Monday, April 23, 2012

Historical Jesus and evolution; mythicism and intelligent design

I just finished reading Did Jesus Exist by Bart Ehrman yesterday. There is an interesting parallel between the intelligent design vs. evolution debate and the mythicist vs. historicist debate.

99% or more of the experts in the field of biology and evolution subscribe to the theory of evolution, and although intelligent design advocates would like to be taken seriously, the overwhelming consensus among credentialed scientists in the field prevents it. People often point out the strong consensus in an effort to discredit intelligent design as "going against science." Intelligent design advocates think we should "teach the controversy" because intelligent design should be judged on its merits, not a false appeal to authority or consensus.

More than 99% of the experts in the field if New Testament history think Jesus existed, and although mythicists would like to be taken seriously, they can only gain a foothold on the internet among laymen. Christian apologists point out the strong consensus among experts in an effort to discredit mythicists, but mythicists insist that you can't arrive at truth by counting noses, and their arguments should be taken seriously.

There are a couple of differences, though. First, there are more peer reviewed academic articles published by mythicists (almost exclusively by Robert Price) than there are by intelligent design advocates. Second, while there is only one credentialed scholar in New Testament studies (Robert Price) who currently subscribes to the mythicist position, there are several credentialed biologists who currently subscribe to intelligent design. There are some people who are experts in related fields, though. Richard Carrier is an expert in ancient history, and Steven Meyer is a philosopher of science.

The reason I'm writing this is to try to get people to be consistent. If you think a strong consensus matters in the case of Jesus' existence, then don't casually dismiss the significance of the consensus when it comes to biology. If you think your case should be judged on its merits when it comes to intelligent design, then then judge the mythicist position on its merits, too.

If you think intelligent design should not be taught in school just because it hasn't gotten a foothold in the scientific community and that the predominant scientific view should be taught on a given topic and that time shouldn't be wasted on obscure theories that hardly anybody believes, then you should be consistent and say the mythicist position should not be taught either since it hasn't gotten a foothold in New Testament historical studies, and the predominant historical view is that Jesus existed, and teachers shouldn't waste time addressing obscure theories that hardly anybody believes.


DagoodS said...

agree with the comparison between the minority positions of Intelligent Design and Mythical Jesus. It often surprises me the lack of appreciation from the minority position—I would think both should at least recognize they ARE in the vast minority, and present an argument, understanding the difficulties involved in convincing the majority.

Instead both assume a victimization complex—as if their allegations must be true because they are (in their own eyes) “persecuted” by the majority position. While they may or may not be treated with negativity, that treatment in and of itself does not justify being correct.

Sam Harper said...

I agree. I've heard both of them (IDers and mythicists) act as if there's a conspiracy afoot on the part of evolutionists and historicists to marginalize and silence them. And it's done by pointing to their supposed motivations. Historicists are supposedly motivated by their need to have an historical Jesus so they can write books about him. Evolutionists are supposedly motivated by their anti-supernatural bias.