bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 17: Follow Up Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics Peter Kreeft raises 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory in an attempt to DISPROVE or REFUTE that skeptical theory.  Kreeft thinks he can prove the resurrection of Jesus by disproving a few skeptical theories about the resurrection of Jesus, such as the Hallucination Theory.
Kreeft’s first three objections focus on the idea of the credibility of eyewitness testimony in support of the resurrection of Jesus.  These objections evoke the centuries-old idea of a court trial providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.
In recent posts, I have provided powerful evidence in support of two important factual claims:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.
  • In Part 13 of this series, I provided evidence showing that human memory is UNRELIABLE.
  • In Part 14 of this series, I provided evidence that very young children (ages 2 to 3 years old), and young children (ages 4 to 10 years old) are DISHONEST and that teenagers are also DISHONEST.
  • In Part 15 of this series, I provided evidence that college students are DISHONEST.,
  • In Part 16 of this series, I provided evidence that adults in general are DISHONEST.

Taken together, Parts 14, 15, and 16 provide solid evidence showing that humans are in general DISHONEST.
These empirical FACTS about human memory and human behavior provide good reasons for skepticism and doubt about eyewitness testimony.  So, these FACTS undermine the first three objections by Kreeft against the Hallucination Theory.
I also began to challenge the idea that a court trial could provide powerful evidence that proves the resurrection of Jesus.  This challenge is in relation to the alleged 500 witnesses who supposedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus.  This claim about the 500 witnesses constitutes Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.
I have challenged this objection by carefully considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper modern criminal investigation, such as might now be conducted in the case of a serious crime, like murder, rape, kidnapping, or armed robbery.  In Part 12 of this series, I considered the basic tasks and procedures for conducting a “Preliminary Investigation” of a crime scene and of witnesses present at the crime scene.  The conclusion I reached was this:

First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.

Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.

Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.

Such a proper “Preliminary Investigation” is crucial for the prosecution to build a strong case that could potentially prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular person committed the murder (or other serious crime) in question.
In this current post, I will continue this line of thought by considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper “Follow-up Investigation” into a murder (or other serious crime).
 
A. PREPARATIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to prepare to interview witnesses to a crime (from p.21 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-A1. Did a follow-up investigator review available information about the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of witnesses BEFORE interviewing those witnesses?
First of all, it is very unlikely that there was any preliminary investigation into this event, and it is extremely unlikely that there was a preliminary investigation that was done carefully and properly in accordance with modern procedures and standards.  Furthermore, most people in first century Palestine and the surrounding areas were illiterate, and could not read or write.  So, even if there was a generally proper initial investigation of this event, this probably would NOT have produced a full and accurate written record of the information gathered in that preliminary investigation.  So, the best that a follow-up investigator could do (assuming that the follow-up investigator was not the same person as the preliminary investigator) would be to discuss the event with the preliminary investigator to find out verbally what the preliminary investigator had discovered.  Such a verbal transmission of information would provide an INCOMPLETE and BIASED and INACCURATE collection of information relative to what was actually discovered by the preliminary investigator.
Second, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event (even if we count an investigation that happens weeks or months after the event as being a “follow-up investigation” without there having been any “preliminary investigation” within hours or days of the event).  Even if there had been a follow-up investigation, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so an investigator probably would not have bothered to carefully “review available information” about the alleged appearance of Jesus prior to interviewing alleged witnesses of this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses carefully reviewed the available information about this event prior to interviewing the alleged witnesses.
FI-A2. Did a follow-up investigator conduct interviews with these hundreds of witnesses as soon as these witnesses were physically and emotionally capable?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of people.  Second, there is no immediately obvious motivation for an investigation to occur immediately after the alleged event (i.e. within hours or a few days), so even if there was an investigation of this event, it probably would have taken place weeks or months or years after the event allegedly took place.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses of this alleged appearance of Jesus as soon as the witnesses were physically and emotionally capable of being interviewed (i.e. an hour or a day after the event).  This means that IF any such interviews took place weeks or months or years after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between witnesses and with people who were not present during the event, as well as simply by the passage of time and the natural fading of memories.
FI-A3. Did a follow-up investigator select an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those witnesses? 
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so even if there had been a follow-up investigation of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is unlikely that an investigator would have put any thought or effort into finding an environment that would minimize distractions while maintaining the comfort level of the alleged witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator selected an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those alleged witnesses.
FI-A4. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses and for accurately recording or documenting the interviews of the hundreds of witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus (e.g. notepad, tape recorder, cam corder, interview room)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so nobody had an idea of what is required for a proper interview of a witness.  Third, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator could read and write, because most people in first-century Palestine and surrounding areas were illiterate, and even if the investigator could read and write, there would be little motivation to carefully produce a full written record of the interviews of hundreds of alleged witnesses, because most people would be unable to read those documents.  Also, there was no such thing as a tape recorder or video camera in the first century, so such standard ways of accurately preserving the contents of an interview were unavailable in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator of the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses ensured that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and for accurately recording or documenting those interviews.
FI-A5. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stay separated from each other prior to being interviewed (so that they would not discuss this event with each other)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, because there were no professional detectives in the first century and because psychologists have only very recently discovered how easily memories of eyewitnesses can become corrupted or how easily completely false memories can be implanted in the mind of a witness, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have been concerned about keeping the witnesses separated from each other.
Furthermore, even if by some miracle there was an investigator of this event, and the investigator requested and advised all of the hundreds of alleged witnesses to NOT discuss the event with each other, it is highly unlikely that the witnesses would have complied with this request.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator ensured that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stayed separated from each other (so that they did not discuss the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other) prior to being interviewed.  This means that IF any follow-up interviews of the witnesses took place some days, weeks or months after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between the various witnesses.
FI-A6. Did a follow-up investigator determine the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted the preliminary investigation (into this alleged event where hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus)?
It is not clear to me what the purpose or motivation is for this task.  Perhaps this is just one way to establish rapport with the witness.  Perhaps the motivation is to find out if the previous interaction between the preliminary investigator and this witness was congenial and whether the witness was cooperative and forthcoming with the previous “preliminary” investigator.
However, recordings or complete notes from the preliminary interview of that witness should contain information about whether the witness was congenial, cooperative, and forthcoming during the preliminary interview, so this step seems redundant and superfluous.
In any case, it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, it is unlikely that the follow-up investigator would ask questions about how the previous preliminary interview went.  For one thing, it is very unlikely that there would have been any preliminary investigation to look back upon.  For another, concerns about the congeniality and cooperation of a witness in a previous interview would probably be of little interest to a first-century person who has never seen or thought about a professional detective or professional investigation into a crime or important event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator determined the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted a preliminary investigation of this alleged event.
CONCLUSION ABOUT PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS BY A FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATOR
In the case of EACH ONE of the six key tasks concerning preperations by a follow-up investagator for follow-up interviews of the hundreds of witness who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is extremely unlikely that these key preparation tasks were performed, because it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and because even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of the event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have attempted to do these key tasks.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of human memory in the first century, and there was no such thing as tape recorders or video cameras in the first century, and because very few people were able to read and write in the first century.
 
B. CONTACT WITH WITNESSES FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for contact between a follow-up investigator and a witness just prior to conducting a follow-up interview of that witness (from p.22 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-B1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus develop rapport with each of the hundreds of witnesses prior to interviewing each witness?
FI-B2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event inquire of each witness about the witness’s prior contact with any initial investigator(s) of this event before interviewing each witness?
FI-B3. Did a follow-up investigator refrain from volunteering any specific information about this alleged event or about the identity or activity of the person who allegedly made an appearance before the crowd of witnesses to each of the hundreds of witnesses before interviewing each witness?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation or conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Even if there was someone who conducted an investigation of this alleged event, it is very unlikely that this investigator followed the guidance indicated in item B1, or in item B2, or item B3.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, there was no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that there was a follow-up investigator who interviewed hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and who followed these three guidelines just prior to interviewing each of the witnesses to that alleged event.
 
C. CONDUCTING FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to conduct follow-up interviews of witnesses to a crime (from p.22-23 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
 
FI-C1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus encourage each of the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person would have encouraged the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to volunteer information about the event without prompting.
FI-C2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.  This is unlikely because there were no professional detectives in the first century, no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century, and because recording or documenting all of these details reported by hundreds of witnesses would have been extremely difficult in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into this alleged event encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.
FI-C3. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event ask open-ended questions and augment those with close-ended specific questions about the event when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C4. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event avoid asking the witnesses leading questions when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed hundreds of witnesses in accordance with these two guidelines. (See my comments in Part 12 of this series on the same questions concerning a preliminary investigation).
FI-C5. Did a follow-up investigator caution each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person cautioned the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd).  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator cautioned each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event.
FI-C6. Did a follow-up investigator ask each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to mentally re-create the circumstances of the event when the follow-up investigator interviewed these witnesses?
FI-C7. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to use non-verbal communication to describe the event (e.g. drawings, gestures, objects) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C8. Did a follow-up investigator avoid interrupting each of the hundreds of witnesses to the alleged event when the investigator was interviewing these witnesses?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed each of the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event and followed the guidelines stated in items C6, C7, and C8 (for the same reasons I have given in relation to the previous five guidelines).
FI-C9. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to contact follow-up investigators when additional information about this alleged event is recalled?
FI-C10. Did a follow-up investigator instruct each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged event with other potential witnesses?
FI-C11. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts concerning the alleged event [or:] to avoid telling the story about the event to others who were not present during the event, and to avoid listening to others who were not present talk about the event?
Concerning guidelines C9, C10 and C11, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews of the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in accordance with these guidelines (see my comments in Part 12 of this series about similar guidelines concerning preliminary interviews of the witnesses).
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF THE HUNDREDS OF WITNESSES
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the first century and did so in accordance with the 11 guidelines for follow-up interviews that I have discussed above.
 
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROVING THE RESURRECTION IN A COURT TRIAL
What we DON’T KNOW about the hundreds of witnesses who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus could fill VOLUMES.  We don’t know how many people were actually present during this event (500 is a very round number and was very likely a rough guess of the size of the crowd that was made weeks or months after the event by some unknown person).
We also don’t know how many people in the crowd actually experienced seeing a person that they took to be Jesus.  Paul asserts that “more than 500” witnesses saw the risen Jesus at the same time and same place, but it is very likely that he is just passing along a story that he was told about this event and it is quite possible that either he or the story teller had mistakenly inferred that ALL of the people in the crowd (perhaps a crowd of 300 or 400 people) saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, when in fact only SOME of the people in that crowd saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, perhaps only a handful of people in that crowd.
We don’t know where this event took place.  We don’t know what year this took place.  We don’t know if it took place during the winter, spring, summer, or fall.  We don’t know how Paul learned about this alleged event.  We don’t know the names of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know the race or ethnicity of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know about the intelligence or level of education of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know whether this event took place indoors or outdoors, in the early morning, in the middle of the day, or late at night.  We don’t know if the light was good or if it was dark.  We don’t know if the wind was howling or there was no wind.  We don’t know if it was raining or the sky was clear.  We don’t know if the people in the crowd had been drinking or not.  We don’t know about the quality of eyesight or hearing of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We have no information about the honesty or dishonest of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know how old ANY of the alleged witnesses were at the time of the alleged event.
Most importantly, we DON’T KNOW whether ANY of these witnesses had ever seen the historical flesh-and-blood Jesus prior to his death.  So, for all we know, EVERY one of these witnesses was INCAPABLE of identifying anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth, because none of them had previously met Jesus of Nazareth.  The testimony of these hundreds of witnesses might well be just as WORTHLESS as Paul’s testimony about his own experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
We also don’t know whether these witnesses would describe their experience as being an ORDINARY VISUAL experience, or if they would describe their experience as a DREAM or a VISION.  We don’t know if  all of the witnesses had precisely the same experience of the person who they identified as being the risen Jesus.  Would each of them describe a person of the same height?  same hair style?  same type of facial hair?  same color and style of clothing?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this event lasted.  Was Jesus “seen” for just a couple of seconds? or a couple of minutes? or a couple of hours? Did the experience last the same amount of time for every witness? or did it last for a few seconds for some, a few minutes for others, and an hour or two for others?
We don’t know if there was a careful and objective preliminary investigation into this alleged event.  We don’t know if there was a careful and objective follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  However, we have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful preliminary investigation of this alleged event that was conducted in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.  We also have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful follow-up investigation of this alleged event in which hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event were interviewed in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines that are used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.
But such careful and proper preliminary investigations and follow-up investigations are crucial to any reasonable effort by a prosecuting attorney to correctly identify the person who commited the murder (or other serious crime), to provide sufficient evidence to charge that person with murder, and to prove in a court trial that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   A prosecutor cannot simply pull a witness off the street and put them in a witness stand and hope that the witness has some credibility and some relevant knowledge about the murder or the murderer.  The use of witnesses in a modern court trial requires that there be a foundation of solid investigation and documented evidence from the crime scene, and documented properly conducted interviews of relevant witnesses.  Apart from a proper preliminary investigation and a proper follow-up investigation,  it would be practically impossible for a prosecuting attorney to put together a solid case for the guilt of any murder suspect.
Furthermore, I have argued extensively that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.

Therefore, the whole idea of there being a court trial in which witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus would provide testimony that would PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead is a RIDICULOUS FANTASY that one can only believe by completely ignoring the reality of how modern criminal investigations and the scientific study of human psychology and human memory provide the foundations for successful prosecutions of serious crimes in actual modern court trials.
In view of these various considerations, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #3, concerning the claim that “over five hundred” witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time and at the same place, FAILS.  This third objection does NOT provide a solid or strong reason to reject the Hallucination Theory.  This is a very weak objection that is grounded primarily in WISHFUL THINKING and FANTASY.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 16: Adults are Liars and Cheaters

ADULTS ARE DISHONEST
In general, studies of lying behavior indicate that college students lie more frequently on average, than the general adult population.  However, based on recent studies with larger sample sizes, the difference in average number of lies per day is fairly small between college students and the general adult population:

College students and adults
A common source of fascination is in the similarities and differences between college student samples and representative adult samples. As mentioned in the introduction, the general trend is that lying increases with age through childhood, peaks during the teen years, and then declines gradually with age. Despite maturation, the positive skew is maintained (Debey et al., 2015; Serota et al., 2010). Understanding the size and nature of these trends, however, requires considerable nuance. The difference was the largest in the original DePaulo et al. (1996) study where adults lied once per day and stu- dents twice per day. Depending on how one frames the results, this is a small difference of one lie per day or a difference of 100% with students lying twice as often as adults. If we rely on the much larger samples in the current study compared to Serota et al. (2010), the mean difference is more modest; 2.03 for students compared to 1.65 for adults.

Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine & Tony Docan-Morgan (2021): “Unpacking variation in lie prevalence: Prolific liars, bad lie days, or both?“, Communication Monographs, DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2021.1985153
Thus, since I have already shown that college students are LIARS, it follows that adults, in general, are LIARS.  There is only a modest difference between how often college students lie and how often adults in general lie.
======================
Here is a nice summary statement about an important psychological study on this topic [emphasis added]:

For example, during a bogus experiment on ESP (a mind-reading task), people are presented with an opportunity to cheat in order to win a $50 prize.  When people are placed in such a situation, almost everyone cheats (90%) and then when confronted about their behavior, few tell the truth; only 9 to 20% of the individuals in these studies confess when questioned (see, Miller and Stiff, DeTurck and Miller).

What is really interesting about these findings is that the same results are obtained by different researchers working in different parts of the country.

[…]

Overall, the experimental evidence shows that when placed in the right (or wrong) situation, people are prone to lying, a behavior that starts at an early age, and people are very good at it.

Experiments Show How Readily Adults and Children Will Lie When Given the Chance To Do So
Miller, G. R., & Stiff, J. B. (1992). Applied issues in studying deceptive communication. In R. S. Feldman (Ed.), Applications of nonverbal behavioral theories and research (pp. 217-237). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Miller, G. R., & Stiff, J. B. (1993). Deceptive Communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
deTurck, M. A., & Miller, G. R. (1985). Deception and arousal: Isolating the behavioral correlates of deception. Human Communication Research, 12, 181-201.
deTurck, M. A., & Miller, G. R. (1990). Training observers to detect deception: Effects of self-monitoring and rehearsal. Human Communication Research, 16, 603-620.
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A large study of lying in the U.K. produced some useful information about the dishonesty of adults:

I will focus on the telling of “Big Lies” and ignore the telling of “White Lies”. [ NOTE: there was a good degree of agreement between the various people who participated in this survey as to what sorts of lies would count as “Big Lies” and what sorts of lies would count as “White Lies”, so this was NOT a purely subjective distinction.]
The study is based on a survey of people in the U.K. ages 18 and older: “After eliminating responses from 16- and 17-years-olds, the reanalysis” (in the article containing the above chart) “included 2,980 subjects.”
On the positive side 80.3 % of the people in this study indicated that on average they tell ZERO “Big Lies” per day.
However, on the negative side, that means that about 20% of the people in this study indicated that on average they tell 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or more “Big Lies” per day.  In my view, someone who tells a Big Lie on average once per day is clearly a DISHONEST person.  So, this study indicates that AT LEAST 20% of adults are DISHONEST.
However, the question that was asked of the subjects introduces a bias.  If the question had been “How many times do you tell a Big Lie on average over the course of one week?”  then a person could have answered “1 per week” which would be equivalent to telling a Big Lie at a rate of about 1/7 per day or .14 Big Lies per day, or a person could have answered “2 per week” which would be equivalent to telling a Big Lie on average at a rate of about 2/7 per day or .29 Big Lies per day.  But there was no option to indicate that one told Big Lies on average about once or twice every week.
The relevant options confronting a person who tells a Big Lie once or twice per week are either “0” Big Lies on average per day or “1” Big Lie on average per day.  Someone who only tells a Big Lie once or twice per week, will probably thus answer that, on average, they tell 0 Big Lies per day, because saying that they tell 1 Big Lie on average per day would significantly exaggerate how frequently they tell Big Lies.
That means that it is very likely that MANY of the people who claimed to tell a Big Lie on average 0 times per day believe that they tell one or two Big Lies on average each week.  The focus of the survey on Big Lies per day thus hides the fact that MANY of the 80% of subjects in this study who claimed to tell 0 Big Lies on average per day, believe that they in fact tell one or two or three Big Lies each week.  It seems to me that someone who tells a Big Lie on average each week is NOT a very honest person.  That means telling over 50 Big Lies in one year.  I would consider such a person to be DISHONEST.
Furthermore, people tend to LIE about how much and how often they do things that are considered to be wrong or bad.  People tend to UNDERESTIMATE and UNDERREPORT how much and how often they do things like telling Big Lies.   So, MANY people who report that they tell a Big Lie on average 0 times per day, might well IN FACT tell a Big Lie on average 1 time per day.  If just half of the 80% of subjects who reported telling 0 Big Lies on average per day actually tell 1 Big Lie on average per day, then that means that 40% of the people in this study should, in reality, be categorized as being just as DISHONEST as the 20% of people who admitted they tell at least 1 Big Lie on average per day. In that case, 60% of the subjects in this study would be clearly DISHONEST people.
If we simply assume that ALL of the subjects in this study answered the question honestly and accurately, then the conclusion would be that about 20% of adults tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per day, and it seems to me that means that one in five adults is clearly a DISHONEST person.  But presumably a large portion of the 80% of people who claimed to tell 0 Big Lies on average per day believe that they tell one (or two or three) Big Lies each week, making them DISHONEST too.
However, it would be NAIVE to simply accept that ALL of the subjects in this study answered the question honestly and accurately.  People tend to have a bias against remembering their bad behavior, and people tend to have a bias against honestly reporting how often they engage in behavior that is viewed as bad behavior.  So, we have good reason to believe that a significant portion of the people who were subjects in this study UNDERREPORTED the actual frequency of their telling Big Lies, and that a significant portion of the 80% of people who estimated that they tell 0 Big Lies on average per day, actually tell 1 or 2 Big Lies on average per day.
This study tells us what people REPORT about the frequency of their own lying, especially how frequently they tell “Big Lies”.  But since, at least in my view, telling 1 Big Lie on average per week is sufficient to consider a person to be DISHONEST, we really want to know what portion of adults tell at least 1 Big Lie on average per week.  The data in the graph from this study indicate that MORE THAN 20% of adults tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average each week.  But the ACTUAL portion of adults who tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per week might well be much larger.
For example, if half of the 80% of subjects who claimed to tell an average of 0 Big Lies per day actually tell an average of 1 or more Big Lies per day, then we could add another 40% of the people in this study to the 20% who admit they tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per day (and thus are clearly DISHONEST), so that the conclusion would be that 60% of the people in this study are in fact, clearly DISHONEST people.  And if just half of the remaining 40% of people who claimed to tell an average of 0 Big Lies per day are people who actually tell an average of one or more Big Lies per week, then we could add another 20% of the subjects to the category of being DISHONEST people.  In this scenario, 80% of the people in this study would be reasonably considered to be DISHONEST people.
Granted that people who tell one or two Big Lies on average per week are LESS DISHONEST than people who tell one or two Big Lies on average per day, this is only a matter of degree, and telling about 50 Big Lies in one year is sufficient reason for considering a person to be DISHONEST.  In my view it is unreasonable to call a person “honest” when he or she tells one or two Big Lies per week on average.
The truth of the matter is very likely to be somewhere in between those two estimates.  It is very likely that SIGNIFICANTLY MORE THAN 20% of the people in that study are DISHONEST (i.e. tell a Big Lie on average at least once per week), and it is also likely that less than 80% of the people in that study are DISHONEST (i.e. tell a Big Lie on average at least once per week).  In any case, a large portion of adults (25-45%), and quite possibly the majority of adults (60-70%) are DISHONEST, based on this large study of people in the U.K.
Serota, Kim & Levine, Timothy. (2014). A Few Prolific Liars. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 34. 10.1177/0261927X14528804.
==================
ADULTS ARE CHEATERS
Although adults in the USA appear to be fairly honest about paying their taxes, and not cheating on taxes (compared with adults in other countries), adults in America often cheat on their spouses and lovers.

