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 Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged

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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 02 Oct 2015, 08:04

Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged

As there does not appear to be a science section, I will put this here
 
In June 1860 a debate was held in Oxford on the then very new topic of evolution and Darwin's recently published book.  Although a lot of people took part, the debate is mainly remembered for an exchange between Darwin's 'champion' Thomas Huxley (not anti-religious but an agnostic) and Bishop Sam Wilberforce.  According to the accounts that you can read in books and has been dramatized on TV the Bishop 'played to the crowd', showed a lamentable understanding of evolutionary theory and ended by sneeringly asking Huxley where he claimed decent from the monkey through his grandmother's or grandfather's side.  Huxley responded that he would rather be descended from a poor ape than a man (such as Wilberforce) who so degraded his abilities in such away.
As an evolutionist myself although a Christian I have always accepted this standard account as an example of Creationists getting things wrong.  However, I was very surprised to read that when Historians have researched the debate that they found no contemporary reference to this exchange between Huxley and Wilberforce and that the only reference to Wilberforce's speech was that he was well versed in 'Darwinianism and that had pointed out several omissions in Darwin's theory that Darwin himself acknowledged as being 'uncommonly clever'.  Wilberforce was a FRS, not something that the standard accounts normally mention and had a paper on Darwin’s book published.  The story of the alleged exchange did not in fact emerge until the 1890s after both Wilberforce and Huxley were dead.  The evidence is also that, again against the popular myth, the debate had little or no impact at the time, and the impact has only been since the claims concerning the Wilberforce - Huxley exchange were made in the 1890s. 

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 02 Oct 2015, 10:23

The popularity of the anecdote definitely dates to the time just after Huxley died when presumably many people were saying fond things of him anecdotally to affirm his wit and cleverness, as people do. But it was circulated at a time when many of the witnesses to the debate were around to contradict it, and there is no evidence of that either, at least that I have read.

I would agree that it doesn't seem to represent Wilberforce's own intelligence - which is also well attested. But who knows what was said in hyperbole for the effect of humour or emphasis on the day? No recording exists alas (what a fascinating debate that must have been), but I have seen enough Oxford and other university debates now to know that the only thing that limits some rhetorical flights at times is the inevitable rhetorical nosebleed when rhetorical fancy's altitude exceeds the hot air supply's ability to sustain it.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 12 Nov 2015, 10:03

Thank you for your response and I am pleased to see that your site has lost its pariah status that it had when I last tried to log in and post an update on Caro.

I am not sure where to put this but below is an update I received from Malcolm concerning Caro - very positive.

'Hi Tim
Thanks for that. Yes 11th.
Sorry I'm a bit slow on updates. Trying to do one for next week, but bottom line is that we are still in the rehab unit for another couple of weeks. Caro is making very good progress. Details next week I hope. Please pass on thanks back to the group(s).
Malcolm'

I would question, however, your presumption that "many witnesses to the debate were around to contradict it".  Thomas Huxley died in 1895 that is 35 years after the debate.  I have been to the room where it took place, it is not that large and even the youngest student present but by 1895 have been beyond average life expectancy for the times - Wilberforce had died long ago. 
Even if one assumes that a few were still around there is nothing to make it certain that they would have heard the claims after all there was no www and I doubt that The Times would have produced a special issue. 
Even if one assumes that even fewer heard the claims it does not follow that they would have been able to remember the exact details of the debate.  You could not remember any details of a far more recent debate on the BBC pages and I was hazy over one of them. 
Even if one assumes that a yet fewer number were still alive, did get to hear of it, and remembered the details of the debate; it does not follow that they would have bothered to respond, after all it was 35+ years ago and what did it really matter now?
Even if one assumes that someone did respond then it is entirely reasonable that that response did not survive.
Against that one needs to measure that the response was out of character with Wilberforce and the great likelihood that if there had been an exchange as claimed then it would have been recorded at the time.  As the book in which I first read about it said, correctly this time, 'one did not lightly insult an Anglican bishop in those days', it would have been a sensation and as such recorded.
It therefore seems far more likely that Wilberforce, who recorded that he thought he had won the debate, made some light hearted quip and that Huxley responded in a similar light hearted manner, and from their the myth grew.
By the way have you ever listened to the 1986 anniversary debate involving Richard Dawkins, the late Maynard Keynes and Edgar Andrews (forget the name of the other creationist)?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 12 Nov 2015, 11:19

No, I haven't heard that debate. I derive no entertainment whatsoever from hearing creationists "debate" anything - it tends to oxymoronic, and all too often just plain moronic.

I agree with all you say regarding how the original debate could have been misreported and misquoted, and why. In fact such must have been the case in many circumstances at the time, regardless of how many attended such things. I remember reading that the editor of a newspaper around the turn of the century issued a directive to reporters to stop using the term "reputedly" (which a zealous legal adviser had obviously insisted they employ) on the grounds that unless they were witness to an event then such could be assumed by any intelligent reader. In the days before sound and image recording practically everything reported was "by repute" and carried an automatic caveat to that effect.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 12 Nov 2015, 20:10

"I am not sure where to put this but below is an update I received from Malcolm concerning Caro - very positive.

'Hi Tim
Thanks for that. Yes 11th.
Sorry I'm a bit slow on updates. Trying to do one for next week, but bottom line is that we are still in the rehab unit for another couple of weeks. Caro is making very good progress. Details next week I hope. Please pass on thanks back to the group(s).
Malcolm' "

Tim, I am so glad to hear from you about Caro. On Jiglu I asked Tas, but perhaps he is now already on vacation to India...
Hope to see you in the Congo debate...since some days reading about the question of the Belgian Congo 1908-1960.

Kind regards, Paul.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 01 Feb 2016, 15:52

'I derive no entertainment whatsoever from hearing creationists "debate" anything - it tends to oxymoronic, and all too often just plain moronic.'

