71 Robert Byers
    October 27, 2008

    Canadian Evangelical here.
    Well why was it in the first place?
    I presume because the people believed in a actual God by way of Protestant/catholic Christianity.
    Have the people stopped this belief? by a good majority or minority?
    Is this rewriting from the people or from elite agitators? Do the people have the final say?
    Is this a attempt to publicly deny a God and by extension the Christian identity of the Canadian people or a sincere desire of the Canadian folk.
    Are Jews and new non Christian immigrant groups behind it?
    Should all of Canada have a say?
    If so could all speeches be forced to have God in them?
    Who’s the boss?
    What does God say?

  72. #72 Kel
    October 27, 2008

    What does God say?

    He says you’re an arse and wishes you would stop spreading lies on his behalf.

  73. #73 Scaryduck
    October 27, 2008

    Heh. We’re up to 92% now.

    On a not entirely related note, for reasons far too complicated to explain, I found myself in the back rooms of a local church this weekend. Taking a peek in the refrigerator, I found that our local zombie worshipers keep no less that SIX tins of squirty cream.

    What, I ask, for what reason do they need six tins of squirty cream? Their communion wafers, one can only assume, must be the best on the planet, although the symbolism is lost on me.

  74. #74 Wowbagger
    October 27, 2008

    What does God say?

    Robert, to be fair, we can’t just start off asking your god, can we? We’ve got to include everyone. So, we’ll have a roll call, going through the gods alphabetically:

    Aqdistis? Am I pronouncing that correctly?

    No luck there.

    Ah Puch? C’mon, I know you’re out there.

    Fine.

    Ahura Mazda? That’s a good one; do you know they named a car manufacturer after you? No?

    Sigh. We could be here a while. Tell you what, Robert, I’ll get back to you when someone bothers to show up.

  75. #75 yay
    October 27, 2008

    Should God be left out of the U of A’s convocation speech?
    Yes 92%
    No 8%
    Total Votes for this Question: 3444

  76. #76 Fernando Magyar
    October 27, 2008

    Robert Byers @ 71,

    Could one of you religious folk please try to explain why your personal belief in a deity makes that deity better (more believeable) than any of the other superstions that have existed throughout the history of human culture?

    http://www.godchecker.com/_feeds/dod.php

    Deity of the Day for Monday 27 October 2008
    AGAVE
    From Greek Mythology

    AGAVE: Daughter of CADMUS and HARMONIA. She helped to raise the infant DIONYSUS, who was the result of her sister SEMELE’s fling with ZEUS. This ended in such burning passion SEMELE did not survive it.

    Hey, at least the shenannigans of the Greek Gods were a heck of a lot more interesting than Daddy O, JC and the Holy Spook.

  77. #77 BobbyEarle
    October 27, 2008

    I shall raise a toast to Agave…tequila, of course!

    Still 92% at 0410 Pacific.

    Put a fork in her, she be done.

  78. #78 JackC
    October 27, 2008

    @#76

    “… more interesting than Daddy O, JC …”

    Hey – I am not all THAT uninteresting……

    JC

  79. #79 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2008

    I figure, if God didn’t want these polls to be crashed, S/He wouldn’t have invented PZ Myers, the Internet, and browsers.

  80. #80 Arno
    October 27, 2008

    ..that was an easy one:

    Yes 91%
    No 9%

    Total votes 3837

  81. #81 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 27, 2008

    Byers, how many kids have you told to get off your lawn this week?

  82. #82 Fernando Magyar
    October 27, 2008

    Hey – I am not all THAT uninteresting……

    JC

    Well ok,that changing water into wine trick is something that even Dionysus might approve of ;-)

  83. #83 Walton
    October 27, 2008

    As a quasi-Christian theologically-liberal open-minded kind-of-theist with deistic and pantheistic leanings (not very helpful to anyone, I know), I would assert that the difference between Greek mythology/the Tooth Fairy/the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the major Abrahamic religions is this:

    Let’s look at (mainstream) Christianity. Christianity makes a specific truth-claim: that the content of the four Gospels and associated ancillary writings, so far as they concur with one another, is an accurate representation of the life of Jesus. If that narrative could be shown to be accurate, including the accounts of miracles, then there would be very strong evidence of the truth of the central Christian belief (i.e. that Christ was the Son of God and a divine being). In contrast, if that narrative were demonstrably unreliable (which some argue that it is, but I won’t go into that here), then there would be no logical reason whatsoever to believe in any Christian belief – since there would be no reason to suppose that Christ was or even claimed to be a divine being (or even necessarily that he existed).

