The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy and the Talpiot Tomb

That’s the title of Mark Goodacre’s recent post on the Talpiot tomb debate. I highly recommend the post, as it illustrates this logical fallacy very clearly and applies it to the Talpiot tomb material.

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Ancient Aliens Debunked: The Official Trailer

I’m guessing all PaleoBabble readers know about the Ancient Aliens series put out by the Fantasy Channel (still though of by many as the History Channel). I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be interviewed later this summer for the documentary film response, Ancient Aliens Debunked. If you visit the link you can sign up for email notification when the documentary is released. It will be FREE and viewable online. The trailer is below. The film is being produced by Chris White. Since the documentary will be free, all of the expense incurred by Chris is his own. This has been true of his online and YouTube ministry since its inception. Please visit his site to donate and help support this project!

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Another Reason Why Biblical Studies and Archaeology Should Not Be Done Via the Mainstream Popular Media

Ah, the paleobabbling media now gives us proof that it is also clueless with respect to intellectual discourse. Mark Goodacre reports that Nicole Austin, the Associate Producer on The Resurrection Tomb Mystery documentary (The Jesus Discovery in Canada) has accused him of slander.

So, let me see if I understand the power of Ms. Austin’s contention correctly. Mark and other bloggers have expressed deep doubts and reservations about the claims made in this “documentary,” and have made those reservations public, along with their reasons. And … well … I guess that’s all.

How dare they!

Honestly, I didn’t realize that freedom of speech had been outlawed in Canada, or that expressing one’s opinion about an academic matter was slander. Disagreement means slander?  Really?  Hmmmm. Can we disagree with Ms. Austin about any matter and not be a slanderer?  Like her grasp of what academics do?  Maybe the cure (besides requiring those who disagree to just plug their pie-holes) is that Ms. Austin gets to say things to the public and those who disagree don’t. We can just talk amongst ourselves (with the telescreens off, of course). That will work (in a world where TV channels are all run by a ministry of propaganda anyway).

The fact that some journalists seem unaware that disagreement is a significant part of academic discourse is just another reason why they should not be the starting point for this sort of material. Granted, that would mean less publicity and cash for those initiating the process, or for Ms. Austin’s production company. It may result in fewer DVD sales down the road. What a shame. But things will pick up when this all happens again next Easter season.

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Prof. Robert Cargill on the Alleged Talpiot B Inscription: “How to Substitute Press Releases for Evidence”

You can tell from the title of Cargill’s post that its content is pretty brutal. Readers know how I feel about using the popular media for “doing ancient studies” so no one should be surprised that I’m in agreement with his overall gripe. Like I’ve said on this blog many times — it matters not that material gets debated after the fact, because most of the public will never follow the debate; the original pop-media blather will become their truth on whatever the subject is. And that’s pathetic.

I’m a bit perplexed as to how James Charlesworth allowed himself to be put in this awkward situation. I can’t believe he wouldn’t know that his words wouldn’t get sensationalized to some extent. Hopefully whatever he publishes will be accessible to the public — it would add to the problem if he publishes in some journal that the masses don’t even know exists, and even if that wasn’t the case, most wouldn’t have access to the material anyway without a university ID. Let’s hope that much forethought was put into this.

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Two Items Regarding Talpiot B and James Tabor

I’m just reading James Tabor’s post regarding Prof. James Charlesworth’s apparent discovery of the name “Jonah” on the ossuary that purports to have a fish symbol on it. If that turns out to be a true inscription (looks pretty reasonable to me), then that would definitely help turn the discussion toward favoring a Jonah symbol on the ossuary. I’m wondering what Robert Cargill has to say on this since he has been over the photographs pretty thoroughly. Perhaps he will post something. But as I note in my response to Tabor’s other recent post on resurrection, a Jonah symbol doesn’t prove the tomb is a Christian one (but that isn’t integral to Tabor’s views on a “Talpiot complex” that contained the bones of Jesus). Still, this new discovery, presuming Charlesworth is parsing what he sees correctly, is just the kind of thing that I’ve been asking for: a data-driven argument, where the data aren’t easily co-opted by two or three other interpretations that seem more plausible. Stay tuned!

[Addendum:  Turns out Robert Cargill did indeed comment on the alleged "Jonah" inscription: here and here. I'm still getting caught up on this one! The second post is much more substantive than the first, as it links to other criticisms of the inscription and offers its own plausible critique. Even more helpful is Mark Goodacre's most recent post (less than fifteen minutes ago by the time of this addendum) on this new proposed inscription, which casts more doubt on it. Looks like this is another stalemate at best, but likely falling short of even that status due to the "broken nun" letter (at least to me). Incidentally, in the Goodacre post, take a look at the CGI composite image of the round blob that both Tabor and Jacobovici say is Jonah, or Jonah's head, being spit out by the fish. It simply has no features of a head, face, or any other appendage that I can recognize. -- MSH]

I’m a bit late on the above post because I’ve been writing a review of Tabor’s stimulating essay on early Jewish and Christian views of resurrection. That review is posted on another blog. Please have a look!

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A Case of Credential Envy?

I just read a short but telling post by Jason Colavito on the blog that bears his name entitled, “The Dubious Authorial Accomplishments of Gorgio Tsoukalos.” Gorgio is the star of  the cinematic tribute to non sequitur thinking known as Ancient Aliens. Jason examines Gorgio’s publication credentials which have been used (frequently) to promote the show and his expertise as one of its content sources. Those to whom things like credentials matter will want to have a look at it.

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Richard Bauckham on the Flimsy Evidence for Talpiot B as the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea

I hope you all read the short but clear-headed guest post on Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog by guest blogger Richard Bauckham. Professor Bauckham does a nice job of succinctly demonstrating the tenuous nature of what seems to be the only data point approximating evidence for this identification.

Frankly, I’m getting bored with this topic, but will dutifully post updates (from either side) on the issue. Is there not *one* piece of unassailable evidence in favor of what Jacobovici and Tabor are arguing? Anything that doesn’t simultaneously invite two or three other interpretive options that, when considered, offer a wider body of evidence and greater explanatory power than the originally suggested thesis? It’s not an unreasonable request.

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Contrived Truth is Still Truth: The Mind and Story of Erich von Daniken

Check out this fascinating post over at Forgetomori, complete with videos of von Daniken noting that he made up his ancient astronaut stuff, but still considers it true.  It’s illustrative of why this bunk transcends sophistry.

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