Arguing with a Gnu

Thom Stark completes his devastating rebuttal of Richard Carrier’s crank views about Jewish messianic beliefs (which are tied to the crank mytherist position).  Below are some choice excerpts that help illustrate the larger picture concerning Carrier’s tactics and handling of the data.  I think these observations are significant, because they are not really specific to Carrier.  Instead, they are quite common among the Gnu atheists and their sympathizers.  So it gives us insight into the debate strategies.


  • I would suggest to Carrier that he take the time to read this post in its entirety at least once, if not twice, before making any attempt to respond. His track record indicates that he will ignore or skim significant portions of the text, and repeat the same mistakes again and again, with increasing certitude.
  • First, I didn’t “play a card.” I informed Carrier that he was flabbergastingly ignorant of the scholarship on the very text he was hanging his case on. When one makes an argument supported by a huge scholarly consensus, one isn’t playing some kind of trick, as Carrier tries to imply. Second, Carrier is trying to play down the reality that the vast majority of critical scholars (not just “many scholars”) make the same argument I’ve made, and that majority includes the very scholar to whom Carrier appealed to try to argue against the majority reading (Lacocque). Lacocque of course doesn’t get a mention in Carrier’s latest effort.
  • I of course pointed this out in my “Torturous Death” post, that the numbers aren’t meant to be literal, but apparently that’s one of the parts of my post Carrier didn’t read. I’ll use the same Collins quote again, in hopes that this time Carrier will get the memo and stop worrying about getting the numbers to add up right. I’ll put it in a block quote this time to make it easier for Carrier to read:
  • First, it’s 7 and 62, not 62 and 7. That’s kind of important. Second, and as we’ll see again later on, Carrier still doesn’t realize that Theodotion translated the Greek Daniel he is reading in his copy of the Septuagint. Carrier still doesn’t realize this, even after I made much hay of his ignorance of this fact in “Torturous Death.” If he had read my post with any care, he’d remember that I pointed out that Theodotion is notorious for (and here I’m repeating myself) omitting conjunctions, substituting the singular for the plural, replacing indefinite with definite articles, and vice versa, and dropping parts of verses as he saw fit.
  • Next, Carrier displays yet again both his total lack of knowledge of even basic Hebrew and that he didn’t read my original critiques with any degree of care:
  • Oh good grief. Please! Someone help him. In his argument with Ramsey, Carrier made this same argument, calling “Christ Prince” a “strange construction.”  Does Carrier know how to read? We know he can’t read Hebrew. But I mean, does he know how to read English? If so, what gives? He continues to make the same mindbogglingly ignorant argument, and only makes it worse! This phrase here is not an “oddity.” Carrier is an oddity. It is not a “strange phrase.” There is nothing “strange” or “odd” about a noun modified by an adjective, not in any damn language! It is an extremely common construction. And as for Carrier’s claim that there should be a conjunction (“and”) between them, this has no basis whatsoever, neither in grammar nor in textual variants, nor in the history of translation. I just checked 37 different translations, mostly English, but also German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Latin, and not a single one added a conjunction between the two words. Not a single one!
  • I mean, this is just hilarious. Carrier is doing a knockout job solving a grammatical problem that doesn’t exist, and O how nice it turns out for him that his solution supports his misreading of the text over against the text itself!
  • I’ll give you four reasons why Carrier’s off-the-cuff, layman’s hypothetical reconstruction is impossible.
  • No. No. It doesn’t say that anywhere. Carrier can’t tell the difference between what the text says and his interpretation of the text (which is based through and through on failed argument after failed argument).
  • Holy moly! Here is proof positive that Carrier didn’t even bother to read all of my response to him. Thus, he’s wasting everyone’s time. I’ll say it again: The LXX translation Carrier is using was not written in the second or third centuries BCE and could not have been how the text was understood at Qumran. The LXX translation Carrier is using was translated by Theodotion in the second century CE! I can’t believe Carrier didn’t bother to actually read my entire response before writing a rejoinder.
  • But let’s not ignore Carrier’s trickery here, in a somewhat desperate attempt to force yet more artificial parallelism.
  • And here’s why Bayes Theorem is going to be of absolutely no use to Carrier. Garbage in, garbage out. At any rate, this is a transparent evasion.
  • I love how Carrier says, “What he says is correct, but what he wants us to infer from it is not.” Then he proceeds to baldly assert with no argument that I what I said was not correct. Again, he continues to pretend that this is my idea; he’s the one with the idiosyncratic understanding of pesher. He isn’t trained. I’ve quoted the experts. He’s ignoring them.

I see two common themes among Stark’s observations.  First, Carrier did not bother to give Stark’s essay a serious read and, at the most, only skimmed it.  Second, Carrier is ignorant about some basic facts and issues, yet postures with confidence.

Given that Carrier is a Gnu, none of this surprises me as I have seen it in many other Gnus.  If there is one very common feature of Gnu atheists it is arrogance.  Often, it’s a “I’m so smart I am never wrong and if I was wrong there would be no need to admit it” type of arrogance.

It’s this very arrogance which prevents the Gnu from reading and trying to understand his opponents argument.  After all, if you know you are right and you know it all, the only reason to even read your opponent’s argument, which must be wrong, is to skim it for the errors that must be there.  Thus, arrogance leads to a superficial reading guided by the need to find straw men positions that feed the arrogance.  Also, arrogance blinds people from realizing when they are wrong, which then allows them to make erroneous claims with complete confidence they are right.

Bottom line is that when you are dealing with an arrogant apologist (religious or atheist), you are not dealing with someone interested in finding the truth.  You are not dealing with someone interested in learning.  You are dealing with someone who needs to win an argument.  And if it means doubling down on your errors and ignoring the arguments and truths of your opponents writings, then so be it.  Arrogance is always hungry.

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2 Responses to Arguing with a Gnu

  1. The Deuce says:

    I wonder how many Gnus are Jesus mythers? From what I’ve seen, I’d be surprised if it isn’t over half of them.

  2. The wave of Jesus mytherism which has swept over the Gnu movement is really amusing to watch, because it parallels almost exactly the wave of anti-evolutionism which time and again sweeps Christian fundamentalist communities.

    Creationists: We are not completely sure of the veracity of the theory of evolution. Evolution is not the only intellectually respectable option there is.
    Mythers: We are not completely sure of the veracity of the evidence of Jesus’ historical existence. Believing in his real historical existence is not the only intellectually respectable option there is.

    Creationists: There is a conspiracy in academia to stifle dissent about evolution.
    Mythers: There is a conspiracy in academia to stifle dissent about Jesus’ historical existence.

    Creationists: Evolutionists are only so because they are trying to hide away from God in the first place. The consensus of biologists mean nothing.
    Mythers: Non-mythers are only so because they are biased towards Jesus’ divinity in the first place. The consensus of scholars mean nothing.

    And the comparison goes on and on. How atheists fail to see the embarrassing parallel eludes me.

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