The most consistent data on infidelity come from the General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and based at the University of Chicago, which has used a national representative sample to track the opinions and social behaviors of Americans since 1972. The survey data show that in any given year, about 10 percent of married people — 12 percent of men and 7 percent of women — say they have had sex outside their marriage.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
There are two important qualifications to note about these statistics. First,  infidelity or “cheating” is considered bad behavior, and so people are biased against honestly reporting that they have engaged in such behavior, and against honestly reporting how often they have engaged in such behavior.  This is especially true when questions are asked of people in an interview, which is how the General Social Survey has been conducted:

Surveys conducted in person are likely to underestimate the real rate of adultery, because people are reluctant to admit such behavior not just to their spouses but to anyone.

In a study published last summer in The Journal of Family Psychology, for example, researchers from the University of Colorado and Texas A&M surveyed 4,884 married women, using face-to-face interviews and anonymous computer questionnaires. In the interviews, only 1 percent of women said they had been unfaithful to their husbands in the past year; on the computer questionnaire, more than 6 percent did.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
So, AT LEAST 5% of women who were interviewed in the above study LIED and claimed they had NOT been unfaithful in the past year, when in fact they had been unfaithful in the past year.  Women were more honest on anonymous computer questionnaires, but who is to say that they were fully and completely honest on those computer questionnaires?  The fact that MORE women were honest on computer questionnaires does not mean that ALL women were honest on the computer questionnaires.
The second qualification to keep in mind is that these statistics are about how many people were unfaithful or “cheated” in the previous year.  Each year about 10% of married people CHEAT on their spouse.  But most people are married for many years.  With each passing year one has more opportunities to CHEAT.  So, a spouse who is faithful for the first two years of marriage might well CHEAT during the third year of marriage.  So, the 10% figure is only a bottom-level baseline.  Since most marriages last for many years, the percent of spouses who CHEAT over the course of a marriage that lasts ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years is bound to be GREATER THAN just 10%!

…University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991.

The researchers also see big changes in relatively new marriages. About 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 percent respectively.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
In recent studies 20% (or 1 in 5) married men under 35 REPORT that they have been unfaithful at some point in their marriage, and 28% of men over 60 REPORT having been unfaithful to a spouse at some point in their lives.  So, over the course of a lifetime, we can expect about 25 to 30% of men to be unfaithful to at least one spouse.
It appears that young women are now REPORTING being unfaithful almost as much as young men (15% vs. 20%).
So, in the future, we can expect 25% to 30% of women over 60 to REPORT having been unfaithful to a spouse at some point in their lives, like men over 60 now REPORT.
So, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 adults will CHEAT on a spouse at some time in their lives, if they get married and live to be 60 years old.  That is a significant portion of married people who will REPORT CHEATING in their marriages.  It is reasonable to believe that the ACTUAL portion of married people who CHEAT is larger than what people REPORT, so the reality is probably more like between 1 in 3 and 1 in 2 adults will CHEAT on a spouse at some time in their lives, if they get married and live to be at least 60 years old.
 
CONCLUSION
It is NOT just college students who are LIARS and CHEATERS.  Adults, in general, are LIARS and CHEATERS.  Virtually ALL adults tell lies from time to time, and somewhere between 25% and 75% of adults are DISHONEST because they tell Big Lies on a regular basis (one or more times per week).
When put in a situation where it is tempting to lie and cheat (for personal gain) with little chance of being detected ALMOST EVERYONE will lie and cheat, and then when questioned about this ALMOST EVERYONE will LIE and hide the fact that they lied and cheated.  This is virtually the SAME way that four and five-year-old children behave in similar experiments.
Also, a large portion of married people CHEAT on their spouses over the course of a lifetime, somewhere between 25% and 50% for those who marry and live to be at least 60 years old.
Adults in general are LIARS and CHEATERS, just like college students, just like high school students, just like children.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 15: Young Adults are Dishonest

WHERE WE ARE
As part of my response to Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory,  I want to point out two major problems with EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY:

  • HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE
  • HUMANS ARE DISHONEST

In Part 13 of this series, I summarized key points from an excellent article on problems with eyewitness memory and identifications made by eyewitnesses.  The main conclusion of that article is that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because human memory is UNRELIABLE.  The evidence from that article provides solid justification for this conclusion.
In Part 14 of this series, I provided a summary of evidence for the view that YOUNG CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS ARE DISHONEST, and in this post, I will be providing evidence that YOUNG ADULTS (specifically college students) ARE DISHONEST.
 
COLLEGE STUDENTS ARE LIARS
If most people lie and deceive, and if people often lie and deceive,  then we have good reason to be skeptical.  We have seen in previous posts that most children lie and lie frequently,  and that most teenagers lie and cheat and do so frequently; it is now time to take a look at the behavior of college students.
A study of lying in everyday life was conducted in which one group consisted of college students and a second group consisted of community members (ranging from 18 to 71 years old).  The participants each kept a  journal for one week in which they were to write down each social interaction and each lie they told.
The results of the study were summed up this way [emphasis added]:

Lying Is a Fact of Daily Life
The studies reported here provide some of the first data, and by far the most extensive data, on some of the most fundamental questions about lying in everyday life. As we expected, lying is a fact of daily life. Participants in the community study, on the average, told a lie every day; participants in the college student study told two. One out of every five times that the community members interacted with someone, they told a lie; for the college students, it was one out of every three times. Of all of the people the community members interacted with one on one over the course of a week, they lied to 30% of them; the college students lied to 38% of the people in their lives. (p.991)

Lying in Everyday Life
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
1996, Vol. 70, No. 5, 979-995
Bella M. DePaulo – University of Virginia
Deborah A. Kashy – Texas A&M University
Susan E. Kirkendol – Pfeiffer College
Jennifer A. Epstein – Cornell University Medical College
Melissa M. Wyer – University of Virginia
Only one of the college students claimed to go a whole week without ever lying.  That one student, of course, might well have been lying in claiming to have never lied that week.  If the students in this study are representative of college students in general, then ALMOST ALL  college students lie, and MOST college students lie on a DAILY basis.
Another study compared a group of high school students with a group of college students.  In this study, the students were asked (in questionnaires) if they had lied to their parents on various topics (friends, alcohol/drugs, parties, money, dating, and sex) at least once in the past year.  Here is a summary of the results [emphasis added]:

Lying to parents was indeed a frequent behavior among the adolescents and emerging adults. Figure 1 shows the percentages of students who had lied to their parents about 6 different issues at least once within the past year. As can be seen, the percentage of high school students who had lied about the different issues ranged from 32 to 67% whereas for college students the range was 28–50%. Eighty-two percent of all students indicated that they had lied to their parents about at least 1 of the 6 issues during the past year. (p.105)

Lying to Parents graph2
[The white bars represent high school students, and black bars represent college students]
It is worth noting that although college students in this study were less likely than high school students to report lying to their parents, a notable proportion of college students had lied to their parents at least once in the past year (ranging from 28 to 50% for the different issues). (p.109)
 
Another study lumps the high school students together with college students to report that 82% of the students lied to their parents on at least one of the six topics in the past year.   That means that MORE than 82% of high school students lied on at least one of the six topics, and that LESS than 82% of the college students lied on at least one of the six topics in the past year.
We know that 50% of college students lied to their parents just on the topic of money alone.  So, it is virtually certain that some significant portion of the remaining 50% of college students lied on one or more of the other topics.  Thus, although we cannot arrive at a specific number, it is very likely that somewhere between 60% and 70% of the college students lied to their parents about at least one of the six topics in the past year.
The Right to Do Wrong: Lying to Parents Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 33, No. 2, April 2004, pp. 101–112
Lene Arnett Jensen,  Jeffrey Jensen Arnett,  S. Shirley Feldman,  and Elizabeth Cauffman
 
Another study of college students looked into how often such students lied on their Resumes [emphasis added]:

Abstract

This study explores how Linkedin shapes patterns of deception in resumes. The general self-presentation goal to appear favorably to others motivates deception when one’s true characteristics are inconsistent with their desired impression. Because Linkedin makes resume claims public, deception patterns should be altered relative to traditional resumes. Participants (n = 119) in a between-subjects experiment created resumes in one of three resume settings: a traditional (offline) resume, private Linkedin profiles, or publicly available Linkedin profiles. Findings suggest that the public nature of Linkedin resume claims affected the kinds of deception used to create positive impressions, but did not affect the overall frequency of deception. Compared with traditional resumes, Linkedin resumes were less deceptive about the kinds of information that count most to employers, namely an applicant’s prior work experience and responsibilities, but more deceptive about interests and hobbies. The results stand in contrast to assumptions that Internet-based communication is more deceptive than traditional formats, and suggests that a framework that considers deception as a resource for self-presentation can account for the findings.

[…]

On average, participants lied 2.87 (median = 3.00, SD = 1.79) times in their profile with a total of 341 lies. The frequency of deception was normally distributed.  One hundred and six participants (92.4 percent) reported at least one deception; the greatest number of lies was 8. There were no gender differences in deception frequency, t(117) = 0.53, p = 0.60.

The Effect of Linkedin on Deception in Resumes
Jamie Guillory, M.S., and Jeffrey T. Hancock, Ph.D.
CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
Volume 15, Number 3, 2012
92% of the college students in this experiment lied on their resumes.  There was an average of three lies in each resume.  So, if these students are representative of college students in general, then ALMOST ALL college students lie on their resumes, and MANY (perhaps MOST) lie multiple times on their resumes.
In conclusion,  there is scientific evidence that indicates that MOST college students lie on a DAILY basis, that MOST college students lie to their parents on one or more important topics each year, and that ALMOST ALL college students lie on their resumes.
 
COLLEGE STUDENTS ARE CHEATERS
Let’s look at some evidence on academic cheating by college students:
Understanding Academic Misconduct
Julia M. Christensen Hughes – University of Guelph
Donald L. McCabe – Rutgers University
Canadian Journal of Higher Education
Volume 36, No. 1, 2006, pages 49 – 63.
[Emphasis added]

[There is]…a growing body of primarily U.S.-based research that suggests academic misconduct has become commonplace amongst the majority of college and university students…(p.50)

 Results of U.S.-based studies have consistently shown that many students engage in academic misconduct in the completion of their academic work and that academic institutions and faculty have done little about it (see for example, Bowers, 1964; Hetherington & Feldman, 1964; Singhal, 1982; McCabe, & Trevino, 1993, 1996; Payne & Nantz, 1994; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 1999, 2001). (p.51)

 Rates of Engagement in Academic Misconduct (p.51-52)

 Purportedly, academic misconduct has always been with U.S.. It has been described in the higher education literature as “ubiquitous” (Pincus & Schmelkin, 2003); as an “epidemic” (Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, & Clark, 1986, p.342), a “perennial problem” (Davis, Grover, Becker, & McGregor, 1992, p.16), and “one of the major problems in education today” (Singhal, 1982, p.775). Such observations are primarily based on studies of undergraduate students at U.S. colleges and universities (both private and public), using a variety of data collection techniques (e.g., self report surveys, in-depth interviews, experiments), and differing sample sizes (e.g., from less than one hundred students in a single department to thousands of students on multiple campuses).

 Although they vary in methodology, these studies have consistently found that the majority of undergraduate students have engaged in some type of misconduct in the completion of their academic work. For example, in Bower’s (1964) seminal multi-campus study involving over 5000 students from 99 U.S. campuses, three out of four students reported engaging in at least one of 13 questionable academic behaviours, with 39% of students reporting having engaged in “serious test cheating” (e.g., copying during an exam with or withoutthe other student’s knowledge, using crib notes, helping someone else to cheaton a test or exam) and 65% reporting having engaged in “serious cheating on written work” (e.g., plagiarism, fabricating or falsifying a bibliography, turningin work done by someone else, copying a few sentences of material without footnoting).

 In a similar 1990-1991 study involving over 6,000 students across 31 small to medium sized U.S. campuses, McCabe and Trevino (1993) found that as many as two out of three students reported engaging in at least one of 14 questionable behaviours and that almost 20% of students reported engaging in 5 or more such behaviours. In this case, 64% of students were found to have engaged in serious test cheating and 66% in serious written cheating.

 Smaller, single campus studies have also reported high rates of academic misconduct. For example, Hetherington and Feldman (1964) used an experimental design in which 78 psychology students at one U.S. state university were presented with multiple opportunities to cheat on actual course exams. More than half (59%) of the students exhibited some form of cheating, the vast majority (87%) of whom were observed to cheat multiple times. Payne and Nantz (1994) used in-depth interviews to study the cheating behaviours of 22 business students in a medium-sized, U.S., state university. Nineteen (or 86%) of the students admitted to having cheated in their college work. Finally, Singhal (1982) surveyed 364 engineering students at a U.S. state university; 56% of students reported having cheated. 

Understanding Academic Misconduct
Julia M. Christensen Hughes – University of Guelph
Donald L. McCabe – Rutgers University
Canadian Journal of Higher Education
Volume 36, No. 1, 2006, pages 49 – 63.
Some of the data from the above-mentioned studies are shown in the following table (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the table):
Summary Statistics Table
The table above is from page 223 of the following article:
“Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research”
Donald McCabe – Rutgers University
Linda Travino -Pennsylvania State University
Kenneth Butterfield – Washington State University
ETHICS & BEHAVIOR 11(3) , 219-232.
A review of a large number of studies on cheating by college students produced similar percentages:

 “Bernard E. Whitley, Jr.(1998:238) reviewed 107 studies related to cheating among college students and found an average of 70.4 percent of students had cheated, 43.1 percent had cheated on examinations, 40.9 percent had cheated on homework assignments, and 47 percent had plagiarized.”  (p.491)

COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ACADEMIC DISHONESTY
NATHAN W. PINO, PH.D.
WILLIAM L. SMITH, PH.D.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Georgia Southern University
Coll Stud J 37 no4 D 2003
NOTE: The original paper referenced above was:

Whitley, B. E. (1998).  “Factors Associated with Cheating Among College Students: A Review.”
Research in Higher Education, 39, 235-274.

Much of the evidence about cheating by college students is obtained by anonymous questionnaires answered by college students.  But we already know that college students have a significant inclination to lie, so they might also be lying even on anonymous questionnaires about cheating.  There is evidence that college students do in fact under-report their own cheating on these anonymous questionnaires.
One study published back in 1987 noted that the use of a method called Randomized Response Technique yielded significantly higher cheating report rates when compared with standard anonymous questionnaires:

Abstract [emphasis added]

Academic cheating behavior by university students was surveyed using the randomized response technique (RRT) and by conventional anonymous questionnaire methods. RRT is a survey method that permits sensitive information to be collected but that precludes associating the respondent with a particular response to a survey item. The estimated proportions of students who have engaged in cheating behaviors were, in general, larger using RRT.  Moreover, this result is consistent with earlier findings for other sensitive behaviors. That under-reporting is a serious problem with anonymous questionnaires is supported by the fact that the anonymous questionnaire estimates ranged from 39% to 83% below the RRT estimates. Furthermore, using a covariate modification of RRT, there was a distinct inverse relation between students’ estimated grade-point average and the tendency to engage in cheating behavior. While these results have direct implications for estimating cheating behavior in higher education, more broadly, they raise serious concerns about the use of anonymous questionnaires when survey topics are sensitive.

“Improved estimation of academic cheating behavior using the randomized response technique”
N. J. Scheers, C. Mitchell Dayton
link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00991933
Research in Higher Education
1987, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 61-69
Another reason that conventional anonymous questionnaires might result in minimizing the amount of cheating by college students is the problem of volunteer sample biases [emphasis added]:

Reported rates of cheating may significantly underestimate the threat to academic integrity in universities due to volunteer sample biases. To vary the incentive states of the participants, we sampled using: 1) a 126 item questionnaire solicited through campus email, 2) a 33 item questionnaire solicited the same way, and 3) a questionnaire that offered course credit. Course-credit participants were more likely to report a cheating behavior (80.7%) than the long questionnaire (68.5%) or the short questionnaire (56.3%), both of which offered no tangible reward. We also asked subjects to respond regarding the cheating behavior of a person that they know best in two different research designs. In both designs, participants reported less cheating for themselves than they did for others. The hypothesis that we underestimate cheating through volunteer sampling was clearly supported. (Contains 4 tables.)

