Paul on The weight of expert opinion (Re: Jesus didn't exist ....
Jan 06, 2006 09:29 AM
Although you make some good points, I still have
certain reservations about [always] accepting the consensus
of expert or scholarly opinion.
For example, one of the reasons I become interested
in the life of H.P. Blavatsky was my early detection
of the generally poor scholarship on her life. The experts
were less than expert!
And years later my own conclusions in this area were confirmed and
nice summed up by Dr. James Santucci:
"All too often, this subject [Theosophy & Blavatsky], when it is
discussed in scholarly circles, is presented in a most unscholarly
fashion. Falsehoods are perpetuated and original research is not
I don't know if either Gregory Tillett or you believe in
or accept the reality of psi/paranormal phenomena but I ask: should
we accept the consensus of expert opinion on this subject?
I am somewhat uncertain as to what the current consensus
of expert opinion is on this subject!
But in the early 1970s it appeared that
expert opinion, scholarly, scientific opinion was
against the reality of such phenomena. Or to say the
least, case not proven.
But first of all, who are the experts? Who qualifies
as an expert on psi? And do the experts approach this
subject with a truly open mind, etc. etc.
Dr. Ray Hyman, probably the foremost (at least in the 1980s and
early 1990s) scientific skeptic of the paranormal, candidly admitted:
". . . members of the scientific community often judge the
parapsychological claims without firsthand knowledge of the
experimental evidence. Very few of the scientific critics have
examined even one of the many experimental reports on psychic
phenomena. Even fewer, if any, have examined the bulk of the
parapsychological literature.... Consequently, parapsychologists
have justification for their complaint that the scientific community
is dismissing their claims without a fair hearing. . . ."
Hyman wrote this in 1988 but as far as I can tell it still applies
more or less in 2006.
So are the "experts" in the scientific community really in a
position to judge whether there is such a thing as psi? And should
laypersons and amateurs be so willing to accept such expert opinion
even if it is the consensus?
There are other examples but this will suffice for now.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "kpauljohnson"
> --- In email@example.com, gregory@z... wrote:
> > That anyone in the 21st century would bother to assert that
> did not exist
> > is indeed extraordinary, given the vast weight of scholarship
> opposed to
> > "psychic revelation") that has been devoted to this question!
> Scholars who are
> > agnostics, humanists or atheists have reached the conclusion
> his existence
> > is a simple matter of historical fact.
> This brings to mind a quote from Raymond Martin's The Elusive
> Our amateur status does not mean, however, that we cannot ever
> judgment on the views of New Testament scholars. In certain cases,
> may be able to see better than a historian that he or she is in
> grip of a distorting theory, Even so, we must give expertise its
> In my view, when it comes to trying to decide what to believe on
> basis of historical evidence alone, the distinction between
> and amateurs is crucially important. Roughly speaking, the rule
> experts is this: Base your views directly on the primary evidence;
> although the opinions of other experts cannot be ignored, you can
> override their opinions by your own reading of the evidence. The
> for amateurs, on the other hand, is this: Base your beliefs mainly
> the views of the experts, if a sizeable majority of the experts
> among themselves, then accept what they say; if they disagree,
> suspend judgment.(p. 24-25)
> The existence of Jesus is, as noted by Dr. Tillett, a matter of
> universal agreement among NT scholars. So is the falsity of the
> birth narrative tales in the gospels. So those are two areas
> as a non-expert following Martin's advice we should accept expert
> consensus. Ditto for the chronology.
> Following up Adelasie's question last week about my view of
> evolution, I will say that Martin's advice applies to the hard
> sciences as well. As a non-expert in the life sciences, all I can
> is accept the conclusions that are near-universal among experts
> suspend judgment on matters of ongoing controversy among experts.
> Of course it can be comfortable and ego-enhancing to claim to know
> better than the experts on the basis of psychic revelations or
> texts. But that is not in the spirit of the theosophical
> as defined by the Founders, however much it might have become a
> prevalent attitude of Theosophists in the 20th and 21st centuries.
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application