Don't blame you for that view Nordmann, mind you New Testament academics tend to hold the same opinion concerning 'Jesus mythologists'.  I merely mentioned about having listened to the 1986 debate as it is available on uTube and you had commented of the misfortune that there was no record of the 1860 debate.  I would say, however, that Prof Edgar Andrews, opening the debate for the creationists, and he is clearly a highly qualified and educated physicist and material scientist, was actually quite interesting to listen to in his opening address.  He avoided all the tired creationists arguments and instead adopted a more philosophical approach which clearly took Dawkins by surprise.  Much to my surprise I entered into an internet debate with Prof Andrews on Amazon.com as I wrote a short but critical review of his book 'Who Made God', he commented on my review (I think he viewed me as a closet atheist) to which I responded and we then had a couple of more exchanges.  Unfortunately he was somewhat more fundamentalist in those exchanges than in the Oxford debate.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 01 Feb 2016, 21:50

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
'I derive no entertainment whatsoever from hearing creationists "debate" anything - it tends to oxymoronic, and all too often just plain moronic.'

Don't blame you for that view Nordmann, mind you New Testament academics tend to hold the same opinion concerning 'Jesus mythologists'.  I merely mentioned about having listened to the 1986 debate as it is available on uTube and you had commented of the misfortune that there was no record of the 1860 debate.  I would say, however, that Prof Edgar Andrews, opening the debate for the creationists, and he is clearly a highly qualified and educated physicist and material scientist, was actually quite interesting to listen to in his opening address.  He avoided all the tired creationists arguments and instead adopted a more philosophical approach which clearly took Dawkins by surprise.  Much to my surprise I entered into an internet debate with Prof Andrews on Amazon.com as I wrote a short but critical review of his book 'Who Made God', he commented on my review (I think he viewed me as a closet atheist) to which I responded and we then had a couple of more exchanges.  Unfortunately he was somewhat more fundamentalist in those exchanges than in the Oxford debate.


Tim I reread the whole thread.

I have no time anymore to elaborate, because I was the whole evening busy with research about what you said.
I presume in one of your first messages you meant John Maynard Smith instead of the John Maynard Keynes that you mentioned?
I give first my links that I read and withheld this evening:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Smith
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_and_the_Theory_of_Games








https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Andrews


About the Huxley memorial debate:
http://synchronizationpoint.com/a673da1d5a7cf329.html

And the 1860 debate:
http://distribution-point.com/be9231a44c2be6b8.html

And the debate:



My English isn't good enough to listen to the debate as the quality of the sound is a bit disturbing to me...

And as ever a lot of "creatonists" reacting...
http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/cosmos/origines/debate_gc.htm
http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/modules/objectifs.htm


Kind regards, your friend Paul.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 01 Feb 2016, 22:08

Paul

you are absolutely right I did mean Maynard Smith, I even have one of his books from my first university days. 

apologies

Tim

ps I would add that in my view it is only the first part of the debate, I think the whole thing extended for over 3 hours, with Andrews and Dawkins is worth listening to.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 02 Feb 2016, 10:33

Tim wrote:
Don't blame you for that view Nordmann, mind you New Testament academics tend to hold the same opinion concerning 'Jesus mythologists'.

Well, they would, wouldn't they? And as said countless times before - Jesus can have lived and still have been mythified. The latter assertion in no way contributes to or detracts from the former assertion, though the former is way more difficult to pursue to a demonstrable conclusion. That particular apparent oxymoron is not (as opposed to the creationist view of intelligent design) a contradictio in terminis, merely an observable fact.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 02 Feb 2016, 11:37

I think I understand this, although I am not sure. I suspect nordmann is right, Tim - all to do with how and why the Gospels were written, isn't it - and by whom and for whom? The "myth" argument doesn't necessarily take away from their "truth" - well, not in my book anyway.

Something can exist and yet not exist after all - or not exist, yet exist, if you prefer. Is that the Meinong's jungle thing? But that's probably nothing to do with what you and nordmann are talking about.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 02 Feb 2016, 14:23

Temp wrote:
Something can exist and yet not exist after all - or not exist, yet exist, if you prefer.

In myth the reality of any component is assumed, normally as it is required in order to force and extend the logic of the primary assumption behind it. You might even say that myth is the intentional removal of any requirement for or importance on historicity at all. Everything is established only in a de facto sense, but that is all that is needed ever in mythical context. Actual facts may be a bonus feature, but they in no way really enhance or bolster a myth for those who subscribe to it. That would be quite missing the point.

If Jesus existed, for example, the subsequent mythification of the character destroyed any claim to his historicity by replacing the context in which it once made sense with another one in which the sense is established first and all else, including the character, then is made to conform. This allows the character in this particular myth to be presented, for example, as fulfilment of prophecy, engaged in fantastic activities, involved in hugely significant events that may never have occurred in reality, have abilities beyond those naturally endowed, and to be credited with much that is evidently borrowed from other myths, all the while making total sense within the fabric of the myth in which he is placed while moving further and further from anything factually verifiable in the process. The bottom line is that the myth is what was (and in fact still is) important to believers in the religion which has it at its core, not the historical accuracy. Subscription to the myth demands that the latter be taken as a given, and that's good enough for the subscribers.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 02 Feb 2016, 16:22

Well, that's shut us all up, hasn't it? Smile

I actually think it's all a bit more complicated than that, nordmann; but how on earth do I try to explain, untrained as I am in philosophy or rhetoric?

I can't; but I shall have a cup of tea and a chocolate HobNob and mull it over.


Last edited by Temperance on Tue 02 Feb 2016, 17:05; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Removed a comma.)
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 02 Feb 2016, 18:34

Temps, oh dear, in it again. Being unable to explain is really the essence of the nature of this thing we call religion. Once any tries then worldly parameters are drawn in to define it, refine it and make it understood and those are, of course held to question

On another site I have just read 90 posts to do with haunting. The scoffers had fun, those with experience told their tales when really silence is best. Of my own, only one friend who was privy to the whole saga knew what happened and what I did to deal with it. No one else does.... not even those who were in some way effected - and relieved by the outcome. What cannot be explained need not be attempted.  
To be touched spiritually is fortunate and  begs for a quest to enrich it with more understanding but much is beyond our grasp. Sometimes we might find like minds but that is rare in my experience. The sieve of logic has fixed parameters; spirituality does not..


Last edited by Priscilla on Tue 02 Feb 2016, 18:36; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : The usual)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 03 Feb 2016, 17:29

@Priscilla wrote:
Temps, oh dear, in it again.


I know; I know - or rather I don't know: that's my whole point. I wasn't actually thinking about the "supernatural" (hauntings and such); I was thinking more about what is the nature of being - ontology and all that? A fair few men have asked that question in their time, and have gone round and round in such confident circles proclaiming their answers, like they do.