“Under Reporting of Cheating in Research Using Volunteer College Students”
Miller, Arden; Shoptaugh, Carol; Parkerson, Annette
College Student Journal
v42 n2 p326-339 Jun 2008
 
CONCLUSION
We have seen that data from the past several decades consistently shows that most college students cheat on either tests or written assignments or both.  70% is a conservative figure, but given that most of the data is self-reported cheating by college students, whom we know frequently lie, and given that there is empirical evidence that volunteer sample bias and use of conventional anonymous questionnaires results in significant underreporting of cheating, the actual percentage of college students who cheat may well be in the 80% to 90% range.
College students are CHEATERS.
MOST college students lie on a DAILY basis.
MOST college students lie to their parents on one or more important topics each year.
ALMOST ALL college students lie on their resumes.
College students are LIARS and CHEATERS.
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 14: Humans are Dishonest

WHERE WE ARE
I am currently examining Peter Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.  His first three objections are all concerned with the TESTIMONY of WITNESSES, namely EYEWITNESSES.  The first three objections by Kreeft thus evoke the centuries-old idea of proving the resurrection of Jesus in a court trial.  If we take that idea seriously, though, Kreeft’s first three objections become a pathetic joke.  
Objection #3 is about “Five Hundred Witnesses” who allegedly had an experience of the risen Jesus at the same time and the same place.
In Part 12 of this series, I began taking this idea (of a court trial about the resurrection) seriously, by walking through modern procedures and criteria for a careful and proper “initial investigation” of a murder (or other serious crime).  Witnesses in a murder trial are NOT just randomly grabbed off the street and put on a witness stand.  There is usually an initial investigation, where the crime scene is carefully examined and evidence collected and documented, and where witnesses are usually identified and briefly questioned by a police officer or by a detective, and later there is usually a follow-up investigation where key witnesses are interviewed further by a detective.
Before a witness ever takes the stand, both the prosecution and the defense have access to notes and recordings of previous investigations of the crime scene and interviews of the witnesses, sometimes two or three interviews of key witnesses, and so the lawyers have a good idea of what the witnesses will say if and when they testify in court, and they have a good idea of the credibility of the testimony of each witness.  Defense lawyers can also investigate suspects, circumstances, and witnesses to gather evidence that might help to defend their client against the murder charge.
Before I continue with a discussion about what a careful and proper “follow-up investigation” involves, and whether any such investigation took place relative to the alleged event where five hundred people had an experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus,  I want to point out two major problems with EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY:

  • HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE
  • HUMANS ARE DISHONEST

In Part 13 of this series, I summarized key points from an excellent article on problems with eyewitness memory and identifications made by eyewitnesses.  The main conclusion of that article is that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because human memory is UNRELIABLE.  The evidence from that article provides solid justification for this conclusion.
In this post, I will provide a summary of evidence for the view that HUMANS ARE DISHONEST, which gives us another good reason to conclude that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE.
 
VERY YOUNG CHILDREN ARE LIARS

Babies not as innocent as they pretend

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent     12:01AM BST      01 Jul 2007 

Following studies of more than 50 children and interviews with parents, Dr Vasudevi Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth’s psychology department, says she has identified seven categories of deception used between six months and three-years-old.

 Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents’ attention.

By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3298979/Babies-not-as-innocent-as-they-pretend.html
 
There seems to be some SKEPTICISM about the idea that very young children are involved in deception and lying.  So, I think we should take a closer look at some important facts and evidence on this question about very young children. One of the key studies on this question was published in 2013, in an article called “Emergence of Lying in Very Young Children” (Developmental Psychology © 2013 American Psychological Association 2013, Vol. 49, No. 10, 1958–1963). The authors are Angela D. Evans (Brock University) and Kang Lee (University of Toronto and University of California, San Diego).
Here is a summary of this article [emphasis added]:

ABSTRACT

Lying is a pervasive human behavior. Evidence to date suggests that from the age of 42 months onward, children become increasingly capable of telling lies in various social situations. However, there is limited experimental evidence regarding whether very young children will tell lies spontaneously. The present study investigated the emergence of lying in very young children. Sixty-five 2- to 3-year-olds were asked not to peek at a toy when the experimenter was not looking. The majority of children (80%) transgressed and peeked at the toy. When asked whether they had peeked at the toy, most 2-year-old peekers were honest and confessed to their peeking, but with increased age, more peekers denied peeking and thus lied.

However, when asked follow-up questions that assessed their ability to maintain their initial lies, most children failed to conceal their lie by pretending to be ignorant of the toy’s identity. Additionally, after controlling for age, children’s executive functioning skills significantly predicted young children’s tendency to lie. These findings suggest that children begin to tell lies at a very young age.

The first sentence of this abstract supports my general claim:  “Humans are dishonest.”   The first sentence of the article cites research supporting this claim:

 Lying is a pervasive behavior in the adult world (DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996). 

The second sentence cites previous research which supports the claim that young children tell lies  (at least from 42 months and on, i.e.  children from 3.5 years old on up):

Furthermore, children, as young as 42 months, have been found to lie in laboratory settings for a variety of reasons (Evans, Xu, & Lee, 2011; Polak & Harris, 1999; Popliger, Talwar, & Crossman, 2011; Talwar & Lee, 2002). 

The issue, according to these psychological researchers,  is whether children younger than 3.5 years old tell lies.  In other words, Do very young children tell lies?   Their conclusion, based on a psychological experiment was:  YES.  Furthermore, they concluded that not only do 2-year-old children tell lies, but that the tendency to tell lies increases significantly between 2 years of age and 3 years.  The primary evidence presented in the article concerns an experiment conducted with very young children [emphasis added]:

Children were invited to play a guessing game. A toy was placed behind them (e.g., a duck), a noise associated with the toy was made (e.g., quacking), and the children were asked to guess the name of the toy. After the children successfully guessed the first two toys, the experimenter told children that she needed to get a storybook and that the next toy would be placed on the table with the noise playing but that they were not to turn around while the experimenter retrieved the storybook. The toy was placed on the table, and a musical card played music unrelated to the toy so that children could not accurately identify the toy. Due to the young age of the children, the experimenter did not leave the room but instead went to a corner (in front of the child) and rummaged through a bin with her back to the child. Hidden cameras captured whether children peeked. After 1 min, the experimenter closed the bin loudly and stood up to indicate that she was done and was about to turn around. The experimenter then turned around and immediately covered the toy with a cloth. Children were classified as either peekers (peeked at the toy) or nonpeekers (did not peek at the toy). As a measure of whether children understood that they were not supposed to peek, children’s behavior at the moment that the experimenter stood up was coded. Of the children who peeked at the toy, 86.5% (N _ 45) of children returned to their seated position with their back to the toy, indicating that they understood the rule and remained in this position while the experimenter covered the toy. …

To assess whether children would tell the truth or a lie about their peeking behavior, the experimenter asked, “While I was getting the book, did you turn around and peek at the toy?” If they peeked and admitted peeking, they were classified as a confessor. If they peeked but denied peeking, they were classified as a lie teller. Then, to examine whether children were able to maintain verbal consistency between their initial statement and subsequent statements (i.e., semantic leakage control) they were asked, “What do you think it is?” Children who blurted out the name of the toy were classified as revealers. Children who concealed their knowledge by either feigning ignorance (e.g., saying “I don’t know”) or guessed another toy were classified as concealers.

Evans and Lee analyze the results of this experiment and draw some conclusions about very young children [emphasis added]:

The present study investigated the emergence of lie-telling behaviors in children between 2 and 3 years old. We examined the development of the lie-telling behaviors, and the relation between lie-telling and children’s executive functions. With regards to children’s lie-telling behavior, consistent with studies with older children (Polak & Harris, 1999; Talwar & Lee, 2002, 2008), the majority of 3-year-olds who peeked lied. In contrast, only a quarter of the 2-year-olds lied to conceal their transgression. Consistent with our hypothesis, we established experimentally that 2-year-olds will spontaneously tell lies. We also found that between 2 and 3 years of age, the tendency to lie dramatically increases, which mirrors the developmental trend of children between 3 and 12 years (Talwar et al., 2007; Talwar & Lee, 2002, 2008).  …

In the conclusion, Evans and Lee suggest that the increase in lying from age 2 to age 3 does not represent a decline in morality, but rather is an indication of increasing cognitive ability [emphasis added]:

In summary, we demonstrated for the first time experimentally that children begin to tell lies as young as 2 years of age, but most 2-year-olds are still highly honest. Within a 1-year span, children become more inclined to lie about their transgression. In line with studies involving older children, we found that executive functioning skills played an important role in lie telling. Furthermore, the results of the present investigation suggests that rather than younger children simply being more morally inclined to tell the truth, they may simply be less able to tell lies due to their executive functioning skills.  …

Lying increases significantly as very young children become better able to lie.
So, do young children tell lies? Clearly, they do.  What about very young children (ages 2 to 3), do they tell lies? Thanks to Evans and Lee, we can now answer that question with a fair degree of confidence: YES they do.  And by the age of 3, they have a very significant tendency to lie.
Sixteen of the oldest children in this study were from 43 to 48 months old (3.6 to 4 years old).  Ten of those children peeked at the toy, and nine of the ten who peeked lied, that is, 90% of the children who peeked in this older group lied about it! The portion of the younger groups who lied ranged from 25% to 33% of those who peeked.  The overall percentage was 40% of all the young children in this study who peeked lied about it. (this data from Table 1 in the article).
 
YOUNG CHILDREN ARE LIARS
If an adult person is not mentally ill and not mentally disabled, then he/she will answer YES to the following questions:
1. Do children sometimes lie?
2. Do teenagers sometimes lie?
3. Do college students and young adults sometimes lie?
4. Do adults sometimes lie?
I take it to be UNCONTROVERSIAL that children, teenagers, young adults, and adults SOMETIMES tell lies.
There might be some who disagree about the claim that VERY YOUNG children tell lies (i.e. children who are only two or three years old), but my discussion above provides significant evidence to support this answer: YES, even VERY YOUNG children will sometimes lie, and by age three MOST children will lie when they have disobeyed an adult and are questioned about this.
So, if we all agree that children, teenagers, young adults, and adults sometimes lie, then why am I writing posts on this question?  Because the real question is not whether people of various age groups SOMETIMES lie; rather, the real questions are these:

  • How MANY people lie and deceive?
  • How OFTEN do people lie and deceive? 
  • How EASILY do people lie and deceive? 
  • What MOTIVATES people to lie and deceive?

My main point is that MOST children lie, MOST teenagers lie, MOST young adults lie, and that MOST older adults lie. Another point I want to make is that children OFTEN lie, teenagers OFTEN lie, young adults OFTEN lie, and older adults OFTEN lie.   Scientific research can confirm or disconfirm these claims, and scientific research can inform us of the DEGREE to which lying and deception are common human behaviors.  The MORE  people that lie, the more skeptical we ought to be.  The more OFTEN people lie, the more skeptical we ought to be.  The more EASILY people will tell lies, the more skeptical we ought to be.
The scientific study that I focused on above examined the behavior of VERY YOUNG children.  The results of that study show that children as young as two years old will tell lies.  In fact,  between 25% and 33% of the younger children who ‘transgressed’ by disobeying the rule to not peek (at a toy placed behind them) before being asked to guess what sort of toy it was (based on sounds coming from the toy)  lied and said that they had not peeked.
The children who were about three years old in that study who ‘transgressed’ lied at a significantly higher rate (MOST of the peekers that age lied).  Sixteen of the oldest children in this study were from 43 to 48 months old (3.6 to 4 years old).  Ten of those children peeked at the toy, and nine of the ten who peeked lied, that is, 90% of the children who peeked in this older group lied about it!
But what about older children, children from ages four to ten?  Perhaps as children grow up, they become more aware of the wrongness of lying and deception, and more aware of social conventions against lying and deception,  and more aware of the implications and consequences of lying and deception.  So, it is possible that lying and deception decline as children get older and become more mature.
We need to turn to scientific research to find out whether the strong tendency to lie at around three years of age declines, or increases, or stays the same, over the following years of childhood (i.e. from age four to age ten).
Kang Lee, who was one of the psychological researchers who authored the article that I discussed in the previous post, has done a lot of research on lying and cheating and truth-telling by children.  One article, in particular, discusses research in recent decades about children lying:  Child Development Perspectives © 2013 The Society for Research in Child Development (Volume 7, Number 2, 2013, Pages 91–96).
“Little Liars: Development of Verbal Deception in Children” by Kang Lee, University of Toronto[emphasis added]:

ABSTRACT

Lying is common among adults and a more complex issue in children. In this article, I review two decades of empirical evidence about lying in children from the perspective of speech act theory. Children begin to tell lies in the preschool years for anti- and prosocial purposes, and their tendency to lie changes as a function of age and the type of lies being told. In addition, children’s ability to tell convincing lies improves with age. In the article, I highlight the central roles that children’s understanding of mental states and social conventions play in the development of lying. I also identify areas for research to be done to develop a more comprehensive picture of the typical and atypical developmental courses of verbal deception in children.

In the introduction of this article, Lee notes that “No research on lying was conducted between the early 1900s and 1980 (Lewis, Stanger, & Sullivan, 1989).”  But this changed in recent decades.
In the article, Lee synthesizes data from several psychological experiments and provides a chart that indicates the percent of ‘transgressors’ or children who do something contrary to directions given by an adult and who then lie and indicate that they did not disobey the directions given by an adult:

percent of transgressors who lied

We can see that there is a significant increase in the percent of children who lie about their violation of the rule or instruction given by an adult.  At age two only about 30% of ‘transgressors’ lie.  At age three it jumps up to about 55%, and by age four about 75% of transgressors will lie.  Then there is a smaller increase between age four and five, so that at five about 80% of transgressors lie.  Then the trajectory levels out and stays in the range between 80% and 85% for ages six through ten.
These empirical studies of lying indicate that MOST children who are three years of age or older will lie when they have broken a rule or disobeyed direction given by an adult.  Furthermore, this tendency to lie increases significantly between age two and age five, and then levels out at a high percentage (between 80% and 85% of transgressors will lie), from age five to age ten.
So, we do NOT see the tendency to lie DECREASING as children grow older.  Rather, it appears that the tendency INCREASES as they learn how to become better at the ‘skill’ of lying and deceiving others.  By age five children become fairly skilled at lying and will very frequently lie, at least when they have disobeyed a rule or directions from an adult (‘transgression’), and they will lie even when there is no threat of punishment or no significant reward at stake (which is the case in these experiments).  Clearly, young children between age 3 and age ten are LIARS.  They do not just lie SOMETIMES.  MOST young children ages three to four years old will lie when they have disobeyed a rule or directions from an adult and are questioned about this.  Between ages five and ten only a tiny minority (15 to 20%) of those who have disobeyed a rule or directions from an adult will be truthful and admit this when questioned.
Very young children (two to three years old) are often LIARS, and MOST young children three to four years old who have disobeyed a rule or directions will lie about this, and over 80% of children who are between five and ten years old who have disobeyed a rule or directions from an adult will lie about this.  Children are LIARS, and they don’t just lie sometimes.  They lie frequently, and the better they get at telling lies, the more frequently they tell them.
 
YOUNG CHILDREN ARE CHEATERS TOO

At 5-6 years of age many children cheat if the opportunity arises. In one study of this age group, 84% knew that cheating was not allowed. However, 56% cheated.

http://www.glass-castle.com/clients/www-nocheating-org/adcouncil/research/cheatingbackgrounder.html
 
TEENAGERS ARE DISHONEST
One good reason why we should be skeptical is that people often lie, deceive, and cheat.
This is not just my personal opinion. This is a FACT, a fact established by scientific observation and research. I have presented factual scientific data showing that very young children lie, and that elementary age children lie frequently. Now it is time to look into how much teenagers lie, deceive, and cheat.
I take it as an obvious truth that teenagers sometimes lie and deceive and teenagers sometimes cheat.   So, an important question is HOW MUCH do teenagers lie and deceive and cheat?
 
One psychologist who has studied this question is Nancy Darling.  Here are some important findings from one of her studies about teenagers [emphasis added]:

In the last few years, a handful of intrepid scholars have decided it’s time to try to understand why kids lie. For a study to assess the extent of teenage dissembling, Dr. Nancy Darling, then at Penn State University, recruited a special research team of a dozen undergraduate students, all under the age of 21. Using gift certificates for free CDs as bait, Darling’s Mod Squad persuaded high-school students to spend a few hours with them in the local pizzeria.

Each student was handed a deck of 36 cards, and each card in this deck listed a topic teens sometimes lie about to their parents. Over a slice and a Coke, the teen and two researchers worked through the deck, learning what things the kid was lying to his parents about, and why.

“They began the interviews saying that parents give you everything and yes, you should tell them everything,” Darling observes. By the end of the interview, the kids saw for the first time how much they were lying and how many of the family’s rules they had broken. Darling says 98 percent of the teens reported lying to their parents.

Out of the 36 topics, the average teen was lying to his parents about twelve of them. The teens lied about what they spent their allowances on, and whether they’d started dating, and what clothes they put on away from the house. They lied about what movie they went to, and whom they went with. They lied about alcohol and drug use, and they lied about whether they were hanging out with friends their parents disapproved of. They lied about how they spent their afternoons while their parents were at work. They lied about whether chaperones were in attendance at a party or whether they rode in cars driven by drunken teens.

Being an honors student didn’t change these numbers by much; nor did being an overscheduled kid. No kid, apparently, was too busy to break a few rules. And lest you wonder if these numbers apply only to teens in State College, Pennsylvania, the teens in Darling’s sample were compared to national averages on a bevy of statistics, from academics to extracurriculars. “We had a very normal, representative sample,” Darling says.

[Excerpted from:  “Learning to Lie” by Po Bronson, published Feb 10, 2008,  New York Magazine]
 
Nancy Darling made  a couple of comments worth noting about the above-mentioned study:

Most kids lie to their parents sometimes. For example, in a study we did of 121 high school students, 120 of them listed at least one area they lied to parents about. And that last teen told us they agreed with their parents about everything. (I’m not sure I believe them.) We’ve replicated these findings with thousands more kids in four countries on three continents.

(“Is Your Teen Trustworthy?Psychology Today,  Published on July 9, 2011)
 
Another indication of teenage deception is the fact that while many teenagers drink alcohol, parents are generally unaware that their teenage child drinks alcohol [emphasis added]:

 Abstract: This study included 199 White mother-adolescent dyads and 144 White father-adolescent dyads. All adolescents reported regular alcohol use, yet less than one third of parents were aware of their adolescents’ drinking. […]

Despite public concern and media hype surrounding drug use by adolescents, studies have confirmed that American adolescents’ use of some illicit drugs, including cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin, is minimal. In a 1995 national survey, only from 1% to 4% of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders reported using any of these substances in the previous 30 days. The use of other substances during the month preceding the study was more prevalent, with from 9% to 21% of students reporting marijuana use and from 19% to 34% reporting cigarette use. Alcohol use was even higher, with 25% of eighth graders, 39% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reporting that they drank in the previous month(Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1996). Public attention has been misdirected at adolescents’ use of illicit drugs, even though licit drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, cause more deaths in the United States than all other drugs combined (Ellickson, 1992) and may, in the long run, pose a greater risk to the developing adolescent and more harm to society (Kandel, Single, & Kessler, 1976; Newcomb & Bentler, 1989).

[…]

Even though some adolescents experiment with alcohol without becoming regular users (Kandel et al., 1978), few studies have recognized this distinction and focused on adolescents who are regular drinkers. (For exceptions, see Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Barnes et al., 1994). To avoid confounding experimentation with regular use, this study focuses only on adolescents who were using alcohol on a regular basis.

[…]

The subsample derives from a study of eighth to 12th graders (n = 1,227) and their parents (n = 1,176) from three school districts In urban, suburban, and rural settings in a single Midwestern county between December, 1994, and May, 1995.

[…]

Parents’ beliefs about their adolescents’ alcohol use.
Parents responded to the question, “How likely is it that your child currently drinks alcohol?” in one of seven categories. (See Table 1.)

Parents’ beliefs about alcohol use by their adolescents’ close friends.    
Parents responded to the question, “How likely is it that your child’s close friends currently drink alcohol?” in one of seven categories. (See Table 1.)

Parents’ awareness of their adolescents’ alcohol use.
Previous studies have concluded that adolescent self reports of alcohol use on anonymous or identifiable surveys are valid and reliable (Malvin & Moskowitz, 1983; Mensch & Kandel, 1988). Because this study included only adolescents who reported the regular use of alcohol, parents were classified as either unaware or aware of their adolescents’ use of alcohol based on their response to a question regarding beliefs about the adolescent’s alcohol use. Parents were coded unaware if they responded that the adolescent was somewhat, very, or definitely unlikely to be drinking alcohol. Parents were coded aware if they responded that the adolescent was somewhat, very, or definitely likely to be drinking alcohol or that they were not sure. The response, not sure, was classified in the aware category because parents typically underestimate adolescent alcohol use, and this uncertainty indicates some suspicion that the adolescent is using alcohol. (The percentages are reported in the results.)

