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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #230

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/4/2009

Abbie's video, funny or not, a UFO hoax, KKK spoor, a giant "it," old-school Bush, an open mind, interrupting Jesus and more!

Week ending April 04, 2009 (Vol 6, #12)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Abbie ‘ERV’ Smith to debate YEC Charles Jackson - And Abbie has now posted the video.

Funny depending on how you see it - So is a train wreck or a suicide bombing.

The Great UFO Hoax of 2009 - The year has barely started, there might be a greater one, later.

The legacy of the Klan - It isn’t clean linen.

Like PZ, I’d pay to see it, too! - But… what is it?

Reminds me of Bush 41 - Yeah, it sorta does, doesn’t it?

Editor’s Choice: Open-mindedness - But not so open…

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Jesus is just alright with him,” by Gary Kamiya for This is a fascinating interview with biblical scholar and author, Bart Ehrman, whose book, Jesus, Interrupted (see below), is the latest in a series of books that take a close, scholarly look at the problems with the Bible, and serves to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the biblical literalist view of the inerrancy of the Bible, a view that Ehrman once held himself. Interestingly, what he presents to us in his books are not really controversial ideas among biblical scholars, whether believers or not. Biblical literalists, on the other hand, reject the scholarly view, while others are simply unaware of what it is.
…Ehrman is hard to categorize. He’s a bomb-throwing moderate, a non-dogmatic rationalist. Unlike outspoken critics of religion such as Sam Harris, he does not regard organized religion as dangerous, nor does he claim that any rational person of intellectual integrity must embrace the same conclusions he does. He insists that he is not out to convert anyone, and has nothing but respect for his fellow scholars who know the same historical things he does about the Bible, yet continue to be devout Christians.

At the same time, it’s hard not to feel that Ehrman shares some of the irreverent glee, and maybe subversive purpose, of Mark Twain, who sent up literalist Christian belief in hilarious stories like “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.” There’s something delicious (for non-believers, anyway) about the implacable, dispassionate way that Ehrman reveals how the supposedly “divine truth” of Christianity was historically constructed.

Ehrman is a true agnostic. He’s sophisticated enough to realize that the realms of rationality and faith may be separate, and he’s respectful of the idea of the ineffable. But he himself does not believe in it, and his practice is thoroughly rational. For some of his most brilliant religious friends, Ehrman notes in “God’s Problem,” “religious faith is not an intellectualizing system for explaining everything. Faith is a mystery and an experience of the divine in the world, not a solution to a set of problems.” Ehrman’s comment: “I respect this view deeply and some days I wish that I shared it. But I don’t.”

I reached Ehrman by telephone at his home in Chapel Hill. In conversation, he was affable, thoughtful and unpretentious. I made a conscious decision to steer our conversation away from the specific scholarly arguments he makes in his books and toward his own views of faith and rationality. For me, as someone who regards religions that contain supernatural beliefs as culturally sanctioned superstitions, the idea that the Bible is a document written by non-divinely inspired humans, and that a first-century Palestinian Jew named Jesus was not the son of God, are truisms. I was more interested in Ehrman’s thoughts about whether one can reject supernatural beliefs and still be a Christian, and the larger relationship between reason and religion.
Read on.

The improver of natural science absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.
— Thomas Henry Huxley

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Though it was April first, no pranks were tried during chat. I suppose Kil’s failed attempt made everyone doubt any prank could be successful. Chat started with forum talk about the Skepticality boards, and the trustworthiness of doctors and medical researchers. This evolved into Medicare reform and politics in general. Special attention was payed to Glenn Beck and his statements about 9/11 victims’ families. It was at this point a new person, Eli, joined chat. He was self-proclaimed psychic, though he couldn’t guess what chatter qwints was drinking. Eli wanted to argue about psychics, but when chatters would not give up their conversation about cheese he got frustrated and left. After this, topics ranged from the NCAA basketball tournament, higher education, and a YouTube April Fools joke.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
Ethel Biscuit

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Dolphins Play with Bubble Rings

Genesis, the R. Crumb Version

The Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Research and nonsense: which is news?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #102

Theo Jansen: The art of creating creatures

What’s New by Bob Park

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them), by Bart D. Ehrman.

“Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman’s New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches — and it’s not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:
  • The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works
  • The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
  • Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
  • Established Christian doctrines — such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity — were the inventions of still later theologians
These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for — a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  2. Beelzebufo ampinga
  3. A half of a wing & a piece of a prayer
  4. Reminds me of Bush 41
  5. Possum on the half shell
  6. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  7. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  8. From Javier, the xian concept of ‘morality’
  9. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  10. Burned out
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Skeptic Summary #152
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. The PQ Test
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  9. Cold Reading
  10. Scientific Truth
There were 8,811 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  2. Possum on the half shell
  3. Beelzebufo ampinga
  4. A half of a wing & a piece of a prayer
  5. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  6. Art or oxygen theft?
  7. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  8. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  9. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  10. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean
  11. Why do Republicans hate the poor?
  12. Funny FAILS
  13. Are skepticism and Buddhism compatible?
  14. Crop circles again…
  15. Parody Chick tract, ‘Myths, Lies and Miss Hinn’
  16. SFN 2009 Psychic Contest, Enter by Feb1, 2009!
  17. Guantanamo detainees say they planned Sept. 11
  18. Unknown ancient geometry
  19. Obama to restore stem cell funding
  20. The Beatles, exposed!
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Skeptic Summary #152
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Miracle Thaw Tray
  7. Scientific Truth
  8. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  9. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  10. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  11. Cold Reading
  12. Evolution is a Lie
  13. Evidence Cited as Hard Proof of the Existence of Satanic Cults
  14. Quantum Age Water
  15. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  16. Calorad
  17. The Bible Answer Man
  18. Questioning the Validity of False Memory Syndrome
  19. The Laundry Solution
  20. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
There were 48,005 daily visitors in March, 2009.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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