I don't see that there is anything to be ashamed of in "subscribing" to a myth. Myths are very important to us humans, human as we are. The trick is choosing the right myth - or at least the right version of the right myth.

A myth is an idea. And ideas - forms?? - after all are surely what Plato considered good? Can you be a Platonist Christian? Or a Christian Platonist?


"You can't believe things because they're a lovely idea!"

"But I do. That's how I believe."


(Poor mixed-up Sebastian in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.)


@Priscilla wrote:
Being unable to explain is really the essence of the nature of this thing we call religion. Once any tries then worldly parameters are drawn in to define it, refine it and make it understood and those are, of course held ...The sieve of logic has fixed parameters; spirituality does not..


Absolutely. But isn't science is a kind of religion? Didn't Lucretius admit that in De Rerum Natura when he spoke of "the most solemn and revered creeds of nature"? That would look more impressive in Latin, but I can't remember it and I can't be bothered to look it up.


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 03 Feb 2016, 23:19; edited 2 times in total
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 03 Feb 2016, 17:55

PS And remember Edmund too, in King Lear. Three hundred and fifty years before Darwin, Shakespeare had his super-villain, modelled on the atheist Kit Marlowe, declare:

"Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound..."


But she's a cruel and implacable deity - as everyone in the play found out.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 03 Feb 2016, 20:02

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
Paul

you are absolutely right I did mean Maynard Smith, I even have one of his books from my first university days. 

apologies

Tim

ps I would add that in my view it is only the first part of the debate, I think the whole thing extended for over 3 hours, with Andrews and Dawkins is worth listening to.


Tim,

"ps I would add that in my view it is only the first part of the debate, I think the whole thing extended for over 3 hours, with Andrews and Dawkins is worth listening to."

Yes you are right, over three hours...I didn't mention the second part, while I was not prepared with my poor English understanding to that lengthy debate, which is severely tiring to listen to to follow the thread of the discussion...
The second part:



To comment I am afraid I would need a written synopsis which highlights of the essential points of the discussion...

As I understand it the whole discussion between evolutionists and creatonists breaks down to the essential question:
Is there an evolution of life to more complex forms by the billions of trials and errors to more complex forms to adapt in the frame of certain environments...and all this trials and errors by their immens multitude gives at random some hits that combine to more complexity and by time even to more complexity....
Or is there "something" from outside the system that "guides" that whole process in a certain direction?

From all what I read up to now I understand the logic of the evolutionist point of view and I see not yet any proof of the outside guiding principle...but I agree we don't know it "all" yet and will know it perhaps never...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 03 Feb 2016, 23:15

Gosh, you and I do ramble at times, Priscilla, don't we?  Embarassed

(Thinking more of myself than you actually, having just read what I posted earlier.)

I'm not a Creationist by the way - Heaven forbid - but the Creation myth(s) in Genesis is/are a lovely bit of writing, surely even the atheists have to admit that?
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Dirk Marinus
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 04 Feb 2016, 07:29

May I put in my 2 bit piece of comment about this subject and draw your attention to an American  court case about evolution.

the case  in 1925 is called "The Monkey Trial"  and involved a biological teacher ,John Scopes, who was on trial in Dayton, Tennessee, USA for teaching evolution.

try to Google :    law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 04 Feb 2016, 09:18

Bill Bryson made a nice comment on all this nonsense:

While discussing these cases in "A Walk in the Woods" (1998), writer Bill Bryson noted, "And now the state was about to bring the law back, proving conclusively that the danger for Tennesseans isn't so much that they may be descended from apes as overtaken by them."

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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 04 Feb 2016, 09:30

@Temperance wrote:
Bill Bryson made a nice comment on all this nonsense:

While discussing these cases in "A Walk in the Woods" (1998), writer Bill Bryson noted, "And now the state was about to bring the law back, proving conclusively that the danger for Tennesseans isn't so much that they may be descended from apes as overtaken by them."


That is hilarious !!!!!!!!
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 11 Feb 2016, 16:08

‘Well, they would, wouldn't they?’
I am sure that creationist writers would say exactly the same thing concerning the way evolutionists ignore their ‘evidence’.  Personally I think that in both the cases of mythologists and creations that they are ignored principally because of the lack of quality if their evidence.  Just to take one example: the claim that “Probably most damning of the lot is the fact that Christianity’s greatest spreader of the faith in the early days - Paul, a near contemporary - seems never to have heard of him. He talks a lot about God, but nothing whatsoever of Jesus the character. He doesn't quote him once, says zilch about any miracles, teachings or crucifixion” would be far more likely to have the academic world ‘rolling in the aisles’ than gasping in amazement at the author’s knowledge and insight.  I am sure you will agree Nordmann that the author displays an almost complete lack of knowledge of Paul’s writings!  Smile And Freke and Gandy and Archarya S, for example, make even worst mistakes.


‘And as said countless times before - Jesus can have lived and still have been mythified’. 
On this I agree with you, but then so would all the secular historians who have no doubt that Jesus existed and also consider that it is possible to come to quite a few conclusions concerning his life.  However, that is not what the mythologist writers believe, they do not accept that Jesus ever existed and you yourself once declared that ‘isn’t it obvious that he never existed’. 
The one exception with mythologist writers is G.A.Wells who now seems to have changed his view from there having been no Jesus to two Jesuses – one in Paul and one in Q.  Actually lots of people whom no one seriously doubts existed have been ‘mythified’.  Even with people who are still living one could argue have been ‘mythified’.  After all I presume that you do not accept that the current Dalai Lama is the 13th reincarnation of someone who was an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara.  And I have seen the Dalai Lama while I was in India and so am quite certain that he exists, but would agree with you about a lack of belief in reincarnation.


