Mod+ 249. TIM FREKE ON SOUL CRUSHING SCIENCE

#21
As long as Freke stayed on spiritual matters, I liked much of what he had to say. I find it hard to argue with someone who says that it all comes down to love. That's a message I'd like to hear more often.

However, when he talks about Jesus, the credibility floor just falls out from under him. I've had an avid interest in the historical Jesus for 25 years, including writing an invited chapter for a scholarly anthology on the subject. And it's very much like listening to skeptics who tell you there's nothing to NDEs. If you don't know the field, and you rely on them to paint the picture for you, you watch this apparently amazing phenomenon disintegrate and vanish right before your eyes. Until you think, "You know, I really wanted there to be something there, but I've just heard the evidence and I guess there just isn't." But when you actually know the field yourself, you realize this person is simply a terrific communicator who is doing nothing more than weaving together colorful threads of smoke. And the more they talk, and the more they speak to the opposite position, the more completely they lose credibility.

Listening to Tim Freke talk about Jesus was a very similar experience to listening to Susan Blackmore talk about NDEs. Glib, articulate, with the evidence at his fingertips; everything seems to come effortlessly together--until you know the field yourself. One small example: he says that no one has an answer for the fact that the earliest writings we have in Christianity are the letters of Paul and "None of them tell anything about Jesus." That is objectively false. Paul does focus on Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, that's true, but not as mythic events. He tells us that Jesus was crucified, was buried, was raised on the third day, and then appeared to a list of people, whom Paul then lists. In other words, the crucifixion and resurrection are described as historical events. Paul tells us the story of the last supper, which happened on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. He reports a couple sayings of Jesus (maybe more), one about giving and receiving and one about divorce. And he tells us about going to Jerusalem where he met with Jesus' brother James and Jesus' disciple Peter. To cite Paul as evidence that there was no Jesus is a remarkable move, because unless Paul is lying, then his writings do precisely the opposite: they leave no room for anything but that there was a Jesus.

Alex, I wish you could get a real Jesus scholar on the show. The field is a bit of a mess, I admit, and is really crippled, in my view, by naturalistic biases, as well as (with many scholars) traditional religious biases. But the mythicists you've been interviewing are much worse. Their work is even more completely under the sway of their biases. If you wanted to try to get a credentialed Jesus scholar on the show, I could ask around. Just let me know.
 
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#22
I was really glad I listened to this interview. I had a bit of an epiphany when Tim was talking about the word "both." Right. The answer isn't in the absolute or in the relative. It's both. And then I started thinking about the words that we use to describe the unitary aspect of reality. We always use words like absolute, unlimited, transcendent, ultimate. We talk about the true nature of reality. But those words already carry so much baggage with them that they kind of loom over the relative. But they needn't. Both are what they are. Both feels dualistic, but I can work through that.
I, too, resonated with what Tim had to say on this.

On a related note, I think all the science/religion/consciousness debates would be a lot friendlier and more interesting if we got better at living with cognitive dissonance. We want so badly to make sense of the world in some ultimate, final way that we tend to think we've arrived at a theory of everything when we really haven't. We're able to sustain this illusion by sweeping under the carpet any evidence or experience that doesn't concur with our theory, and that alienates us from people who are still taking that evidence seriously. What if we could hold our theories more loosely and be willing to accept that, good as they seem at explaining a lot of the world, there are still phenomena out there that remain puzzling or downright contradictory to it? Maybe we're not built to hold those kinds of contradictions in our minds, but I feel like it's something I'm trying to learn how to do.
 
C

chuck.drake

#23
That is a point of view. But it isn't a complete one. There has been a prolonged media campaign, from many directions, both inside and outside Ukraine, which affects both the situation itself, as well as the many ways in which it can be assessed. It isn't realistic to think there is a single "correct" interpretation.
That's my point. Even seemingly small, self-contained events have innumerable moving parts. Reporting is largely based on interviews, which throws a huge monkey wrench into it. I think in the end we can form opinions, but true knowing of anything outside of direct experience is unlikely.
 
#24
I, too, resonated with what Tim had to say on this.

