The closed Dutch mind: on Jesus too

Written while listening to Pink Floyd

Holland is supposed to be tolerant and open-minded. It isn’t. There is every reason to boycott Holland till the censorship of economic science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) is resolved.

All nations have their problems. It might be overly dramatic to point to the problems in Dutch society to score the overall point that the Dutch have a rather closed mind. The assassination of politician professor Pim Fortuyn in 2002 was by a single (?) animal rights activist, but, the point is that there was a political hetze or smear campaign against him in which all major politicians participated and in which he didn’t get protection by the media. The assassination of film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 was by a single (?) moslim fanatic but it happened in a climate of national dissent that also caused the rise of rabble-rousing and xenophobic politician Geert Wilders, who today 2015-02-02 in this poll would still get 20% of the vote after the attack on Charley Hebdo. If Holland really was tolerant and open-minded, then, with all its resources of education, media and internet, would it really not be able to resolve all such issues ?

Holland may have free speech, but people don’t listen.

Alongside the censorship at CPB we thus see the closed Dutch mind also in other cases. Perhaps we are merely discussing human nature. The proposal of a boycott of Holland is not intended to resolve those other cases. I focus on the censorship of science at CPB because of its singular importance by itself. As a scientist I would like to be free to do science, and I ask the world to make this possible.

Nevertheless, let us look at some cases in which the Dutch mind is closed on Jesus too. Discussing Jesus with Dutch people doesn’t cause them to listen to you either.

I am no historian of antiquity. I am an econometrician and teacher of mathematics. With all respect for scholarship in the history of antiquity: allow me to look at the issue with logic and common sense. My objective is to see what would be interesting for the teaching of mathematics, as another issue of patterns than numbers and space.

1. Jona Lendering on the “historical Jesus”, the “historical method” and Q

I used to have great respect for historian of antiquity Jona Lendering. He worked at the Protestant Free University (as a “mild atheist”), was declared redundant, and thereafter funded his own research via courses and publications via his Livius.org.

A recent book by Lendering is “Israel verdeeld” – which title translates as “Israel divided”. For purpose of exposition I select these points from this interview with him:

  • there is a historical Jesus (even though there likely isn’t, see my discussion of Carrier’s book)
  • important is the use of Q (from German Quelle = source)
  • people who oppose the idea of a historical Jesus and decide to a mythical Jesus apparently don’t understand the historical method, or, rely on outdated sources on the internet, and don’t use the academic sources that are behind a pay-wall.

I have debunked these arguments in this longer discussion. As an econometrician I should surely know about the methodology of science and statistics. Economics also looks at human psychology and the humanities. Surely, I have no degree in history but that doesn’t mean that I have to buy stuff that runs against science.

While I am no historian, perhaps you could check some of the historians and researchers on the Bible from this list by Neil Godfrey (also including other backgrounds).

Lendering emphasizes “one source is no source”, which idea is also relevant in legal cases, as “one witness is no witness”. For that reason Q becomes important for him. The gospels generally rely upon the (tainted) historical account by Flavius Josephus, and thus would be derivative and disappear as independent accounts. However, when there is Q, then there are two accounts of the life, sayings or existence of Christ.

However, Lendering does not wish to accept that Q is an entire fabrication by Biblical “scholars” themselves.

It is reasonable to assume that the authors of the gospels also used other texts than Josephus. But to actually create a Q yourself and maintain that it would be an independent source is absurd. Plain logically absurd. Q is useful as an inventory of how the gospels differ, but it cannot be an independent source if it is based upon those gospels.

Let me invite scientists from physics, engineering, chemistry, biology and what have you, to check what “New Testament Scholars” are fabricating here. And readers of Lendering’s book should ask their money back.

I was happy – if that is the word – to read this recent weblog text by Markus Vinzent:

“(… Goulder’s … ) idea that Q was an unnecessary hypothesis. (…) his conclusion sounds sceptical of the NT scholarship: “(…) The Q hypothesis has been part of the “assured results of scholarship” for more than a century, and despite my aggressive campaigning against it, it is still the standard teaching in most universities.”  (Vinzent discussing and quoting Michael Goulder, and observe the distinction between “unnecessary” and “absurd”)

In Vinzent’s recent book, the abolition of this role for Q is instrumental in another dating of the Gospels, with a primacy for Marcion. See this review. In a google I came across Andris Abakuks, The synoptic problem and statistics (2015), but this is not my major problem that I would want to read.