    As we’ve discussed, available empirical scientific evidence can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God; thus the only strictly logical position, on that basis, is agnosticism. If considered on that basis, there’s no more reason to believe in Yahweh than in Zeus or the Tooth Fairy. But since we have a specific, purportedly historical account of the life and teachings of Christ, which account may be true or false, then there are two possibilities: either the account is true, in which case Christian belief is irresistible, or the account is false, in which case Christian belief is hopelessly irrational and arbitrary.

    Thus, perhaps, the best hope for analysing Christian beliefs according to reason and evidence is to analyse the Gospels in their historical context – using the same techniques as we would use for any other historical source document – and determine whether, on the balance of probabilities, they are likely to be accurate.

    (I see the rest of the New Testament as irrelevant to this question. I have never understood why Christians view the letters of Paul as scriptural texts; they were chosen arbitrarily, out of any number of epistles by various authors, in various councils of the early Church, and I don’t see any evidence that Paul viewed his own writings as scripture. Rather, it was simply his own interpretation of Christ’s teaching. Just as modern writers such as C.S. Lewis have great persuasive force for many Christians, but his works are certainly not treated as scripture or as infallible – and he wouldn’t have wanted them to be – I don’t see why Paul should be treated any differently. But I digress.)

    I’ve talked about mainstream Christian belief because it’s the tradition with which I’m most familiar; but much the same remarks could be made about other major faiths. Islam, for instance, stands or falls on the question of the life of Mohammed; either he was a real prophet channeling revelations from God, in which case there is no rational option but to become a Muslim, or he was a charlatan, in which case Islamic belief is irrational. Ditto for the LDS faith: having looked into Mormon teaching extensively, I reject it because, based on the available historical evidence about the life of Joseph Smith – which is much greater than that for the life of Christ, because it was much more recent – I conclude that his revelations were not genuine.

    In contrast, Greek myths do not purport to be real, credible historical accounts of events which occurred within recorded human history. Nor do we have a purportedly historical account of the great revelation of the Tooth Fairy. In contrast, the Gospels purport to recount an event which happened in a specific timeframe, in a specific Roman province, under a named Roman magistrate; they make a specific, historically evaluable truth-claim. Likewise, Islam makes a specific evaluable truth-claim, namely that when the Prophet Mohammed wrote the Qu’ran he was transcribing a revelation from God.

    Perhaps, then, a historian is better-fitted than a scientist to evaluate the truth of religion.

  84. #84 Michelle
    October 27, 2008

    You know, there were other messiahs at the time of Jesus. Do we throw them in the garbage too? Jesus is just the guy that scored the most. And I’m pretty damn sure he didn’t have magical powers.

    And yay for poll “crashing!” You can’t call it a poll crash, PZ. There’s no crashing when you just vote once.

  85. #85 E.V.
    October 27, 2008

    In contrast, Greek myths do not purport to be real, credible historical accounts of events which occurred within recorded human history

    Oh duuuude. Epic Fail.

  86. #86 Pat
    October 27, 2008

    Perhaps, then, a historian is better-fitted than a scientist to evaluate the truth of religion.

    Ahahahaha… yeah. See, a historian is not going to think to chemically test those documents you’ve got to see if they are really on material from the proper era, or use archaeological methodology to show that while the town in question might be in the proper place it doesn’t have the proper age. Oh, wait – they might, but that would be relying on a scientist. And a scientist doesn’t care about the truth of religion anyways. They test the things they are told to test, and get exasperated when the religious scholars are upset at the findings for not supporting their views. The scientist would just go out and revise the theory, but religion seems oddly intransigent to the suggestion.

  87. #87 michel
    October 27, 2008

    @walton #83

    there’s reality and then there is the things people make of it.

    historians would indeed be the ones to evaluate the truth of jesus’ existence. but even if he existed, does that mean his teachings are also true? i wouldn’t think so. even reality can be spun into stories of epic proportions, and historians are not fitted to evaluate that. i think neurologists would do a great job finding out how gullible people really are. and in that sense, christianity is the same as belief in the tooth-fairy.

    at least i’m glad you didn’t say theologians are the ones to evaluate the truth of religion.

  88. #88 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 27, 2008

    but even if he existed, does that mean his teachings are also true?

