Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bart Ehrman's Book Reviewed by Larry Hurtado

New Testament scholar, Larry Hurtado, has posted a review of Bart Ehrman's book, How Jesus Became God. How Jesus became "God," per Ehrman. Hurtado has mostly positive things to say about Ehrman's book, including this:

With probably the majority of NT scholars, Ehrman emphasizes that the exalted claims about Jesus reflected in the NT (e.g., that Jesus shares divine glory, divine rule, the divine name, and is to be given universal reverence) all appeared soon in the aftermath of Jesus’ execution.  These convictions were based primarily on experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus (“visions” in Ehrman’s terms) by Jesus’ followers, which conveyed the conviction that God had raised Jesus from death and had uniquely exalted him as Christ and Lord.
Ehrman (rightly in my view) also notes that these lofty claims about Jesus reflected in the NT seem to have erupted very early, so early that they are presupposed as widely shared already by the time Paul wrote his letters (from ca. 50 CE and thereafter).  In a commendable example of changing his mind, Ehrman acknowledges that prior to immersing himself in the evidence and scholarly analysis for this book, he had assumed a much slower and more drawn-out process, but was driven to conclude that these remarkable Christological beliefs erupted much earlier and much more fully than he had thought.  It’s always reassuring when a scholar admits to learning something new, and even to changing his/her mind.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Donald Rumsfeld and the Demolition of WTC7 (and Other Interesting Coincidences)

Though 9/11 whistleblower Kevin Ryan's latest article is entitled, Donald Rumsfeld and the Demolition of WTC7, I find some of the other coincidences he points out to be at least as equally interesting, such as:

Amazingly, explosives and terrorism were planned topics of discussion at WTC 7 on the day of the attacks. There was a meeting scheduled at WTC 7 for the morning of 9/11 that included explosive disposal units from the U.S. military. The Demolition Ordnance Disposal Team from the Army’s Fort Monmouth just happened to be invited there that morning to meet with the building’s owner, Larry Silverstein. They were “reportedly planning to hold a meeting at 7 World Trade Center to discuss terrorism prevention efforts.” The meeting was set for eight o’clock in the morning on 9/11 but was canceled with the excuse that one of Silverstein’s executives could not make it.
Richard Spanard, an Army captain and commander of Fort Monmouth’s explosive disposal unit, was at WTC 7 to attend the meeting. He was “enjoying breakfast at a deli 50 feet from the World Trade Center twin towers when the first plane hit. General hysteria inundated the deli. Spanard decided that he and the three soldiers with him should move to number 7 World Trade Center, where they had a scheduled meeting.” Building 7 was “full of people in the midst of evacuating. A second explosion was heard, and people began mobbing the three escalators in a state of panic. Spanard and the now five soldiers with him began yelling for everyone to remain calm.”
In yet another “eerie quirk of fate,” Fort Monmouth personnel were preparing for an exercise called Timely Alert II on the day of 9/11. This was a disaster drill focused on response to a terrorist attack and included law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel. The drill simply changed to an actual response as the attacks began.
Fort Monmouth, located in New Jersey just 49 miles away from the WTC complex, was home to several units of the Army Materiel Command (AMC). Coincidentally, Stratesec’s Barry McDaniel had led AMC a decade earlier. McDaniel had an interesting past and, after 9/11, became business partners with one of Dick Cheney’s closest colleagues.
The Fort Monmouth response on 9/11 included the explosives unit and the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). As the drill was converted to an actual response, teams of CECOM experts were deployed to locate cell phone transmissions in the pile at Ground Zero. The remainder of the base’s explosive ordnance company was there by the afternoon of 9/11 and stayed for three days in order to, among other things, help “authorities” look for any possible explosives in the debris.
The explosive disposal/terrorism meeting was not just a request of Larry Silverstein, however, but was actually organized by the Secret Service field office. The U.S. Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal Mobile Unit 6 had also been invited to WTC 7 that morning, again at the request of the Secret Service. As they arrived, the planes began to strike the towers.
Interesting coincidences, indeed. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

When to Trust Peter Boghossian's Parachute Folding Skills

In the debate with philosopher Tim McGrew, the question came up of whether or not we should trust the parachute folding skills of Peter Boghossian. Boghossian maintained that since he had no experience folding parachutes, that we should not trust his skills. I suggest, instead, that whether or not we should trust his skills depends upon the situation. For example, if I am in a plane that is obviously going to crash, and the only recourse is to use a parachute that was folded by Peter Boghossian, then the rational thing to do would be to trust Peter Boghossian's parachute folding skills.

