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Category : Politics + Religion

So I thought I would tackle this one. To be upfront I will “vote” yes in the survey, but I’m about to make a pretty compelling argument for the “No” case. And one that frankly isn’t being made but is by far their most legitimate argument that is free from secondary concerns like the bullying tactics of the far-left advocates. Let me also say that I think it’s a mistake for the “Yes” side to assume that Marriage is an intrinsic right that “of course” gays should be entitled to… it is in fact not that at all, it’s a made up human institution. And if we figure out why it has value as an institution we can also figure out why there is actually a pretty good reason to be opposed to same-sex marriage.

So let me start by asking this: why not just de-legislate marriage altogether? Then everyone can simply register and dissolve legal civil unions whenever they wish, but Marriage will become a completely civil institution held up by whatever organised groups wish to do so, free from government interference. After all marriage began as a non-legislated social institution.

Why we don’t do that is because it is harder to dissolve a marriage than a civil union. Marriage encourages people to stick together through thick and thin rather than dissolve their relationships at any moment. Now at first this may not seem important, but it is. Break-ups of long-term relationships are difficult, expensive, and messy. Often harmful to children. Although sometimes they are necessary, often they are not. So the real purpose of Marriage for government is to encourage married couples to stay together. It’s good for the economy, keeps people out of courts, no need for messy child support payments or court-determined split custody arrangements.

We would still have all this if marriage is a civil institution. However, as a civil institution people’s rights were foregone in favour of religiously flavoured ideologies. The ancient Jews for example did not permit women to get divorces. The Christians did not recognise spousal abuse as a legitimate reason for a divorce. In the end it is the courts who are charged with upholding people’s rights, and they can’t enforce these rights on non-legislated institutions… so de-legislating marriage would end up putting these decisions back into the hands of organisations that have been shown not to upload people’s rights above ideology.

It’s difficult to see how same-sex marriage will strengthen the institution of Marriage. We have, about, a 50% divorce rate. Now true, a lot of those are after children are grown up, so the main costs to the courts are property disputes. But it is more in our interests to be concerned with ways to strengthen the institution, rather than ways to open it up to greater “flexibility”. The “Yes” side is calling the campaign “marriage equality” – but it’s not that. It doesn’t confer rights to polygamous relationships for example. And even though polygamy may not be compatible with social ideals, how is it fair in those relationships that the first wife has all the legal rights and subsequent “wives” have none? Tackling the inequality in people’s rights goes well beyond simply allowing same-sex couples to get married.

The social justice warriors (SJWs) have already begun their bullying tactics. Given how closely tied they are to the “Yes” campaign I do fear for how they will negatively impact upon this survey. The claim being made by the “Yes” side is that same sex couples need marriage for their relationships to have the same “validity” as heterosexual couples. Well many heterosexual couples choose not to marry – is the claim that their relationships have no legitimacy either? The stigma surrounding people who live out of wedlock should be addressed, but more importantly it shouldn’t be the case that marriage confers “legitimacy” that is not otherwise there. Rather, marriage is a seal that is harder to break than a de-facto relationship. Allowing same-sex marriage could in fact be detrimental to getting “equal rights” to those in de-facto relationships. I don’t mean equal rights in property disputes, but equal rights to be legal next of kin, legal parental rights in the event of a break-up, and legal treatment as a couple in hospital situations. In reality, it is very possible that SSM will set back people in de-facto relationships from being conferred the rights that they deserve.

I also have concerns that silent voters will not receive the opportunity to return a survey form. Despite the ABS claiming they will, I have seen no evidence that they have a plan in place to get survey forms to voters with no fixed address or are homeless. They only have a plan in place to send forms to silent voters who have an address they know that isn’t listed on the electoral roll.

And finally, of course, I think the whole idea of a postal survey is absurd. That’s not to say I disagree with holding a plebiscite – a plebiscite would have been perfectly acceptable. Other countries hold them all the time – the UK held one for Brexit for example. But I don’t think a non-compulsory survey will have any legitimacy unless it gets an 80%+ response rate, which I very much doubt it will. If there’s a response rate any lower than that, no matter which side is the victor I would say it has no legitimacy. But that’s me, and I’m not a parliamentarian, so if you want the parliament to listen to your side you have to get out there and return a “Yes” or a “No” response to the survey question – which response is up to you, but base it on what you believe is fair, and whether you think same-sex couples should be included in marriage or not.

You may be wondering why I think marriage should include same-sex couples – well I actually don’t. I think it should include whomever society feels it should, and my vote would be for inclusion, so I will respond “Yes” to the ABS survey. Marriage in all of its various forms around the world all grew out of social norms as a social institution reflective of the values and beliefs of those societies. So if there was a plebiscite (a compulsory attendance plebiscite, not a postal vote) and the result was for “No” I would personally be fine with that. I think it should change to include same-sex couples when society wants it to. But in the meantime, no matter what the outcome, there are real issues to do with discrimination and the rights of partners that are not yet equal to the rights of marriage, and I think it’s really important to address those rights first and foremost. And to strengthen the institution of marriage, whilst also making sure we cater for the vulnerable in society (domestic violence victims, etc). Our present laws are out of date, archaic, reflective of past beliefs not based on evidence, and do not favour those who are in an “at-fault” situation. People currently abuse the system we have at the moment, and our divorce laws (in particular the at-fault ones) need a complete overhaul from the ground-up to fix it.

One lie perpetrated by Evangelicals is that we atheists can’t explain what happened to the body of Jesus after he was crucified. We actually don’t know what happened, and don’t claim to know, but can put forward a number of different options all of which enjoy scholarly support. In addition I have formed a new hypothesis over how the resurrection myth started.

Why is this important, does it matter?

I think the brutal attacks from fundamentalists on both extremes go to show why it is. Fundamentalists, whether theists or atheists, have a narrow closed-minded perception of reality, with a dogmatic view that their beliefs are without any error and anyone who disagrees is stupid. And they are the ones that have in my experience used this question as a personal attack on my intelligence, or on the intelligence of others. Often claiming that it’s not worth consideration. Well, there are several academic disciplines of study that disagree. Saying that it’s stupid is no different to saying that studying science or philosophy is a complete waste of time. In fact I now believe that children should be taught in schools about all the major religions – not indoctrinated, but taught about their beliefs, their histories, their creeds, their ceremonies, their requirements, their texts, and their religious leaders. That is how we advance – through education. Religion is a natural phenomena of the world, just like language is, and culture, and social structures. We find language and social structures in animals as well. Mindlessly attacking people’s religions is about as intelligent as mindlessly attacking their culture or language.

I have been looking into piecing together what happened in the first century after Jesus died for the last 5 years. Since before I de-converted from Christianity.  It interests me, it may not interest anyone else, but I’ve already developed new and fresh ideas. I’m not claiming they’re unique, in fact I rather doubt it, but they are my ideas that I came up with independently.

Was Jesus crucified?