[…]

Parental Awareness of Alcohol Use by Their Adolescents and Their Adolescents’ Close Friends
This first set of analyses confirmed our hypothesis that the majority of mothers and fathers would be unaware of their adolescents’ alcohol use. Although all adolescents included in this study reported using alcohol at least once a month, only 29% of mothers were aware of their adolescents’ alcohol use. Moreover, few aware mothers were definite when asked about the likelihood that their adolescents currently were using alcohol. Only 5% responded “definitely”: 4%, “very likely”; and 6%, “not sure.” The largest group of aware mothers, 1552, responded that their adolescents’ alcohol use was “somewhat likely.” Despite adolescents’ reports of regular use of alcohol, the majority of mothers, 71 %, were unaware. Most were quite certain that their adolescents were not currently using alcohol. Specifically, 26% of the unaware mothers responded “definitely not,” and 33% responded “very unlikely”; only 12% of the mothers responded that their adolescents’ use was “somewhat unlikely.”

We obtained similar results for fathers. Only 31 % were aware that their adolescents were currently using alcohol. Few aware fathers were certain about their adolescents’ use. Only 2% responded “definitely”; 4%, “very likely”; and 6%, “not sure.” The largest group of aware fathers, 19%, responded that their adolescents’ alcohol use was “somewhat likely.” Despite adolescents’ reports of regular alcohol use, 69% of fathers were unaware. The majority were quite certain that their adolescents did not currently drink alcohol. Specifically, 24% of unaware fathers responded “definitely not,” and 29% responded “very unlikely”; only 16% of the fathers responded “somewhat unlikely.”

[“Other Teens Drink, But not my Kid“: Does Parental Awareness of Adolescent Alcohol Use Protect Adolescents from Risky Consequences?” (1998).
Karen Bogenschneider, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Ming-Yeh Wu, Soochow University
Marcela Raffaelli, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Jenner C. Tsay, University of Wisconsin
University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Faculty Publications, Department of Psychology. Paper 116, 5-18-1998]
For teenagers who report regular alcohol use,  about 70% of their parents are UNAWARE that their teenager is currently using alcohol.  This suggests that many of these teenagers are involved in lying and/or deceiving their parents, at least about their use of alcohol.
 
TEENAGERS ARE CHEATERS
The view that teenagers often lie and cheat is also supported by a survey of 43,000 high school students conducted by the Josephson Institute [emphasis added]:

Survey highlights: while 89 percent of students believe that being a good person is more important than being rich, almost one in three boys and one in four girls admitted stealing from a store within the past year. Moreover, 21 percent admitted they stole something from a parent or other relative, and 18 percent admitted stealing from a friend.

On lying, more than two in five said they sometimes lie to save money (48 percent of males and 35 percent of females). While 92 percent of students believe their parents want them to do the right thing, more than eight in ten confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.

Rampant cheating in school continues. A majority of students (59 percent) admitted cheating on a test during the last year, with 34 percent doing it more than two times.  One in three admitted they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.

“As bad as these numbers are, they appear to be understated,” said Michael Josephson, president of the Institute and a national leader in ethics training. “More than one in four students confessed they lied on at least one or two survey questions, which is typically an attempt to conceal misconduct.”

Josephson said the results of this survey, conducted in 2010, are slightly better than those of the 2008 survey.

Josephson Institute of Ethics’ Report Card for 2010
Note:  In a 2012  survey conducted by the Josephson Institute, the percent of lying, stealing, and cheating reported by high school students decreased somewhat.
 
A survey of 24,000 high school students produced results similar to the above Josephson Institute survey [emphasis added]:

Don McCabe, a professor at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, has conducted much of the research on cheating in U.S. schools since 1990 and says cheating on tests in high school is on the rise.

In his survey of 24,000 students at 70 high schools, 64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.

Problem is, he said, some students don’t think of it as cheating, or they try to justify their behavior.

“They feel a test is unfair and they feel it’s OK to cheat,” he said. “Maybe they had something to do that night and didn’t study. Another big issue is fairness — they feel that they are getting left behind.”

(“Students’ cheating takes a high-tech turn” by Jeremy P. Meyer, The Denver Post, POSTED:   05/27/2010 )
 
Various studies of Middle School and High School students show that cheating by teenagers is very common:

The results of the 29th Who’s Who Among American High School Students Poll (of 3,123 high-achieving 16- to 18-year olds – that is, students with A or B averages who plan to attend college after graduation) were released in November, 1998. Among the findings:

    • 80% of the country’s best students cheated to get to the top of their class.
    • More than half the students surveyed said that they don’t think cheating is a big deal.
    • 95% of cheaters say they were not caught.
    • 40% cheated on a quiz or a test
    • 67% copied someone else’s homework

According to the results of a 1998 survey of 20,829 middle and high school students nationwide conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, 70% of high school students and 54% of middle school students said they had cheated on an exam in the last 12 months. …

Middle School:
Most research shows that cheating begins to set in during the middle school years (ages 11 – 13). According to The Josephson Institute of Ethics, “The evidence is fairly clear that cheating begins in the middle school fairly seriously and escalates in the higher grades, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, because that’s when the stakes are highest. It doesn’t seem as if it’s necessarily a dispositional thing, like they’ve never thought of cheating before. It’s that there isn’t much reason to cheat in the elementary school.”

According to Jacobs, research at this age shows that middle schoolers are motivated to cheat because of the emphasis placed on grades. In one study, 2/3 of middle school students report cheating on exams; 90% copy homework. Furthermore, even those who say that cheating is wrong, will cheat. The bottom line: If a child’s goal is to get a good grade, he is more likely to cheat.

High School:
Research has shown that the incidence of academic cheating among high school students has risen to all-time highs. The studies conducted by Who’s Who Among American High School Students, as well as those conducted by The Josephson Institute, are just a few of the many that demonstrate the problem. In addition, a 1997 Connecticut Department of Public Health survey of 12,000 students showed that 63% of 11th graders and 62% of ninth graders reported cheating on an exam in the previous 12 months.

[…]

According to Stephen Davis, a psychology professor at Emporia State University in Kansas: “about 20% of college students from across the nation admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940’s. That percentage has since soared, with no fewer than 75% and as many as 98% of 8,000 college students surveyed each year now reporting cheating in high school – and the majority admitting doing it on several occasions.

http://www.glass-castle.com/clients/www-nocheating-org/adcouncil/research/cheatingbackgrounder.html
 
Most teenagers lie and deceive.  Most teenagers are dishonest with their parents on several topics.  Most teenagers cheat in school, either on tests or on assignments.  Most teenagers who regularly drink alcohol manage to hide this from their parents.  Those are the facts.  Teenagers are LIARS.  They are DISHONEST.
To Be Continued…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 13: Two Problems with Eyewitness Testimony

WHERE WE ARE
I am currently examining Peter Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.  His first three objections are all concerned with the TESTIMONY of WITNESSES, namely EYEWITNESSES.  The first three objections by Kreeft thus evoke the centuries-old idea of proving the resurrection of Jesus in a court trial.  If we take that idea seriously, though, Kreeft’s first three objections become a pathetic joke.  
Objection #3 is about “Five Hundred Witnesses” who supposedly had an experience of the risen Jesus at the same time and the same place.
In Part 12 of this series, I began taking this idea (of a court trial about the resurrection) seriously, by walking through modern criteria for a careful and proper “initial investigation” of a murder (or other serious crime).  Witnesses in a murder trial are not just randomly grabbed off the street and put on a witness stand.  There is usually an initial investigation, where the crime scene is carefully examined and evidence collected and documented, and where witnesses are usually identified and briefly questioned by a police officer or by a detective, and later there is usually a follow-up investigation where witnesses are interviewed further by a detective.
So, before a witness ever takes the stand, both the prosecution and the defense have access to notes and recordings of previous interviews of the witnesses, sometimes two or three interviews of a witness, and so the lawyers have a good idea of what the witnesses will say when they testify, and they have a good idea of the credibility that the testimony of each witness will have.
Before I continue with a discussion about what a careful and proper “follow-up investigation” involves, and whether any such investigation took place relative to the alleged event where five hundred people had an experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus,  I want to point out two major problems with EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY:

  • Human memory is UNRELIABLE
  • Humans are DISHONEST

 
EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY IS UNRELIABLE BECAUSE HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE
Professional detectives have been working at solving murders and other serious crimes since the mid-1800s.  So, why did the Department of Justice think law enforcement needed new guidelines for careful and proper investigation of murders and other serious crimes around 1998?  One big motivation is that many people who were convicted of murder and other serious crimes on the basis of EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY were later proven to be INNOCENT by the use of DNA evidence.  This had become a serious concern by that time:

An excellent article on the unreliability of human memory is Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Biases by Cara Laney and Elizabeth F. Loftus.  The main conclusion of this article is that eyewitness testimony is NOT reliable:

Notice some of the different ways that eyewitness memory can be corrupted:

a. leading questions
b. misinterpretation of events
c. conversations with co-witnesses
d. the expectations of the witness for what should have happened

 
If an eyewitness is exposed to misinformation after the event (e.g. in a misleading question) that can corrupt the memory of the eyewitness (This is known as the “misinformation effect”):

 
Discussions of an event between eyewitnesses to the event increase the Misinformation Effect:

This article also describes a study in which a group of people is shown a brief video, but because of the use of polarized glasses, they actually are watching two different versions of the video, some in the group see one video, and others see a video that has some significant differences from the first one.  The subjects are asked to answer a dozen memory questions about the movie after discussing those questions with each other, and then to answer another twenty questions on their own.  Four of the dozen questions that the subjects discuss together are about details that differed between the two versions of the video, and eight of the twenty questions that they answered individually are about details that differed between the two versions of the video.  There was a significant impact on the reliability of memory on the questions that were discussed by the group prior to answering those questions:

False memories of events that did not happen can be implanted into a person’s mind fairly easily:

More recent experiments have shown that false memories can be created in a significant portion of the subjects and in some experiments, false memories were created in most of the subjects.  In one study, subjects were exposed to advertisements about Disneyland that featured the cartoon character Bugs Bunny being present at Disneyland.  As a result, some subjects became convinced that they had personally seen the Bugs Bunny character at Disneyland, but that cannot have actually happened, because Bugs Bunny is a Warner Brothers cartoon and has never been a Disney cartoon character nor a character portrayed at Disneyland.
This article also discusses the unreliability of eyewitness identification of culprits.  This is relevant to the claim that hundreds of eyewitnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, because in order for a person to claim to have seen the risen Jesus, that person must have IDENTIFIED a person (or an experienced visual image of a person) as being Jesus of Nazareth.  The evidential value of such testimony is based upon that IDENTIFICATION.  Merely seeing a person in town or in a church service is of no significance to the question at issue if that person was NOT Jesus of Nazareth.  So, the reliability or unreliability of eyewitness IDENTIFICATION of persons is of direct relevance to the claim that hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
There are a number of factors that often lead to UNRELIABLE eyewitness IDENTIFICATIONS:

Let’s consider the above factors in relation to the claim that hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

a. poor vision
b. poor viewing conditions
c. stressful witnessing experiences
d. too little time to view the person who needs to be identified
e. too much delay between witnessing and identifying
f. being asked to identify a person from a race other than the race of the witness

a. Did an objective investigator determine for each one of the alleged eyewitnesses whether he/she had good vision or poor vision?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have tracked down hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses and inquired about the quality of their vision.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator checked on the vision of hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In any case, we have no information about the quality of the vision of the hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses.
b. Did an objective investigator determine whether the viewing conditions at the time and place of this event were good or bad viewing conditions?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have carefully investigated the quality of viewing conditions that existed at the time and place of this alleged event.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator carefully investigated the quality of viewing conditions that existed at the time and place of this alleged event.  In any case, we have no information about the viewing conditions at the time and place of this alleged event.
c. Did an objective investigator determine that the circumstances for these hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses during the event were NOT stressful circumstances for them?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have carefully investigated the circumstances during the event to determine whether they were stressful circumstances for the alleged eyewitnesses.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator carefully investigated the psychological circumstances of the alleged eyewitnesses that existed at the time and place of this alleged event.  In any case, we have no information about the psychological circumstances of the eyewitnesses at the time and place of this alleged event.
Presumably, there was no threat of violence at the time, like there would be in the case of witnessing a murder.  However, if this event took place during a Christian worship service, there might well have been significant emotional factors at the time of this event.  Early Christians often spoke in tongues and “prophesied” and performed faith healings.  Early Christian worship was probably more like Pentacostal worship than the calm and well-ordered worship services in Catholic and mainstream protestant Churches that we see today.  So, if this event took place during a Christian worship service, which seems likely, then there might well have been a great intensity of religious fervor and emotion that would have impacted both the interpretations of the eyewitnesses and their memories of this event.
d. Did an objective investigator determine whether there was enough time or too little time to view the key person who was identified (namely the person who was thought to be the risen Jesus)?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have carefully investigated the amount of time that each of the hundreds of witnesses viewed the person who they believed to be the risen Jesus.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator carefully investigated whether there was enough time or too little time to view the person who was thought to be the risen Jesus.
In any case, we have no information about how long each of the hundreds of witnesses “saw” or experienced this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  It could have lasted for just one second, or just a few seconds, or for a minute, or a few minutes, or for longer.  We just don’t know.
e. Did an objective investigator determine for each alleged eyewitness whether there was too long of a delay between seeing this person (or experiencing an image of a person) and identifying that person as being Jesus of Nazareth?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have carefully investigated the amount of time between when each of the hundreds of witnesses viewed the person in question and the time when that witness concluded that this person was  Jesus of Nazareth.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator carefully investigated the amount of time between when each of the hundreds of witnesses viewed the person in question and the time when they concluded that this person was  Jesus of Nazareth.
In any case, we have no information about the amount of time between when each of the hundreds of witnesses viewed the person in question and the time when that witness concluded that this person was  Jesus of Nazareth.  Some people might have immediately concluded that the person was Jesus of Nazareth, other people may have drawn this conclusion an hour after the event, some may have drawn the conclusion a day later, a week later, or a month later.  We just don’t know.
There were no photographs or videos or line-ups of suspects to view later.   So, there was NEVER a formal identification in the way that IDENTIFICATION occurs in modern criminal investigations.  There were no pictures of Jesus to show to the alleged eyewitnesses, and there was no physical Jesus of Nazareth available to put into a lineup of similar-looking Jewish peasants.  So, modern standards and processes of IDENTIFICATION could NOT have taken place for this event.
However, some or all of the alleged eyewitnesses might not have identified the person in question as being Jesus of Nazareth immediately, during the event.  If a witness did NOT immediately recognize the person in question as being Jesus of Nazareth, then there was a gap in time between seeing this person (or experiencing an image of a person) and IDENTIFYING that person as being Jesus.  In those cases, it would be important to know HOW LONG that gap of time was between seeing and identifying.  We have no information about whether there was such a gap in time between seeing and identifying, no information about how many witnesses experienced a delay between seeing and identifying, and no information about how long this gap of time was for each of the various hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses.  We just don’t know.
f. Did an objective investigator determine for each of the hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses whether Jesus of Nazareth was from a race other than the race of the witness?
There probably was no objective investigator of this event.  Furthermore, even if there were an objective investigator, it seems unlikely that this investigator would have carefully investigated whether Jesus of Nazareth was from a race other than the race of the witness.  This is a concern based on the modern scientific study of problems with eyewitness identificatiton.  So, it is very unlikely that an objective investigator carefully investigated whether Jesus of Nazareth was from a race other than the race of the witness.
In any case, we have no information about the race, or races, of the alleged eyewitnesses.  We just don’t know their race or races.  These alleged eyewitnesses might well have all been Greeks or Romans who had converted to Christianity, and thus none of them would have been Palestinian Jews.  In that case, their identifications of a man as being Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Palestinian Jew, would be suspect.
There is one very important factor that has not been touched on by the article on problems with eyewitness memory: prior familiarity with the person in question.
g. Did an objective investigator determine for each of the hundreds of alleged eyewitnesses whether they had previously seen and met Jesus of Nazareth before he died?
This is the crucial problem with Paul’s testimony about his alleged experience of an appearance of the risen Jesus.  Paul never met the historical Jesus prior to Jesus’ death.   So, Paul was in no position to correctly and reliably IDENTIFY any person as being Jesus of Nazareth.  Paul’s testimony, the only firsthand testimony that we have, of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus is WORTHLESS because Paul did not know what Jesus looked like.
So, an absolutely crucial question about these alleged hundreds of eyewitnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus is whether ANY of them had seen and met Jesus of Nazareth before Jesus died.  If these people did not live in Palestine, then it is unlikely that they had seen and met Jesus of Nazareth before he died.  In that case, their eyewitness IDENTIFICATION of the man who appeared to them in this event as being Jesus of Nazareth would be WORTHLESS, and thus their testimony, like Paul’s testimony, would be WORTHLESS.  The fact that they saw some person who they believed to be Jesus of Nazareth would NOT provide significant evidence that this person was in fact Jesus of Nazareth.
 
CONCLUSION
It is becoming more and more clear that the analogy with a court trial shows the “eyewitness” evidence for the resurrection of Jesus to be a pathetic joke.   If we compare modern murder investigations by professional detectives and the court trials that depend on those investigations with the evidence offered by Christian apologists, it becomes painfully obvious that the evidence they provide is extremely weak and dubious, nowhere even close to being the sort of strong evidence needed to establish the occurrence of a supernatural event or miracle.
Eyewitnesses in a murder trial are not simply pulled off the street and put onto the witness stand.  The crime scene and witnesses of the crime are initially investigated by a professional police officer and/or homicide detective, and key witnesses are investigated and interviewed again in more depth by a professional detective, and this initial gathering of information and testimony occurs prior to any court trial, prior to any witness being called to testify.  By considering modern criminal investigations and court trials, especially concerning serious crimes like murder, we can clearly see that there is no serious chance that an actual court trial would ever lead to the verdict that Jesus rose from the dead.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 12: Preliminary Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
I am working my way through Peter Kreeft’s 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory, the view that one or more of Jesus’s disciples experienced a hallucination or dream about Jesus after the death of Jesus, and this experience was mistakenly believed to be an ordinary sensory experience of a living and embodied Jesus who had risen from the dead, and that this experience (or those experiences) became the primary basis of the early Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  Kreeft’s objections against this theory are presented in Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).
So, far I have shown that Kreeft’s first two objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:

OBJECTION #3: FIVE HUNDRED WITNESSES
Kreeft presents his third objection against the Hallucination Theory in a single paragraph:

The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place.  This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus.  Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter.   (HCA, p.187)

The term “witnesses” in this context has this meaning, as I have previously argued:

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

Recall that Kreeft’s second objection was that “The Witnesses were Qualified”, which turned out to mean the claim that the TESTIMONY of the WITNESSES of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus was CREDIBLE.  Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory are concerned with the TESTIMONY of WITNESSES, which evokes the idea of a court trial.
The idea of proving the resurrection of Jesus in a court trial has been around for at least a few centuries.  Back in 1729, Thomas Sherlock wrote a defense of the resurrection of Jesus called The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.   This idea is a common theme in Christian apologetics:

In his book The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell fully embraces this idea in his discussion of the alleged five hundred witnesses:

Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial and place them in a courtroom.   Do you realise that if each of these 500 people were to testify only six minutes each, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firstshand eyewitness testimony?  Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you could well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.  (The Resurrection Factor, 2005 edition, p.79)

This is a wild apologetic fantasy by McDowell, and I will throw some cold water on this fantasy right now.  There is ONLY ONE firsthand testimony of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the entire New Testament, namely that of Paul.  Speaking about Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and specifically about the opening verses of Chapter 15, the great New Testament scholar Raymond Brown points out Paul’s uniqueness in this regard:

…Jesus “was seen”…[by] Cephas (Peter), the Twelve, and more than 500; then James, all the apostles, and “last of all me.”  The concluding reference to himself is extremely important since Paul is the only NT writer who claims personally to have witnessed an appearance of the risen Jesus.  (An Introduction to the New Testament, 1997, p.534, emphasis added)

Paul never claims to have met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, and as far as we know he never had met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, so Paul had no way to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth.  Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul’s “testimony” about seeing the risen Jesus is WORTHLESS as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, Paul did not see the crucifixion or burial of Jesus, so Paul did not himself witness the death of Jesus.  Thus, Paul did NOT know that Jesus had in fact DIED prior to the alleged appearance of Jesus to Paul.  That means that Paul did NOT know that the person who he “saw” and who he identified as Jesus, had risen from the dead.  Thus, there is ZERO credible firsthand testimony of an appearance of the risen Jesus in the New Testament.
If we take the idea seriously of there being five hundred “witnesses” who “testify” in a court trial about having experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this turns Objection #3 by Kreeft into a pathetic joke (as well as Objection #1 and #2).  So, that is precisely what I shall now do.
 