    Or that he actually said the words attributed to him and that they weren’t the product of decades of hearsay written down long after he died.

  89. #89 Walton
    October 27, 2008

    I think some of you have misunderstood me. I wasn’t talking just about Jesus’ existence. (The “Jesus as myth” theory is very much a minority one, to my knowledge.) Rather, I was asserting that there are two main operative possibilities:

    (1) The Gospels are accurate in their account of Jesus’ life, including his teachings and miracles. In that case, Christian belief is irresistible.

    (2) The Gospels are wholly or substantially inaccurate in their account of Jesus’ life. In that case, there is no logical reason to subscribe to any Christian doctrine.

    If option (2) is the correct one, it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus actually existed or not, whether he was a great moral teacher or a lunatic, etc. – because, without acceptance of the Gospels, we know nothing whatsoever about his life, and therefore all Christian doctrine is completely arbitrary.

    As to Pat at #86: You misunderstand me somewhat, but I apologise for giving the wrong impression. Of course scientific tools can be employed by historians in their evaluation of the evidence.

    Rather, I was pointing out – as many people here have done – that the natural and physical sciences neither prove nor disprove God; that isn’t their role. They deal with the material world. Thus, examination of empirical scientific evidence, on its own, can take one no further than agnosticism.

    But the Christian religion makes a very definite historical truth-claim. It contends that a specific historical figure, living in a specific Roman province in a specific time period under the rule of an identified Roman government official (Pontius Pilate), performed various miracles and claimed to be a divine being. Thus, Christianity rests on the truth or falsehood of a single claimed event in history. This event, like any other, can be evaluated by historians; and the historical source material that we have can be evaluated critically, just as historians would with any other source document. It is no different from, say, the assertion that “the Nazis started the Reichstag fire of 1933″ (no, this isn’t Godwin’s Law, I’m just using it as a good example of a historical controversy), or “X million people died in the Irish Potato Famine”. It is a claim of fact – albeit one about which the evidence does not allow us to be certain. Unfortunately, since the relevant time period was so long ago, and there is such a paucity of contemporary sources, the Gospels’ claims cannot be either corroborated or debunked decisively via this method (just as we can never be certain whether the Nazis actually started the Reichstag fire, or exactly how many people died in the Potato Famine).

    at least i’m glad you didn’t say theologians are the ones to evaluate the truth of religion. – Of course not. Theologians examine religion from within. If their religion’s central truth-claim is historically untrue, then theology is nothing more than glorified navel-gazing. Christian theology only becomes relevant if one accepts the central truth-claim of Christian belief; so there is no point in an atheist studying theology. But an atheist should study Biblical history, archaeology and source criticism, from a neutral standpoint, because these things have a direct bearing on the truth or falsehood of Christianity’s central claim.

  90. #90 ScottKnick
    October 27, 2008

    From Walton: “In contrast, if that narrative were demonstrably unreliable (which some argue that it is, but I won’t go into that here), then there would be no logical reason whatsoever to believe in any Christian belief. . .”

    So the fact that the two birth narratives contradict each other and that John has the crucifixion happening on a different day than the Synoptics means I shouldn’t do unto others as I would have them do unto me?

    I suspect that this all-or-nothing argument is subtly based on the belief that there are a few ethical babies in the Christian bathwater, and we’ll keep the whole scummy mess for fear of losing the precious little moral dumplings.

  91. #91 Walton
    October 27, 2008

    Or that he actually said the words attributed to him and that they weren’t the product of decades of hearsay written down long after he died.

    Exactly my point. This is why I think Lewis’ famous “trilemma” (Lord, liar or lunatic) is a red herring. By definition, it rests on the assumption that the Gospels are accurate, since we have no other source to suggest that Jesus claimed to be a divine being. But if the Gospels are completely accurate, then, since they also recount miracles, there is no other option than to subscribe to Christian belief. If they are not completely accurate, on the other hand, then there is, as you say, no reason to assume that Jesus said the words attributed to him. He might well never have claimed to be divine at all; he could simply have been a great moral teacher or a purported prophet. Or he might never even have existed. We simply don’t know. That’s why Christianity must, in the end, stake everything on the historical accuracy of the Gospels.