‘That particular apparent oxymoron is not (as opposed to the creationist view of intelligent design)’
I would just mention that Andrews is not, as far as I can gather, a believer in ‘intelligent design’, rather he would be described as a ‘Gap creationist’.
In our debate concerning his book ‘Who made God’ he replied to me that “I do not subscribe to 'young earth creationism', believing that Genesis reports an historical but undated cosmic creation in 1:1 followed by six days of further creative work on earth. A careful reading of v.2 shows that the earth existed prior to the beginning of the first day with the appearance of light on earth (probably as a result of the atmosphere thinning). I put the creation of the sun and stars in v.1 and believe that the events of Day 4 refer to their 'placement' (v.17) in the sky, meaning they became visible from earth at that stage of the creation account.”
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Dirk Marinus
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 11 Feb 2016, 17:36

Let us face facts and accept the fact that there could, and I repeat could, have been a male person calling himself Jesus Christ
Yes his father and mother could have been called Joseph and Mary and Joseph was a carpenter. I even go along with the claim that Jesus Christ himself was a carpenter

Of course, I for one accept that this man, Jesus Christ, walked around and preached to people telling them all about what should be done and the way people should live and the reward they would receive when passing on.
Let us be honest, there are now at present hundreds of thousands who are doing the same now what Jesus Christ did 2000 years ago i.e preach and teach what they call is the good news.
I can also accept the fact that he was arrested by the Romans and consequently crucified

Many a day I see Jehova Witness, Mormons, Seven Day Adventists and others on the streets and even knocking on doors.
Every Sunday Christians gather at churches to pray and listen to sermons given by yes A TEACHER like Jesus Christ did 2000 years ago.

As I mentioned I have no issue about the existence of someone called Jesus Christ but I certainly don't believe much of the continuing story what happened after he was crucified.


But at the same time I will not ridicule those who believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 11 Feb 2016, 20:17

@Dirk Marinus wrote:
May I put in my 2 bit piece of comment about this subject and draw your attention to an American  court case about evolution.

the case  in 1925 is called "The Monkey Trial"  and involved a biological teacher ,John Scopes, who was on trial in Dayton, Tennessee, USA for teaching evolution.

try to Google :    law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes

Dirk,

read it. Thanks.
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 12 Feb 2016, 08:48

The issue of mythification is very relevant to any debate concerning creationism versus evolution as the former, almost by definition, has to have involved a rather thorough subscription to a belief in one religious myth, even as the creationist will almost certainly deny this quality to their belief and claim mythical elements as fact. On the other hand the evolutionist is often left with the responsibility in such a debate to differentiate between scientific fact and mythical assertion, and in doing so often therefore shows a greater appreciation of the relevant myth in that they have had to analyse its origin and function in order to demonstrate its inadequacy as explanation. They at least cannot escape acknowledgement of its existence, which in analysing anything is always a good start.

Myth is a body of lore that builds up around a particular core assertion, character or philosophical stance in which the veracity of the elements is less important than the message they combine to convey. That is why I actually do not like it very much when it is applied to a character like Jesus if also accompanied by the presumption that acknowledgement of the myth's existence can be made only at the expense of an assertion of his own. In the case of that body of myth I still prefer to look at the available evidence which points to two rather unavoidably basic conclusions; the myth exists, and having come into existence has obfuscated almost all avenues of normal historical inquiry into ascertaining whether Jesus existed or not. That he could not have existed exactly as stated in the gospels is rather a given, in my view. That the documents indicate a belief in his existence in antiquity on the part of the authors is also rather a given, but then the same authors were actively engaged in constructing the myth too. So the rest we can only guess at.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 12 Feb 2016, 12:12

Came across mention of this book over on Historum, and, lo and behold, it is available on pdf:

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 12 Feb 2016, 20:58

@Triceratops wrote:
Came across mention of this book over on Historum, and, lo and behold, it is available on pdf:

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Thank you very much Triceratops for this link. I am reading the book with great interest.
About the author: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reza_Aslan
Read the critics...
But nevertheless I find it an interesting book...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sat 13 Feb 2016, 09:11

I was there first! Smile

On June 25th 2015, on the Saint Paul thread, I posted the following:


I wrote in my original post that A.N. Wilson's return to faith was surprising. That was a foolish word to use. Perhaps A. N. Wilson, like Reza Aslan, whose recent book caused such outrage in the USA, has simply found a more thoughtful faith. I hope so. The following, taken from Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, certainly struck a chord with me:


"The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant, The sudden realisation that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions - just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of hands across hundreds of years - left me confused and spiritually unmoored. And, like so many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying...

...Meanwhile I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text, a truth intentionally detached from the exigencies of history. Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him. Indeed the Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known and lost became so much more real to me than the detached unearthly being I had been introduced to in church...
"


The "detached unearthly being" - was that indeed the invention of Paul of Tarsus, and would James, the brother of Jesus, and that old friend from another thread, Simon Peter, both men who did not, it would seem, always agree with the teaching of Paul, rejoice to read Aslan's next sentence?


"Today I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ."

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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 14:40

I am re-reading John Shelby Spong's Resurrection: Myth or Reality? at the moment and I should like to quote this paragraph, if I may. It is so honest and makes such sense - well, at least to me it does. Yet Spong is hated (not too strong a word, I'm afraid) by many Christians, most of whom have not read his books:

"Religious traditions are strange combinations of subjective descriptions of actual events, plus mythological interpretations of those events. It is only when an actual event enters into and is carried by a mythological interpretation that the event is finally remembered at all. Whatever it was that resided in that moment when Christianity was born had to be caught up in a mythological framework almost at once or it would have perished. Legends, symbols and myths gathered around the moment, as they do whenever time and eternity appear to intersect...The suggestion that key elements of our faith tradition have been caught up in and are interpreted by the mythological patterns of ages disturbs some people, even while it promises new insights for others. A senior fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge* told me that he thought mythology could not be in one's own religion. 'Once you see your own religion as myth, it dies,' he asserted. Not so, I countered. Your religion does not really live until you allow it to enter, touch and illumine the great mythological themes of the ages. To enter into such mythology does not compromise any truth except literal truth. Only when literal truth is challenged are we able to float in the profound and limitless sea of ultimate truth."


I'm sorry if this is not relevant to what is being discussed, but I needed to post it. I suppose that final sentence about floating on "the profound and limitless sea of ultimate truth" leaves me wide open to comments - if anyone bothers to comment - that I, with Bishop Spong, am all at sea. I shall have to risk that.