It is fair to ask whether Jesus was even crucified at all. Perhaps he fled to India as some believe, or perhaps he was executed through a less public spectacle such as beheading. On this I am happy to take the New Testament accounts. For two reasons, the most important of which is the fact that it formed the basis of early Christian theological thought right from the very start as evidenced in the Pauline epistles, the gospels and other early Christian books and writings. Many scholars have pointed out the difficulty in explaining the origin of such a mythology if it had no historical basis. But look, with that said they struggle to explain the origins of many other mythologies also that are not believed to have a historical basis either. Most historians agree that if Jesus was killed through a less humiliating method then that narrative would have survived, and if he had not died that he would have continued peaching for which there is no evidence.

Was Jesus buried?

I honestly don’t know. What I can say for certain is that scholars can trace the belief that he was buried right back to the 30’s AD. It’s important as it serves the basis for early Christian theology. But that the early apostles believed it to have happened of course doesn’t prove it for certain, just as their belief that Jesus had been risen to the heavens isn’t proven but was also an important early theological belief. The difference between the two is that one is a claim to the natural world, and the other the supernatural. Supernatural claims don’t require ordinary terrestrial evidence.

But what is the evidence? The synoptic gospels make it clear that the disciples abandon Jesus before he’s strung up to die – so they weren’t there to witness his anguish, or his death, or his burial. The earliest accounts that are given (particularly Mark, but also Acts and Luke) say that the Jews buried Jesus.

You may have read the claim that Bart Ehrman makes that Jesus would have been left to rot on the cross and not buried. I doubt he’s the only scholar that thinks that way. It’s certainly possible that Jesus was left on the cross and was not buried, and the literature reveals that possibility cannot be ruled out despite what the gospels claim. I suppose one good reason for this is the fact that it was known that some people chose suicide over crucifixion in the ancient world because they knew their bodies would be buried. There are several things however that makes this less likely: 1. If Jesus’ crime was seen by the Romans as being so bad as to refuse burial, why did they not persecute the disciples? The Romans appear to have been satisfied to execute only Jesus, and leave his followers alone. 2. Jewish culture would not have allowed the Jews to tolerate it, without at least protesting and requesting burial from the Roman authorities. 3. The earliest account of the Passion (Mark) is not that flattering to Jesus. For this I will draw on the teachings found in Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World by John Granger Cook…

Crucifixion was a slow, miserable, and utterly shameful way to die. Jesus of Nazareth did not wish to be crucified, and he certainly didn’t enjoy the experience. And in fact the Bible says as much as Jesus is said to let out a cry of dereliction “Eloi Eloi Lema Sabachthani”/ “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” Of course we don’t know that Jesus actually cried this out, in fact I rather doubt it for reasons that will become apparent. However the gospel writer did not attempt to insert any “song of victory” into Jesus’ misery on the cross, unlike modern Christian theology. And after Jesus died he was not even buried by his loved ones or given a decent burial, a fact pointed in the New Oxford Annotated Bible:

“Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council that had condemned Jesus (see 14.64), but like the scribe in 12.28–34, interested in the kingdom of God, asked for the body. Apparently eager to dispose of it before the sabbath, he wrapped it,and secured it in a rock tomb sealed with a heavy stone (cf. 16.3n), without even a gesture of proper burial rites.” (p.1823).

As the Biblical account of Jesus’ burial is so unflattering I find it difficult to believe it has no basis in reality. If you were going to make up a burial for your messiah, why not invent a proper burial?

Who buried Jesus?

I have had a hard time believing that a disciple buried Jesus. I hypothesised that the family of Jesus would have been far more likely to bury him than his disciples who fled from Jerusalem when he was arrested. But then I discovered something interesting, something very few Christians are even aware of (I certainly wasn’t), and that is that there are not four accounts of Jesus’ death and burial in the Bible, there is in fact a fifth in Acts 13:

“Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.” (Acts 13:27-29, NRSV)

Armed with this knowledge I delved deeper by reading some academic literature and considering the information in a new light. All the gospels claim that a man named Joseph of Arimathea claimed the corpse of Jesus from Pilate and then went and laid him into a stone-cut tomb. All the gospels agree that he was a “member of the council”. It’s only two gospels, Matthew and John that make the claim that he was a disciple. A claim that is almost certainly false for a number of obvious reasons, and if true would contradict the account in Acts completely.

Now, some Christians claim that the “they” in Acts 13:29 refers to a different group. To that I say, I have a difficult time believing that the author meant another group that he didn’t mention. And if that is the case, if it can be read that way, why is it that all English translations give the clear reading that the “they” are the Jews that brought Jesus to Pilate to have him killed? When all English translations read exactly the same way and you want to read it in a different way then you better have a pretty good piece of evidence to support your reading as the onus of proof is on you.

My hypothesis was that the family would be the most likely to bury someone who had been crucified. This hypothesis brought on problems however for Jesus’ burial. Nowhere in the gospels does it claim that the family of Jesus claimed the body. And if they had then the empty tomb myth could not have developed, at least not unchallenged.

So the conclusion is this – the Jews buried Jesus, just as the Bible claims they did. Probably not though in a nice stone-cut tomb as claimed though.

How did the empty tomb myth begin?

I have developed a new hypothesis. The disciples as we know fled before Jesus was crucified. They had no way of knowing how long it took for him to die, what he said on the cross, or where he was buried by the Jews. Furthermore, the family of Jesus did not know either, because if they were there then they would have been the ones to claim the body and bury it.

So here is what I think happened: Some of the disciples returned after Jesus had been crucified. It might only have been one disciple such as Peter, or it could even have been one of the women. They went and searched out his cross and found it empty. The body was gone. Not from the tomb, but from the cross. They then went and told the other disciples “the body is gone”. I don’t think they realised that the Jews had gone ahead and buried the body at that time, and by the time they did realise it they couldn’t find where it had been laid. For this reasons I doubt the narrative that a specific person named Joseph of Arimathea buried the body, because if they did know who buried it then they could have found the tomb/grave.

What about the resurrection myth?

This is actually rather easy to explain. Interestingly Evangelicals often claim that the disciples would not have believed without proof, and that therefore Christianity would not have started. Nonsense. These same Evangelical Christians believe that their loved ones are risen to the heavens after death with no empirical evidence. Belief in the afterlife does not now, and never has before, require proof. And that’s all that the resurrection started out as – the belief that Jesus had been risen to the heavens.

I think we can say pretty confidently that some of the disciples had visions of Jesus soon after his death. Again, Evangelicals claim this is evidence – it’s not. It happens. It’s perfectly normal that some people experience visions of deceased loved ones. Sometimes they’re extremely vivid and contain conversations.

Atheists often deny they have a specific world-view. I would contend that any strongly held world-view is prone to fundamentalist style beliefs. Whether it’s in history, science, religion, paranormal, health, or society. One prominent feature of fundamentalists is that they evaluate information under their own set of rules that are in conflict with best practise methods. I’m not trying to insult people by using the term fundamentalism, I just think it’s important we recognise dogmatic views for what they are. I’m also not an anti-religious atheist, I believe people should be free to practise their religions, but obviously not to impose their beliefs on others.