  92. #92 Your Mighty Overload
    October 27, 2008

    Walton at 83

    Well, Walton, there is some truth as to what you say. However, there is a lot of stuff in there that isn’t right too. For example, the Gospels weren’t written down until long after Jesus’ supposed death (about 30 – 70 years). Saul of Tarsus (Paul) new nothing of Jesus’ life, and didn’t even believe Jesus really existed. The first recorded evidence of Bethlehem existing was some 100 years or more AFTER Jesus was supposedly born there (it was probably changed to Bethlehem by later scribes to fulfill an OT prophesy – many changes were made in this manner). Two different rulers are supposed to have put Jesus to death (if you check you bible thoroughly, I am assured this is the case – if not, take your gripe up with the maker of the documentary “The God who wasn’t there”). Then there are issues with translations, with the fact that the bible wasn’t compiled until 300 years after Jesus, and the numerous occurrences of copying evident within the bible evidenced by textual analysis. All this is compounded by the fact that it was more than 1400 years between the writing of the original bible and the invention of the printing press. During that period the text was copied by scribes, who could not possibly have kept the text in its original form during that period.

    Put simply, the bible is rife with errors, and certainly doesn’t stand up as a reliable historical document.

  93. #94 Walton
    October 27, 2008

    So the fact that the two birth narratives contradict each other and that John has the crucifixion happening on a different day than the Synoptics means I shouldn’t do unto others as I would have them do unto me?

    Perhaps, from a secular historical perspective, the reality is a little more complex than that. It’s very true that there are areas of minor disagreement amongst the Synoptics, and substantial disagreement between the Synoptics and John, as you point out. Also, there are some apparent internal errors in the texts themselves (Luke claims that Jesus was born when Quirinius was governor of Syria and while Herod the Great was tetrarch of Judaea, but Quirinius wasn’t governor of Syria until 6 AD and Herod, according to Josephus, died in 4 BC). So I take your point.

    Belief in the divinely-inspired infallibility of the Gospels is therefore logically unsustainable; but one need not make that claim. Rather, one need only assert that, considering that they are third- or fourth-hand versions of contemporary accounts (since it’s generally agreed that, with the possible exception of Mark, most of them were written several decades at least after Jesus’ death and were not written by eye-witnesses), that they are accurate in their essential recounting of the events. The resurrection of Christ must have been a fairly dramatic event to its contemporaries, if it occurred; it’s not surprising that, decades on when the accounts were written down, minor details would have been forgotten or confused. But the Gospels all agree that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, performed various miracles (though they don’t all recount the same ones), and purported to be a divine being. These are the most dramatic details of the story; and I think it’s plausible, though certainly not established beyond doubt, that they occurred.

  94. #95 co
    October 27, 2008

    But the Gospels all agree that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, performed various miracles (though they don’t all recount the same ones), and purported to be a divine being.

    Ooh, good point. All of the versions of Little Red Riding Hood I’ve heard of, whether in Dutch, English, German, Romanian, or some other language, agreed that there was a wolf, a basket, a grandmother, and some sort of violence. Most of them agree on the gist of the conversation that the Wolf and Riding Hood had, too.

  95. #96 Graculus
    October 27, 2008

    Is this a attempt to publicly deny a God and by extension the Christian identity of the Canadian people or a sincere desire of the Canadian folk.

    I’m a Canadian people, and I assure you I have no Christian identity or any kind of desire to have your beliefs pushed in the faces of Canadians who do not share them, including me.

    Are Jews and new non Christian immigrant groups behind it?

    Bigot much?

    Here, have a nice hot cup of STFU.

  96. #97 Paul Burnett
    October 27, 2008

    Hey, gang, they’re on to us. With 4930 votes, the trend is going the wrong way. Yes was at a high of 92% – now it’s down to 88%, with No at 12%. Get back to work.

  97. #98 E.V.
    October 27, 2008
    Perhaps, then, a historian is better-fitted than a scientist to evaluate the truth of religion.

    So Archeologists, with all the sciences they use, aren’t historians? Or are you saying that a historian can date artifacts or establish veracity and actuality through documentation alone?
    What specific “truth” of religion are you referring to?
    Yes it’s true, religions are a reality because we have credible evidence people follow them. This is a literary and historical truth.
    Are they credible in a material/physical world?
    Since religions are based on the existence of supernatural (i.e. non-material) phenomena, then the implausibility of such phenomena, through rigorous scientific research (and the pretext that this Abrahamic god leaves no evidence despite being quite chatty and showing off cheap theatrical magic tricks just a couple of millenia ago) render it unlikely. It’s the “god of the gaps” argument with ever shrinking gaps. Therefore the “un-truth” of supernatural/metaphysics/deities as having a lack credence in a material world is relevant and dependent on scientific evaluation and the laws of physics; Scientists discover and evaluate truth.