*This was Peter O'Donald, geneticist, in conversation at Emmanuel, 1992.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 15:04

Temp wrote:
I suppose that final sentence about floating on "the profound and limitless sea of ultimate truth" leaves me wide open to comments

It's hard to know what comment this leaves one wide open to - the ambiguity of Spong's sentence is so thorough. "Literal truth" can mean that which is so obviously true as can be written down or that which is believed to be true because it was written down. Sometimes it is used errantly to mean that which is indisputably true. All three contradict each other and all three avoid any reference to how anything true is adduced as such anyway. Likewise "ultimate truth" suggests a sequence of perceived truths in which the last, the ultimate, is the correct one. Or it can, equally errantly, mean a truth which is indisputably so. I have tried reading that sentence using permutations of both and I am afraid none of them make sense, at least to me.

His assertion that an actual event is only remembered when it acquires a mythological interpretation is also a strange one. I assume he is speaking solely of events deemed important in the history of a religious faith. If not it is just plain silly an assertion.

But the rest I actually agree with, in the context of this discussion at least. There can not be a religious belief which does not have at its core a myth. A Christian, like any other believer in any religious code, who fails to see this (or worse, denies that it applies in their own case) has a problem with defining and recognising "truth", period, be it literal, ultimate, absolute, suspected, suspect or even a downright lie.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 17:28

Well, you have to read the whole book - Spong is not a "silly" man. His detailed comments about midrash I find especially interesting.

But that's not relevant here.

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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 18:19

Spong wrote:
Religious traditions are strange combinations of subjective descriptions of actual events, plus mythological interpretations of those events. It is only when an actual event enters into and is carried by a mythological interpretation that the event is finally remembered at all.

I was being gracious and surmising from this sentence that his observation was based solely on how things are remembered within a religious tradition, and that indeed would not be a silly assertion. However it is also rather a moot point as the reason something is "remembered" within a religious tradition has little to do with its historical veracity and everything to do with what it contributes to the religion's ethos. Nowhere did I say he was a silly man.

But back to the point. As this thread's very title as coined by Tim proves, "myth" too often these days is assumed to mean misconception or fabrication. When I use the term in the actual sense of the word I risk offending people doing the opposite, especially religious people who object to their faith being described as a misconception (or worse). However I shall persevere. The topic is important enough to deserve precision in the speech used to discuss it.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 18:27

@nordmann wrote:
Spong wrote:
Religious traditions are strange combinations of subjective descriptions of actual events, plus mythological interpretations of those events. It is only when an actual event enters into and is carried by a mythological interpretation that the event is finally remembered at all.

I was being gracious and surmising from this sentence that his observation was based solely on how things are remembered within a religious tradition, and that indeed would not be a silly assertion. However it is also rather a moot point as the reason something is "remembered" within a religious tradition has little to do with its historical veracity and everything to do with what it contributes to the religion's ethos. Nowhere did I say he was a silly man.


Point taken. I apologise. We are all given to fits of pique these days it would seem. Believe it or not, I had realised that I should apologise before you posted above. But I was having my tea.

@nordmann wrote:
The topic is important enough to deserve precision in the speech used to discuss it.

Agreed. So, for purposes of clarification here, how should we define this difficult word?
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 14 Feb 2016, 20:17

Well, in a religious sense there is really only one definition that should apply, and it is the one used coincidentally in classical literature studies when assessing any ancient narration with regard to its possible impact when first in currency. One can easily google this and see that in disciplines in which such distinctions matter a great deal the definition is rather standard and follows the lines of:

a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature. stories or matter of this kind

The above is a pretty good attempt, though to be fairer to religious myth, and indeed to great myth cycles such as we understand from, for example, Greek, Persian, Irish and Norse traditions (to name but a few), the word "story" is best extended to "lore" or similar.

This differentiates myth from legend, which, again when definitions matter, is most accurately described as a story often presented with an assumed basis in history. It can form a component of a myth, though does not have to. Often it has persevered simply because it's a good story in itself.

Another crucial difference is the malleability of each. A legend may change over time but normally only to keep it going as a good story in whatever context it is being related. A myth may (in fact quite normally will) change over time but usually in order to alter the explanatory role it possesses and keep it relevant to contemporary minds. A legend incorporated into a myth therefore is actually less likely to change the closer to the core message of the myth it happens to be. However the role it plays in the myth - its relative importance and relevance to the message - will often subtly change over time as the myth itself is adapted.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:09

Sorry for the above - but you did ask.

You can see probably also why I have difficulties getting my point of view across to Tim - who is generally correct in his assessment of default views and how many subscribe to them, but who still takes terrible affront when I suggest that "Jesus" (the one we all have come to know from his role in the myth) did not exist and who, in lumping me (correctly) in with those who regard that man's life as myth, draws a completely wrong conclusion as to my motive. Whatever about how we regard the evidence such as it is for an actual man of that name having lived, we are completely clueless - thanks to the myth - when it comes to adducing historically the exact role he would have played as an originator of the myth that grew up about him. Comparison with other myths that include real-life people at their core suggests one has to be very careful indeed before one assumes anything credited to the persona at its core has basis in fact, or at least has not been heavily redacted in the creation of the resultant myth.

I really have no interest in "discrediting" a myth since that is actually a contradiction in terms. A myth is no more or less credible for its components being historically verified or invalidated, especially to its subscribers. When a myth has important religious significance discrediting it on historical or factual grounds is rather pointless an exercise anyway as it first demands the subscriber to acknowledge how much investment in myth they have made and that will always be the sticking point in such an approach.

And that's the crux of the matter, as far as I can see. It is easy, for example, to dismiss "young earth creationists" as barmy on the basis that their immersion in the mythology is so obviously to the exclusion of common sense, but for me that is simply a matter of degree. Far more people who demand to be seen as sensible have simply immersed themselves in the same myth in a different manner. It is not for me to tell them they are wrong to do so, but even the rather benign inference that their dependence on myth (to any extent) is a crucial component of their faith is met often with rather venomous response, I notice. Explaining that Jesus is an integral part of that myth simply adds to the acrimony.

Those who object to my stance rarely ask me what "truth" I in fact cede to the myth in question, and that is a telling point, I think - especially since the myth in its entirety purports to present two very fundamental philosophical precepts that have a long history of application and trial-and-error testing in societies of all shapes and sizes, and moreover a sizeable amount of evidence now backing up their entitlement to be considered as truths. The first - that altruism as a default societal standard works better than any alternative is in fact one that long predates Christianity, and even since Christianity has been the bedrock on which many ideologies claim to rest. In other words it has been well utilised and attempted in a variety of guises so there is in fact a lot of historical data now that sheds light on its function, and so far the evidence suggests that it is not only a desirable default it is in fact an inescapable alternative when societies form (and not just human ones). The second fundamental philosophical standpoint is that consequences are unavoidable. This is a common religious theme, but it is also the fundamental logic behind scientific study, and in fact the true profundity of its implications are probably never going to be fully understood as science pushes the nature of cause and effect to levels of obscurity that any professional theologian would be proud to match.