Defining fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is sometimes easy to identify, but difficult to define. Believing in creationism over evolution, and denying the holocaust are two prominent examples of fundamentalist beliefs. But I suspect that most of us have some fundamentalist beliefs, just not as obvious as those. Holocaust denial is very well supported (believe it or not) in the Islamic world – they have thousands of scholars who put forward this view. I was actually shocked to learn that, and I do think it raises legitimate questions over how much we can trust historians in general to determine facts about the past in an unbiased way. Although I would strongly caution my readers to believe a systemic problem amongst Islamic scholars in the Middle East would affect scholars in the Western world.

The key characteristic of any fundamentalist belief is that it is based on rules or knowledge that are not set or agreed upon by the experts in the relevant fields of study, and when confronted with this the belief is generally not affected. It’s a closed system that is not interested in information provided by the outside world. It’s often based on people’s instincts or on flawed logic. I can even give an example, I met a very nice and intelligent gentleman a while ago with a very fundamentalist belief that we are over-educating the population. I cited facts and evidence, and his response was “well my instincts disagree”. His belief is almost certainly tied to a strongly-held world view, and he’s not interested in what the evidence says.

The definition that I put forward therefore is one where there is a strongly held belief system tied to some kind of world-view that is resistant to change even when presented with overwhelming evidence that disproves the belief.

Denialism

Fundamentalist beliefs can be associated with denialist beliefs. A denialist belief is usually associated with an opposite fundamentalist belief – denying the theory of Evolution or science altogether in favour of creationism. Denying the validity of psychiatry as a science in favour of fundamentalist Scientologist beliefs. Denying the holocaust in favour of fringe outlier theories. Denying that HIV causes AIDS in favour of a fringe outlier theory. Denialism is most commonly associated with history and with science. With both fundamentalism and denialism, people will often not make use of the set of methods developed by the experts to test their theory, and instead use their own methods. Because of this, the historical data or the scientific data does not end up affecting fundamentalist and denialist beliefs.

Honourable example

I’ll start with an example well supported in the literature, which does not have any religious ties. I’m talking of course about the chiropractic theory of disease. This “theory” of disease puts forward the view that misalignments of the vertebra is the cause of all human ailments. It totally rejects germ theory and the associated modern biomedical theories of disease. This is called a fundamentalist belief in the peer review literature. Now it is true that many chiropractors have a “soft” view of the chiropractic theory of disease, where they believe that misaligned vertebra are one of many causes of disease along with bacteria, viruses, and other causes. That’s less denialist, but it’s still fundamentalist as every other modern practitioner rejects the chiropractic theory of disease. I should point out that believe it or not, there are even chiropractors that call themselves chiropractors but don’t believe the chiropractic theory of disease at all! I think that’s hugely unethical and is akin to psychics that know they aren’t psychic (which is all of them) but tell you they are anyway.

Now, does this mean that everyone that goes to a chiropractor is stupid? Well no, so long as they’re not using chiropractic medicine to replace best practise medicine, it’s not going to do any harm and you might get a placebo effect. Although I should say that I have an ethical problem with parents that gets this kind of treatment for a child.

Why is mythicism a fundamentalist belief?

Mythicism, the theory that Jesus didn’t exist as a historical person, is unquestionably a fundamentalist belief. It’s tied to the denialist view that historians are not competent in their assessments of history. Now this is a denialist view that I used to have as a Christian, and that view softened over time, and as atheist I now have the utmost respect for historians as professionals. They are no longer a threat to my world-view – but if your world-view is that Jesus did not exist as a historical person, then it is tied to a denialist view of associated academic professions. “Part of the problem may be an insufficient acquaintance with how historians work with the limited data available” (Larry Hurtado, 2012) … perhaps Larry, and that might be true of some mythicists, however for fundamentalists the historical data does not end up affecting their belief.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves of a few characteristics of fundamentalist and denialist beliefs. 1. They are internally logical when you’re in that bubble. 2. They are often socially constructed and linked to in-group beliefs. 3. Often linked to strongly held world-views including religious or political views. 4. They do not make use of set of methods that experts use to test their theories and determine truth. 5. There may be cognitive dissonance and epistemological leaps involved to reconcile facts about reality to fit within a person’s world-view. 6. Often based on instinct or logic. 7. There can be an overestimation or an underestimation of the quality and level of evidence that exists to support or disprove their belief. Put together this gives us a picture of why perfectly intelligent  people can believe seemingly irrational things.

Mythicism meets most of the criteria set in the previous paragraph. Most notably, mythicists refuse to use the set of tools that historians would ordinarily use to determine historicity of an ancient person or event – and this is true even of Richard Carrier which we will get to shortly. It also ignores the overwhelming academic consensus – just as there is scientific consensus that HIV is the cause of AIDS (despite the persistent outliers), there is academic consensus that Jesus was a historical person amongst scholars of the ancient world. And finally, they refuse to present credible evidence for their theory, and insist that the evidence used by historians isn’t valid.

Mythicists can be every bit as dogmatic as fundamentalist Christians, knowing with absolute certainty that they are “right”. They decide what they want to believe, and then ignore everything that disagrees with their belief, and chastise everyone who believes differently. That makes them fundamentalists.

Who are the mythicists scholars?

Mythicism is such an extreme example of a fundamentalist belief that it doesn’t enjoy the support of even a few hundred scholars: it enjoys the “support” (if you can call it that) of only about six, and that’s stretching it. Three of the mythicist scholars are Christians! Mythicists often mistakenly put forward the view that mythicist scholars are atheists as justification for their view, well I’ve got news for you guys: Thomas L Brodie and Thomas L Thompson are Roman Catholic theologians, scholars, and mythicists! What on earth are you guys going to say next – that I’m dishonest and made this up? No – read their bios, they both identify themselves as Christians, and Brodie is a priest. Tom Harpur who passed away this year was an ordained Anglican priest, journalist, theologian and scholar. He’s no longer living, so the third scholar I’m counting is of course Robert M Price.

Brodie is a well qualified and respected New Testament scholar. However, he has held his mythicist belief since before he studied to be a theologian and scholar. He puts forward the view that the gospels are patched together from existing Old Testament stories to create a new narrative, and his evidence are parallels that he identifies from the Old Testament. The methods that he used have been highly criticised by his peers including other mythicists as being wrong. Which isn’t surprising since those are the methods that convinced him before he studied to be a scholar, and goes right to the very hart of fundamentalism: that fundamentalists insist upon using their own questionable methods. He also flat-out denies all historical evidence for Jesus outside of the New Testament, and denies there was an oral tradition before the gospels. He believes Acts of the Apostles is a literary creation as well. His peers have pointed out that he lacks evidence to support his theory, and after 40 years you would think he could have come up with some decent evidence if it existed.