    In a nutshell: No physical evidence for Gods, divine interventions, supernatural miracles, not even archeological evidence of Jesus (just an old ossuary with a faked inscription) and no credible accounts of his existence beyond the Gospels except for one account recorded decades later.

    The truth of religion -all psyche and no physics.

  98. #99 co
    October 27, 2008

    N.B.: The statistics on that poll are pretty screwy. A couple of times now, I’ve reloaded the results page, and the “total count” number has gone *down*. 4992 -> 4981 -> 4998 -> 5001 -> 4998. What’s up with that?

  99. #100 Curt Cameron
    October 27, 2008

    Your Mighty Overload wrote:

    Saul of Tarsus (Paul) new nothing of Jesus’ life, and didn’t even believe Jesus really existed.

    I think you’re putting too much stock in The God Who Wasn’t There. Paul’s epistles were written long before the gospels, and don’t describe any of Jesus’s life details like the gospels do, but I think it’s clear from reading the Bible that Paul believed Jesus physically existed. He mentions the execution, resurrection, and ascension, plus he mentions meeting Jesus’s brother. He just doesn’t mention any of the details like the virgin birth, wise men, stars in the east, miracles, sermons on mounts, etc., suggesting those details were still in the process of becoming part of the legend.

    The first recorded evidence of Bethlehem existing was some 100 years or more AFTER Jesus was supposedly born there (it was probably changed to Bethlehem by later scribes to fulfill an OT prophesy – many changes were made in this manner).

    Here I think you’re confusing Bethlehem for Nazareth. It’s been reported recently that Nazareth apparently didn’t exist in the first century CE. I think Bethlehem must have, because the gospels writers clearly think it was important to have Jesus born in Bethlehem to show that he was a descendant of David through Joseph, although I don’t understand how that was supposed to work if Joseph was not his biological father.

  100. #101 Ken from Oregon
    October 27, 2008

    Just voted. Still 88 to 12.

  101. #102 karen
    October 27, 2008

    5,095 votes, 88% yes, 12% no as of 10:20 am DST October 27.

  102. #103 Tulse
    October 27, 2008

    I was asserting that there are two main operative possibilities:
    (1) The Gospels are accurate in their account of Jesus’ life, including his teachings and miracles. In that case, Christian belief is irresistible.
    (2) The Gospels are wholly or substantially inaccurate in their account of Jesus’ life. In that case, there is no logical reason to subscribe to any Christian doctrine.

    That dichotomy is nonsense. The notion that the Gospels are either completely inaccurate or complete historical records is, not to put too fine a point on it, “silly”. Even in modern biographies of modern historical figures we find inaccuracies and mythologizing (pro or con) — what makes you think that some parts being true necessarily means that all of it is accurate? Are you really that credulous and uncritical?

    Perhaps, from a secular historical perspective, the reality is a little more complex than that. It’s very true that there are areas of minor disagreement amongst the Synoptics, and substantial disagreement between the Synoptics and John

    That screeching sound we hear is of goalposts being moved.

    The resurrection of Christ must have been a fairly dramatic event to its contemporaries, if it occurred; [...] But the Gospels all agree that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, performed various miracles (though they don’t all recount the same ones), and purported to be a divine being.

    Yes, all these events must have been extremely dramatic — how often do miracles happen, after all? These events would presumably have a profound impact on the witnesses, and even those who heard of them later. So it is rather odd that the only record we have of these events is from four writers intimately connected with the religion — no third-party accounts, no noting of these things in other documents or by other unbiased individuals. If these “dramatic details” aren’t found in any non-Christian source, why should we believe that they did in fact happen?

  103. #104 karen
    October 27, 2008

    Oops, that should have been “EDT”.

  104. #105 Chad
    October 27, 2008

    PZ, Someday I’m gonna shake your hand, and buy you a beer.

  105. #106 Curt Cameron
    October 27, 2008

    Tulse wrote:

    So it is rather odd that the only record we have of these events is from four writers intimately connected with the religion…

    And it’s way more tenuous than that, even. The only record we have is from four writers intimately connected with the religion, who couldn’t plausibly have even met the person they’re writing about.