Let us go back to the problem of the closed Dutch mind: Lendering does not reply to my criticism. Perhaps his reason is that I am no historian. This would be an ad hominem fallacy. But, okay, Carrier and Vinzent are. So, why can’t Lendering simply listen ?

Lendering 2104

Lendering 2104

2. Dutch association of science journalists

Not irrelevant is that a “first copy” of Lendering’s book was presented to Joost van Kasteren, chairman of the Dutch association of science journalists VWN.

In itself this seems okay, since Lendering calls for better science journalism and information for the general public. But it is awkward that this happens with this un-scientific book ….

Also, since 1990 these “science journalists” have never reported about the censorship of economic science by the directorate of the CPB.

Reporting that the Bible might be an astrological book, apparently doesn’t fit their frame of mind either, see this list.

3. Chairman of the free-thinkers Anton van Hooff on the “historical Jesus” and Tacitus

Dr. Anton van Hooff is a retired assistant professor in history of antiquity at Catholic Radboud University and current chairman of the Dutch free-thinkers (atheist) association “De Vrije Gedachte” (DVG) (since 1855). He also holds that there was a “historical Jesus”, and refers to Tacitus.

In 2012-2014 I approached this DVG association on my essay “The simple mathematics of Jesus” (SMOJ) which shows that the Bible is an astrological book and that Jesus likely was a mythical figure. Van Hooff off-handedly announced to the other members of the board of DGV, and without reading the book, that the book must be nonsense. If the essay didn’t properly deal with the historical conclusion that Jesus had existed, then this predicted that the rest would be erroneous too.

I explained to the DVG board that Van Hooff’s approach was improper. First of all he should read the essay before such a statement could be made, and he should rather discuss it with me to eliminate misunderstandings. Secondly, issuing such a statement to other people (in the board) was a form of slander that blocked unbiased interest. Looking at what happened I can only conclude to an infringement of the ethics of science. My proposal was to have the matter looked at by a committee so that bias could be neutralised. The DVG board rejected the suggestion. I regard it as a closed mind: to allow such behaviour by a chairman and allow no correction.

Dutch readers can find documentation here. Member of that DVG board is Floris van den Berg, director of the secular humanist think-tank Center for Inquiry Low Countries, a branch of the US Center for Enquiry.

Colignatus 2012

Colignatus 2012

4. Rather more positive: DVG journal De Vrijdenker

On a positive note: the DVG journal “De Vrijdenker” now in its issue of February 2015 has published two pages p15-16 on SMOJ. My hope was for a deep review but the intended reviewer took less than a day to arrive at a quick negative response. I can forward a major compliment to chief editor René van Elst for managing the process and allowing me a page to respond to that quick dismissal. A difference of opinion is no problem, and has now been documented in decent fashion.

Still, while the essay was published in the second half of 2012, now in February 2015 there still is no decent longer discussion by someone else. Dutch readers can see this list how Dutch media quickly reject the essay, apparently merely looking at the combination of mathematics, Jesus and astrology.

5. The magazine Skepter

The Dutch magazine Skepter debunks astrology, UFO’s, homeopathy, spirits, and what have you. They want a low profile on religion since they consider that a quite different kind of issue.

My analysis that the Bible is an astrological book thus puts them in a tight spot. Since it concerns astrology, they could give attention to SMOJ but since it deals with Jesus they wouldn’t.

However, they have a section on pseudo-history, and in 2002 Anton van Hooff had an article that debunked Francesco Carotta’s “Jesus was Caesar“, again referring to the (unreliable) Tacitus quote.