The late Tom Harpur put forward the view that the gospels were patched together from ancient pagan mythologies. I know, this is a direct contradiction of Brodie’s theory – contradicting each other’s theories is actually a common trait amongst mythicist scholars! Harpur was a fully qualified New Testament scholar, also well qualified in classics, and yes he held a teaching position. Harper claimed that the second or third century church forged all the scriptures, and then covered up all the evidence. The methods used in his investigation have been highly criticised by his peers. And like most other mythicists, other mythicists criticised his theory as well. Also, Egyptologists rejected his assertions that parts of the gospels were based on Egyptian etymology.

Thompson is a Old Testament scholar, and puts forward the view that Jesus is so enriched in mythology that he can’t be shown to have existed, at least not from the canonical gospels. Ehrman has criticised him for lacking expertise in New Testament studies. Thompson has not put forward a case regarding the remaining evidence outside of the gospels, which include the letters of Paul, Acts of the Apostles, the other New Testament writings, Annals by Tacitus, and Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus. Furthermore he denies that he believes Jesus not to have existed, his belief is what some people call “soft mythicism”.

The late Dorothy Milne Murdock was a questionably qualified classicist who put forward the view that Jesus and the gospels were based on Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other mythologies. Her website is still up if you wish to check. Her methods have been highly criticised by her peers, including Robert Price and Richard Carrier (two fellow mythicists). Ehrman found numerous factual errors and assertions made in her book and said “Mythicists of this ilk should not be surprised that their views are not taken seriously by real scholars, mentioned by experts in the field, or even read by them.” (Ehrman, 2012). She was also a conspiracy theorist. I say she was questionably qualified because while she had a bachelors degree in classics, she did not work as a professional historian or hold a teaching position. I only use her as an example of the questionably qualified “scholars”, I’m not going into greater detail of others such as Earl Doherty, as I don’t think they should be counted when discussing the number of active mythicist scholars.

The late George Albert Wells who died in January of this year was a professor of German and not a bible scholar. Wells has certainly been the single most influential mythicist of our generation, having written several books putting forward his position that Jesus did not exist. He is also the only mythicist worth taking seriously, given that he accrued support from other mythicist scholars. Wells was not a New Testament scholar, and (as is becoming the overarching theme) his peers criticised the methods that he used to obtain his conclusions. But in the 1990’s he rightly became convinced of the Q document hypothesis, and from then until the day he died he believed Jesus to be a historical person shifting to a being a “soft mythicist”. He changed his view when new information was brought to light that disproved his theory, which is what any good investigator should do.

Robert M Price describes himself as a Christian atheist. He’s a New Testament scholar, a former Baptist minister, a professor of textual criticism, and a theologian – he’s very well qualified. He is agnostic on the historicity of Jesus, claiming that the evidence is insufficient. A claim as already pointed out, rejected by all non-mythicist scholars of antiquity. Furthermore he rejects the authenticity of the Pauline epistles and is agnostic on the historicity of Paul of Tarsus, which even other mythicists like Carrier think is absurd. In arriving at his position Price either refuses to use or ignores whole methods commonly used in ancient studies. Price’s view that the “evidence is insufficient” is the one most often put forward by atheists who think that Jesus was not a real historical figure, despite the fact that he lacks the support of other mythicist scholars, and despite the fact mythicists usually go way further than his agnosticism when attempting to prosecute their fundamentalist argument.

Hector Avalos is “agnostic” on the historicity of Jesus. He’s a New Testament scholar, former Pentecostal preacher, and currently a professor of religious studies. Going on that article he wrote, he doesn’t seem to believe in textual criticism which is a textbook fundamentalist trait!! Textual criticism is how we know which books Paul really wrote, and whether or not there have been edits, such as 2 Corinthians which is believed to be a composite of Pauline letters rather than a single letter. His views are actually very similar to Robert Price, and like Price he says he’s agnostic on the historicity of Jesus. Which is surprising since in his actually published academic books he doesn’t challenge the historicity of Jesus. Unlike Price, he’s never denied that Paul of Tarsus was a historical first-century Apostle who wrote several letters including Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. Unlike Price he’s quite anti-religious.

Finally, there is Richard Carrier and Raphael Lataster. I know I said I wouldn’t discuss any further questionably qualified scholars, but given that Carrier is by far the loudest mythicist on the planet we can’t leave him out. Lataster is currently a PhD candidate and does hold a teaching position at the University of Sydney, making him somewhat qualified. Carrier is qualified in ancient history and classics, he’s an atheist, a Taoist, and has never held a teaching position. All Lataster’s books including the one he co-wrote with Carrier are self-published, and Carrier’s books are published with populist non-academic publishers a fact that has been widely pointed out by his critics. So I really don’t want to give the impression that they’re qualified on this – because they aren’t – but nevertheless Carrier is cited more than any other mythicist scholar by atheists who are on the mythicist bandwagon. I really don’t know why people take him seriously.

Anyway, I do want to be very specific here. Carrier uses something called the Bayes’ theorem to test the hypothesis that Jesus was historical, and then claims that it proves that the historicity of Jesus is improbable. No other historian of the ancient world uses the Bayes’ theorem, and every scholar who has bothered to comment on it has said the same thing: it’s not the right tool to test the historicity of ancient people! Let me repeat it, the Bayes’ theorem is not a valid historical method to test questions pertaining to historical people or events. Carrier also emphatically rejects the contemporary methods use by historians! Carrier has shown no interest in studying the mythicist theories put forward by others claiming that all other mythicist theories are wrong (source), and his theory has been strongly criticised by other mythicists who state that his “methods are terrible” (source). As pointed out in that link, not even considering the evidence and opinions put forward by others would be akin to a biologist coming up with his own theory of Evolution, all the while refusing to read or even acknowledge the work by Darwin and Mendel. Many of the “facts” he cites in support of his theory have been shown to be wrong, or based on a reading of ancient literature that is rejected by his peers in ancient history and classics.

So there you have it. All the major mythicists scholars. I would question whether we should count Avalos and Lataster in particular, so really there are just three or four qualified mythicist scholars depending on whether we count Carrier or not. As pointed out by Ehrman below, they are not seen as credible by the “real scholars”. It’s important to note that not all mythicist scholars are fundamentalists, although Carrier definitely is. And that Price, Brodie, and Thompson are all respected scholars. The mythicist argument commonly seen across the internet is purely a denialist and fundamentalist one: they won’t look at evidence, they aren’t interested in what the experts say, and they don’t care what are the right methods to use to solve these questions. Sure you can come up with a new method to assess evidence, and professionals do that, but what they don’t do is come up with a new method and simultaneously claim that all existing historical methods are wrong and that only their way of thinking can be trusted.

Are we done? I think we’re done.


Final word

Credits to Bart Ehrman, Larry Hurtado, and Michael Shermer, I used quite a lot of their original thoughts when researching this topic, as well as a lot of my own. This post took an unbelievable amount of time and research to write what is essentially on a topic not even worth discussing. I have undoubtedly made some errors in this post, so please fact check it for me and let me know if you notice anything that needs improvement.