    About the screwy poll, at 10:20 am CDT, it’s 5518 votes total, 87% yes. That means that between 4774 and 4828 people have voted “yes.” Perhaps they’re not recording votes from people who were referred there from the scienceblogs domain? I always copy & paste the URL on polls so that the referrer is not sent.

  106. #107 Jenn
    October 27, 2008

    Ok, I read this blog all the time, but I have to comment this time, as it is MY convocation. It bugs me that a specific belief system is pushed on everyone…. Frankly, I’d rather hear a speech about Odin, but I cant’ complain because I’m not going anyhow…. convocations are four hours of your life you can’t have back again. The U of A can mail my parchment to me.

  107. #108 Walton
    October 27, 2008

    That dichotomy is nonsense. The notion that the Gospels are either completely inaccurate or complete historical records is, not to put too fine a point on it, “silly”. Even in modern biographies of modern historical figures we find inaccuracies and mythologizing (pro or con) — what makes you think that some parts being true necessarily means that all of it is accurate? Are you really that credulous and uncritical?

    Once again I have been misunderstood. I was not asserting that they are either completely accurate or completely false; indeed we know that they cannot be completely accurate, because in some details they are internally inconsistent with one another. Rather, I was asserting that if we can show that they are likely to be accurate in their essentials, this makes Christianity very plausible; whereas if they are substantially inaccurate, there is nothing to support the claims of Christianity. Therefore, I stand by my statement that the question turns on whether, on a balance of probabilities, a reasonable and impartial historian would conclude that the Gospels are likely to be substantially accurate records. Everything else is irrelevant.

    Are they [religions] credible in a material/physical world? Since religions are based on the existence of supernatural (i.e. non-material) phenomena, then the implausibility of such phenomena, through rigorous scientific research (and the pretext that this Abrahamic god leaves no evidence despite being quite chatty and showing off cheap theatrical magic tricks just a couple of millenia ago) render it unlikely.

    Miracles and divine intervention, by definition, operate outside the normal observable laws of nature; in other words, they are by definition physically impossible. Modern science hasn’t, in fact, changed this situation much; while people in Jesus’ day were entirely ignorant of modern chemistry and physics, I’m sure they fully appreciated that, according to normal observable reality in their daily lives, it was impossible to turn water into wine, or to multiply a small number of loaves and fishes to feed five thousand. Therefore, our knowledge of physical sciences is not much help. Rather, we are evaluating the truth a claim, made in various purported historical records, that these physically impossible events – interventions of the supernatural – actually occurred and were observed.

    Of course, this is an extraordinary claim; and extraordinary claims, if they are to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, require extraordinary evidence. Such extraordinary evidence is, as you correctly identify, not present; all we have are a small selection of documents, all probably dated to several decades after Jesus’ death, to attest to these alleged miracles. But with an event that far back in the past, we can never be sure. So I would contend that it is a legitimate historical controversy, on which it is, therefore, legitimate to speculate within the bounds of available evidence. Just as we do not know for certain, given current evidence, whether the Nazis were involved in starting the Reichstag fire of 1933, or exactly how many died in the Irish Potato Famine, or what exactly was the decisive factor in the fall of Rome – and it is legitimate for historians to disagree on these issues – so surely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are a legitimate topic of historical debate?

  108. #109 Phillip Allen
    October 27, 2008

    @ #63

    “I can have fluffy thing what goes “meow” now?”

    Kaela, only if your prepare it in ritual fashion, and use the pelt for a coin purse.

  109. #110 itzac
    October 27, 2008

    I hate to say it, but likely most of the Sun’s reader’s will never have to go through the convocation ceremony, so polling their opinion on the issue is a bit of a waste of time. Still, it’s nice to see a poll crashed in which I have a legitimate stake.

  110. #111 Thuktun
    October 27, 2008

    Currently 85%/15% with 6153 total. Someone’s pushing back?

  111. #112 Tulse
    October 27, 2008

    I was asserting that if we can show that they are likely to be accurate in their essentials, this makes Christianity very plausible; whereas if they are substantially inaccurate, there is nothing to support the claims of Christianity.

    And again, this is a ridiculous dichotomy. It is quite possible that the Gospels could be “accurate” in recounting the quotidian aspects of Jesus’ life, and completely fabricated when it comes to the miracles. As I pointed out previously, even in modern biography we see lies, half-truths, and self-serving propaganda mixed in with what may generally be an accurate account. Why should we take the Gospels to be any different?