In its way the Christian myth embodies these two "truths", in so much as any philosophical stance can be true. Whether they were presented by an historical figure in the form of homily and advice is less important than their subsequent application and recognition. And at least the study of that brings us back into solid historical analysis.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:23

I was typing this when you sent your message. Haven't read it yet.

@nordmann wrote:

Another crucial difference is the malleability of each. A legend may change over time but normally only to keep it going as a good story in whatever context it is being related. A myth may (in fact quite normally will) change over time but usually in order to alter the explanatory role it possesses and keep it relevant to contemporary minds. A legend incorporated into a myth therefore is actually less likely to change the closer to the core message of the myth it happens to be. However the role it plays in the myth - its relative importance and relevance to the message - will often subtly change over time as the myth itself is adapted.


That is very interesting - and the "change" you mention is what the great debate these days - for me at least - is all about. See Spong's book: "Why Christianity Must Change or Die". But fundamentalists cannot brook any idea of "change" to their concept of the mythical hero. It is too threatening.

I've trespassed too long here on Tim's thread, but before I leave I need to post this. I'm sorry, but it is Bishop Spong again; but I think it is important that if there are any folk out there reading this, that they realise that to call oneself a "believer" of the teaching of the man called Jesus of Nazareth does not mean one cannot think and, above all, that one cannot be honest:

"So we must journey beyond midrash, subjectivity, mythology and premodern assumptions, before we turn our attention to the fragile vehicle we call words, which were used to capture the moment we call resurrection...now at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves seeking words from a postmodern world that will make contact with the subterranean truth that we believe flows deep in the recesses of the Christian story and that will continue to carry the eternal myth into the hearts of postmodern men and women.To find that truth and to speak it is our task as we proclaim the reality of Easter and the meaning of resurrection in our day...

Something happened. That something had dramatic power. That power changed lives. Those affected by that power processed it with words, so that they could tell others what had happened to them. In time, out of their memory, they re-created the story of the one whose life lay at the heart of their experience. That re-creation was achieved by utilising the tradition of midrash, legend and mythology..."



"To find that truth and to speak it is our task..." - the task is not an easy one, whatever some may (joyfully) claim.

I continue to search.


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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:28

I've read your message. I need to go away and think about it.

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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 11:34

Me too Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 11:54

No, what you say makes an awful lot of sense.

I am pondering the dreadful thought that I could well be as barmy as the Creationists - as you say, it is "simply a matter of degree".  Shocked

I hope I am not "venomous".

@nordmann wrote:

In its way the Christian myth embodies these two "truths", in so much as any philosophical stance can be true. Whether they were presented by an historical figure in the form of homily and advice is less important than their subsequent application and recognition. And at least the study of that brings us back into solid historical analysis.



Oh heck - and we all know what "solid historical analysis" means - a hammering.  pale
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 15 Feb 2016, 12:01

It seems to me that as long as one acknowledges one's debt to a myth for having a profounder understanding of something important than that which one might have had otherwise, then really none of the rest of it matters that much for the individual, especially with regard to the value of the myth's interpolatory function, basically insinuating a profound and sensible piece of philosophical guidance into a life experience which otherwise may never have had opportunity to include sufficient awareness of that philosophy.

In fact you have said as much many times yourself - that it really is less important to have verification of Jesus's existence as it is to have knowledge of the sense of the philosophy he is deemed to have advocated.

Refusing to acknowledge the role of the myth in one's make-up, or indeed denying it as myth at all - well, there lies madness.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 17 Feb 2016, 22:03

Nordmann

‘Whatever about how we regard the evidence such as it is for an actual man of that name having lived, we are completely clueless - thanks to the myth - when it comes to adducing historically the exact role he would have played as an originator of the myth that grew up about him.’

This is of course merely your opinion, it is not the view of the academic world.
The following is given by the scholar Prof E.P.Saunders as a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: “they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life and especially of his public career.”
“Jesus was born c. 4BCE, near the time of death of Herod the Great;
He spent his early childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
He was baptized by John the Baptist;
He called disciples;
He taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities)
He preached ‘the kingdom of God’
About the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover
He created a disturbance in the Temple area
He had a final meal with his disciples;
He was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
He was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”
He adds another that his disciples, for whatever reason, became convinced that this Jesus rose from the dead.
He clearly would not have given this list is it were in dispute amongst credible scholars.

‘but who still takes terrible affront when I suggest that "Jesus" (the one we all have come to know from his role in the myth) did not exist and who, in lumping me (correctly) in with those who regard that man's life as myth, draws a completely wrong conclusion as to my motive.’

I take affront (nothing terrible about it) when you make statements as fact when they are nothing more than your opinion (wishful?) for which you are neither able to provide evidence nor academic support.  You then, rather than admit your lack of evidence and academic support, proceed to cover over it with your admittedly brilliant rhetoric.

The ability to ignore the academic consensus and make unsubstantiated statements about subjects in which they are singularly ill-qualified is something that mythologists have in common with creationists. 

A good argument at the time of the Oxford debate that Bishop Wilberforce could have put forward against Darwin’s theory, whether he did nor not we do not unfortunately know, was concerning the age of the Sun.  In the absence of nuclear fusion the best suggestion that astronomers and physicists could come up with for the Sun’s energy was by gravitational contraction.  Unfortunately that would have only allowed the Sun to continue outputting energy at the current rate for about 17 million years, not long enough for evolution to be a viable answer.  In response evolutions had to resort to there being ‘some unknown form of energy’ that ‘powered the Sun’.  They were of course correct but relying on ‘some unknown form of energy’ was hardly a satisfactory scientific answer.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 08:53

In my original statement I wrote:
‘Whatever about how we regard the evidence such as it is for an actual man of that name having lived, we are completely clueless - thanks to the myth - when it comes to adducing historically the exact role he would have played as an originator of the myth that grew up about him.’