And on that note I’ll quote Ehrman:

Transcript:

Q. “I can’t see evidence archaeology or history for historicity”.

A. “Yeah, well I do. That’s why I wrote the book. There is a lot of evidence. There is so much evidence that – I know in the crowds you all run with it’s commonly thought that Jesus did not exist. Let me tell you once you get outside of your conclave there is nobody who – this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity. It is not an issue. There is no scholar in any College, or University, in the Western World who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early Christianity, any related field who doubts that Jesus existed.

“Now, that is not evidence. That is not evidence. Just because everybody thinks so doesn’t make it evidence. But if you want to know about the theory of evolution versus the theory of creationism and every scholar in every reputable institution in the world thinks & believes in evolution, it may not be evidence but if you have a different opinion you better have a pretty good piece of evidence yourself.

“The reason for thinking that Jesus existed is because he is abundantly attested in early sources. That’s why. And I give the details in my book. Early and independent sources indicate certainly that Jesus existed. One author that we know about knew Jesus’s brother, and knew Jesus’s closest disciple Peter. He’s an eyewitness to both Jesus’s closest disciple and his brother.

“So, I’m sorry, I respect your disbelief but if you want to go where the evidence goes I think that atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mythicism because frankly it makes you look foolish to the outside world. If that’s what you’re going to believe you just look foolish. You are much better off going with historical evidence and arguing historically rather than coming up with the theory that Jesus didn’t exist.” – Bart Ehrman.


“The mythicist position is not seen as intellectually credible in my field (I’m using euphemisms here; you should see what most of my friends *actually* say about it….) – no one that I know personally (I know a *lot* of scholars of New Testament, early Christianity, and so on) takes it at *all* seriously as a viable historical perspective (this includes not just Christians but also Jews, agnostics, atheists – you name it), and my colleagues sometimes tell me that I’m simply providing the mythicists with precisely the credibility they’re looking for even by engaging them. It’s a good point, and I take it seriously.

“In that connection I should say that I can understand how someone who hasn’t spent years being trained in the history of early Christianity might have difficulty distinguishing between serious scholarship that is accepted by experts as being plausible (even when judged wrong) and the writings of others that, well, is not. But experts obviously don’t have that problem, and the mythicists simply are not seen as credible. They don’t like that, and they don’t like it when it someone points it out, but there it is.

“The other reason for staying out of the fray is that some of the mythicists are simply unpleasant human beings – mean-spirited, arrogant, ungenerous, and vicious. I just don’t enjoy having a back and forth with someone who wants to rip out my jugular. So, well, I don’t. (They also seem — to a person – to have endless time and boundless energy to argue point after point after point after point after point. I, alas, do not.)”Bart Ehrman.

Trump and Turnbull

Watch this:


Video: White House

I love this video. This video sums up everything that’s wrong with Turnbull. Here he is sitting across from one of the most ridiculous first-world State leaders in our generation, and he’s listening to him spew his bullshit. To bring my international readers up-to-speed, Turnbull is well educated, highly intelligent, and knows a lot about history. All the things Trump knows nothing about.

The expression on his face says everything. It says “I can’t believe I have to sit here and listen to this man’s bullshit… I’ll just smile and nod”. You can see he just wants to shake his head, roll his eyes and walk out. Grow some fucking balls Turnbull. The only reason that people aren’t going to lampoon you for being as blissfully uninformed as Trump is because we know you’re smarter than that – why not fucking tell Trump to his face when he spews out bullshit?

Trump: “We’ve been allies for 99 years”

Turnbull: “Yep”

Trump: “Can you imagine that? 99 years”

What the fuck Turnbull? Perhaps he was stunned by Trump’s blatant stupidity? We’ve been formal allies, counting the ANZUS Treaty as the start, for 65 years. And it’s an archaic outdated alliance anyway. More Australians have a negative view of the US than have a positive view. Because the US is a fucking inhumane disgrace of a country that practices the death penalty, criminalises prostitution, and has worse gun violence than any other first world country.

Trump: “Right now we have a failing healthcare … you have better healthcare than we do”

Well – maybe. I think it’s funny that people seem to claim to know whether one country’s healthcare system is “better” than another, and it’s really difficult to objectively measure. The World Health Organization last ranked countries in 2000 – that’s 17 years ago. What is true however, is that the US healthcare  system is grossly overpriced – the US spends greater than 18% of GDP on healthcare services, whereas the rest of the industrialised world spends 9-12%. I don’t see how you can possibly implement a universal healthcare system in the US in a single term of government and not expect to see a huge recession. Reducing healthcare spending from 18% to 12% would result in a lot of job losses, and also many doctors, surgeons, and nurses would have to face pay cuts and/or stagnant wages. That’s a reality because governments and insurers pay less for health services than private citizens do – and you can check that fact if you want. It’s similar in Australia with GPs that bulk-bill vs those that charge a consultation fee, except that in the US there are just many more health services. For example if you need heart surgery and you are covered by an insurance policy in the US, then the insurer will pay out a set amount to the hospital for the service. A private citizen however might be charged much more because he’ll be dealing with a surgeon that charges whatever he wants and doesn’t perform surgeries for insurance companies.

The issue in the US isn’t the quality per se of the healthcare, it’s the accessibility for essential health services, affordability, and the fact that people have to rely on insurance policies. The failure of the US health system is that it doesn’t cover everyone, and (prior to Obamacare) insurance companies didn’t have to cover “high risk patients” (those that had pre-existing health conditions), or could charge people with pre-existing health conditions more than people without. Obama of course lied when he claimed premiums wouldn’t go up – you can’t cover all the high-risk patents and expect premiums to stay the same!! Now, don’t get me wrong, the US absolutely should bring in universal healthcare. But it won’t be a purely straightforward process.

Anyway, Turnbull grow some fucking balls and tell the man that his healthcare plan is fucking atrocious.

Imam Shaikh Mohammad TawhidiThis is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while, it’s a direct follow-on to my 2010 post Hi, I’m an Islamophobic. On today’s Outsiders programme with Ross Cameron and Rowan Dean was one of the loveliest people I have ever seen on television. His name is Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi (pictured), and I want to credit him with motivating me to make this post now. Now let’s get one thing out of the way first, I am genuinely fearful of Muslims more than I am of any other religious organisations, so in that sense I am Islamophobic.

Right – on to business… how did we get here?

In my former post I said you can not prove Christianity, and you cannot disprove it. Or rather I mentioned the Antediluvian Period, which is something most Christians would prefer to ignore. It creates a huge problem – without it there are no Patriarchs, and without the Patriarchs there’s no Covenants with God, and without those there’s no condemnation, and no requirement for a Saviour.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” -Romans 3:23-24.

When God reveals himself to Moses he says “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Abraham exists after the Antediluvian Period, but the Abrahamic Covenant displaces (dispenses with) the Noahic Covenant, and the Noahic Covenant happens at the dawn of the Antediluvian Period. So it is important that it holds some meaning to Christians – many now take the easy route of saying these were just stories – but if they’re only stories then the Sacred Covenants are just stories too. Though I was loathed to admit it, as a Christian I was forced to believe there was an Antediluvian Period. I didn’t care when though, for all I cared it could have been 200,000 years ago. And even that didn’t solve the problem of Adam and Eve – although I never really knew that was a problem since I’d never really been taught properly what the Adamic Covenant is.