    And I notice that you completely glossed over my point that if, as you say, the miracles were so profound and important, someone other than Jesus’ followers might have commented on them (and, as Curt notes, it wasn’t even the followers who were witnesses of these events who wrote them down, but people who came much later).

  112. #113 E.V.
    October 27, 2008

    But with an event that far back in the past, we can never be sure. So I would contend that it is a legitimate historical controversy, on which it is, therefore, legitimate to speculate within the bounds of available evidence.

    So the laws of physics changed from 2000 years ago? By extrapolation we can determine these claims to be hyperbole, lore and/or propaganda. Attribution of supernatural powers did not have to actually correspond to an event in the subject’s life to be believed by the credulous.

    so surely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are a legitimate topic of historical debate?

    Uh, yes, but there is the little factor that there is no archeological proof of Jesus. And for a man who would be the messiah to the world, the most important man in history presumably, no one else recorded his life in a time when records about VIPs were routinely kept.
    I have little doubt that there was a man who fit the general description of an itinerant philosopher and teacher whose followers conflated and exaggerated his importance. As a cult formed, more miraculous aspects accrued and subsequently a mythic icon was created. As a totem, each subsect could claim and project any aspect of their agenda they chose. And then there is the final editing (cherry picking) of the books which form the New Testament and the subsequent translations. Of course the vastly different interpretations between Catholic and Protestant interpretations muddles any historical objectivity especially when addressing the authenticity of Desposyni.
    The Christ figure is an aggregate as many historians have already noted just as Christianity owes many of its ideological characteristics and supernatural elements to older established religions. If a man from Judea whom we call Jesus of Nazareth were alive today, he wouldn’t recognize any New Testament account of his life.

  113. #114 E.V.
    October 27, 2008

    If so could all speeches be forced to have God in them?
    Who’s the boss?
    What does God say?

    Why don’t you ask him?

    Get back to us when you have a answer that can be actually verified.

    Oh, and don’t hold your breath.

  114. #115 speedwell
    October 27, 2008

    Miracles and divine intervention, by definition, operate outside the normal observable laws of nature; in other words, they are by definition physically impossible… we are evaluating the truth a claim, made in various purported historical records, that these physically impossible events – interventions of the supernatural – actually occurred and were observed. Of course, this is an extraordinary claim; and extraordinary claims, if they are to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, require extraordinary evidence. Such extraordinary evidence is, as you correctly identify, not present….”

    Right, you are. It’s impossible. Things that are impossible are NOT POSSIBLE. Therefore you have precluded the existence of any evidence at all. You’re claiming that the supernatural is the thing that, despite not existing, actually exists. It does not work. Stop.

  115. #116 speedwell
    October 27, 2008

    Sorry, that should have been:

    Walton: Miracles and divine intervention, by definition, operate outside the normal observable laws of nature; in other words, they are by definition physically impossible… we are evaluating the truth a claim, made in various purported historical records, that these physically impossible events – interventions of the supernatural – actually occurred and were observed. Of course, this is an extraordinary claim; and extraordinary claims, if they are to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, require extraordinary evidence. Such extraordinary evidence is, as you correctly identify, not present….

    Right, you are. It’s impossible. Things that are impossible are NOT POSSIBLE. Therefore you have precluded the existence of any evidence at all. You’re claiming that the supernatural is the thing that, despite not existing, actually exists. It does not work. Stop.

  116. #117 Michaela
    October 27, 2008

    Thanks, Pharyngula.
    This may actually make a difference for us [U of A students]!

    84% yes; 16% no.

  117. #118 JCE
    October 27, 2008

    Missed the vote but glad the results went the way they did, as the U of Eh was my ugrad school. The answer should have been obvious, given that the university’s motto is
    “Quaecumque vera”.

    Not sure about eliminating Odin, however, since he has his own beer.

  118. #119 Ian Pollock
    October 27, 2008

    I’m a student at the U of A here.

    I guess I’m almost alone in this regard, but I really see this convocation speech issue as small potatoes. Yeah, it’d be nice not to have it if we were starting the U from scratch, but it’s the University’s tradition, and a pretty harmless one at that. Making a lot of noise about it just makes us sound like we’re playing whiny identity politics, like the people who want England’s flag changed because it’s St. George’s cross.

    I’m in favour of atheists simply being outspoken about what they think of moral & factual questions, and demanding intellectual integrity from the rest of society.

