Tag Archives: D. M. Murdock

What Is Euhemerism?

chromolithograph Caricature of Thomas Henry Hu...
Chromolithograph Caricature of Thomas Henry Huxley. Caption read “A great Med’cine-Man among the Inquiring Redskins”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Note: This post reflects my perspective. Neil is not responsible for any of the following content. –Tim]

We have Thomas Huxley to thank for the word Darwinism, which he coined in 1860 in a review of On the Origin of Species. In modern times, of course, creationists have misused the term, applying it to any theory of natural evolution, and even to the study of abiogenesis. They continue to embrace the “ism” since bolsters their assertion that evolution is a kind of belief system, just as irrational as religion.

What is Darwinism? 

Simply stated, Darwinism is the theory of biological evolution by means of natural selection. Technically, the terms Darwinism and biological evolution are not entirely synonymous, since theories of evolution existed before Charles Darwin. I recall being taken aback when I first read that Charles’ grandfather Erasmus had written a poem suggesting all forms of life were interrelated and had evolved to their present state. And well before Charles published his book, Jean-Baptiste Larmarck had proposed a theory of evolution based on the idea that organisms acquire traits during their lives, and later pass them on (somehow) to their offspring.

Darwinism differs from other competing theories of evolution in its mechanism for change. It makes no sense, then, to apply the term to other theories that posit some process other than gradual modification through natural selection.

Nor is it technically correct to call today’s modern synthesis “Darwinism,” since it embraces two other important foundational concepts, namely mutation theory and Mendelian genetics. So those who would today call an evolutionary biologist a Darwinist betray their ignorance of evolution, Darwin, and biology in general.

A less familiar term, euhemerism, from time to time suffers similar misuse. How should we define this word? We might explain it, following Dr. Richard Carrier, as “doing what Euhemerus did.

But then we have to ask, “Well, what was that?”

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The Confessional Epilogue: Christians and Acharya

Scholarship motivated by confessional interests

Most of us are familiar with the confessional reflections that so many biblical scholars drop in at the close of their scholarly works on Jesus. Sometimes this confessional is found in the prologue or preface as well. It is like a little prayer uttered by the devout believer thanking and praising the Lord for the academic study he has produced. It is particularly obnoxious when found in the dedication of a formal higher degree thesis. “Obnoxious” because it betrays an interest and motivation that is not entirely scholarly: it is scholarship motivated by confessional interests.

Examples (my bold emphasis throughout):

  • “Indeed, for Christians, the unending conversation about Jesus is the most important conversation there is. He is for us the decisive revelation of God. . . .” (last paragraph of Borg’s Jesus)
  • “And yet, despite everything, for those who have ears to hear, Jesus, the millenarian herald of judgment and salvation, says the only things worth saying, for his dream is the only one worth dreaming. . . .” (Allison, last paragraph of Jesus of Nazareth)
  • “Jesus will always be for me the way to God. . . .” (Spong, last paragraph of Liberating the Gospels)
  • “For a believing Christian both the life of the Word of God and the text of the Word of God are alike a graded process of historical reconstruction. . . . If you cannot believe in something produced by reconstruction, you may have nothing left to believe in.” (Crossan, final words in The Historical Jesus)

ChristInEgyptAnd so on.

Confessional statements and astrotheology

So it occurred to me that if I am correct in coming to realize that D.M. Murdock (Acharya S) is just as devoted to a religious view of Christian origins and writes with a view to sharing her belief system in the same way, then in her more neutral and “academically” minded books I should find the same confessional statements, most probably in the epilogue.

I have read sections of Christ in Egypt before but this time I turned to conclusion and here is what I found:

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Book Review: Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth — Reviewing the review

Edited with a few additional remarks 4 hours after first posting.

BartEhrmanQuestHistoricalJesusThis post is a response to Book Review: Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. I read this review before I received my own (Kindle) copy of Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth, so I was dismayed when I began to read the book to find that I had been completely misled as to its character and content. Fear that that same review may influence many negatively towards the contributors of the book is what is compelling me to write this response now. (Apologists like McG are quite eager to lap it up uncritically.)