You may be wondering where I’m going with all this? Well, I recognise now that you can prove or disprove the claims of Christianity. You can’t absolutely rule out the Antediluvian Period happening at some point in the past due to divine intervention… but the historicity of Moses has been well and truly disproved for example. Now this is a huge problem for Christians it’s the Elephant in the room. Judaism is the first known religion in the world to have been based on a collection of writings. Other religions existed outside of written texts, and religious texts were written about the religion, rather than serving as its blueprint. So any Christian that tells you that they don’t have to believe parts of the Bible they disagree with is selling you a revisionist lie. They might believe it, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not consistent with the formation of Judaism, the beliefs of Jesus and his Disciples, or of first century Jews.

As an atheist I see a lot of intolerance shown towards those of religious faith. This is the same kind of intolerance I used to have regarding others who were not Protestant Christians. I don’t hold those views any more because that would be hypocritical. I was really moved today when I saw Imam Tawhidi on Outsiders. He is a true humanist.


Video © Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi, 2017. License unknown.

It’s sad that Imam Tawhidi represents the minority of Muslims leaders in Australia. Until today I never knew that true moderates really existed within Islam, although that’s largely due to me not finding out about Shiites. About 85 percent of Muslims are Sunnis, and I would consider the vast majority of them to be “extrmeists” as we use the word. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I do not believe that Sunni Islam can ever be full reformed. There are too many core beliefs that are incompatible with modern society. I also don’t think that people convert between religious ideologies very readily – it’s not something that most people do in their lifetimes. Which is why atheism has taken a long time to grow – it takes a generation, usually, for change.

Imam Tawhidi also exposed a dirty secret that I actually didn’t know. He said in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t know any Sunni Islamic Scholars (he may have been referring to all Islamic Scholars it wasn’t entirely clear, the context was Sunni) who believe the Holocaust happened. Now that’s truly frightening. There is still a lot of hatred towards Jews. And this brings me to the dark side of religion. Religious beliefs form a fundamental part of people’s world views, and those world views are a very strong cognitive bias for denying information that has been discovered or learned academically in secular society. The priest at my former Church pretty much disagrees with any Biblical Scholar that is not a Trinitarian Christian, for example. In fact I may as well re-post my video on social stigmas, it’s only 3 minutes so check it out:


Baxter, D. 2016. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Licence (Aus). Originally published at: https://youtu.be/HMdl-VDRg9I

Religious tolerance is a necessary part of a free society. But don’t for a second think that all religions are capable of reform. Scientology was built on the premise that Psychiatry was a pseudoscience. They also deny the Holocaust. Now just to be clear – Holocaust denial is “the belief that the Holocaust did not occur as it is described by mainstream historiography” (source), and the type of denial perpetrated by Scientologists is that they believe psychiatrists were to blame.

But this brings me full circle. What we consider to be extreme beliefs were once mainstream beliefs. Eugenics was once the majority view in psychiatry, and psychiatrists did pay an active role in the Nazi extermination programs, including before and after the Final Solution. Hate and distrust of Jews was once mainstream. It was less than 100 years ago that we discovered there are galaxies in the universe other than our own. And I see one very important similarity between Imam Tawhidi and Jesus of Nazareth: both men wanted to reform their religion, and both have faced persecution from religious authorities in their religions. And both were/are exceptional human beings.

The cyber espionage group known as Longhorn has been formally identified by Symantec as the CIA.

Now, take a breath and get ready to learn the ugly truth behind this revelation. We live in the digital age, and underpinning that is the illusion of electronic security. Now I say illusion, but I wish to stress that this illusion is so strong that it gives people the confidence to conduct online transactions, and for banks to allow their customers to access their accounts over the internet. How secure is your data and your bank account? Not very. It’s about as secure as an ordinary bank vault. With the right tools, equipment, and expertise it can be broken into.

Electronic security is never truly provably secure. Take a moment to think what that means. Let’s say you have a large safe in your office – should you trust it with a high security mechanical lock (Manifoil MK4, S&G 2740B) or an electronic lock (the TL11G is the SCEC approved electronic equivalent)? Well, allow me to blow your mind for a moment: the mechanical locks are provably secure. They are not perfect, and they can be broken into (for example if someone guesses the right combination). The TL11G is not provably secure, its source code is closed, and the ROMs can of course be flashed if someone wanted to intentionally supply a known-vulnerable product, and it would be impossible for a user to tell the difference. I’m actually surprised it’s SCEC approved given the clear vulnerabilities that could exist or could be introduced. Granted though I’m not a locksmith or for that matter security professional.

On 7 Mar 2017, Wikileaks began publishing information relating to Vault 7. Vault 7 is an arsenal of CIA developed cyber-weapons. They are believed to have been sold for sometime on the darkweb. The reason why security companies and professionals hate intelligence organisations is because these intel orgs deliberately find vulnerabilities in software, but do not publish the information. What this means is that a vulnerability can exist for several years before it is independently discovered outside of an intelligence agency. And it doesn’t matter who you think are the “good guys”, if one intelligence agency found the vulnerability and developed a cyber weapon, you can bet that others did as well – the Chinese, the Russians, etc. In fact it would be unthinkable that the CIA could develop such weapons without the Chinese developing them at the same rate or faster given their expenditure on finding them. But as already mentioned, even without the same vulnerabilities being found, the CIA’s entire arsenal of cyber weapons has been leaked for some time and sold on the darkweb to the highest bidders.

On 10 Apr 2017, Symantec positively identified the north-American cyber criminal group known as ‘Longhorn’ as in fact being the CIA. Longhorn has been active since at least 2011, and has been described as the worst cyber criminal group of our age. They have infected 40 known targets in 16 countries. To quote:

The tools used by Longhorn closely follow development timelines and technical specifications laid out in documents disclosed by WikiLeaks. The Longhorn group shares some of the same cryptographic protocols specified in the Vault 7 documents, in addition to following leaked guidelines on tactics to avoid detection. Given the close similarities between the tools and techniques, there can be little doubt that Longhorn’s activities and the Vault 7 documents are the work of the same group.

That’s a pretty goddamned strong statement. Now there is another way to read that statement, the other way to read it would suggest that whoever Longhorn is they have had access to most or all of the Vault 7 cyber weapons soon after they were developed by the CIA. Meaning that if Longhorn is not a part of the CIA, they are a group the CIA has been intentionally arming with the weapons, or they had the ability to steal them from the CIA. None of those options are any better than the CIA is Longhorn.

It’s at this time of year that Christians claim that they are persecuted. Perhaps they take their cue from Jesus who was persecuted and then crucified. Unlike many other atheists, I believe it is right to remember Jesus as a good man who was unjustly persecuted. And to recognise the good he taught. Where I don’t agree with Jesus was his act of violence, and my reading of the gospels would agree with scholars that it was that specific act for which Jesus was condemned under Roman law and crucified.