PREPARATION FOR A MURDER TRIAL
When a person is charged with the crime of “murder”, that is a very serious matter, because we usually punish murder severely, with the death penalty or with life in prison.  We expect that person to have a fair trial in which he or she will be vigorously defended by a competent lawyer, and we expect that the prosecuting attorney to attempt to build a strong case for the guilt of the accused person using both eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, and documentary evidence.   The accused should only be found “guilty” of murder if all twelve members of the jury are persuaded by the evidence and arguments that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused did in fact commit the murder in question.
Before a witness for the prosecution testifies in a murder trial, that person has already previously been interviewed two or three or more times by a police officer and/or by one or more homicide detectives.  The prosecution already has a very good idea of what that person claims to have seen (or heard, or felt, or smelled, or tasted) relative to the murder or the murderer or the victim, and thus what that witness is likely to testify during the court trial.
So, let’s back up in time, to before the trial, to the time when the investigation and interviews of witnesses are just starting.
There is typically at least a “preliminary investigation” and a “follow-up investigation” of a murder scene and of relevant eyewitnesses.
 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of a crime scene (from p.14 & 15 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

An appearance by Jesus to a crowd of people was not a crime, so we would not expect there to be a criminal investigation of this event.  Nevertheless, the claim that “Jesus physically rose from the dead” is a central claim of Christianity, so whether a risen Jesus did in fact visit a crowd of people is an important issue that should be carefully investigated.

Was there a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred?

We don’t know.  However, it is highly improbable that there was a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred.  First of all, the whole idea of a “detective” who carefully investigates a crime scene and witnesses is a modern idea:

The first private detective agency was founded in Paris in 1833 by Eugène François Vidocq, who had also headed a police agency in addition to being a criminal himself. Police detective activities were pioneered in England by the Bow Street Runners and later the Metropolitan Police Service in Greater London. The first police detective unit in the United States was formed in 1846 in Boston.  (from “Detective” in Wikipedia)

So, the alleged appearance of Jesus to the crowd of five hundred people took place about 1,800 years before there were any people who were professional detectives.
Furthermore, these “witnesses” were “brethren” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), meaning that they were Christian believers.  They already believed in God, and in miracles, and that God had miraculously raised Jesus from the dead.  They were not the sort of people who would be skeptical about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In fact, if one of them had “investigated” this event, we would have good reason to suspect that he or she was too BIASED to be an objective investigator.
Who else would carefully and objectively investigate an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus?  Non-Christian pagans would have little interest in this event.  Most pagans at that time believed in gods, ghosts, souls, magic, and other supernatural beings and forces.  They would not have been skeptical about an appearance of Jesus (although they might tend to think of the event as the appearance of a god or a ghost, rather than as the seeing of an embodied person who had previously died).
The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem generally were opposed to Christianity and wanted to suppress this religious movement, so they would not be interested in taking claims of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus seriously and doing a serious and objective investigation of such claims.  If they were really worried about stories of hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, they might try to hunt down and threaten or kill those witnesses, to silence them, but would not make a serious investigation into this event.

PI-B1. Did a preliminary investigator identify the person who had allegedly appeared to the crowd of five hundred people?

Probably not.  First of all, it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this alleged event.   Second, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is highly probable that he or she would not have investigated the event on the day it occurred, but rather some days or weeks or months later.  If there was no preliminary investigation on the day of the event, then whoever the person was who appeared to the crowd (if an actual physical person DID appear to the crowd), would have probably been long gone, so nobody could point this person out to the preliminary investigator at the time of the preliminary investigation.  The identification of this person would require descriptions and testimony from eyewitnesses who were present at the event.

PI-B2. Did a preliminary investigator determine/classify what crime or incident had occurred?

Probably not, because it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  But if there had been a preliminary investigation, the investigator might well have tried to determine whether an actual physical man (whom some believed to be Jesus) had been visually observed by the crowd or if the experiences of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus were hallucinations or dreams or subjective visions.  Such a preliminary determination would probably be helpful to any later investigations, but because there probably was no preliminary investigator or investigation, we have no such determination to help us figure out what actually happened.

PI-B3. Did a preliminary investigator broadcast an updated description of the incident, perpetrator(s), and/or vehicle(s)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that anyone began a preliminary investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone “broadcast” an updated description of the event, or of the man who had appeared to the crowd (whom some believed to be the risen Jesus).  Furthermore, there were no radios, telephones, cameras, video cameras, televisions, or newspapers in the first century, so “broadcasting” information about this event would be difficult, if not impossible, to do.  If some person was disguised as Jesus, or just happened to look like Jesus, and had appeared to the crowd, and then left town a short while later, it would have been difficult to track that person down, because of the lack of communication technology in the first century.

PI-B4. Did a preliminary investigator verify the identity of the witness(es)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, if there had been a preliminary investigation, it probably did not occur on the same day as the event but took place days, weeks, or months later.
Since the five hundred people were Christian believers, they probably had gathered for a religious service or religious activity when the alleged appearance of Jesus took place.  But not everyone shows up for every religious service or every religious activity in their church or Christian community, so just being a member of that Christian community would NOT mean that one was present during this event.   Thus, it would be important for there to be a preliminary investigation on the same day as the alleged appearance, so that an accurate list of the names of people who were actually present during this event would be documented.
It would be too easy for people who were part of the local Christian community to later claim (and even believe) that they had been present during this event when they were in fact NOT present during the event.  Since it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation, and even more unlikely that someone conducted a preliminary investigation on the same day as the event or even the next day, it is extremely unlikely that anyone accurately identified and documented the names of the people who were actually present during this event.

PI-B5. Did a preliminary investigator separate witnesses and instruct them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses.  Furthermore, the knowledge that discussion of details of an event between eyewitnesses to the event is likely to contaminate and distort the memories of those witnesses about the event is a very recent bit of scientific knowledge about the fragility of human memory.  So, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have cautioned the five hundred witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with each other.
Given that this event would have been viewed by the Christian believers who were present at the event to be a highly significant religious event, it is extremely probable that they would have discussed the details of this event with each other unless someone in a position of authority had instructed them to avoid discussing details of the event with each other.  In fact, even if there had been a preliminary investigator who instructed these Christian believers to avoid discussing details of this incident with each other, it is highly probable that they would have ignored this instruction and gone ahead and discussed the details of the event with each other.  Therefore, it is highly probable that the Christian believers who were present during this event discussed the details of the event with each other.  This is a serious problem for the credibility of any testimony of these witnesses to the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

PI-B6. Did a preliminary investigator canvass the area for other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since the event probably took place during a gathering of Christian believers for a religious service or religious activity, it would be very important to search for other witnesses who were NOT members of that Christian community, and thus who would NOT be subject to the religious biases and peer pressure of that Christian community.   An outsider could have provided a more objective point of view that would either confirm or disconfirm the testimony of the Christian believers who were present during the event.
A preliminary investigation is usually conducted at the scene of a crime, especially at the scene of a murder.  But it is highly improbable that a preliminary investigation took place in relation to the event where five hundred people allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  And even if there had been a preliminary investigation, it is unlikely to have satisfied the various criteria spelled out above for a proper preliminary investigation.  As noted in the guide by the National Institute of Justice, this has significant implications for any later investigation of this event:

The preliminary investigation at the scene forms a sound basis for the accurate collection of information and evidence during the followup investigation.  (Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement, p.15)

 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
A very important part of a preliminary investigation of a crime concerns eyewitnesses. Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of eyewitnesses (from p.15 & 16 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

PI-C1. Did a preliminary investigator establish rapport with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to establish rapport with a witness before and during an interview of the witness.

PI-C2. Did a preliminary investigator ask about the condition of the witness?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since this would not be a criminal investigation, there would not be any particular reason to be concerned about an injury of the witness or about trauma to the witness because of having experienced a violent event.  This second question also seems closely connected to the first question.  Asking about the condition of the witness is a way to help establish rapport with the witness.
If a witness was seriously injured at the scene of a crime, then another reason to ask about the condition of the witness would be to determine if the witness was conscious and in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand and to provide reasonable answers to, questions about the crime or event in question.   That sort of question would also be relevant in the case of a witness to an alleged appearance of Jesus.  Is the witness currently in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand questions about the event and to provide reasonable answers to those questions?   There probably was no preliminary interview of any witnesses to this alleged appearance of a risen Jesus, so this question was probably not asked.  If there was a preliminary investigation of witnesses, we have no idea whether this question was asked.

PI-C3. Did a preliminary investigator ask open-ended questions; augment with closed-ended questions? and avoid leading questions?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to ask questions in the manner described here and to avoid asking leading questions.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event asked questions of witnesses in this manner and avoided asking leading questions.

PI-C4. Did a preliminary investigator clarify the information received with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  If there was a preliminary investigation, we have no idea whether the investigator clarified the information received with the witnesses.

PI-C5. Did a preliminary investigator document the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Since most people in the first century were illiterate, even if there was a preliminary investigation of this event, the investigator probably could not write a report, and most other people would not be able to read a report if one had been written.  Since this was a matter of religious beliefs and disagreements and not a criminal investigation, it probably would not have been considered worthy of the effort to find investigators who could read and write reports of information obtained from witnesses to this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator documented the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report.

PI-C6. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, there were no telephones and no postal services available in the first century, so “contacting” an investigator in another city or town at a later date would probably be difficult to do.  A preliminary investigator would be unlikely to have significant power or authority over the witnesses (like a police detective or FBI agent has), so if there had been a preliminary investigator, that person would be unlikely to demand or even request that the witnesses contact them with further information after the investigator left the area.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information.

PI-C7. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts of the incident?

Mass media accounts of current events did NOT exist in the first century, so this question does not apply as it is worded.  However, the purposes behind this question do apply to a first-century preliminary investigation of witnesses to an event.  Gossip and word-of-mouth allowed stories about current events to spread across a city or town, and even between cities and towns.
There are a few problems with gossip spreading a story or account given by a witness to an event.  First, gossip and word-of-mouth is an unreliable way of accurately transmitting a story or account, so this means of communication creates changes and distortions to the original story.  Second, to the extent that the original story is preserved and communicated through gossip, it can influence and corrupt the memories of other potential witnesses to the event.  Similarly, listening to gossip about the event could impact and corrupt a witness’s memory of that event.  But since there were no professional detectives in the first century, an investigator into this event would be unlikely to understand the fragility of human memory, and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid communicating their stories to others (initiating gossip), and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid listening to any stories being told about the incident (exposure to gossip).

PI-C8. Did a preliminary investigator encourage witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation into this event.  Furthermore, there were no professional detectives in the first century, and knowledge about the fragility of human memory is a recent scientific discovery,  so even if there had been a preliminary investigator into this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged the witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged witnesses to this event to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE AND WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.
Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.
Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.
 