I haven’t read Carotta’s book, but he properly calls attention to the Divus Julius cult. On his website he protests to both Van Hooff and Lendering:

“In a brief editorial note on his website Dutch history teacher and author Jona Lendering proscribed the theory as “alternative history” and Carotta as a “crackpot” (Lendering 2007). By associating Carotta with authors like Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Däniken, Lendering faithfully reiterated the earlier allegations by van Hooff. He has since removed his scathing remarks.” (Carotta’s website)

Well, given that Skepter had committed pseudo-history by creating a historical Jesus who never existed, I had a good argument for the editors that they should at least balance Van Hooff’s article with some attention for SMOJ.

I had slow but reasonable progress in an email exchange with editor Rob Nanninga. My submission in 2014 (in Dutch, here) deals with Reza Aslan, Anton van Hooff, Jona Lendering, and science journalist Marcel Hulspas. Sadly, Nanninga died too young in 2014. The remaining editor dismissed my article rather cursorily.

Skepter now has new editor-in-chief Hans van Maanen. I have suggested to him, with reference to the book by Richard Carrier on the historicity of Jesus, that Skepter again considers my article.

Carrier 2014

Carrier 2014

6. Blog-forum Kloptdatwel.nl (meaning: Isthatcorrect.nl)

There is also the book by Joseph Atwill, Caesar’s Messiah, that I didn’t read, and that now is available at archive.org. The book is not unimportant, given my first reaction to Richard Carrier’s book, and my discussion of Jona Lendering’s book.

Pepijn van Erp discussed Atwill’s book on Kloptdatwel.nl. He copies Carrier’s dismissal, and refers positively to Van Hooff’s earlier dismissal in 2002 of Carotta’s Jesus = Caesar thesis as pseudo-history.

Obviously, Van Erp overlooks that Carrier argues that there is no historical Jesus, so that Van Hooff also creates pseudo-history.

I submitted a text for publication at Kloptdatwel.nl. The text argues that there are three scientific disciplines that show problems that caused me to investigate them. In these three cases my conclusion was that these problems were caused by problems in methodology and integrity in science. Observe the causal order: the problems existed before I investigated them. The problems only got worse when my diagnosis was not properly listened to, since then there is neglect to listen.

These three disciplines are:

  • the history of antiquity on the origin of Christianity (see what you are reading now)
  • the research in the education of mathematics (see this page)
  • political economy (see the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB).

The editors of Kloptdatwel.nl (Maarten Koller and Pepijn van Erp) reject my text. Translating their editorial decision and giving my reaction:

  • It would be a rather personal opinion, supported mostly by other “write-ims” by me. This neglects that my references allow other people to check my diagnosis.
  • The text would be confused and intractable for a reader without advance knowledge. This neglects that I am the type of teacher of mathematics who pays a lot of attention to didactics. Readers may have to do some work when issues are new to them.
  • The text would drip from indignation that earlier efforts by me to get attention for these issues have failed because other people saw nothing in them. This neglects the causal order that the problems existed before I started to investigate them. (I never wrote on the historical Jesus before 2012. I forecasted the economic crisis but who looks at the evidence?) Indeed, earlier efforts to call attention to my diagnosis have rather failed, but, people did not really look at the argumentation, and didn’t listen. So one cannot infer that their judgement was on content. It is curious that kloptdatwel.nl implicitly relies on such biases by others.
  • While the text apparently is unsubstantiated, it would not even be adequate as an opinion piece. This neglects that it is a substantiated argument, and that I present it as a scientist and not as an opinion.
  • My critique on Van Erp w.r.t. the pseudo-history by Van Hooff is not mentioned. Apparently no correction is in order.
  • The editors recognise that I hold it important that “freedom of opinion means that there is an obligation to listen”. The editors think that few people would share that “opinion”. Apparently, readers of kloptdatwel.nl are presented with views that most of them would want to share.
  • They suggest that freedom of opinion allows me to present my text on my own weblog, and they wish me a lot of fun in doing so. They suggest that I try to attract more readers (“listeners”) myself, and use the option to allow comments for discussion. This is a strange remark since I obviously submitted the text to them to get access to their reader base. See their mission statement and their suggestion of openness. And, my weblog doesn’t allow comments since I have no time to monitor discussion. (People can present their considered opinion on other places.)

It is safe to conclude that kloptdatwel.nl is part of the closed Dutch mind, even on Jesus.

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