Let’s recap. Man becomes violent, and is persecuted. Check. Well I think now we can understand why other groups that use violence perceive themselves to be persecuted. Or feel they are entitled to use violence to achieve their goals.

Christians are persecuted in some countries (some Middle-Eastern countries, and North Korea) that’s true. But in Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ireland, The United States of America, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and well most of the world – they’re not.

But Christians have in-turned showed persecution against others. Hard persecution. Not merely “intolerance” – I should know I used to be one.  I’m not in the least bit embarrassed by the persecution I showed towards others, but I do feel shame and remorse. Christians have been persecuting non-Christian groups and other Christian paradigms for two millennia. Thursday was my Graduation Ceremony. One of my fellow graduates appeared to be a transsexual lady. In times gone by, in Christian-controlled regions and eras such a thing would be unthinkable. On Thursday however there was no visible or audible persecution, although I would hasten to add that transsexuals remain amongst the most stigmatised groups in society. Which is to say that I’m sure the lady in question has experienced discrimination and stigmatisation perhaps even daily.

So, many Christians today are persecuted. Not by me, and not by most of Australia, but by North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and a slew of other States that view them as infidels. And I think we should recognise that as valid. But, it does not compare to other groups, I’m thinking pre-WWII Jews, I’m thinking Homosexuals, I’m thinking “other race”, and I’m thinking of Trans people.

I just heard that political satirist John Clarke has died. RIP you wonderful man!

John was 68 years young.

 

Marriage equality now?

No, I don’t think so. And to be honest, I don’t at all feel bad for gays and lesbians who are demanding we enact it through this term of Parliament. But before you leave in disgust and label me a bigot let me explain: I do agree we should work towards legislating same-sex marriage, but I do not agree with doing it the way that activists are demanding.

Sky News began advertising Equality Campaign in the news feed a few weeks ago. I have an ethical issue with what that – I believe they were being paid to advertise in the feed (they also show TV ads for the campaign), yet it is not clearly marked as advertising and appears to be a part of the news feed. So I think that’s very misleading.

What we have at the moment is a situation in Australia where the incumbent government took a policy of a national plebiscite to the election, however the plebiscite legislation was blocked in the Senate by the opposition and the minor parties. The government has stuck by their election promise. But it doesn’t change activists demanding they push through changes anyway – which I think is wholly unfair to Australians who want to have their say in this matter.

Labor and Greens claim that a plebiscite is “just a national poll”. That is not true – with compulsory voting in Australia you will get a solid mandate, just like the republic referendum in 1999. That’s not an opinion poll, that’s participatory democracy. Brexit in Britain was done by plebiscite too, and for an important social change like this it is important to get the public behind it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no greater affront to democracy than the impact of interest/lobby groups.

To their arguments that this is not the best way to go about it: Who cares? We have a democracy. Democratic decision is imperfect by design. If it was perfect it wouldn’t be a democracy. We sacrifice perfection for the ability of all to have an equal say.

And finally, to their argument that this should be done by an act of Parliament not through a public vote: The Australian Parliament is a little over 100 years old. It’s a pretty recent institution. The institution of Marriage pre-dates the institution of Parliament, it pre-dates democracy, and it pre-dates almost every religion on Earth too. Further to that is the fact that the institution was created in parallel across a multitude of different ancient societies: it did not come from one place at one time, and it has had vastly varying rules throughout the ages. Prior to the modern British era it was overseen by the Christian Church in areas where it had influence – governments of the time did not have jurisdiction over it. In modern societies today, here in Australia, in Europe, and North America it is overseen by the governments of sovereign States. In other places though like Saudi Arabia, it is still controlled by religious organisations.

So the government should not claim to have authority over the institution of marriage. Rather, they are the rightful custodians of an ancient institution that still holds much value today. And that’s why the people, not the government, should be the ones to make decisions that involve changing its meaning. I believe if it was put to a plebiscite it would get at least 70% support of the public. So to all the activists out there – stop playing fucking games, let people have their say, and move on. You will get exactly what you want if you put it to a public vote, and you’ll be reforming marriage the right way.

Conclusion

So let me start this off by doing one of the shortest film reviews in history, and laying my cards on the table. I’m going to give the docu-series 3/10. It’s not completely terrible, but most of it is unnecessary padding, and there was no reason to make it seem like Jason is the centre of their investigation just because that’s Dear’s belief. In my view, OJ was certainly at the scene of the murder, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the view of his culpability, and he most likely acted alone.

History

So let’s backtrack to another docu-series that was much better: OJ Made in America. Made in America is a really great multi-award winning docu-series. It gave us a whole biography of OJ’s life. It talked about facts of the case I never knew about, and wouldn’t have known about from Is OJ Innocent such as that most whites in America in 1995 believed OJ was guilty while most African Americans believed he was innocent. It explained quite well how OJ was acquitted – and that was through a very rigorous defence that exemplified all the flaws to be found in the prosecution’s case, and the police investigation. As a result of this case of course, new policies and procedures were put in place by the police to better protect their investigations and the collection of evidence. Made in America also exposes the problem with guilt or innocence being determined by juries. You can learn all of this in Made in America, but in Is OJ Innocent none of this is ever discussed.

Let’s recap. On 12 June 1994, around 2215 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered. Ron was 25 years old and a 3rd degree black belt in Karate – he had put up a valiant fight. Nicole was OJ’s ex-wife, and 35 years old. The police did a thorough investigation and the forensic evidence proved that the murder was committed by OJ. OJ was acquitted, and William C Dear believes that it was OJ’s son Jason who perpetrated the murders.

Evidence

Dear’s evidence, at least as presented in this docu-series, never stacked up. For that reason it was just marketing to make this about Jason Simpson, and I think it was terrible to do that. On the positive side though, the other “investigators” in the show Kris Mohandie and Derrick Levasseur did a good job of examining the evidence that Dear provided, instead of slavishly bringing Bill’s book OJ Is Innocent and I can Prove It to the screen. Based on the positive reviews for his book I honestly thought his case would have been stronger. It was a shame that the opinions of Kris and Derrick were intentionally obfuscated until the end of the series, instead of allowing for a natural flow of investigation to take place. If this were done then they could have provided more information to viewers of the hard evidence of the case, such as the shoes which barely got a mention.

Let’s go over some of Bill’s stupid claims. According to Dr Henry Lee who was a Forensic Expert for the defence in the OJ trial, there were two sets of footprints at the scene of the murder. Okay that’s his valid professional opinion, but the opinion of William J Bodziak the Forensic Expert who testified for the prosecution was that there was only one set of footprints, and they came from size-12 Bruno Magli shoes. OJ claimed he didn’t own a pair, yet his civil conviction was secured because a photograph of him wearing the shoes at a Buffalo Bills American Football game was found (later still they unearthed dozens more). Had this photograph been presented at the time of the criminal trial it’s very likely that OJ would have been convicted: According to the company only 299 pairs of that particular shoe had been sold in the US, and Simpson wore size-12 shoes of which only 9% of American men wore. In total there would have been about 27 pairs of those particular shoes in the right size in all of the USA.