On a related note, I think all the science/religion/consciousness debates would be a lot friendlier and more interesting if we got better at living with cognitive dissonance. We want so badly to make sense of the world in some ultimate, final way that we tend to think we've arrived at a theory of everything when we really haven't. We're able to sustain this illusion by sweeping under the carpet any evidence or experience that doesn't concur with our theory, and that alienates us from people who are still taking that evidence seriously. What if we could hold our theories more loosely and be willing to accept that, good as they seem at explaining a lot of the world, there are still phenomena out there that remain puzzling or downright contradictory to it? Maybe we're not built to hold those kinds of contradictions in our minds, but I feel like it's something I'm trying to learn how to do.
One problem I see is that many people have experiences that prove to them that ESP and the afterlife are real. However other people, including some scientists, make a profession of writing books and giving lectures where they say that such experiencers are self-deluded fools who can't tell reality from fantasy. There are even internet forums and blogs entirely dedicated to spreading this calumny. This causes a lot of problems for experiencers who may be given mind-numbing drugs they don't need, or put in a psychiatric facility when they are not mentally ill, or children may be punished for telling "lies", or they may be ostracized at school. People who have NDEs who are told their experience was not real are less likely to discuss their experience, but those experiences can be transforming and people need to be able to talk about them to come to tems with their experience. By denying the reality of these types of experiences, the pseudo-skeptics are harming experiencers and preventing people who may be having a traumatic time from getting access to reliable information about their experiences.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-harm-caused-by-pseudoskepticism.html
 
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#25
That is a point of view. But it isn't a complete one. There has been a prolonged media campaign, from many directions, both inside and outside Ukraine, which affects both the situation itself, as well as the many ways in which it can be assessed. It isn't realistic to think there is a single "correct" interpretation.
Who said it was complete! What I was pointing out, was that the standard position that Russia wanted to regain its empire was cartoonish. There is, as you say, a lot of complexity there.

David
 

Alex

Administrator
#26
Very interesting interview, and I loved his starting point; looking at life, and asking what this really is.

When he started talking about Jesus, he made some clearly false statements however, so he lost some credibility there.



Wow. All the letters of Paul in the NT (authentic or not) talk about Jesus.

Here are the letters he is referring to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Pauline_epistles#Undisputed_epistles
  • Romans: Jesus is mentioned on nearly every page, in a very non-gnostic way ("God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" etc).
  • First Corinthians: Again, Jesus on every page
  • Second Corinthians: Same
  • Galatians: More than once per page
  • Philippians: Extremely Jesus focused
  • First Thessalonians: Jesus on every. single. page.
  • Philemon: Just a one pager, but still 8 mentions :)

When Tim says: ".. the authentic letters of Paul ... None of them tell anything about Jesus", he is at best being misleading.

Perhaps he meant to add FUNDAMENTALIST Jesus, but he didn't. Surely, those letters refer to Jesus as an historical figure.
interesting. I don't really know a lot about Tim's earlier books on Jesus. I hope you dig into this a bit and report back.

I was trying to get at Tim's idea that, "Jesus never existed." I think it's one thing to say that the whole story has been hijacked for politics/power, it's another to make this claim. one of the reasons I think otherwise: http://www.amazon.com/James-Brother-Jesus-Unlocking-Christianity/dp/014025773X
 

Alex

Administrator
#27
Alex, I wish you could get a real Jesus scholar on the show. The field is a bit of a mess, I admit, and is really crippled, in my view, by naturalistic biases, as well as (with many scholars) traditional religious biases. But the mythicists you've been interviewing are much worse. Their work is even more completely under the sway of their biases. If you wanted to try to get a credentialed Jesus scholar on the show, I could ask around. Just let me know.
would love to... pls give it a try... but I'm not sure it's going to play out the way you think. Bart Ehrman and Robert Eisenman have all the credentials you could want and they don't support your position. I think Eisenman makes a strong case that we should focus on James (brother of Jesus) if we want to understand what was really going on: http://www.amazon.com/James-Brother-Jesus-Unlocking-Christianity/dp/014025773X

one more thing... I will be really surprised if you find anyone willing to engage in this debate. most of these guys are mirror images of the atheists I've talked to... all hat and no saddle.
 