The review levels five charges against Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth:

  1. “resorting to a personal attack . . . nearly 600 pages of venom and rhetoric . . . full of venom and disgust”
  2. “The title of this volume bespeaks the purpose: it is a series of essays with the intent to character assassinate.”
  3. “And Price’s attempts to link the contributors of the volume, in all, and those who support the so-called ‘Christ Myth Theory’ with minimalism is a void one.”
  4. “Price also gives D.M. Murdock too much credit. He is guilty of inflating her credentials in many respects and, while they are friends, it is distracting. He writes, for example, that ‘her chief sin in Ehrman’s eyes would appear to be her lack of diplomas on the wall’, but that is an oversimplification of what Ehrman argues.”
  5. “Also there is a surprising amount of personal correspondence. Frank produces some 75 pages for his first contribution and more than half of it consists of various email exchanges between Ehrman and himself. This troubles me as I am not so sure that such a move is ethical. . . . In my humble opinion, it is wholly unwelcome that Zindler dedicated so much space to these emails and also formulated a polemical argument around them; it is quite unfortunate that this appears in this volume.”

I’ll address these in reverse order.

5. Unethical email disclosures?

I was shocked to read this and feared that Frank Zindler may have overstepped the mark when I read this accusation. So I was particularly keen to read carefully how Frank does introduce these email exchanges with Bart Ehrman. I was greatly relieved to learn that Tom Verenna’s aspersions were entirely misplaced. Here’s what I found. Frank attaches the following note at the point of publishing the first email response from Bart Ehrman:

I thank Professor Ehrman for graciously having granted me permission to reprint here his messages, provided only that I “acknowledge that they were emails, not written intended for publication.”

I do wonder, however, about the ethics of publishing an image of a personal message from Frank to the reviewer. Did T.V. seek F.Z’s permission for this?

4. Giving D. M. Murdock too much credit?

Robert M. Price, we are told, “inflates” the credentials of D.M. Murdock/Acharya S. read more »

Review of Acharya S’s “The Christ Conspiracy” part 1

Recently I have been chastised by Acharya S (D. M. Murdock) and some of her followers for failing to give the attention and prominence (one of them wanted to do a guest post on my blog) to their views that they demand they deserve. This followed recent posts and comments of mine in which I tried to explain that I was not particularly interested in their approach to the question of Christian origins, but it also followed my trying to point out to them why I thought their approach to Christian origins was logically flawed and hence unscholarly or unscientific. Their thesis failed adequately to argue against alternative hypotheses and relied mostly upon the fallacy of seeing only what they believed could be used to support their views, and also because they failed to provide any direct or specific evidence to support their claims that ancient astrological or astrotheological views belief systems were responsible for the creation of Christianity.

Consequently I suddenly found myself accused of suppressing and banning astrotheology, of insulting Acharya personally, and of being under the influence of a cult mentality that pre-programmed me to adhere to certain conclusions and rendered me incapable of thinking for myself.

Thoroughly chastened, I have decided to go back and take the time to read more carefully The Christ Conspiracy than I did some years ago and to give it a full-scale chapter-by-chapter review.

Let’s start with the Preface. I take a little time on this because it introduces us to the author of the book and helps us get our bearings as we approach a work that stands outside the resources of mainstream scholarship.

Preface

The Preface is written by Kenn Thomas. I had no idea who Kenn was so I checked out a few sites where he explains himself, including one where he engages in a lengthy radio interview. Kenn Thomas is Mr Conspiracy Theorist Par Excellence and responsible for SteamshovelPress.Com – All Conspiracy – No Theory. Kennedy was assassinated because of what he was about to discover about UFOs. The Middle East riots are instigated by an FBI related plot. I also thought I heard something about “they” who are “trying to take away our enjoyment of life”, too. Most instructive was a moment in a radio interview when Kenn addressed those who reject such conspiracy theories: he could not remember or bring himself to spell out what their alternative explanations were and why they rejected the conspiracy option. read more »

Falling out

Recently anyone would think that I have come out and “attacked” and “abused” Acharya S / D. M. Murdock and others when all I have done is allow some discussion in which I insisted that the standard rules of evidence be foundational for conclusions and said that methods that do not follow such standard rules are unscientific.

