Gnus attack academia

If you ask me, it looks like the Gnus have launched a smear campaign against a mainstream scholar.  On March 20, 2012, scholar Bart Ehrman published a short piece on Huffington Post that had the temerity to defend the scholarly consensus that Jesus was a historical figure.  Ehrman, who is an agnostic, was not defending the traditional views of Jesus.

On the same day, Jerry Coyne blogged about it in an entry entitled, “Coyne’s Bart Ehrman says that Jesus existed.”  For some reason, the essay seemed to have ruffled his feathers, as he ends by goading mythers into responding:

Well, Ben Goren, you’re being characterized as an untrained “Internet junkie.” Have at Ehrman;

His blog lights up, as the entry elicits 422 comments where Coyne’s blog now hosts lots of mythers who trash talk and personally attack Bart Ehrman.

On March 21, Richard Carrier replies with a 6842 word response on his blog entitled, “Ehrman Trashtalks Mythicism.”  The response is full of vitriol.  He also reports that he had just ordered Ehrman’s book.

The same day, PZ Myers helps to promote the response in a short entry entitled, “Carrier cold-cocks Ehrman.”  We know about Myers’ obsession with violent language.  We learn that Myers is a myther.

On April 3, another HuffPo piece appears that includes a brief interview with Ehrman.

On April 4, Coyne responds with an entry entitled, “More on Bart Ehrman’s new book about Jesus.”  Aware that his original blog entry stirred up a lot of attacks on Ehrman, he fans the flames:

 This should anger up those readers who think that Jesus was largely mythological (i.e., not even based on a real person), or that the evidence supporting such a person was weak at best.

And throws a little red meat to the anti-accommodationists:

 I’m hoping he isn’t being deliberately ambiguous to cater to believers.

On April 19, Richard Carrier “reviews” Ehrman’s book.  It took him less than a month to read the book and write up a mean-spirited “review” that is 19 pages and 10455 words long.  It is loaded with personal attacks and a laundry list of supposed errors about any detail he can dig up.

On April 20, Coyne trumpets the Carrier response with fanfare (“Carrier finally responds to Ehrman on the historicity of Jesus”):

 We’ve all been waiting for Richard Carrier, an expert on history and a Biblical scholar, to respond to Bart Ehrman’s new book.

On April 22, Ehrman addresses the first “error” cited by Carrier and shows Carrier was wrong: Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”)  

On April 23, Coyne writes a blog entitled,  “The historicity of Jesus: Bart Ehrman responds to Richard Carrier (sort of).”  Coyne is unhappy and asserts

The least Carrier deserves is to be taken seriously; and he certainly deserves an in-depth reply.  Ehrman doesn’t realize that he’ll lose credibility as a scholar if he can’t produce one. (emphasis added)

So Coyne first props up Carrier as an “expert” and then threatens that Ehrman’s credibility is dependent on some in-depth instant reply to a 10455 word “review” on the internet.

On April 25, Bart Ehrman posts his  “Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier

Coyne then posts a 99 word response linking to the essay, claiming he would “rather look at baby hawks” than read and comment on it.


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8 Responses to Gnus attack academia

  1. Crude says:

    I wonder. If a scientist endorses a fringe historian against the mainstream historians, and the mainstream historians fire back and decimate the fringe historian’s arguments…

    Does the scientist lose credibility?

  2. Bilbo says:

    The irony is that said scientists constantly attack ID proponents such as William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and even Michael Behe as being fringe scientists.

    Since I’m willing to take at least Behe seriously, I think one could argue that I should be willing to take Richard Carrier seriously. And I am willing to take him seriously. If he offers arguments that mainstream historians have trouble answering, then I think he may have a point. Has he done so?

  3. Free Willie says:

    The fact that Coyne panders to the lowest common denominator of gnu on his blog is unsettling. Maybe Vox Day is right when he speaks of the autism of gnu atheists.

  4. eveysolara says:

    Interesting interview.

  5. Gordon says:

    Maybe Gnu atheists just like to see some evidence before they believe in a magic man

  6. Michael says:


    That can’t be it, as Bart Ehrman does not believe in “a magic man.” Yet, as we can see, the Gnus are trying to smear him for maintaining the consensus, mainstream scholarly position. Given the Gnu’s extremism, this is not surprising. But if the Gnu’s care so much about “evidence,” why do they embrace a nutter position? Why doesn’t Carrier submit his case to an academic, peer-reviewed journal?

  7. Michael says:


    And I am willing to take him seriously.

    Not me. When it comes to history, Carrier is obviously more knowledgeable that me. But that just means he could easily bullshit me on some topic. So can I trust him? And from what I have seen thus far, the answer is no. I see a guy with a massively bloated ego who wants to win points by relying heavily on uncharitable readings of the most trivial points. I see a guy who is heavily into self-promotion. I see a guy who is hyper-sensitive about criticism. I see a guy who tries to overwhelm his debate opponents with massive postings and who needs the last word. And most of all, I see a Gnu activist. From looking around on the net, he claims his objective historical analysis has uncovered not only did Jesus not exist, but also that Hitler was a good Christian and that Christianity has been an enemy to science. In other words, his “objective” analysis just conveniently arrives at Gnu talking points.

  8. Bilbo says:

    I had a condition for taking Carrier seriously:

    … If he offers arguments that mainstream historians have trouble answering, then I think he may have a point. Has he done so?

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