And in reply Tim wrote:

This is of course merely your opinion, it is not the view of the academic world.
The following is given by the scholar Prof E.P.Saunders as a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: “they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life and especially of his public career.”
“Jesus was born c. 4BCE, near the time of death of Herod the Great;
He spent his early childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
He was baptized by John the Baptist;
He called disciples;
He taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities)
He preached ‘the kingdom of God’
About the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover
He created a disturbance in the Temple area
He had a final meal with his disciples;
He was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
He was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”
He adds another that his disciples, for whatever reason, became convinced that this Jesus rose from the dead.
He clearly would not have given this list is it were in dispute amongst credible scholars.



Thanks for posting that list from Saunders again. The last time my beef with it, if I remember, was how spurious a technique subtracting the plausible from the implausible is, especially if it is intended to isolate things that have an actual basis in fact. One can do this with any myth, incidentally - some to an even greater extent than this one - but what one does not achieve in the process is anything other than an assertion of probability which remains unproven and unprovable. And of course a huge question mark over the validity of the myth since so much can be arbitrarily edited out without seemingly damaging its integrity.

But my beef with it this time is its usefulness as a fitting response to what I actually stated. Let's pretend for the sake of argument that everything Saunders has isolated above actually found historical corroboration at some point. In other words everything on the list is in fact a certainty, beyond gainsay from even old cynics like me. And so let's take the very last item on the list - the one where his disciples (for whatever reason - as you have Saunders neatly sidestepping analysis) come to believe that the subject of this mini-bio came back from the dead.

Now, think about this in real terms and no longer as an element of a myth. Think about it in terms of a similar belief growing amongst disciples of a real person. We all know the phenomenon, and we all know how much credence such claims normally receive. Yet in this scenario we are expected not only to lend credence to the claim but, for the sake of some very important elements in basic Christian doctrine and belief, add to the disciples' claim their other associated claims regarding what this resurrected person then spoke about, some of which lies at the very heart of Christian theology regarding core beliefs about the topology of God's universe and the workings of divine justice (not to mention the "second coming"). None of these figure in Saunders' list - after all they are almost all by definition not only hearsay and report, but based on a previous claim already dismissed on the plausibility scale. These are the elements that sit comfortably in myth but not at all comfortably in the plausible version of the story.

Now that which I wondered about, if you read again what I wrote, was to what extent Jesus (the plausible one who, for the sake of argument, was real) contributed to creating these mythical elements that arose - even according to Saunders - quite quickly after his demise? Was he mendacious or megalomaniac enough to proactively encourage them? Was he unaware that those around him even had the imagination or capacity to invent supernatural attributes to his person? Would he have approved or disapproved had he known?

These are the things we can never know. His stated role as core of a body of lore that together constitutes quite a powerful myth is itself a part of the myth. That is our dilemma, at least those of us who do not necessarily wish to subscribe to the myth at all.


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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:06

This has crossed with something I have just posted over on the "Jesus is a Myth" thread. Wish I'd put it here now, but thought you would all end up talking about the age of the sun. Haven't read nord's message yet.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:23

I don't like the assertion that Jesus is a myth, and never have. And I have less patience with those who insist on responding with what they perceive as the opposite view.

Instead Jesus is part of a myth, whether he existed or not, and as far as I can see this is irrefutable. It is frustrating to discuss the topic with someone who equates myth with fable and maintains that this is what one is asserting when one discusses historicity or the validity of myth (two very distinct criteria for asserting validity pertain to each), so I have avoided continuing the discussion on those terms there yonder, as you may have noticed.

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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:32

What a muddle of posts. I shall move my message from the " 'Jesus is a Myth' Myth" thread  to here.


This is what I posted earlier:


@Tim of Aclea wrote:


‘Whatever about how we regard the evidence such as it is for an actual man of that name having lived, we are completely clueless - thanks to the myth - when it comes to adducing historically the exact role he would have played as an originator of the myth that grew up about him.’

This is of course merely your opinion, it is not the view of the academic world.
The following is given by the scholar Prof E.P.Saunders as a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: “they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life and especially of his public career.”
“Jesus was born c. 4BCE, near the time of death of Herod the Great;
He spent his early childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
He was baptized by John the Baptist;
He called disciples;
He taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities)
He preached ‘the kingdom of God’
About the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover
He created a disturbance in the Temple area
He had a final meal with his disciples;
He was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
He was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”
He adds another that his disciples, for whatever reason, became convinced that this Jesus rose from the dead.
He clearly would not have given this list is it were in dispute amongst credible scholars.

‘but who still takes terrible affront when I suggest that "Jesus" (the one we all have come to know from his role in the myth) did not exist and who, in lumping me (correctly) in with those who regard that man's life as myth, draws a completely wrong conclusion as to my motive.’

I take affront (nothing terrible about it) when you make statements as fact when they are nothing more than your opinion (wishful?) for which you are neither able to provide evidence nor academic support.  You then, rather than admit your lack of evidence and academic support, proceed to cover over it with your admittedly brilliant rhetoric.

The ability to ignore the academic consensus and make unsubstantiated statements about subjects in which they are singularly ill-qualified is something that mythologists have in common with creationists.



I must begin this message - as is my wont - with apology; first of all, an apology for copying a quote from Tim and moving it, without his permission, to this thread; and secondly an apology for responding to a post which was actually addressed to nordmann. I really should not intrude, but what has been discussed recently over on the Wilberforce thread is of enormous significance to me: indeed I have thought about little else for several days (sad, but true).

I hope I may be forgiven, therefore, for hoping to continue the "Jesus is a myth" discussion here.

I am baffled by your response, Tim, because you seem to be ignoring the underlined part of the following which you quoted from a nordmann post:



@nordmann wrote:
...but who still takes terrible affront when I suggest that "Jesus" (the one we all have come to know from his role in the myth) did not exist and who, in lumping me (correctly) in with those who regard that man's life as myth...



Isn't it accepted now that there are "two" ways of thinking about Jesus: the historical Jesus of Nazareth about whom we really "know" very little; and the mythical figure of the Christ? As I understand it, it is the mythical figure whom nordmann tells us (quite rightly) "did not exist", the figure largely created by Saint Paul and by the writers of the gospels (especially John), all of whom were profoundly affected by Paul's teaching. As you know, Paul's writings are not really concerned with the life of the teacher from Galilee, and the Pauline epistles are earlier compositions than any of the gospels. Paul's letters - and his concept of the "Christ" -  came before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John penned their accounts: few people - even church-going Christians - realise this, and so do not think about what this could mean: how it may have affected how the authors of the synoptic gospels and, later, John, presented their version of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. I get blank looks whenever I try to discuss this.