This is not at all the only time the docu-series leaves us with only partial information. At one point in the series they talk to Andrea Scott, a friend of Ron’s. She says that she lent her car to Ron and that the police returned her keys caked in blood still sealed in an evidence bag. They then talk about how keys can be used as a stabbing weapon in self defence. They talk to Bill Pavelic (lead defence investigator in the criminal case) who claims that they keys were found in Ron’s hands and that the police would have tested them, and if the blood didn’t match either of the victims or OJ they would have destroyed the evidence! The big problem here though is we’re not given any hard evidence of any of this. How does Pavelic know they were found in Rons hands and not his pocket? Where are the trial notes that would demonstrate this or a photograph of them in his hands? If you have the stomach for it you can google the photos of Ron’s deceased body, and I can tell you – there are no keys visible. If they were in his pocket then it disproves the hypothesis that they were used as a self-defence weapon. Also, if they were used in that way they would have been damaged/broken, and not just caked in blood.

Bill also claims the time card evidence is dubious and wrongly identifies the first entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 when it clearly runs Monday to Sunday, not Sunday to Sunday as Bill kept claiming. You just have to look at it to know that – otherwise there’s no space for Monday on the card (the machine automatically prints each day of the week at a different level on the card). The knife Bill believes is the murder weapon is another lunacy, the experts clearly believe the primary murder weapon was a single-edged knife, and it makes no sense that the killer would use more than one knife in the attack. Especially when no murder weapon was left behind.

Bill claims that the watch Nicole was wearing at the time had stopped working. This, however, contradicts the evidence. In the series they talk to Tom Lange who was a police detective in the original investigation, and he tells them that it was operational – and this does appear in the official records/police notes that were taken. In favour of this hypothesis is that Tanya Brown (Nicole’s Sister) received the watch back “damaged”, something they learn from Bill Pavelic and later confirm by talking to Nicole. Now I’m not sure why this makes a huge difference to the case anyway, the watch displays 9:59, and the police believe the murders happened at 10:15. And again, they never actually test their hypothesis – all they had to do is buy an identical watch, put it on a dummy and let the dummy fall to the ground and see if it stops or not. I suspect it would keep working. And I suspect the reason it “didn’t work” when given to Tanya is because it had been in police evidence for months and the battery had worn out. Or that oxidisation had occurred due to moisture from the blood.

To be fair, the production company did a really good job of getting interviews with people connected to the case. Interviews that could have made for a really great series had they let these people tell their stories openly and produced and presented that instead. Don’t get me wrong, it appears they were at least mostly respectful with how they treated their guests, but they didn’t let them tell their stories! Unfortunately, Kato Kaelin (a friend of OJ and Nicole) and Fred Goldman (Ron’s father) don’t add very much to this docu-series, and that’s because their stories are not directly relevant to “examining Bill’s theory”.

Eyewitness nonsense

Possibly the lowest moment in the series, is when Dear announces he has discovered a new eyewitness who can put Jason at the scene on the night of the murders. Interestingly this isn’t just some whack-job that the producers hired, he actually spoke to Dear as early as 2014 well before this docu-series was produced as evidenced by this facebook post. ‘My name is Michael Martin and I am the witness in this video. It has been a long journey in finding the courage to come forward to the world with all that I witnessed that night. I will now not stop until justice is given to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. I wrote this quote during one of my many dark moments while dealing with my depression and guilt over this long held secret. “Times spent in memory of the violent acts from the past will leave a scar that is carried on by all those who were forced to endure what they should never have witnessed.” M M’ But there are problems with eyewitness statements, that this docu-series never mentions. They’re highly unreliable – they’re the least reliable form of primary evidence in a courtroom! They’re unreliable because we misremember things that have happened in the past, and we can be made to do so by events in the future. He might be remembering an entirely different night. Sunday a week earlier. If he was there the night of the murder how come he didn’t know a murder had occurred? Wouldn’t he have heard the blood-curdling screams of the murder victims? Another example of why we can’t trust eyewitness testimony is when they talk to the silent owner of Jackson’s (the restaurant where Jason worked), he identifies the top entry as Sunday 12 June 1994 (leaving nowhere for Monday’s entry). But notice that they ask him a leading question, they don’t ask where is Sunday, they tell him that line is Sunday in their question! Yet on the very same time card we see Sunday at the bottom, and clear blank lines for the days not worked (Thursday and Friday). Yet another witness is Carlos Ramos, a former worker at Jackson’s, emphatically claimed the chefs would have finished work and left by 9PM at the latest on a Sunday night, yet this claim is also clearly disproved by the time card itself as it has Sunday’s entry clearly stamped out at 10:20 PM.

Jason Simpson

Actually, strike that, the lowest moment of the entire series is when they decide to psycho-evaluate Jason Simpson based purely on his diaries that Bill has. Diaries that any decent person would return to Jason. They don’t take into account what the people who know him have to say about him (even though they talked to them in the series), it’s just one-sided and largely speculative. That was absolute trash, and I don’t think it tells us anything valuable about his character, it just unfairly defames and slanders an innocent third party for no valid reason other than to make the viewer think they really are interested in “investigating” Bill’s farcical conspiracy theory. We actually see Tanya Brown get really upset about the fact that Jason faces allegations by Bill; and they’ve clearly been less than truthful with her by not revealing the true nature of their documentary or the fact that they are working with Bill Dear. Look in the end they do exonerate Jason (well Bill doesn’t but that’s because nothing will deter his belief in his hypothesis), but not before spending five of the six episodes treating him as their prime suspect.

Where is the evidence?

I must say I was expecting Dear to present much better evidence. All of Dear’s evidence was highly speculative. For example, Dear claims that the beanie belonged to Jason because he is photographed with a similar one. The “investigators” go and ask Tom Lange why the hair in the beanie wasn’t tested for DNA and he tells them what they should already know – you can’t get DNA from hair. That was true at the time of the investigations, although you could do so now. The handwriting analysis was absolutely farcical – they looked nothing alike. And finally, the docu-series ignored most of the trial evidence, including the shoes which are really a smoking gun in this case, in my opinion.

The other thing never talked about in the entire docu-series is the issues of means, motive, and opportunity. The killer had to have all three, and with OJ as a suspect we do have all three. He was in the prime of his life – 46 years old, physically fit, well trained and strong. He was possessive and violent, and had been stalking Nicole. His whereabouts on that night provided him the opportunity to commit the crime. On the other hand while we do know Jason had an arrest or conviction for violence, we don’t have evidence brought to us by Bill that he was well trained and could have successfully won a fight against a Karate black-belt. So his means are at best plausible. He didn’t have a motive, from what we hear he loved Nicole very much and she loved him like a son. And he has a solid alibi for the whole duration of the time of the attack, so he didn’t have the opportunity. We can never say anything in life with absolute certainty, but I have to say that even if the police planted evidence (which is unlikely), the evidence of OJ’s guilt is overwhelming.