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious Right; Part 2

(Be sure to read Part 1 before starting this half)
The Rape Nonexception Factor
This is a good place to further explore the callous indifference of the hard right to rape that has a yet again naïve center-left wondering what is going on. In their twisted logic a woman who is truly Godly and virtuous cannot be raped to pregnancy because she will not dress or be provocative or intoxicated in a manner that entices a man to sexually assault her, and if one does he will not be able to achieve penetration because of her not being sexually aroused. In that theory only a woman who is sufficiently loose and in some way desiring the assault can be impregnated – remember if you will how during the 2012 election cycle some GOP pols made statements to this effect. The slander of women as the foolish temptresses is not at all novel, it goes back over millennia as per the story of sinful and seductive Eve and the apple. As vile as this deep patriarchal attitude appears to today’s ethical westerners, the traditional misogynist opinion was the norm in many societies until the modern feminist movement, and used to be used by defendants in rape cases. In some current societies a woman who was and claims to have been raped risks harsh penalties for her wantonness. At the theocon Liberty University female students who file a sexual assault complaint with school authorities are likely to find themselves charged with violating strict school rules banning sexual and related activity. It is the intent of many forced birthers to revive the legal concept that rape that can and does lead to impregnation is always a false claim. It follows that it is never justified to allow an abortion that resulted from a “rape” – incest included – that never truly occurred because she really wanted it.
Liberty for Godly Theocons, Ascendency over Secular Liberals
So do not be fooled, coming even close to actually stopping abortions is not the end goal of the forced birth agenda, making it legally and physically hard to do being part of a more important greater scheme. In concert with weaponizing abortion as an act worthy of criminalization, they use the sacred theme of All-American Religious Liberty to facilitate discrimination against those the religious right does not approve off, especially all those who are not life time monogamous heterosexuals, and allow theocon medical providers to deny reproductive services they do not approve of – do note that conservative calls for liberties religious and otherwise are carefully crafted to most favortheir liberties, for others not so much. Specific to the issue herein, SCOTUS has ruled in favor of red states that force abortion providers in violation of their free speech and religious rights and medical autonomy to inform clients of often false antiabortion information, while overturning blue state regulations that compel under handed forced birth clinics to openly inform their clients that they are expressly anti-abortion in nature because that breaches their free speech and religious rights. Got that one? And make divorce more difficult and less frequent. And don’t you pay any mind to how evangelicals denouncing masking and vaccines to protect schoolkids from covid yet further reveals how “prolife” Protestants do not truly care about young lives. And how the right demanding the liberty to not protect themselves, their children and others from covid as a prochoice position is directly contrary to their no choice about pregnancies.
Do observe that bringing deadly viruses to heel does nothing to bring back that old time culture. Banning abortions just might in theocon minds.
Not wanting to spill the beans when it comes to their true aims, birth enforcer theists I chat with are prone to start out saying they just want to save all the innocent preborn. When I ask why, they often claim it is murder. When I ask why they think that, they proclaim it a sin against God. After I point out the reasons that cannot be so – including how a million or so unborn naturally die off every day on the planet — they then resort to vaguely complaining about the decay of society and the need to bring the majority back to the good solid and sound traditional morals that are good for them. Exactly.
Up at the levels of the theocon power elites the protestations by Thomas, Alito and Barrett that the conservative wing of the court does not have a larger sociopolitical agenda in mind are very likely to be prove to be PR window dressing designed to mislead with comforting false assurances while they proceed to do what they need to do.
This giant sociopolitical power play centered on making abortion illegal started in the later 70s as the first born-again Baptist POTUS Jimmy Carter proved much too liberal for increasingly fearful and enraged evangelicals. To their growing horror they realized that the second rock and drug driven sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s they so loath, plus the similarly odious new wave feminism, were settling into being the national norm and their permanent sociosexual nightmare. Roe v Wade being a big part of the problem. The evangelicals and hardline Catholics had to suppress their age old acidic theological enmities to better face the growing cultural and political secular threat, and turned to their great grandfatherly hero and divorcee Reagan who rarely attended church. And liberalized abortion regulations when governor of California. Then the mediocre preppy Bushes. And now their manly man Trump who as their misogynist, racist, hard talking and chronic lying King Cyrus does their God’s will never mind his boorishly indecent, adulterous persona.
To sum up what theocons are up to, being a minority the largely white religious right is trying to force convert the nation into a theocratic Christian Dominionist republic in which the once traditional and dismally normal, and now radical and drearily oppressive, hard right mores are imposed on the majority for their own good. It is a classic and anti-democratic Tyranny of the Minority that cares not one wit about the opinions and desires and well-being of those they desire to bring to societal heel. Nor do they truly care about the legitimacy of SCOTUS among the American majority that theocons believe should all become theocons, and those who do not need to be under their wise thumb – what they do fear to some extent is a backlash of the majority that may for instance expand SCOTUS to negate a hardcore bench, but they have to sink or at least cripple RvW so they must run that risk. They cannot care because if they give any ground their project of national domination is moot. All the sincere stories by women who have had to obtain abortions often at great effort, or not been able to obtain one sometimes with terrible consequences, mean little to ardent abortion opponents no matter how trying the circumstances up to rape and incest because what happens to nonconservative women has no import to them and threatens their success (such stories are important for swaying fence sitters and rallying the troops as the help normalize the procedure). The women’s marches? They mean nothing to them. There is therefore no compromising. And to be fair the prochoice side cannot give any ground from their side when it comes to early term abortion — either women are full class citizens, or they are reproductive wards of the state once sperm merges with egg inside their no longer sovereign bodies.
The incredible, reckless extremes to which the theocons will cheerfully go have been laid bare by the Texas stratagem that employs citizens as cash collecting birth enforcers, forming a snitch society characteristic of the authoritarian regimes theocons pretend to despise as they work to set such up.
How Theocons Did It
A big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty it is. Young adults are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans. The one thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
How We Blew It
In contrast to the theocon’s methodical and effective, offense-based operation to deny sexual and reproductive rights as part of a relentless, mammoth cultural war, the center-left has treated abortion as an important but not really extremely urgent issue that has been largely left to a weakening SCOTUS minority to take care of thank you, using the same justification utilized in RvW half a century ago without producing additional logical legal arguments. That being such a bother what when ancient Ginsberg who refused to preserve the legacy of her seat by resigning in 2013 and her liberal court comrades would take care of matters. Right? The amazing failure of a less organized and too defensive women’s right movement to push religious rights as a key need for protecting the gender from forced birth has been as illogical as it is remiss to the point of being disastrous. A basic strategy of a movement is to go on the offensive by turning a core argument and the language of the opposition into a weakness that now hurts them more than it helps. But, like most factions, liberals like to live in a comforting cultural bubble within which such internally reinforcing progressive clique code terms as personal autonomy and sexual freedom are deployed to defend reproductive rights. Such speaking to the choir dialectics have obviously not done enough to undercut the theocon argument, a new direction is badly needed. Yet in the only major opinion journal article looking at using religious freedom to defend abortion rights I know of, a brief news commentary in The Atlanticin 2016. the reluctance of the pro-choice side to utilize the Establishment Clause of the 1stAmendment due to cultural discomfort was covered, and the ensuing improbability of such ever being done observed. Liberals just don’t like all that chat about religion and liberty, that’s right wing stuff. That would be fine if abortion rights were secure. But they are not. Just repeating the same old same old to the masses and to the courts is hardly likely to recover the situation. Time to adjust tactics and talk 1stAmendment. Take the right’s terminology such as their favorite word liberty, particularly religious liberty, and throw it right back at them. As per how gays used the conservative themes of family values and marriage to seize the legal and public relations high ground. And things are changing on an informal basis – I have been noticing of late that prochoice advocates are starting to ad-hoc state that having the intimacy of their reproduction coming under the control of the religious right as a gross denial of their religious rights, something I had not heard often before if ever. It was that combined with the deteriorating national situation, the rapidly approaching SCOTUS cases, and my work on the natural mass losses of the unborn, that caused me to produce this piece.
That abortion as a 1stAmendment religious right was not inserted into Roe v Wade from the get go is as understandable as it was a long term mistake. A half century ago the illegality of abortion was seen as a relic of old fashioned Victorianism mixed with male MDs having wanted to knock midwives out of business. Most mid 20thcentury doctors were in contrast horrified by the constant stream of women into the health care system suffering from botched abortions, with some 200 dying each year. And among religious sects only the Roman Church was consistently forced birth, Protestants being all over the map even among the evangelicals. So there was little or no thought given to addressing the religious issues back in the day. Since then forced birth has moved to front and center to the CathoProtestant theoconservative struggle to reorder the national society, and it is nearly entirely their thing. And the reliance on one section of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment, has proven dangerously narrow. So hitting back by going on the attack when it comes to the religious and health aspects of the confrontation has become obvious and imperative.
How to Win
I am not a lawyer, but one does not have to be one to know that a basic legal strategy is too present a case that is broad-based and multi-faceted as possible. For one thing, that maximizes the possibility that at least some or one the arguments seals the legal deal and wins the day. Even better, multiple lines of argument can reinforce one another, making the entire package more difficult to dismiss. Consider the following. A possible fear of citing religious freedom as a defense of abortion rights is that theocons could then use that precedent to promote religious freedom as justifying discrimination against the LGTBQ, and those seeking reproductive services. But that premise is weak because of the lack of harm to the bigot. When someone does not want to provide service to a person who is not a monogamous heterosexual, they are not actually physically harmed if they are compelled by law to do so. For example, if — as once was very common — a person holds a sincere belief that blacks or Jews are in some manner defective in the eyes of God, and that justifies their refusal to treat the latter equal to whites, then having to do so because of the Civil Rights Act does not result in real damage being done to the bigot. So the CRA is constitutional. If a pregnant woman is forced to go through her entire pregnancy, then she may die or be badly injured – hundreds die from pregnancy in a given year, compared to about a dozen from early term abortions. Medical exemptions that allow those threatened with injury or death to terminate pregnancies is far from sufficient because such often is not apparent until late in the pregnancy, when an abortion is itself risky to the mother. And her risk of serious mental distress from a long term pregnancy is many times higher. The medical risks of pregnancy alone are sufficient to ban forced birth. But the combined religious, privacy, and medical rights of persons to not be pregnant (however they became so) are most powerful when they are used to support one another.
If theists proclaim it is their religious right to not aid reproductive practices they think a God rejects, then by that criteria a pregnant woman can proudly declare that as far as she can see any overseer of a planet that has with no apparent concern of that entity terminated countless billions of preborn is fine with her doing the same. Or there is no creator in the first place. Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to be religious as one wishes the way one wishes, it is the freedom from theism. It follows that the state and/or snitches preventing her from controlling what is happening inside her is moral and legal madness and barbarity that violate her Constitutional rights in enormous spades. One advantage of advancing abortion as a religious right will be to force theocon judges to reveal the extremity of their quasi legal inconsistency if they so tilt the scales of justice in favor one set of theorights over the other, exposing their rulings as bad law. That sets up the legal brief for constitutionally overturning forced birth laws.
Late is better than never, and time is a wasting. So what needs to be done to recover the situation in court and voting booths? Along with the standards of full citizenship via autonomous reproductive privacy rights for women, begin to focus on the religious and medical liberties of handling one’s own pregnancy without interference from hardline theoconservative based government edicts or religious right empowered vigilantes as a key Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Do that by building the following case. The Founders who wrote the document did not consider the issue, and had an abortion ban been raised by Catholics it would have rejected as an obvious contravention of the 1stAmendment. Nowadays forced birth laws are an unacknowledged insidious conspiracy from one religious world view designed by right wing Protestants and Catholics to above all else to try to massively reformulate the national culture to fit their traditional faith-based image. Although they won’t openly admit that, there is abundant public theocon discourse to present as evidential exhibits. The religious nature of antiabortionism is directly exposed when they say that their – i. e. theocon – values concerning preborn life are behind the laws they advocate. As for the narrow religious view of birth enforcement a few scholars such Barbara Pfeffer Billauer (https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmjowl/vol23/iss2/6) are documenting how forced birthism is limited to a narrow set of religious doctrines, while many others have disagreed, going all the way back in history, rendering forced birth laws a violation of Constitutional religious right (in contrast to murder which is condemned by all mainstream cultures). It is time for the women’s right cause to get off its liberal sensibilities duff and pay close attention to such meticulous academic work.
So, when and where theocon birth forcers win their case, then only one religious opinion on the matter becomes legally operative on all fertile women to the exclusion of all others regardless of their a/theist opinion on their pregnancies. That when imposing that extreme hardline view on women of differing a/theologies denies them control and maximal safety of their bodies for extended periods. Such theologically idiosyncratic laws lack practical secular justification on the following grounds. The status of a zygote or an early term fetus as a human being is very dubious and held nearly entirely by theocons, and aborting them does not have significant adverse impact outside the body of the woman. Emphasize the sheer impracticality of enforcing a feticide ban, and actually suppress abortion rates to low levels even via draconian decrees. That means that birth enforcement is a waste of law enforcement resources that will make millions of women miserable and/or criminals while maximizing their medical danger from either pregnancies gone bad or the numerous illicit abortions that will inevitably ensue, all the while massively interfering with the deepest privacy of persons. Far more so than the mask and vaccine mandates most theocons are out of the blue rejecting as outrageous violations of personal liberty. This when there is a major effort to relieve an already overburdened law enforcement and court complex.
The deeply disingenuous and misogynist nature of government paternalism on such a colossal scale is all the more true because the persistent claims by anti-abortionists that their reproductive regulations are intended to serve the interests and safety of pregnant women regardless of her opinion on the matter, are the opposite of actual medical truth, and violate their religious and medical sovereignty when their religious views are compatible with ending pregnancies. Making this yet all the more true is that forced birth for “alleged” victims of rape/incest is part of a depraved project to decriminalize rape by legally rendering it something that cannot happen to a proper and chaste woman who does not want to have her virtue sullied, much less be impregnated. Racism is also involved in the forced birth movement because minorities are more opposed to and afflicted by abortion restrictions than whites. So is eugenics in that preventing white women from failing to reproduce is a goal of some forced birthers. Then there is the sexism of targeting the commonly discriminated against female gender with such draconian restrictions that no man has to put up with and many men which to impose. Because abortion banning laws are evidentially imbedded in a large scale religious sociopolitical agenda they blatantly violate the Bill of Rights on multiple fronts. Core rights that cannot be trumped by the religious right via government authority to force those who are prochoice nontheists or theists to give birth, just as the state cannot force women to abort their pregnancies.
As explained by Aaron Tang (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/26/middle-ground-abortion-that-originalists-should-embrace) the original Constitution, and the 14thAmendment in association with how most state laws at the time did not ban abortion before quickening, support the right to early term abortion.
The profoundly theistic nature of the criminalize abortion movement is not being entirely ignored. Some atheosecular organizations have filed amicus briefs explicitly to that effect in relation to the Mississippi case this December (https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%2C%20SCOTUS%2C%20Dobbs%20v.%20Jackson%209.20.21.pdf; https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/192717/20210917120823669_Dobbs%20Final%20Brief.pdf). These petitions do a good job of detailing some of the clear cut religious statements and court briefs by forced birth theists. They not detail how anti-abortionism is part of a greater open conspiracy to remake the nation. In any case the religion factor must not be a legal issue raised just by nontheists, it must be mainstreamed. (A large number of center-left entities have submitted briefs to the top court, whether any cite religious freedom and how I do not know.) Pertinent to that need, one of the briefs very notably cites a 1989 opinion by Justice Stevens that has gone little noticed noting that government bans of abortion violate the Establishment Clause, that is an important mainline legal precedent by a SCOTUS jurist without an a/theistic bias to build upon.
In tandem, cite the mass death of youngsters to disprove the theocon pretense that they are merely doing the urgent bidding of a life loving creator. Same for the absence of forced birthism in scripture. Their real aims are much more theosocietal. And further seize control of the rhetoric war by saddling the prolife cause with the stark term forced birth. That is exactly what they are trying to do.
Also remiss has been the mainstream news media that has been slack in investigating and exposing the deep, extremist motives driving the opposition to legal abortion, and from that informing the nation of what they are up to. Do not, for example, merely ask an anti-abortion activist or politician if they do not want an exception for rape and why, and when they issue the standard line that they think the fetus is precious take that as a complete answer and move on to the next query. That is exactly what they want. At long last pin them down by asking if they think rape and abortion laws need to be revamped as part of a greater scheme to remake society along traditional lines. That will put the forced birth advocate in a bind — if they say yes then they will reveal their real plans and provoke harder opposition, if they say they no they may turn off their base, and if they dodge the question they risk doing both. The media needs to get on the coverage ball and do their jobs.
Is going on the offensive by bringing true religious liberty to the forefront of the pro-choice argument, going to abort the forced birth campaign in the next few years? That by compelling abortion stoppers to realize that they – seeing as how they claim to put such high priority on religious liberty and therefore should respect those who claim to be expressing such when they have an abortion — are manifestly and erroneously violating the theoliberty of theoliberals and nontheists? Considering their boldly self-sided view of liberties to date best not to hold one’s breath. But do not wave away the medium and longer term potential to seriously damage and perhaps someday sink anti-abortionism in legal venues and public opinion. Consider how marriage rights for all couples worked for gays over years, not long decades. Most critical is for the solid majority who favor women being full citizens to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who want to use reproduction to remake American women into unsullied subservient theocons. That can render forcing birth into a fundamental violation of a pregnant woman’s religious liberty and medical needs.
 

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious Right; Part 1

(This being a big subject that has been largely ignored it needs a lot of explanation, the essay is split into two parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow)
It has not worked.
The pro-choice movement opposed by the religious right has been making an enormous mistake. We know that because it is facing disaster. That when a solid majority of Americans favor abortion rights. It is all too clear that what it has been done in support of women being full class citizens has been gravely defective. It follows that it is time to move on to a more effective strategy.
Roe v Wade rests largely upon the 14thAmendment principle of privacy as a legal and societal expression of individual freedom from invasive state control in favor of personal responsibility. The thesis is valid, but it is a defensive posture that has proven insufficient to fend off assaults from a dedicated forced birth campaign. The situation is so bad for the sovereign rights of American women that even as Catholic heritage nations like Mexico and Ireland place their trust in the gender to make the best choice, the USA is reverting to the paternalistic misogyny of the early 1900s.
The women’s right movement must go on the offensive to regain the legal and moral high ground over the force birthers. Doing that requires utilizing two interrelated lines of argument.
The Big Medical Lie
One issue that has for reasons obscure long been oddly underplayed is women’s health. The ant-abortion conspiracy promotes the anti-scientific disinformation that first trimester feticides are artificial and therefore bad for mothers, while child birth is natural to the point that the government must force all pregnant women to do what is good for their health physical and mental. Law enforcement must protect an apparently gullible gender from a diabolical abortion industry that is so clever that it somehow seduces many hundreds of thousands of each year — a third of the national female population over time – to commit a dangerous unnatural act that is against the wise ways of God’s benign creation. That when not getting an abortion is as easy as simply not going to a provider. Yet many go to great lengths to get to such, sometimes traveling long distances if necessary, knowing exactly what will happen when they do so, yet only a small percentage report having significant post procedure regrets [https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/01/416421/five-years-after-abortion-nearly-all-women-say-it-was-right-decision-study].
The hard truth is that nature is not always the best. Modern medicine is the artificial practice that has saved billions of lives from the deadly side of the biological world, including the many risks of pregnancy. Early term abortions surgical and medicinal are over a dozen times less lethal than going through the months long complexities and risks of pregnancy [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271]. And because the latter pumps lots of mood altering hormones into mothers, they are highly likely to experience serious mental distress before and especially after birth, post-partum depression being very common and often serious. Early pregnancy does not involve such hormone loads, and mental trauma is much less frequent after termination. That is why the regrets are rare, of the many women I know who have had abortions none was gravely upset about it. Which makes sense since a woman is making the safest decision when ending a pregnancy as early as feasible. Legally sentencing a woman to bear her pregnancy violates her core medical rights. It’s like preventing someone from taking say statins, or forcing them to smoke or use mind altering drugs.
But there is another major right that the anti-abortion project violates big time. the one that the pro-choice forces have been resisting despite its potential potency.
Religious liberty.
Forced Birth, it’s a Religious Thing
Here’s the fact that is as screamingly obvious as it is irrationally paid much too little attention by the body politic. Almost the entire movement to render women second class citizens by making them reproductive slaves of the state once pregnant, stems from one source. The religious right. That is a historically rather novel entity formed by a once unimaginable collaboration of evangelical Protestants with the Church of Rome. The anti-abortion project is the core engine of a brazen attempt by one religious clique that constitutes about a third of the population to impose their hardline faith-based beliefs on everyone else. Outside of the religious right who opposes abortion rights? Nontheists against women’s full reproductive rights are as scarce as hen’s teeth, I personally know of only one. Polling suggests that one in ten atheists are forced birthers, but the sample is small and the figure appears inflated. Many if not most Christians — Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. of the center-left — favor reproductive choice, along with most Jews and other theists. That alliance of nonrelig0ious and believers form the solid majority who want broad abortion rights to remain in force in all 50 states.
The overwhelming and narrow religious basis of forced birth differs strikingly from other conservative causes such as limited government size and power regarding guns and economics, and heavy law enforcement against crimes and drugs. Those secular theses enjoy substantial support outside theoconservatism, including many nontheists — advocates of laissez faire capitalism for instance have included such prominent nonbelievers as Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, Milton Freidman, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer.
No God Opposes Abortion
That feticide has become such a fixation of the religious right is remarkably ironic for a reason too few are aware of. The startling fact is that forcing women to bear pregnancies to term lacks theological justification. The central motivating claim by theoconservatives that they are sincerely merely obeying the dictates of a prolife creator is patently false both on real world and scriptural grounds. Our lovely but child toxic planet provides the proof that a prolife creator cannot exist. In the academic journal Philosophy and TheologyI was the first to calculate and publish the telling and terrible statistics that remain scandalously ignored [http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf. I further detail the problem in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf]. The stats start with how it is well documented that about 100 billion people have been born to date. To that add how medical analysis indicates that about three quarters of conceptions naturally fail to come to term — about half failing to implant in the first place usually due to rampant genetic defects, the rest are later term miscarriages, many of which go unnoticed. The human reproductive complex is a Rube Golbergian mess that usually fails – far from the womb being a safe refuge for fetuses, it is where most lives come to a natural early end. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction] That means something like 300 billion pregnancies have been spontaneously aborted to date. Currently, somewhere in the area of 30,000 spontaneous abortions occur every day in the US, over ten times more than those that are induced. After birth half those born have died as children from a vast array of torturous diseases that infest our biosphere, so some 50 billion kids have not grown up. It is the artifice of medicine that has driven juvenile mortality down to a few percent, less can be done about our deeply dysfunctional reproductive system. As I detail in the P&Tand EPHstudies, it is demonstrably impossible for a supernatural creator that allows hundreds of billions of preadults to die to be prolife.
The mass loss of immature humans helps explain a stark scriptural truth birth enforcement adherents evade as much as they can. Neither the Jewish nor Christian texts come anywhere close to banning abortions. The only direct mention of the issue instructs that if someone accidently causes a miscarriage involving a woman who is not their wife, then the negligent party can be sued by the father who owns the fetus –  feticide is a civil property matter, not criminal murder in the Holy Bible. That the Biblical God orders the Israelite warriors to kill captive children as well as women even when pregnant reinforces the indifference of the deity to the lives of youngsters. The Gospels of Jesus have nothing to say about the topic. The abject absence of scriptural condemnation against abortion illuminates why most Bible believing Protestants, including the most popular evangelical of the day, Billy Graham, had no comment in the immediate wake of Roe v Wade. Then famed Southern Baptist leader W. A. Criswell did opine that he had “always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” The sanctity of preborn life was largely a Vatican thing — it cannot be overemphasized the degree to which the Roman and Lutheran churches despised one another; a few years ago a couple of evangelicals standing right in front of me bemoaned how a relation who had gone Catholic was now worshipping the clergy, not Jesus. So why the ensuing great evangelical Protestant switch — Graham and especially Criswell evolved into staunch forced birthers — to sociopoliically weaponizing abortion as murder via a new found alliance with the heretical Catholic clergy? First a little history.
A Little History
Abortion was the norm in largely Protestant colonial and early independent America — for that matter, early term feticide has always been very common in societies whether legal or not. The Puritans of yore were not as super repressive and chaste as usually thought, oops pregnancies outside of marriage were fairly frequent. And there were women who after having birthed a bevy of babies did not want to go through thatagain. All the more so because childbirth was very dangerous, about one out of fifty pregnancies killed the mother. “Mother” nature is not much kinder to mothers than their young ones. Early term termination with herbal toxins had its dangers, but to a lesser degree. Such abortions were not a concern to the authorities if it was done before quickening. When the all-male founders, nearly all Protestants and Deists, were assembling the Constitution that instituted separation of church and state they never imagined considering feticide, that being a women’s affair outside their manly concerns. The only faction that might have been interested in the issue were the few Catholics. That they made no attempt to mention much less ban abortion was logical because the rest of the patriots would have slapped that down as an attempt to subvert the intent of the 1stAmendment to keep specific religious cliques from seizing control of governmental policies and vice-versa. Duh.
In the 1800s going into the early 1900s repression of sexuality and women reached a peak in tune with Victorian culture. Also of growing concern was that abortions were killing women, albeit less often than pregnancy. At the same time the all-male profession of medical doctors wanted to suppress competition form midwives who often aborted the much bigger money to be made from full term pregnancies. And the nativist eugenics — based on agricultural selective breeding — favored by Protestants (but not Catholics) called for WASP women to bear as many children as possible to prevent the others from dominating the population. Laws banning abortions appeared for the first time, and quickly became the national norm. (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-american-history/376851.)
The result. A little over a century ago the religious right owned these United States. Well over nine out of ten were Christians, nearly all conservative. It was a culture of imposed Judeo-Christian “virtue.” A pious repressive hyper misogynist patriarchy in which women were second class citizens required to wear heavy clothing even at the beach, and mandated to remain nonsexual until marriage in which husbands could legally rape their wives and she had no legal choice but to bear the child – that by the way helps elucidate why modern forced birthers are often not concerned about if a pregnancy resulted from nonconsensual sex. The draconian Comstock laws banned mailing information on contraceptives in flagrant contradiction of the Bill of Rights. The culture of repressed sexual liberty had to have a heavy government hand to it. Lacking the force of law to keep people in reproductive line, most folks feel free to have way too much fun for the likes of the power craving forces who enjoy imagining they know what it best for all of us, feckless women especially. Note that the Dour Culture was to a fair extent a white matter, black culture was less uptight, as reflected in the advent of the “sex music”, jazz that quickly gained a following among white youth.
The rather Taliban like mainstream Christian scheme began to unravel what with women (mainly white) getting the vote, and the first sexual revolution of the Roaring Twenties. That unprecedented loosening of sexual habits was never entirely beaten back by the right, but as late as the 1950s women were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights who then became stay at home housewives, access to contraceptives remained limited, and abortions forbidden. With blue laws keeping most retail closed on Sundays three quarters of American were church members according the Gallup, as virtually all professed a belief in God.
Since then it’s all gone to theocon hell. Even in the 50s the hot black culture continued to infiltrate the white majority via the first wave of rock-and-roll – previously black slang for intercourse. What was Elvis doing up there on the stage with his pelvis? Seeing the way things were going Billy Graham started his mass crusades to try to restore America to its righteous ways.
That did not work.
Nowadays, with women being emancipated, first class citizens free to have sexy fun, sinfully tempting females strut down streets in minimal clothing. Sex outside marriage is actually the accepted societal norm. Marriage rates are down while divorce rates are sky high – that started with the WW 2 generation in the late 60s BTW — including among conservative Christians. Birth rates are below replacement level – that when many on the right oppose the immigration of nonwhites that’s needed if an expanding population is to help grow the economy. On the networks people can say screw when not talking about hardware. Then there is cable and the web. Most women have careers. The grand corporate project to convert pious frugal church goers into hedonistic materialists and digital social media addicts has succeeded spectacularly as Gallup tracks church membership plummeting from 70% at the beginning of the 2000s to 50% today [https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx] as white Protestants are a fast shrinking minority, the religious right the once ran the country has been reduced to a widely disparaged subgroup, and the nonreligious balloon by an amazing tenth of the population each decade [for a look at that see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf]. Even Republicans are becoming less religious for Christ’s sake — listen to how the Trumpites swore like sailors as they stormed the capital, and denounce Biden with vulgarities like Richard Pryor.
Their Real Goal
That is what the forced birth movement is really about. Having lost the mainstream culture big time over the last century theocons have no viable means to recover it by persuasion, and deep down they know that bitter fact. All those crusades, religious TV channels, megachurches, and Christian rock are getting nowhere with the mainstream. What are they to do in their desperate power trip to return the country to the good old days of largely white righteous Christian domination?
It’s obvious. Try to do what worked up to the 1920s, and see if reapplying governmental coercion will get America back to its straighter laced Godly ways. There is nothing else for them to. This invidious strategy to employ laws to achieve religious aims requires the high grade hypocrisy of theoconservatives who love to proclaim individual liberty while decrying government power when the latter promotes what they see as ungodly secular-liberal values, but to without batting a cynical eye deploy said government power to lever America back to something like it was in the 1950’s. When father knew best and subservient women properly behaved themselves sex wise and raised their many kids and heaven forbid could not terminate their sacred pregnancies and the churches were packed on Sunday mornings rather than folks hitting Walmart and Home Depo.
It is not like it is a carefully hidden secret. The president of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Jose Gomez has railed against secular liberal movements such as social justice, wokeness, intersectionality, and critical theories that have arisen in recent years as part of a effort to “suppress any remaining Christian influences” and replace “traditional Christian beliefs.” That’s a clear enough clarion call of the dire need to try to recapture the culture by desperate means as necessary.
So. How to get the government back under the blessed control of the theocon minority? You have to be fairly sneaky about doing that. Openly admitting that the ultimate goal is to use the state to bring back the good old theoconservative days by banning abortion et al. would intensify majority opposition, while fatally undermining the legal case for making a private procedure that the Puritans were OK with into murder.
To try to rewin the culture wars via the law they have smartly gone on the sociopolitical offensive by putting a peculiarly lethargic prochoice side on the public relations defensive, to the degree that even liberals agree that the feticide that has always been common should somehow become uncommon. A hard and sad choice consistently avoided by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, rather than by barring terminations. It’s the abortion should be legal but rare line, rather than rare because it’s illegal. Both are naive fantasies that have never been achieved and never will be. Early term abortions are the norm in all societies because they involve a modest collection of cells whose humanity is problematic and mainly propounded by extremist theocons, they are fairly easy to do, in secret if necessary, and are not as dangerous as is pregnancy to the mother. At least a fifth of observed pregnancies are terminated, whether that being in advanced democracies with excellent safe sex programs, or where the procedure is illegal and riskier [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343147586_Unintended_pregnancy_and_abortion_by_income_region_and_the_legal_status_of_abortion_estimates_from_a_comprehensive_model_for_1990-2019]. This is in stark contrast to murder, which is rare in many nations including most democracies — that these gun laden United States are the exception is pertinent because most who claim to be prolife support the widespread distribution of firearms that is the primary people killing device. Because murder involves a patent human being, can be difficult to do, produces an awkward corpse that is hard to secretly dispose of, and those who have been born are usually noticed to have gone missing, outlawing intentional homicide is correspondingly practical because only it renders only a tiny fraction of the population criminals while keeping the event highly atypical – there are under 4000 homicides in western Europe per annum for instance, many dozens of times less than feticides. Whatever success is or is not achieved by criminalizing the latter, it does not make much actual difference because the great majority of conceptions will continue to naturally abort, so what is the point? That when making abortion illegal means turning a fifth or more of knowingly pregnant women into lawbreakers each year, and a quarter to a third of all women over their lives, while not saving many preborn, but injuring or killing a number of pregnant women in the punitive process. It is probably not possible to drive yearly American abortions below a few hundred thousand whatever the methods used. Prohibiting abortion works about as well as banning alcohol, and we know how that worked out. A basic legal tenant is that all legitimate laws must be reasonably practicable to implement — the stop the abortions folks like to compare themselves to the abolitionists, but mass slavery can be ended simply by eliminating all laws that enforce bondage, leaving all slaves free to up and walk away from their masters — birth enforcement does not meet that feasibility criterion. Pro-choicers, use that fact.
The theocon grand Godly plan to try to overturn modernity is simple enough. Having concocted the notion that abortion is against the will of a prolife Lord Creator contrary to all worldly and scriptural evidence, make the private procedure illegal. Hopefully eventually nationwide as a form of outright murder if enough hardcore theocon justices can be plopped into SCOTUS and extend personhood to conception – the alternative is revision of the Constitution, perhaps via a constitutional convention dominated by theocons via the electoral manipulations they are working on. That doing so is not likely to actually protect enormous numbers of preborn is not the critical necessity. That would be nice if it happened in the opinion of many theocons, but the true activism driving societal hope of most forced birthers is that by making those who terminate pregnancies into criminals or at least subject to financial suits, that fear of having abortions will help tame wanton American women to be less willing to be get it on with men outside of holy matrimony. The idea is to discipline women into being both more chaste and fecund as the arrogant power hungry theocons want them to be. It’s the fear and shame factors of the rights massive national social engineering project. To that add putting strictures on contraceptives to further boost the righteous mission to reChristianize America – Catholics especially like that. That doing so may well increase induced abortions due to more unintended pregnancies is not the theoconservatives driving concern (with supreme irony, another side effect of protection reduction is a great increase in the rate of natural abortions).
The schemes of the right to push women into being proper theists are not just aspirationally hopeful via making forced birth a deterrent to women not being divinely virtuous. There are growing efforts to set up forced birth enclaves in which single pregnant women who cannot get legal abortions and desperately need maternity help will be pressured by their circumstances to retreat to (http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx). There they are and will be the target of heavy duty theocon propaganda designed to make them into women of God. State power will be used to boost church power.
The prochoice side often wonders – often with breathtaking naivety — why those opposed to abortion want to also cut back on the use of protection that can suppress said abortions. That is because abortion reduction is not the real point, lifestyle alternation is. Get that? That women will be injured and killed by unsafe outlaw abortions and by forced pregnancies is not a great concern of the birth forcers — those wayward women should have known better than to get pregnant out of wedlock in the first place, and if raped oh well, the growing soul inside them takes priority to its reproductive vessel who needs to understand their Godly prolife duty. If a woman who would have gotten a legal termination if she could because it is safer than not having one happens to die from what seemed like a normal pregnancy oh well that’s too bad, it’s God’s Will anyhow, and if she was right with Christ she is in a better place so what is the big problem. The wastage of pregnant women is well worth the glorious aims of the prolifers.
(Part 2 to continue 10/29/21)