#28
would love to... pls give it a try... but I'm not sure it's going to play out the way you think. Bart Ehrman and Robert Eisenman have all the credentials you could want and they don't support your position. I think Eisenman makes a strong case that we should focus on James (brother of Jesus) if we want to understand what was really going on: http://www.amazon.com/James-Brother-Jesus-Unlocking-Christianity/dp/014025773X

one more thing... I will be really surprised if you find anyone willing to engage in this debate. most of these guys are mirror images of the atheists I've talked to... all hat and no saddle.
"All hat and no saddle"--I never heard that one! OK, I'll do some fishing around. What sort of topic should I throw out to them? Did Jesus exist? What can we know for relatively certain about him? Or something else?
 
#29
Tim Freke: And by not noticing that he has therefore made a philosophy the truth, whereas actually it’s an interpretation of certain evidence and ideas. In conflating the two, he’s both destroyed science and philosophy.

Alex Tsakiris: Yes, yes, well said.
Destroyed? That's a bit harsh, don't you think? :)
 
#30
Who said it was complete! What I was pointing out, was that the standard position that Russia wanted to regain its empire was cartoonish. There is, as you say, a lot of complexity there.

David
Obviously I missed your point. I considered (rightly or wrongly) that your post was simply an illustration of a standard position. No offence intended.

This is a situation which resonates for me as I have roots in Ukraine, but I don't claim any special knowledge or insight here, only pain at seeing things progress this way.
 
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#31
The problem with this view is the seeming impossibility of really knowing anything other than our direct experience. We have been around the horn on this forum with global warming, natural selection, UFOs, mediumship, and on and on. Take any well reported series of events like what happened in the Ukraine this last year and try to really understand what happened. Take global warming (although I hate to even use those words on the forum). So much data. Both sides are balls to the wall positive that they've got it right.

So I agree that we shouldn't take a rigid stance and we should doubt and do research. But how do we know when we really know something?
I don't want to go down the AGW rabbit hole again, but just one point: the two sides aren't about substantive issues such as whether warming has occurred or whether there might be some anthropogenic contribution to that. At the recent ICCC9 conference, 100% of all the sceptics present agreed with that. The real contentious issue is whether it's a problem: whether apocalypticism is warranted. Actually, many mainstream scientists in the IPCC aren't on board with that.

The lesson is, that the scientific establishment is FUBAR, and the situation is such that, as I said previously, rank-and-file scientists daren't rock the boat if they want to get tenure, put bread on the table and all the rest. Until the establishment is reformed so that it becomes respectable to hold certain views, even if politically incorrect, we're headed down the plughole. They say that science and religion don't mix; but it's as much that science and politics don't mix, especially when demagogues who understand sod all about science are in the driving seat.
 
#33
Alex-

Super interview. Wish I heard more about Tim's Retreat and the fantastic things that are apparently going on there.

My personal view on Jesus is- I couldn't care less if he was real or a fictional character.

If he was real and if all the stories are true I find it quite odd that so many of the amazing aspects of his life (virgin mother, died on cross, and resurrected in 3 days,,,) also happened to someone else hundreds of years before he was born. Which all points me back to the mythology explanation of his life.

Again, I personally don't really care whether he really lived, so definately wouldn't spend an hour listening to an expert talk about whether his old documents/translations are more convincing than someone else's old documents/translations. In the end it all sounds like a waste of time that won't convince anyone with strong feelings either way.
 

Alex

Administrator
#34
"All hat and no saddle"--I never heard that one! OK, I'll do some fishing around. What sort of topic should I throw out to them? Did Jesus exist? What can we know for relatively certain about him? Or something else?
that's what you get from spending a decade in Texas :)

I don't know how these guys can overcome:
- http://www.amazon.com/James-Brother-Jesus-Unlocking-Christianity/dp/014025773X
and
- http://www.amazon.com/Caesars-Messiah-Conspiracy-Flavian-Signature/dp/1461096405/ (sticking to just the basics... i.e. parallels between Josephus and the NT)
 

Alex

Administrator
#35
My personal view on Jesus is- I couldn't care less if he was real or a fictional character.
I get the general sentiment... I mean, the historical Jesus doesn't matter... then again, it matters from a "how we don't know but think we know" standpoint. the big mystery to me is why Christ consciousness seems to be real even thought the Jesus myth isn't.
 