According to Tim McGrew, there is a close analogy between parachute jumping and religious faith.  I suspect he is correct.  If so, then even if the grounds for our religious faith are very weak, it may be the case that the rational thing to do would be to trust in them.

HT: Randal Rauser.

Boghossian's Definition of Faith: "Without Evidence" or "Beyond the Evidence"?

I just finished listening to the debate between philosophers Tim McGrew and Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists - Unbelievable?.

I just have a small observation to add to the debate, which is that in Boghossian's very last comment he seems to revise his definition of faith from "belief without evidence" to "belief beyond the evidence" or "belief that isn't warranted by the evidence."  That seems to me to be a very significant revision.  I believe in an external world based on my sense experiences being systematic and stubborn.  But it could be that I'm just dreaming very systematically and stubbornly.  So I believe in an external world "beyond the evidence."  I believe in other minds largely because they seem to say and do things that I would say and do.  That's some evidence, but certainly not enough evidence to justify my belief that there are all these other minds.   I only have my own mind as one example from which I am generalizing to all other minds.  Hardly a strong inductive argument.  So I believe in other minds "beyond the evidence."

So if Boghossian's definition of faith is "belief beyond the evidence," then I suspect that most of us, atheists, agnostics, or religious people, have faith all the time.  For Boghossian to maintain that faith is a peculiar property of religious people, he needs to maintain that people have religious belief without any evidence whatsoever.  And I think Boghossian would believe this beyond the evidence, or perhaps even without evidence?

HT: Randal Rauser.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

If You Watch C-Span, Have You Heard Calls about WTC7?

I don't have cable or dish, so I never get to watch shows like C-Span.  But if any of my readers do watch it, I'm curious if they have heard anyone call in about WTC7.

Why has C-Span been talking about 9/11 and WTC7 so often?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Centuries of Darkness

Centuries of Darkness, written in 1991 by five archaeologists, was received with mixed reviews by fellow archaeologists, some welcoming it as a much needed challenge to the accepted chronology, others condemning it as too radical to be taken seriously.  As they explain in their preface,

When the authors of this book met at the London Institute of Archaeology in 1985, we discovered a mutual scepticism of the claimed accuracy for the timetables of Old World archaeology. Above all, we became increasingly convinced that something was seriously wrong with the conventional picture of a centuries-long Dark Age descending over a vast area at the end of the Late Bronze Age c. 1200 BC. With a background of research in many different but related fields (specifically prehistoric Britain, Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece, biblical archaeology and Pharaonic Nubia), we pooled our resources and began an in-depth investigation of the archaeological chronology of the entire ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Everything we found confirmed our suspicion that the original spanner in the works was the Egyptian time-scale, and that the 'centuries of darkness' inserted into the histories of so many areas between 1200 and 700 BC were largely illusory.

I've found their book to be a little too technical to take in all the details, but clearly they've been very thorough, covering the entire ancient Mediterranean and Near East in making their case that the accepted chronology has created myriad problems in dating for every ancient archaeological find in those geographical areas.  Clearly It seems very clear to me that it's time for a major revision of that chronology.  And if the authors' suggested revision takes place, the Biblical narratives of the Exodus, conquest of Canaan, and the United Kingdom of Israel fit in rather well with the archaeological data.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What Happens When You Ask NIST for Answers about WTC7?

Professor Kurtis Hagen asked the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) three questions about the collapse of World Trade Center 7, the third building that fell on 9/11. I agree with his assessment "that NIST is either unwilling or unable to adequately answer questions that really ought to be answered."