New Atheist Leader Comes Out as a Myther

On April 17th, Jerry Coyne wrote:

I’m pretty much of the opinion that there’s no strong evidence for the claim that Jesus was a historical person around whom the Jesus myths (obviously false) accreted. In other words, I’m a mythicist. I don’t claim that we know that a Jesus-man didn’t exist, only that we don’t have good evidence that he did.

Coyne then tries to rationalize his fringe position:

This puts me outside the bailiwick of modern scholarship, but I still claim that those scholars, like Bart Ehrman, who claim that mythicists are dead wrong, are themselves operating from psychological motives rather than from empirical evidence. They are, as Price mentions in this video, adherents to the “Stuck in the Middle with You” brand of scholarship, believing only those in the center with critical but conservative views, while placing both fundamentists like William Lane Craig and mythicists on the outside. In other words, these scholars, even though there’s no evidence for a historical Jesus, adhere to that view because it makes them look reasonable.

Of course!  Psychological motives.  But not only are all these modern scholars psychologically motivated to be snooty, they are doing their duty to Defend Western Civilization:

in the end agree with Carrier that mythicism appears to be rejected by Biblical scholars for mere psychological reasons. Christianity is a bedrock of Western society, so even if we doubt the divinity of Jesus, can’t we just make everyone happy by agreeing that the New Testament is based on a real person? What do we have to lose?

How did I miss that before?  That modern scholars reject the position of militant atheist activists can only be explained with pyschology!  They defend the bedrock of Western society with great snootiness.   But wait.  Is it possible, just possible, that the the mythers are operating from psychological motives given their fringe, crackpot status?

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10 Responses to New Atheist Leader Comes Out as a Myther

  1. Ilion says:

    But wait. Is it possible, just possible, that the the mythers are operating from psychological motives given their fringe, crackpot status?

    No. Given that they are among the chosen few — well, not, you know, chosen, but elite few — who are able to rationally reason to real truths using a brain designed — well, not, you know, designed, but put together — by a random series of non-rational random episodes and which is designed for — once again, not, you know, designed for, but enabling — not the rational apprehension of real truths, but simple reproductive survival, the odds that they might possibly be “operating from psychological motives”, rather than rationally apprehending real truths, is effectively nil.

  2. Kevin says:

    I am trained in the diagnosis and repair of robots and other automated equipment. This expertise in industrial manufacturing clearly qualifies me to read the writings of Ken Ham and Jerry Coyne and conclude that Coyne and other people who believe in evolution only do so for psychological reasons.

  3. Cloud2013 says:

    Thanks Kevin.

  4. mechanar says:

    so defenders of reason and science disagree with the consensus among historians that just real life satire

  5. SteveK says:

    He’s psychoanalyzing people from a distance and without proper training and licensing.

  6. TFBW says:

    This is close to a textbook example of Bulverism, wouldn’t you say? There’s “no evidence for a historical Jesus,” so we need to explain the error with psychological motives. The whole appeal to “no evidence” sounds hauntingly familiar as well, leading us to ask what kind of data Coyne would accept as evidence for a historical Jesus. Not surprisingly, he never specifies this detail in his post.

  7. Dhay says:

    It also sounds hauntingly familiar — just another Bulverism from Jerry Coyne — is that Coyne is very unhappy that prominent organisations representing scientists have an accommodationist™ public stance. Coyne has quoted Neil Godfrey, who writes the website Vridar, as writing in to say:

    … Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.”

    I seem to remember Coyne also telling his readers that (to his evident horror and dismay) the AAAS is accomodationist™ and complaining that a) they shouldn’t be, it’s intellectually dishonest, and b) (using his wording in his FvF, at the end of Chapter 1):

    But the real reasons why scientists promote accommodationism are more self-serving. To a large extent, American scientists depend for their support on the American public, which is largely religious, and on the U.S. Congress, which is equally religious. … Most researchers are supported by federal grants from agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, whose budgets are set annually by Congress. To a working scientist, such grants are a lifeline, for research is expensive, and if you don’t do it you could lose tenure, promotions, or raises. Any claim that science is somehow in conflict with religion might lead to cuts in the science budget, or so scientists believe, thus endangering their professional welfare.

    So there you have it: according to Coyne, scientists’ real reasons for promoting accommodationism™ — note, promoting, not just accepting accommodationism™, Coyne must really hate that — are self-serving. In particular, scientists — and note, this is scientists in general, the majority of scientists — are allegedly a) intellectually dishonest, and b) driven to promote accommodationism™ by fear of losing their research grants and livelihoods.

    I note that a) both of those are non-arguments by mere dismissal of opponents’ psychological motives, or Bulverism — and that those opponents are scientists in general — and b) what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    Yes, Coyne has a history of Bulverism.

  8. Doug says:

    Pontifications on the effects of others’ psychology may imply a profound disregard of one’s own.

  9. Dhay says:

    I see that Robert Price has been a long-time member of the Jesus Seminar, and has presumably been taking part in their votes on whether the various sayings attributed to Jesus are each authentic, or inauthentic, or maybe either.

    That’s an odd position for someone alleged to be a Jesus-Mythicist to put himself in; presumably, as a Jesus-Mythicist, Price would be bound by intellectual honesty to vote ‘inauthentic’ (ie of course Jesus didn’t say that, most probably Jesus didn’t even exist, did he) each and every time.

    The thoughts on Jesus Mythicism of James McGrath and Philip Jenkins can be found at

  10. Dhay says:

    In an earlier blog post, dated 03 April 2016 and entitled “It’s time to ponder whether a Jesus really existed”, Jerry Coyne included a startling paragraph:

    Probably nobody reading this post thinks that Jesus was the miracle-working son of God, and that pretty much disposes of his importance for Christianity. In the end, I’m most surprised at how much rancor is involved in these arguments, especially by the pro-Jesus side, even when that side readily admits that Jesus was not the son of God. (I can understand, of course, why Christians want to argue that Jesus was a real person.)

    What Coyne’s followers think — the people reading Coyne’s post — apparently “pretty much disposes of [Jesus’] importance for Christianity”. It does, does it?

    Oh, and “the pro-Jesus side … readily admits that Jesus was not the son of God”?

    What’s next? That the existence of atheists “pretty much disposes of God’s importance for Christianity”?

    Is Coyne tripping out on, er, Beatles albums again?

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