Monday, 30 May 2011

Hit and Myth

R. Joseph Hoffmann has been making a lot of news in the blogosphere recently, through his intemperate attacks on gnu atheists - consider this comment highlighted by Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels:
There are no butterflies there [at B&W] anymore just gasbags like the seminally under-qualified Eric McDonald and clowns like PZ Myers, who could benefit from a reading comprehension course with an emphasis on analogies.
Calling Eric Macdonald 'seminally under-qualified' is indicative of a critical faculty that has become unhinged, and now Richard Carrier has cause to question Hoffmann's sanity:
But in private conversations about some of the problems I had with the book, Hoffmann was a complete dick to me, and wouldn't own up even to the mistakes I had actual proof he had made.
Thereby tempting me to conclude that he [Hoffmann] must be a lunatic.
This all comes in an analysis of Hoffman's book, Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth. Sadly Hoffmann also supports the view of Jacques Berlinerblau that new atheists think that:
Unless you as an atheist are willing to disparage all religious people, describe them all as imbeciles and creeps, mock every text and thinker they have ever produced, then you must be some sort of deluded, self-hating, sellout, subverting the rise of the Mighty Atheist Political Juggernaut...
A straw man of dickish proportions, to be sure. I don't know what's happened to RJH, but it's worth reading about Carrier's concerns for his editorial skills. Despite that, the book's still worth purchasing, apparently!

UPDATE: Hoffmann has replied to Carrier's criticism, including this paragraph:
Hoffmann, probably
I am still not sure what “mistakes” he’s referring to other than his own, which were as substantial as his contribution was irrelevant, a long discursus on Bayes’ theorem that never once budges above pedantic lecturing to engage the literary material – the New Testament – to which its application is implied to be relevant. A cautious, or less sympathetic editor would have cut it eo ipso as being totally to the left of the topic, though Carrier shows a fleeting acquaintance with some of the methods (and limits) of conventional New Testament criticism. It does not rise to the level of convincing expertise.
One wonders why he included Carrier's chapter, in that case! He displays little sympathy, so maybe he was just being incautious.

And Carrier's reply.


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