[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Paul on The weight of expert opinion (Re: Jesus didn't exist ....

Jan 06, 2006 11:00 AM
by kpauljohnson


You suggest very reasonable distinctions between categories of 
experts and levels of consensus. As best I can discern the 
*preponderance* of parapsychologists are convinced of the reality of 
ESP. But is a preponderance a consensus? I'm not sure we can talk 
of any consensus among parapsychologists about anything in the same 
way we can about NT scholars or biologists on certain subjects.  
Susan Blackmore is a star in the field, not an isolated outlier, for 
example. I would agree with your source that we should regard 
parapsychologists alone as experts on ESP. If we allowed *all* 
scientists to vote on the reality of ESP there probably would be a 
strong consensus for "no." But their expertise doesn't extend so far 
as to justify taking them seriously on a branch of science they 
haven't studied. How would they like it if unqualified 
parapsychologists made pronouncements about *their* areas of 

Martin's approach has its limits, of course. But it's a good 
starting point IMO, especially regarding a field as disputatious as 
NT studies. 

The dissertation you posted a link to yesterday includes an excellent 
survey of various interpretations of HPB and the Masters. While it 
is disputable (and disputed) who qualifies as an expert on the 
subject, the author surely includes all major perspectives and does a 
fine job of sorting them out. His summary of my books is very fair, 
balanced, and thorough, and from what I can see this is true of his 
treatment of other sources. Let's hope he can find a publisher.


--- In, "danielhcaldwell" 
<danielhcaldwell@y...> wrote:
> Paul,
> 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 
> actively pursued."
> Another area.
> I don't know if either Gregory Tillett or you believe in
> or accept the reality of psi/paranormal phenomena but I ask:  
> 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 
> ". . . 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 
> 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.
> Daniel
> --- In, "kpauljohnson" 
> <kpauljohnson@y...> wrote:
> >
> > --- In, gregory@z... wrote:
> > >
> > > That anyone in the 21st century would bother to assert that 
> Jesus 
> > did not exist
> > > is indeed extraordinary, given the vast weight of scholarship 
> (as 
> > opposed to
> > > "psychic revelation") that has been devoted to this question! 
> > Scholars who are
> > > agnostics, humanists or atheists have reached the conclusion 
> that 
> > his existence
> > > is a simple matter of historical fact.
> > > 
> > 
> > This brings to mind a quote from Raymond Martin's The Elusive 
> Messiah:
> > 
> > Our amateur status does not mean, however, that we cannot ever 
> pass 
> > judgment on the views of New Testament scholars. In certain 
> we 
> > may be able to see better than a historian that he or she is in 
> the 
> > grip of a distorting theory, Even so, we must give expertise its 
> due. 
> > In my view, when it comes to trying to decide what to believe on 
> the 
> > basis of historical evidence alone, the distinction between 
> experts 
> > and amateurs is crucially important. Roughly speaking, the rule 
> for 
> > experts is this: Base your views directly on the primary 
> > although the opinions of other experts cannot be ignored, you can 
> > override their opinions by your own reading of the evidence. The 
> rule 
> > for amateurs, on the other hand, is this: Base your beliefs 
> on 
> > the views of the experts, if a sizeable majority of the experts 
> agree 
> > among themselves, then accept what they say; if they disagree, 
> then 
> > suspend judgment.(p. 24-25)
> > 
> > The existence of Jesus is, as noted by Dr. Tillett, a matter of 
> near-
> > universal agreement among NT scholars. So is the falsity of the 
> > birth narrative tales in the gospels. So those are two areas 
> where 
> > 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 
> do 
> > is accept the conclusions that are near-universal among experts 
> and 
> > suspend judgment on matters of ongoing controversy among experts.
> > 
> > Of course it can be comfortable and ego-enhancing to claim to 
> > better than the experts on the basis of psychic revelations or 
> sacred 
> > texts. But that is not in the spirit of the theosophical 
> enterprise 
> > as defined by the Founders, however much it might have become a 
> > prevalent attitude of Theosophists in the 20th and 21st centuries.
> > 
> > Paul
> >

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application