Logical Fallacies of Historians: After A, therefore Because of A

A related informal fallacy is post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) which holds that if one event follows another then the former must have caused the latter. (Similarly, cum hoc, ergo propter hoc involves the assertion “with this, therefore because of it.”) That Chamberlain’s government pursued a form of appeasement … Continue reading “Logical Fallacies of Historians: After A, therefore Because of A”


Logical Fallacies of Historians: the False Dilemma (Dichotomy)

A false dilemma is seen whenever only two possible options are given when there exist others. (This fallacy is also known as a false dichotomy). For example, a person might insist, “you’re either with me or against me” and hence force the listener to join forces or else be taken as an enemy. In general, … Continue reading “Logical Fallacies of Historians: the False Dilemma (Dichotomy)”


Logical Fallacies of Historians: Begging the Question

The fallacy of the circular proof is a species of a question-begging, which consists in assuming what is to be proved. . . . [I]t is exceedingly common in empirical scholarship. (Fischer, 49) (Note that this expression is different from its misuse elsewhere to mean “this raises [or suggests] the question . . .”; here … Continue reading “Logical Fallacies of Historians: Begging the Question”


Logical Fallacies of Historians: “If It Fits — Be Careful!”

If your theory explains the evidence does that mean it is probably correct? If “everything fits”, is your theory therefore surely right? There’s a problem with that way of thinking and it is taken head-on by Paul Newall in a chapter titled “Logical Fallacies of Historians” in Tucker and Kane’s A Companion to the Philosophy … Continue reading “Logical Fallacies of Historians: “If It Fits — Be Careful!””


PZ Myers on “the Tim O’Neill Treatment”: Jesus Mythicism and Historical Methods

PZ Myers has responded to some points by Tim O’Neill about the question of the historicity of Jesus and historical methods — Uh-oh. I get the Tim O’Neill treatment — and I cannot help but adding my own sideline remarks here. Perhaps it’s because I have only just a few hours ago completed a fascinating book … Continue reading “PZ Myers on “the Tim O’Neill Treatment”: Jesus Mythicism and Historical Methods”


Even a Bayesian Historian Can Slip Up! (once)

I argue that the interpretation of Bayesianism that I present here is the best explanation of the actual practices of historians. — Tucker, Aviezer. 2009. Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography. Reissue edition. Cambridge University Press. p. 134 I have posted aspects of Aviezer Tucker’s discussion of how Bayesian reasoning best represents … Continue reading “Even a Bayesian Historian Can Slip Up! (once)”


“How did traditions of the sayings of Jesus and the events of his history reach the writers of the Gospels?”

How did traditions of the sayings of Jesus and the events of his history reach the writers of the Gospels? That is the opening question of Richard Bauckham’s chapter, “Gospel Traditions: Anonymous Community Traditions or Eyewitness Testimony?”, in Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions — The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Princeton 2007. His … Continue reading ““How did traditions of the sayings of Jesus and the events of his history reach the writers of the Gospels?””


Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again – and not just Probably) — #2

Tim O’Neill makes a statement about history that I have never encountered in any work by any historian explaining to readers what he or she does. The only persons I have heard make the claim come from theological faculties when they try to place the evidence for Jesus on the same (or even higher) level … Continue reading “Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again – and not just Probably) — #2”


How do we approach the question of Jesus being historical or mythical?

… Continuing from PZ Myers interviews a historian about Jesus mythicism and How do historians decide who was historical, who fictional? –o– PZ Myers asks: How do we approach this kind of topic? Eddie Marcus, introduced as a professional historian, responds: Eddie Marcus informs listeners that his expertise is in Australian culture and history, not … Continue reading “How do we approach the question of Jesus being historical or mythical?”


Just what do you mean… HISTORY?

I am posting here an off-the-cuff comment that I hope to develop more completely (and with citations by historians) in future posts. I love Matthew Ferguson’s posts on Κέλσος. Many of his interests overlap with mine, especially his studies on ancient literature as a comparative backdrop to the study of the gospels. His two recent … Continue reading “Just what do you mean… HISTORY?”


My turn to jump the gun: Bart Ehrman’s courtroom analogy

My post of two days ago Once more on that false courtroom analogy jumped the gun. I see now that Bart Ehrman has just today (19th July) posted his extract from his 1999 book on the courtroom analogy to illustrate his method of historical inquiry: An Important Criterion for Establishing What Actually Happened. Since Ehrman explains … Continue reading “My turn to jump the gun: Bart Ehrman’s courtroom analogy”


Reply to James McGrath’s Criticism of Bayes’s Theorem in the Jesus Mythicism Debate

James McGrath in a recent post, Jesus Mythicism: Two Truths and a Lie, made the following criticism of the use of Bayes’s theorem in the Jesus Mythicism debate: . . . . as I was reminded of the problematic case that Richard Carrier has made for incorporating mathematical probability (and more specifically a Bayesian approach) … Continue reading “Reply to James McGrath’s Criticism of Bayes’s Theorem in the Jesus Mythicism Debate”


A Historian Reviews Carrier: “The Bayesian perspective on historiography is commonsensical”

Thanks to a reader who has alerted me to an article by a philosopher of history, Aviezer Tucker, on Richard Carrier’s Proving History in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal History and Theory. I have since seen an rss feed alerting me to Carrier’s own comments on the review. I look forward to reading it but meantime I’d like to … Continue reading “A Historian Reviews Carrier: “The Bayesian perspective on historiography is commonsensical””


Real Historians Do Bayes!

How do historians, comparative linguists, biblical and textual critics, and evolutionary biologists establish beliefs about the past? How do they know the past? That’s the subject of Aviezer Tucker‘s Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography (2004). Tucker’s interest is the relationship between the writing of history (historiography) and evidence (p. 8). It … Continue readingReal Historians Do Bayes!”