But please understand that his is in no way to detract from the significance and impact of that man's life and death - and what Jesus of Nazareth, "full of grace and truth", had come to mean for his followers. His life and death had become so important that they could not let it - or his memory - die. Here's my favourite bishop again. Speaking of "the very stuff of mythology", Spong says:


It is primarily in terms of these constant and ever-present human themes that the sacred source we call the Bible tells us of the Christian Lord who was identified with the historical life known as Jesus of Nazareth. Yet when Rudolf Bultmann coined the word demythologize as a way to approach the Christian story, and when Albert Schweitzer finally concluded his search for the historical Jesus with the assertion that the Jesus of history could never be found, those who did not understand the world in which religious vocabulary is formed sent up howls of protest. Every faith story is enshrouded in mythic elements. Were it not so, that faith story would long ago have ceased to be repeated.


Yet the howls continue. I was howled at - yet again - last night at a Lent Bible Study group. (Why do I continue to attend these things? Lord knows.) I am, like Spong, a passionate believer in the teaching of Jesus - of the man (such as we can "know" him through the words of the gospels) - and in Paul's Christ. I suppose you could say I believe in an idea - which probably sounds quite mad. Yet I do think nordmann is right in what he says - and not just because of nord's undoubted "brilliant rhetoric". I think you have just not grasped his argument - and I say that with the greatest respect. (However, see later post below.)

Again, I am sorry if this is a muddled and irrelevant message, but this is - for me at least - such an important thing to try to clarify. I did not want to let it drop. I wish I had now.


PS On a lighter note - there is no disgrace in being called the subject of a myth. I once read that Elizabeth Taylor, on being informed that she was considered to be "a legend", whereas Marilyn Monroe was "a myth", demanded, in cold fury at her perceived inferior status, "How come she gets to be a myth and I'm just a darn (stronger word actually used here) legend?"


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 18 Feb 2016, 17:03; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : punctuation a bit wonky.)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 12:47

I wrote:
 ...I think you have just not grasped his (nordmann's) argument...



Actually, reading all this again, I don't think I have either. I thought I had yesterday, but perhaps not.  Suspect

Edit: Going to watch Trike's hairy panic clip again now - rather more interesting than a surfeit of Lenten fare, I think - here, or elsewhere.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 17:13

Understanding is not important Temperance, what you are supposed to do is nod wisely in agreement and applaud.  I see my role, however, as Nordmann enjoys his Roman Triumphs, to whisper in his ear "remember that you do not actually know that much about the New Testament".

regards

Tim
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 17:36

Well, that very uncharitable view of nordmann is perhaps something we have all - in our various little fits of pique - thought at times (usually when we are losing an argument), but, if I am honest, I think we are unfair on the poor lad. He can't help being brilliant - most of the time. Smile


I do try to understand things, Tim, and not just "nod" in awed agreement: it gets very wearisome - and a tad embarrassing - at times, as I seem go round and round in circles. I hoped in my youth that I would have got all this stuff sorted by this stage in my life, but seems I haven't. The struggle continues. I have spent a fortune on books about God and I still know nothing.

Talking of which, has anyone (Tim?) read The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby? He gives a Jewish perspective on all this which I have found extremely interesting.

Maccoby's book is recommended by A.N. Wilson, who is now a Christian again after his atheist period. A. N. Wilson seems to go round and round in circles too, which is a great confort to me, as he, like myself, is old enough to know better. He, however, spins round and round in great style.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 19:18

I am afraid Temperance that when it comes to Nordmann, I am like someone watching a group enthuse over a hobby while I cannot ascertain what they are really enthusing about - goodness knows why he ever invited me on his site.  Concerning you earlier post which seems to be forever on the move.  No I clearly did not overlook it as demonstrated by my quoting the statement in the first place. 

'when Rudolf Bultmann coined the word demythologize as a way to approach the Christian story, and when Albert Schweitzer finally concluded his search for the historical Jesus with the assertion that the Jesus of history could never be found, those who did not understand the world in which religious vocabulary is formed sent up howls of protest.'

I am afraid that both Bultmann and Schweitzer theories have 'aged badly' so to speak, a bit like Darwin's pre-Mendal theories of inheritance.  You will be quoting John Allegro next!

I am afraid that I have not read the book as I never seem to have read the ones you suggest.  I am currently, at a rate of one a month, writing a series of short articles on the books of the Hebrew bible.  Reading up for that and for my sermons  plus slowly proceeding through N.T.Wright's 'Paul and the Faithfulness of God' (over 1600 pages long) takes up my quota of religious reading at the moment.  I also do the occasional book review for a magazine.

'Isn't it accepted now that there are "two" ways of thinking about Jesus: the historical Jesus of Nazareth about whom we really "know" very little;'

My point is that it is not accepted that we know very little about the historical Jesus, hence the fact that people continue to write substantial books about the 'historical Jesus'.

kind regards

Tim
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 20:54

I actually envy both you and nordmann, Tim, or rather I envy how you both are able to argue your points of view with such utter conviction. You two never seem to doubt yourselves - ever. I am rarely so convinced about things - and especially not when trying to talk about God, the Bible and the rest. The questioning never ceases.

But I struggle on, in my own particular way.

It distresses me that I am obviously reading all the wrong books. But then I always did. (Reading Karen Armstrong's Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence at the moment - you must have heard of her? Someone - a convinced Christian - told me she was "mad", but that is not how she strikes me. I think she is a very clever woman.)

Best that I shut up now. I keep saying that, but I must try to mean it this time.

Thank you for your kind regards. I shall run along now. Smile
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 22:19

Temperance you will be delighted to know that not only have I heard of Karen Armstrong but I have read 'The Case for God' in which she finds 'new atheists' "disappointingly shallow".  It is also a very appropriate book to bring up under this thread as in it she points out in it that the 'classic account' of Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford Debate was without any supporting contemporary evidence.  I did not find her 'mad', by the way.

sleep well

Tim
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