Alex

Administrator
#36
I don't want to go down the AGW rabbit hole again, but just one point: the two sides aren't about substantive issues such as whether warming has occurred or whether there might be some anthropogenic contribution to that. At the recent ICCC9 conference, 100% of all the sceptics present agreed with that. The real contentious issue is whether it's a problem: whether apocalypticism is warranted. Actually, many mainstream scientists in the IPCC aren't on board with that.

The lesson is, that the scientific establishment is FUBAR, and the situation is such that, as I said previously, rank-and-file scientists daren't rock the boat if they want to get tenure, put bread on the table and all the rest. Until the establishment is reformed so that it becomes respectable to hold certain views, even if politically incorrect, we're headed down the plughole. They say that science and religion don't mix; but it's as much that science and politics don't mix, especially when demagogues who understand sod all about science are in the driving seat.
well said! would love to have a discussion on AGW that stays focused on this issue... the fact that we can't says as much about science-as-we-know-it as anything.
 
#37
well said! would love to have a discussion on AGW that stays focused on this issue... the fact that we can't says as much about science-as-we-know-it as anything.
Have you considered interviewing Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, who has now become a sceptic? I suspect you'd be able to focus a discussion where you want. A video of his presentation at ICCC9 can be found here:

http://climateconference.heartland.org/

Scroll down till you see the video frame. His piece is listed in the fourth box down to the the right of that. Just click to see the video.

Prof. Judith Curry is another suggestion: an extremely sharp lady and climate scientist who could be characterised as a lukewarmer.

Mind you, I don't think either of them would be much interested in psi/spirituality, so it would need to remain focused on the issues with science.
 
#38
Very interesting interview, and I loved his starting point; looking at life, and asking what this really is.
When he started talking about Jesus, he made some clearly false statements however, so he lost some credibility there.
Wow. All the letters of Paul in the NT (authentic or not) talk about Jesus.
Here are the letters he is referring to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Pauline_epistles#Undisputed_epistles
  • Romans: Jesus is mentioned on nearly every page, in a very non-gnostic way ("God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" etc).
  • First Corinthians: Again, Jesus on every page
  • Second Corinthians: Same
  • Galatians: More than once per page
  • Philippians: Extremely Jesus focused
  • First Thessalonians: Jesus on every. single. page.
  • Philemon: Just a one pager, but still 8 mentions :)
When Tim says: ".. the authentic letters of Paul ... None of them tell anything about Jesus", he is at best being misleading.
Perhaps he meant to add FUNDAMENTALIST Jesus, but he didn't. Surely, those letters refer to Jesus as an historical figure.
IMO, the issue of Jesus of Nazareth, others have labeled the Christ, has become a hyperbolic false dichotomy. Either Jesus of Nazareth was real, the Christ, validated by his parthenogenesis birth, had super natural abilities, died, but was risen from the dead, and floated off to the Kingdom of GOD or he never existed.

Or...are there alternatives?

If you're going to engage the issue, I think you need to clarify your position. There has to be an understood level playing ground to move a conversation forward or what's the point?
 
#40
Tim Freke examines the absurdity of science-as-we-know-it.
Hmm . .

- Although I happen to align with many of the positions expressed in the interview, TBH it wasn't so much "Freke examining" as Tsakiris nudging Freke in various directions. Almost every "question" is like "leading the witness." I almost felt that if Tsakiris said "Don't you just love that shade of blue", Freke would have waxed eloquently about what a lovely shade it was indeed.

- On Jesus. Most scholars of antiquity whether Christian or not agree that Jesus did exist, that he was baptized by John the Baptist and executed by order of Pontius Pilate. The idea that his existence is a myth seems to still be held only by those who have a vested interest in that view. Usually those who have certain spiritual philosophies. It seems unlikely that a "minor figure" would come to the attention of Pilate. At the very least, he must have been capable of gaining the attention of a crowd and must have been preaching things that the authorities found untenable.

- On Jesus Part 2. It is amusing to me that so many who claim they have moved beyond a materialist view still seem to treat the things ascribed to Jesus as obviously myth - an approach of "duh, no one can do that." Yet what Jesus did is very possible. To put it another way - we all have such abilities - though few of us will access them. And interestingly the point made in the teachings is precisely that. The Romans did a good job in re-purposing the teachings to create a religion formulated around worshiping Jesus rather than one about each individual finding their way to the "kingdom of God within."
 
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