I have over the years avoided addressing the works of Acharya S / D. M. Murdock for no reason other than that I have never spent much time reading any of them and have had no personal interest in her perspective on things. From time to time someone supporting her views has commented on this blog and I have never had a problem with that. (What I have objected to is when anyone repeatedly comments in a way that indicates they are regularly attempting to evangelize for some particular belief — mostly these are Christian fundamentalists or mystics of some sort. Once I realize what is going on I usually put a stop to their comments.)

D. M. Murdock herself has posted comments on this blog at least three times:

/2006/11/21/the-jesus-puzzle-did-christianity-begin-with-a-mythical-christ-early-doherty-canadian-humanists-1999-review/#comment-5037 — in response I purchased her book Fingerprints of Christ and have browsed through much of it a few times, but I have not seen anything in it to capture my interest enough to write about. I have no problems with its content. It is okay — nothing new from my perspective, I would not condemn it. There are many basic works on mythicism that have little interest for me mainly because I am so familiar with the sorts of things they say and I have moved on from such things. That’s not to say they would not be of interest to others, of course.

/2012/02/06/earliest-manuscript-of-the-gospel-of-mark-validates-earl-doherty/#comment-23189
and
/2012/06/18/did-they-really-think-like-this/#comment-30983

I have never banned Murdock’s comments. I have several times expressed my outrage over the abusive insults so many others have directed at Murdock/Acharya and have never indulged in such abuse against her myself. Tim has had the same approach — deploring the way many others have spoken of her with contempt. I have twice expressed my own discomfort with Richard Carrier’s insulting language directed not only at Acharya but others, too. I do not agree with his rationales for it and do not engage in his sort of personally insulting language here. I do not agree with some of Carrier’s efforts to shut down discussions through insult. It is important to provide rational and clear responses to irrational and muddled ideas.

I accepted Acharya’s Facebook invitation to be added as a Facebook friend — though I scarcely ever use Facebook at all for quite some time now. My blog posts, someone told me, are linked there, but that’s all. (She has since removed herself from that status.) I have recently a few times had occasion to speak critically of some of her approaches to things where I have felt it appropriate to do so — but that is not personal abuse.

I was recently prepared to engage Robert Tulip and others in discussion about astrotheology, and I was at some pains to reassure him that my initial scepticism had nothing to do with prejudice. For heaven’s sake, I have been through enough to not be embarrassed or prejudiced against about holding a minority viewpoint. But I have also been through enough to know just how easily I can be wrong about so much. So what is so very important to me is understanding how valid logic works, how we know what we do and how we justify the conclusions we draw from our information. I am never content to rely on secondary sources but always want to understand the primary material any knowledge is based upon before committing myself in discussions such as the ones I address here. I have mentioned in my biographical notes elsewhere the point at which I realized what it was going to mean to attempt as far as I could the path of intellectual honesty.

Now Murdock’s supporters are pointing to one period of my past life to paint me as an ongoing cultist in my thought patterns. They have obviously missed the rest of my biographical details in my “About Vridar” page and also in my recent post, “A Little Biographical Footnote“. It is because of lessons I have learned from my past experience in a cult that I can smell certain kinds of fallacious arguments a mile off.

So yes, method of argument is important to me. How we justify the conclusions we draw is important — more so or at least as important as the conclusions themselves.

I do not rely on secondary literature. I use secondary literature to gain access to new ways of understanding our sources, and that’s why my library and reading has become so vast. One book will often lead me to read half a dozen other books. And I will be studying the primary sources, too, and studies made about them. So when Murdock or others say a certain book is “the definitive” or “must read” answer to a question, I generally do not agree. I will read what others have to say about it — scholarly reviews — as well as read carefully what the author has to say, and I will usually find much more qualifications by the author than found among some over-enthusiastic readers.

So it is with disappointment that I find the following remarks now being spread about me on Acharya/Murdock’s discussion board: read more »