bookmark_borderDiscrimination by Neglect: The Chronic News and Opinion Media Bigotry Against Atheists

Discrimination by Neglect: The Chronic News and Opinion Media Bigotry Against Atheists
Theists Get All the Breaks – Really, They Do
There is currently, in these United States, a form of casual and pernicious bigotry that continues to be directed against the fastest growing portion of the population. It is the big bigotry that hardly any pay attention to, and to a great extent other minorities subject to their own levels of prejudice also ignore or even participate in. It is the discrimination of paying as little mind as possible to the existence and especially the opinions of those who commit the culturally inconvenient social crime of lacking belief in the supernatural deities that the substantial but shrinking American majority persist in believing in.
What does continue to enjoy endless attention and media coverage is theism. That occurs in a number of ways. The mainstream media that tends to be centrist to liberal in sociopolitical sensibilities, and mainline or alternative theist to varying degrees, persistently promotes center-left versions of religion. Especially of the Christian and Jewish varieties, with a good deal of attention paid to alternate versions of spirituality, and to Islam on occasion. Much of this coverage is favorable or neutral, but considerable and sometimes hard criticism does occur when it seems that the circumstances require it. The Catholic Church is particularly interesting when it comes to the massive reporting it receives. Its sex scandals, after decades of significant but not sufficient exposure, finally became perpetually major news just after the turn of the century. On the other hand, the equally outrageous financial criminal actions of the Roman church in league with mob elements have never been exposed to the degree that is necessary, leaving most Americans ignorant on the subject (Europeans are more knowledgeable). At the same time major church events, most especially the enormous public relations spectacles of papal replacements, garner fawning 24/7 coverage. The relatively liberal Francis is generally treated favorably, including by very liberal theists such as Catholic Steven Colbert, as well as well known atheist Bill Maher. Also getting extensive coverage is the large minority that is the religious right. Much of that attention is sharply critical. Except at FoxNews and its allies that lavish praise on Judeo-Christian theoconservatism while bashing the religious center-left as well as Muslims, and taking occasional potshots at the atheists that the mainstream press pretty much simply ignores.
MSNBC et al.
To get a better appreciation of the absurd and unacceptable state of the situation, let’s look at the evening lineup on that bastion of liberal reportage and opinion, MSNBC. It starts with Joy Reid, who enthusiastically wears her joyous Godly Methodism on her broadcasting sleeve. Next is Chris Hayes who grew up Catholic but is now irreligious, I do not think has stated he is an atheist or not. In 2012 he dedicated his hour to an episode on atheism featuring Dawkins, Pinker and Jacoby that was seen as ground breaking. It was not, there has been barely a breath about nontheism on the channel since then. Rachel Maddow is a praying Catholic despite being lesbian — that explains something that had me scratching my head, earlier this year when Francis made the first papal visit to Iraq she ran an oddly long segment on the unimportant story that was dull as it was egregiously credulous. More ambiguous is the yet another MSNBC Catholic raised — which may be why he once bashed Mormonism as an invented religion — anchor Lawrence O’Donnell who wraps up the primetime lineup. Over on CNN they once, that’s once, ran an hour show on atheism in 2015. Such has not yet appeared on Fox. Matters are not better on public television or radio where there are also no known atheists, although one suspects there must be some but who keep quiet about it. Where is that epic program on American atheism? They did baseball and jazz. On NPR’s Saturday EditionScott Simon is a well-known centrist-liberal Catholic. On the Templeton Foundation funded On Being(ex Speaking of Faith) host Krista Tibbett’s mission is to present pablum opinions further softened by bland mood music that never in any way seriously challenges or upsets her middle of the road theist audience. Ever. Occasionally atheists are allowed on, but only those who can be relied upon to not be perturbingly uppity about it. While most liberal theists tend to avoid directly dumping on atheists, socialist Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges has harshly denounced atheism, especially of the sort that dares to be assertive. When he hosted The Daily Showsecular Jewish Jon Stewart was sometimes snarky about what he considered overly atheistic atheists, especially about the placement of a cross shaped piece of the World Trade Towers at the memorial site (that Stewart has been involved in the memorial project means his comment on atheist critics was of dubious ethics). Current TDS host Trevor Noah is a liberal Christian. John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, rejected the Anglican Church he grew up in and may be an atheist, but has not said so – he critiqued the money grubbing of evangelicals by legally setting up the Lady of Perpetual Exemption to expose how easy it is to dodge taxes with a religious exemption.
During the covid pandemic it has been one person of openly divine opinion after another who have again and again and again and again been asked to please offer divinely inspired advice, thoughts and comfort to a beleaguered world. Noting the irony inherent to doing so in view of the obvious truth that if a creator deity exists it has not done anything to put a stop to the deadly disaster, doing something so rational seems taboo. An especially egregious example has been on NPR’s weekend version of All Things Considered, with a repeat set of clerics explicitly asked to offer words of wisdom to listeners. Offering the usual theo clichés and platitudes, the existence of God and its goodness was not challenged as the NPR audience was allowed to hear only their biased worldview. Never asked for a more objective and cogent viewpoint on how mindless evolution is biting us, and how humanity can best deal with the dire situation, have been the godless.
The weekend edition of All Things Considereddid cover the accession of Greg Epstein to head chaplain at Harvard, and the interview was entirely respectful and intelligent. That is a case of the very rare exception proving the rule of discrimination. Very likely show host Michel Martin has no idea of the casual bias she is exhibiting in her subtly slanted programming, and she might be willing to change her ways if made aware of the issue. Coverage of and seeking the views of atheists should be the norm, not something done just when a once every few years head-turning breaking news story pops up.
Pundit panels are a news media norm. You know, the never ending lineups of experts and commentators and politicians who opine on this that and everything. How often do you see an open atheist on one of those? Including those discussing religious matters? A screamingly outrageous example of this particular atheists need not apply policy was in 2010 when Pew reported that it looked like nontheists knew more about the facts of theism than did theists. The seemingly startling result garnered lots of coverage, and so the programming staffs running on their automatic booking pilots rolled out panel after panel of ministers, rabbis and the like to pontificate about atheists whom they painfully knew nothing about, while nary a nonbeliever who actually knew the atheoscore was asked what was really going down. Perhaps even more discouraging is that when Pew got much the same results in 2019 the media paid it no mind to the theological acumen of atheists at all. News old and forgotten by then.
A Little “Balance”
Here’s another form of bigotry that is as subtle as it is invidious. Something I have noticed when doing on air interviews on nonatheist broadcasts. Very often, a theist of some sort is brought on the bring “balance” to the discourse. And who could be opposed to both views being presented? That would be more than fine if religious viewpoints were as often countered with those of atheists, but of course that never happens. They get to pontificate endlessly without counter argument. The “balance” line is really saying atheist views are so automatically controversial and potentially defective and/or offensive, that they need to be countered with the supernaturalistic perspective lest the delicate ears of theist listeners be afflicted. Now, sometimes having a theist to play off of can be an advantage if one knows how to deal with and exploit them. On the other hand, that cuts down on the time the nontheist has to directly present the rationalist case. If an atheist interviewee does not want opposition on a program that does not saddle theists with such, then they are free to put the producers on the fairness spot by asking if they have a consistent policy of balance which they never do, and protest the presence of the theist. If they insist on the latter then you can decline the interview, or try to use the arrangement to your advantage — perhaps by mentioning the issue during the program;)
The More Atheists There Are the Less Respect We Get
Statistical tracking is not on hand, but I get the strong sense that mainstream media interest in the irreligious has declined over the last decade plus, after having peaked if that is the correct term for what was at best a small hill in the post 9/11 brief era of the “New Atheism” and it’s then attention getting novel opposition to the religious extremism that was a hot topic of the time (until the secular financial collapse pushed all else aside, rather like the Beatles did to pop music), bolstered by the fleeting appearance of atheist best-selling books that went away almost as soon as they appeared. The atheism versus theism story was intense enough that PAX TV in 2004/5 ran Faith Under Fire, hosted by once atheist converted to bombastic theocon Lee Strobel. It was one of those theist items that while claiming to be fair and balanced definitely had its slant, but for a short while it was a forum via which a prominent American nontheists could have their say and be taken seriously. If I recall correctly, as time wore on it became increasingly theocon themed which is the evolutionary norm for such ventures, and it was canceled. Nothing has replaced it, leaving atheists with no wide broadcast channel forum at all.
A decline in coverage of atheism would make some sense if the opinion was on the way down, but as is well known that the opposite is true as America undergoes a remarkably radical shift towards nonreligion. That has been growing at the expense of theism by a stunning 10% of the American population per decade, leaving those who lack religion somewhere in the area of 40-50% of the population, with the latter value at least applying to young adults. Gallup has tracked church membership that was 80% in the 1950s and still 70% circa 2000 having nosedived to 50% as Amerofaith sharply contracts as it has done in the rest of the west. But this brings us to a polling problem that may help explain the lack of media interest in Ameroatheism. When the major organizations directly ask respondents whether they are atheists or agnostics only a few percent do so, misleading the news media into thinking there are not enough disbelievers to cover and reach out to as more than a fringe group (even though those low numbers exceed those of Jews or of Mormons or of Muslims). This is a serious polling, and coverage thereof, mistake. Although the bigotry is not as bad as it was, many and probably most who dare not believe in the supernatural fear the social including familial downsides of openly admitting such. And many nonbelievers do not like the term atheist, considering it a hardcore term of absolute nonbelief that does not describe their own more ambiguous opinion, or casual disinterest, concerning the mysterious gods. I do not know how many times I have met folks who clearly meet the broad and etymologically correct definition of atheist as a person who is not a theist (which includes most agnostics), adamantly deny being an atheist, even at atheist meetups. Others are startled to learn they are an atheist. Polls that ask the less denial inducing question of whether respondents believe in the existence of a god get substantially higher percentages of deity skeptics, and some sociodemographic studies estimate that atheists may make up 15-25+% of the nation. (I cover these issues in depth at http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf.) By this point, having achieved a level of popular opinion even the most optimistic of us did not expect circa 2000 – remember when many thought the USA would always be a religious nation? – atheism which in total easily outsizes Judaism, Islam and Mormonism combined should be a major influencer in the national zeitgeist. All the more so as it is becoming increasingly apparent that faith-based religion does not appear to offer practical solutions to the troubles of the real world.
One cause of the problem is simply that organized religion has vast resources to deploy in its chronic search for PR, and it is just so easy for a mass media on let’s keep doing what we always have autopilot to tap into that. Atheosecularism has nothing comparable and never will – although the situation can be improved as I note below. But it is the responsibility of the media to keep up with and change with the times, and there are plenty pf atheist voices more than happy to express themselves, so the media is slacking off.
My Beef is a Small Part of the Big Beef
I have a personal concern in these issues that helps illuminate the problem. Realizing that researchers were not systematically investigating the truth behind the common claim that religion must be popular for societies being successful, I published the first test of that hypothesis in the Journal of Religion and Societyin 2005. That was enough of a stunner that it got conservable press attention, including MSNBC labeling me the churches public enemy No. 1, and an appearance on FoxNews. I followed with a more thorough analysis in Evolutionary Psychologyin 2009 that got some coverage, and I placed a couple of online op-eds with the Los Angeles Timesand Wall St. J. Those studies, along with efforts by others, have dented the automatic assumption that religion is good for societies, but not to the degree they should. In part because of a lack of more recent, more extensive work, due in part to a shocking lack of funding for atheistic scientific research via a secular think tank that gamers coverage and discussion. My 2009 paper in Philosophy and Theologythat was the first to calculate the natural deaths of 50 billion children and how that disproves the existence of a moral creator got absolutely no attention despite my extensive efforts at PR.
What did get considerable attention is an op-ed I senior authored with Phil Zuckerman who runs the only secular studies department at a university (Pitzer) in 2011 in the Washington Post. Condemning the chronic bigotry against atheists it was very pleasing to see it receive 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 85K likes. Now, for all the rise of social media in recent decades, the importance of opinion venues such as the Post,The New York Times, and major magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harpers, New Republic, etc., remains paramount. Covering a vast variety of subjects, they have broad readership, and can present issues that their nonatheist readers might otherwise not be aware of. And the elite publications are critical in reaching the media elites that drive a lot of the coverage that receives that broad attention. A reason Ameroatheism remains in the shadows is because the atheosecular genre publications print and digital, and all the many blogs and posts and podcasts online, are largely preaching to the limited dedicated irreligious choir that reads them, and to the fairly small number of theists curious about nontheism. The vast majority of Americans will always be unaware of them.
Despite their responsibility to regularly cover the entire national scene, the Washington Postis typical of major news venues in its chronic casual bigotry against atheism via neglect. I know that because I am a regularly reader of their print paper, and their coverage of nontheism is nearly zero. Since the piece a decade ago by myself and Zuckerman, they have carried just one other opinion piece concerning atheism in the last ten years. That being in 2019 by one of their regular columnists, the atheist libertarian Max Boot. In a recent piece occasional columnist Kate Cohn noted her nonbelief in relation to the religious forced birth movement. Maybe because it is based in perhaps the most atheist city in the nation, the NYTimeshas run a few more atheist op-eds, albeit not a lot.
It is not the fault of atheists not sending in op-eds. Again personal experience illustrates the trouble. A standard way to become a regular in being able to place items in influential venues is to simply do it once, which gives one some leverage to get editors attention and publish more pieces in a feedback loop. All the more so if the initial piece attracts lots of attention which the WPop-ed did. So I have been regularly sending off essays and articles, many, many dozens of them, the leading opinion outlets that allow submissions on aspects related to nontheism – always being certain to note my past works academic and popular, and the coverage of my research. I have sometimes had professionals edit the pieces. But I stopped doing that because it made no difference. Not a single bite. That has included pieces noting the lack of coverage of atheism and suppression of our voices in the mainstream national discourse. They don’t run them. Also futile have been efforts to get a major trade publisher (not a university press, or something like the no longer sechum Prometheus Press whose sales were too limited to have major cultural impact) to contract a book in which I discuss my extensive scholarly work.
A Big Anniversary
This year it occurred to me. The 10th anniversary of the piece Phil & I placed was coming up. Surely the WP people would be interested in running an update on the situation of Ameroatheism, both its demographic rise, and the continuing societal bigotry against it. No reason the think the new piece would not be as popular as the last one what with atheists being all the more numerous now. Right?
Nope, they paid neither the shorter daily or longer Sunday section suitable versions I sent any mind. My complaints are not just personal. No doubt others have been sending in proatheist articles to mainstream venues and with very rare exceptions not getting them published, even as theists have far less trouble getting their prosupernaturalism items into the public eye — and getting onto those pundit panels. And anchor positions, etc.
Why the Bigotry
Is this occurring because those on position to choose what goes onto the pages of major publications or programming are inexcusably ignorant about the problem and their own casual biases and would change their attitudes and actions if they knew better, are indifferent to atheism that they see as a fringe element of no import and would pay more attention if informed otherwise, are afraid of being denounced as anti-religion if they OK presentations of atheist thinking, are concerned they will be tagged as the village atheist if they are an atheist who dares regularly cover atheism the same way other minority personalities do concerning their world view all the time, or are outright hostile? All are involved.
Then there is the trope of the “angry atheist” who harshly critiques theism. That is a bigoted stereotype, there being no statistical evidence that atheists are more angry than theists, there being many on both sides who are in a bad mood. As for those rationalists who are angry what is the big problem? Minority advocacy often has a hard edged component to it.
An example of directly suppressing, with clear cut prejudice, coverage of atheist viewpoints is Religious News Service, whose mission statement goes to lengths to claim its neutral objectivity to the news outlets it is paid to provide services to. One can for a modest fee post press releases on the RNS website. Most are little more than promotional ditties for various theists. When I tried to place a PR concerning my recent academic analysis on the theological implications of mass juvenile mortality in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanismit was not accepted.
We Too
Whatever the causes, the way atheists are being treated has parallels to how blacks were once largely limited to publishing their views in the black press that few whites read. Nowadays LGTBQ have a far better ability to appear in the mainstream press and media and influence the culture and alter politics in their favor than do atheists. That is not a complaint against the LGTBQ more power to them, it is a complaint about the media at large. Consider how it is well known and widely discussed that much of racism is unrecognized by those who are not as nonracist as they think they are and want to be, the same is often true of all bigotries including those directed towards nonsupernaturalists. And just as under the radar racism must be overcome, so must casual anti-atheism. It is a probable irony that blacks in the media are incidentally discriminating against atheists more than whites for the simply because the former tend to be more religious than the latter. Until atheists have the same access to prominent venues as pretty much all other minorities we will remain very limited in our ability to be a the normal, frequent contributor to the national discourse that we rationalists should be. And we will continue to be the targets of bigotry.
The Maher Exception
Currently there is only one major, nationally known American who is an open atheist, and hosts a widely recognized and viewed program, Real Time‘s Bill Maher. Although not shy about being ungodly, and more than willing to have prominent atheists on RT, Maher’s program is not a dedicated atheist promotional venue, it covering a wide range of political and cultural topics. That makes sense, but the program could do more to address the atheist movement, with some emphasis on how it is being ignored, all the more so since no one else is doing so via such a widely viewed show. In particular, to date RT, and for that matter Maher’s Religulous, has failed to persistently present to the public the sociological science showing the societal advantages of atheism, and help make that a part of the public consciousness.
What to Do
The question is what to do about this unacceptable situation. I am not sure myself, here are some options.
The task is complex and multi-faceted. A lot of media people, mainly seculars of various flavors, as well as open minded theists, may become more open to presented atheist viewpoints if simply alerted to the sheer existence and scale of the problem. Others need more persuading, and in some cases shaming. At the same time, atheists need to do what we can to get our ideas out to the general public outside of our own preaching to the choir venues.
Concerning the situation at the WP, A set of leading atheosecular persons could collaborate to send a letter to the WP opinion editors (there are two sets, one for the daily paper in which op-eds are limited to 800 words, and another for the Sunday Outlook section which runs longer items) alerting them to and protesting the virtual exclusion of items from an explicitly atheist perspectives, and how and why this is discriminatory and adverse to their readers who are missing out on a major and fast growing perspective of American opinion. This can be done in the context of urging publication of my 10thanniversary piece (with editing as necessary), or of another related item.
Or, collaborate on a multi-author essay op-ed decrying the near exclusion of atheists from the American scene, signed by prominent nontheists, and submit that to the WP. If they fail to publish it then try the NYTimes, if they do not move on from there.
If either of the above are not successful – or even if they are — go public with a protest both concerning the attitude of the WP specifically, and the news media in general. That can include press releases to religion reporters, and wide distribution to media personalities in all news and opinion venues. Perhaps place an ad in the WP.
The failure of Religion News Service to meet its own criteria of objectivity needs to be exposed as the scandal it is and challenged, which would have the side advantage of further bringing atheism to the attention of the public.
In conducting the above it is necessary to take the mainstream media to task for the errors of their ways. But being critical should not be the sole tactic. Alerting media personalities that they are discriminating against atheists while perhaps not even realizing it might be appreciated by a number of them, opening their eyes to new possibilities. That brings us to how it is important to present the positive side of regularly covering atheism, and including atheist opinions on a regular basis. Not doing so is a major and self-injurious mistake. Much of media coverage is formulaic and standardized, rendering it we-have-heard-and-seen-that-before dull. Yet anothertheists prattling on about this and that? Snore. How about an atheist commenting on that matter from the nontheist perspective. Now thatcan generate some what did that person just say attention and controversy that gets the viewers tuning in. Media personalities and programmers are often looking for novel and in some cases controversial ways to cover the news to boost those all-important ratings, so tapping the atheist perspective to do so can be a selling point when doing outreach to the news and opinion community.
Approaching Real Timeto better cover the issue could be effective, as well as other liberal venues. Chris Hayes could be a likely person to approach and alert regarding the scope of the problem. There is John Oliver. Worthy of consideration is a joint effort by entertainment/opinion atheists that have popular mainstream followings to mount a professional Pay Due Attention to Nonbelievers Please PR campaign – names aside from those above I have come up with include Aziz Ansari, Jodie Foster, Ricky Gervais, Amber Heard, Penn Jillette, Hugh Laurie, Seth MacFarlene, Abby Martin, Sean Murphy, Brad Pitt, Ron Reagan, Keanu Reeves, Adam Savage, Dan Savage, Julia Sweeney.
Most ambitious would be to see if an explicitly atheist broadcast program can be produced, or one that gives truly balanced coverage to both nontheism and theism, hosted by a person from each side. Could be on telly and/or radio. Not sure how feasible that is, would probably require the efforts of at least one of the major atheosecular organizations, and perhaps a collaboration between two or more of them.
The Urgent Need for a Secular Think Tank and News Service
Whether or not any of the above works, that is just a start. To get persistent attention and coverage in the press requires a major change in the way atheosecular institutions reach out to the rest of society via the mainstream media. Doing that will probably require the establishment of an explicitly atheosecular think tank that constantly puts out the science based research and position papers that the atheosecular community should obviously be doing as a matter of course, and that the press can then pick up on. And/or a Secular News Service to compete with the highly successful Religion News Service by directly feeding nontheist news and opinion to the news media.
It’s a Wrap
Wish to aid the above effort or have any ideas on how to get them achieved?  All would be appreciated. If a collaborative effort can be mounted, then a more formal proposal and outline of possibilities and needs can be produced.
One way or another something needs to be done. The perpetual casual dismissal of atheists from the national discourse has got to end, and that is not likely to happen unless strong action is taken by the atheosecular community to break out of the media bubble we have been stuck in. The largely theistic media is not going to just up and do it on their own.
 