    As far as these traditions and trivialities go, I’ll sing “God keep our land glorious and free” along with everyone else. Call me crazy, but it doesn’t bug me at all.

    Our job is to really change people’s beliefs, not to become another minority to be pandered to.

  119. #120 Jason
    October 27, 2008

    I’m a Canadian student, and unlike the one above me, I don’t sing along with any line from a national song that invokes the powers of an imaginary entity.

    There’s an obviously negative connotation to the phrase “minority to be pandered to” that I don’t think is necessary. Insert the word “respected” and the negative connotation is excised.

    This university’s tradition may not cause much harm, but neither does crashing a poll. On balance, it would cause even less harm to remove the reference to an imaginary being than to invoke it.

  120. #121 Kel
    October 27, 2008

    Miracles and divine intervention, by definition, operate outside the normal observable laws of nature; in other words, they are by definition physically impossible. Modern science hasn’t, in fact, changed this situation much; while people in Jesus’ day were entirely ignorant of modern chemistry and physics, I’m sure they fully appreciated that, according to normal observable reality in their daily lives, it was impossible to turn water into wine, or to multiply a small number of loaves and fishes to feed five thousand. Therefore, our knowledge of physical sciences is not much help. Rather, we are evaluating the truth a claim, made in various purported historical records, that these physically impossible events – interventions of the supernatural – actually occurred and were observed.

    Let me see if I have this right. You are admitting that what Jesus did was physically impossible, yet you are relying on anecdotal evidence for it’s credulity?

  121. #122 Mad Hussein LOLScientist, FCD
    October 27, 2008
    we are evaluating the truth a claim, made in various purported historical records, that these physically impossible events – interventions of the supernatural – actually occurred and were observed.

    Let me see if I have this right. You are admitting that what Jesus did was physically impossible, yet you are relying on anecdotal evidence for it’s credulity?

    If there’s no such quasi-technical term as argumentum ad Tertulliam, maybe it’s time to invent it. Tertullian is usually (and incorrectly) quoted as “credo quia absurdum” [I believe because it is absurd]. What he actually wrote regarding the miraculous birth and resurrection of Jesus was:

    …prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est … certum est, quia impossibile.

    “…it is wholly credible, because it is ridiculous … it is certain, because impossible.”

    Same general idea, anyway. Of course it’s impossible/ridiculous/absurd, but the fact that someone saw it happen means that it had to have happened, because you just can’t make stuff like this up.

    Will someone pass the pretzels, please?

  122. #123 Kel
    October 27, 2008

    You’ve got to wonder about believers when they use the gospels as eyewitness accounts. The books were written decades after the alledged events, it would have been almost a century after the birth that Matthew and Luke wrote their conflicting accounts of Jesus’ birth. Quite simply, the historical evidence suggests that those who wrote about the life of Jesus never met Jesus in the first place.

    Also there’s the whole thing about needing to compete with pagan mythology of the time, that many parts of the story of Jesus parallel many different pagan myths – notably Osiris / Horus. His miracles it would seem were there to compete against the other more powerful quasi-deities floating around.

    To me the interesting question is what effect having Jesus as a man-God did for the Christianity meme. Are the miracles there as a way for the message to get transmitted? Would they have been added as a way of getting people to believe in Jesus in a fierce competition of other deities? At this point it doesn’t really matter if Jesus is real or not, maybe he isn’t and the whole story is concocted in order to give legitimacy to the message of the parables. I honestly don’t know.

  123. #124 Ian Pollock
    October 27, 2008

    ” There’s an obviously negative connotation to the phrase “minority to be pandered to” that I don’t think is necessary. Insert the word “respected” and the negative connotation is excised. ”

    Indeed; the negative aspect is the pandering part, not the minorities.

    I simply think it’s a bad idea to get too caught up in identity politics, especially in a place like Canada where atheists are certainly not systematically denied opportunities or anything to that effect. I know there are places where faithlessness means being a pariah or worse, and in those cases yes, fighting for bare tolerance is the first step.

    But I guess what I’ve noticed is that demanding tolerance for one’s views is a block to dialogue. It sends people a message of “don’t go there, he’s sensitive about this.” Not to mention, it’s the same trick the faithful are constantly pulling to buffer *their* irrationality from criticism! We shouldn’t need to shield our convictions – they stand up quite well by themselves, grounded as they are in reality.

    Personally, I want to have the arguments and change minds. I don’t want insincere “respect” from people who really feel none.