bookmark_borderWhy This Skeptic is Secular Blogging – It’s a (Fairly) Long Story

My religious history that led to yours truly becoming a skeptical intellect doing research and commentary is complex. And rather interesting. Not my father’s side of our (rather dysfunctional) nuclear family. Indiana Hoosier from corn country, a Cold War United Methodist Republican to whom atheism was Godless Bolshevism. Yawn. To his credit when he found out I was an atheist in 2002 he was not happy, but did not make too much of a fuss, and did not reraise the subject prior to his death last year at 94.
 
Ye Olden Times
 
Over on my mother’s side is where it was very interesting. Some of her folk where associates of the Joseph Smith who made up Mormonism, one being a body guard, they made the trek to Utah, and had multiple wives (check out https://gatheringgardiners.blogspot.com/2010/03/noah-guyman-1819-1911.html, it’s pretty cool). Ah the good old days. My grandmother Zella who I knew very well, and was a quietly devout believer, was born in a central Utah desert town out of the old west and lived to 2002. She wrote an account of her life in which she as a teen she longed to be married in the Temple – very important in Latter Day Saint theology. She may have come close to doing so, gleaning from her autobio and what she told a relation she almost married a churchly distant (via polygamy) cousin, but he suddenly died in the Great Flu Pandemic. Then for reasons obscure she married a man who was never especially observant – I suspect my grandfather was not into paying that critical 10% per year tithe – and they never had that Temple ceremony. None of their five offspring remained in the church. My teen mother became something of a wild child in Salt Lake City during the world war, she was drinking and smoking heavily then and would only stop the former at fifty because her alternative was death. After both my parents ended up in the Virginia burbs of DC because of the war, in the late 40s they married and had two sons.
 
The Wonder Years
 
The result of all that was an incoherent religious upbringing. Until I was 9 we regularly attended the Alexandria ward grandmother went to. Why my father was into that I do not know – Mormonism is extremely heretical relative to Christianity, he probably did not know that. He was considering joining until his smoking prevented that, but he did not reconsider after he quit soon after. I hated church like Tom Sawyer (I was a much better behaved kid though). Boring. I was baptized at 7 in a water dunking ceremony that meant nothing to me. I believed in God there being no alternative that I knew of. I looked down on other churches from what an old friend much later told me. But problems arose. In a Sunday school class the young female teacher informed me I was wrong about the existence of the dinosaurs I already adored. What the…. Did not believe such a stupid thing for a second. She was an idiot, all the more so because LDS dogma has nothing to say about dinosaurs and deep time, they being matters of choice what one thinks about them, and a number of competent paleozoologists and geologists are active LDS.
 
In my preteens and into my teens I was learning about prehistoric beasts and humans from the likes of the cheap How and Why Wonder Books and lavishly illustrated Golden Books for children (for an account of my paleo upbringing see http://www.gspauldino.com/autobiography.html). They discussed an item called evolution discovered by Darwin as a matter of course. Made sense to me. After all, we were living in a new and exciting age of science, driving in autos when my grandmother had rode horses and buggies as a child, jetliners for long range travel, able to talk remotely via telephones, watching the new wonder of TV (The Flintstones!, Star Trek! The Avengers!), antibiotics. I sort of noticed they were not the wonders of some remote gods, they were the human result of science.
 
It is logically common for those who are deep into deep time astronomical and earthly, and bioevolution, to become atheists if not already raised that way. With a scientific explanation of the origins of the universe and us on hand supernatural alternatives become redundant and flippant. Evolutionary scientists and paleozoologists who have become prominent atheists (as I define below) include Thomas (Darwin’s Bulldog) Huxley (who also proposed a later verified link between dinosaurs and birds, one of my areas of research), Louis Leakey, Stephen Gould, and Richard Dawkins. So my course is not unusual.
 
Sunday June 21st 1964 was my day of sweet freedom. From church. Continuing the white privilege flight of the time made possible by the automobile we moved further out in the burbs, to just beyond the then new DC beltway. There were no nearby wards, none of the rest of the extended family except Zella were LDS churchgoers, my mom probably reeked of embarrassing smoke smell when attending, my dad was not churchly, and we stopped going in June. Freedom!
 
I spent some summers with relations in the Salt Lake Valley. Loved it. The big skies, the snow-capped Rockies, the dinosaurs. My Great Aunt Laurel. An artist-naturalist who when I think about it showed no signs of being religious, she encouraged my interests, including dinosaurs. When I was 13 a 11 year old distant cousin took a shine to me. Awww. She really liked my dinosaur drawings. I do not remember exactly why the subject came up, but at her place we were chatting and casually I mentioned how humans evolved from apes. Suddenly her eyes widened, she started backing away saying her parents had told her that was not true, and the rest of the day she would not stay in the same room. Apparently I was under the influence of that rebel against god Satan. I was amused. And theism was going downhill. Fast.
 
Back in the Church – Sort of
 
Things got more complicated. As I was turning 14 Brother Evans dropped by. A hyper evangelical Mormon (and as I later learned a beater of his sons), his trying to recruit me back into the church was going nowhere until he said the magic words. Boy Scouts. So I was a sort of LDS church attending slacker during my teens. I took none of it at all seriously. When I said a curse word in front of one of the Evans sons his silly warning that I could be struck by lightning did not help my theism. But I had fun Scouting et al.
 
Next summer was another in Utah, and by then I was an de facto atheist. When one of my nonLDS cousins discussed his interest in the occult I rolled my rationalist eyes.
 
Then something very important happened.
 
Although they were both intelligent – dad scored an IQ of 140 in 1944 – my parents were intellectually vacuous. All my dad really cared about was making it big in business. He subscribed to pulp magazines like Argosy and True Tales. They featured articles on alien visitations. I took those seriously – with their detailed descriptions of events that appeared inexplicable by earthly standards they seemed scientific, and of course adults would not publish items that were demonstrably untrue. Right? I loved the TV SciFi drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which I would later realize was an example of the clunky boiler plate SciFi pablum offered up by cheap skate Irwin Allen. A first season episode featured the Sea View encountering a flying saucer!!!! I was thrilled. Of course they would not do that unless it had been okayed by the authorities. Right? At the same time the likes of Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were saying that extraterrestrial were statistically probable. Yet they were denying aliens visiting earth. Hmmm.
 
The Book
 
First time into the high school library I saw on the shelf a book titled UFO’s Explained. Like wow! Finally a big grown up book that would settle the question, maybe showing that extraterrestrials were the real deal after all. Checked it out and read it. Written by aviation expert Philip Klass, it is renowned as the first skeptics book. Case by case Klass debunked every classic UFO story up to that date. I got it. That is how scientific analysis is done. Cold, hard, objective, rational yet flexible and nondogmatic examination of the available data. Go where the data goes, not on what your opinion favors. Have been a skeptic ever since.
 
Including of the gods. Religion is not as is often claimed a search for the truth, or to be moral or altruistic. It is looking for boons supernatural – al theists are expecting stuff in return ofr adherence. It’s the prefect recipe for waving away awkward counter evidence.
 
There was nothing dramatic or agonizing about my going science-based, it was fun knowing that most folks were being absurd in believing in matters magical. I did not have much in the way of deep discussions with my parents who while they had their positives – including being largely supportive of my science interests and art — were too dysfunctional and nonintellectual for me to admire, seek their approval, or care what they thought. Moderate-liberal suburban northern Virginia was not especially churchly like the SE tidewater Virginia where and aunt and uncle lived, and this was before the rise of the religious right, creationism was not much of an issue. So theo talk was not all that common. Somehow the God subject came up with a young substitute teacher I think in art class. She and another student derided my nontheism, the teacher demanding I offer up a single great thinker who was an atheist. Could not come up with one – this was long before the atheist flourishing of more recent times – awkward. Did not change my mind though. Senior year in English the apparently nontheist teacher was for reasons I do not recall discussing issues godly. The student counter arguing happened to be the daughter of the ward bishop. Because of that I kept my mouth shut. As she was being shot down – at one point she was queried as to the physical condition old people would be in in heaven — she looked to fellow Vienna ward attendee me (but not a friend) with a facial appeal for support which I was not about to deliver. With the Boy Scouts thing winding down, the Evans having moved away, my interest in Mormonism still nil, LDS services as always excruciatingly dull – stay away from them for your own sake — and the ward bishop pressuring me to tithe while warning me to stay away from the atheist University of Utah I was toying with attending, I eased myself out.
 
When I moved at 20 I was careful to not let the church know my new address. I got a call from a church official at the work number I had earlier gave them silly me. They use the insidious techniques of salespeople. Start out nice and if that does not work ramp up the pressure until the mark caves just to stop the unpleasant situation. When the manipulative ass realized I was holding my ground he got nasty and threatened excommunication. Like I cared. This century one of my uncles deliberately got excommunicated to stop LDS operatives from pestering him. Another uncle had converted to the Greek Orthodoxy of his wife – those are the cool people I visit when in Utah;) Aside from a couple of missionaries who thought it cool I had ancestors who knew Smith while politely deriding their faith, I have not had contact with an active Mormon for decades. Yay!
 
The Book II
 
At 20 another book had a big and conclusive impact. A personal life item was going so well I imagined it must show the favor of a deity – classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. When that situation did not work out I thought it discreditable to now abandon the belief – another classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. I do not recall how I learned about it, but I purchased a copy of Mark Twain’s theonotorious Letters from the Earth to see what he had to say about the God thing. Like most Christians I had never read the damn Bible (I did much later as a research project, I survived). Twain was the first person to with his brilliant literary wit tell me the appalling truth about the book of horrors and its barbaric god, while attending to its cruelty to humanity. Here is a brief sample.
 
The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously…. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned an enemy whose job it is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it, afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been overlooked….  It is the Creator’s Grand Army, and he is the Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Diseases and the rest…. It is wonderful the thorough and comprehensive study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable…. All of the Creator’s specially deadly disease-producers are invisible.  It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of years it kept man from getting to the root of his maladies, and defeated his attempts to master them. It is only recently that science has succeeded in exposing some of these treacheries.
 
(I strongly recommend LFTE to all — be cautioned that a lot of the book is criticism of literature by the inventor of modern non/fictional literature Clemens, not that that is a problem.)
 
I realized that I had been lied to by the churches. I hate being lied to, propaganda is vile and I try to avoid deceiving others. By the time I finished the sections on theism I said “I get it Twain,” and I have never had reason to modify my atheism since.
 
What is Rattling Around Between My Ears
 
So what is my atheism? I am not a theist, a person who has a belief in one or more deities/gods. Broadly and correctly etymologically defined, a-theism is the lack of theism, ergo I am an atheist. I am not an absolute atheist who is completely certain there are not any gods because that cannot be entirely proven – such folk are rare, a hot Hopkins undergrad I knew back in the day who was quite ticked when I denied absolute disproof of deities is the only one I have met. In that sense I am an agnostic as defined by the person who coined the term Thomas Huxley. So by his own statements so is Dawkins, we are both agnostic atheists. My position is based entirely on data analysis. I always follow the data as best I can, and if it supported the probability or certainty of some form of deity or deities being around and about I would opt for that and would not be writing this – as I will discuss in a later blog, if god/s existed there are many circumstances in which it would be obvious and not a matter of debate. As it is the evidence for the presence of anything supernatural is pathetic, and the possibility of their existence is about as close to zero as one can get without quite getting there.
 
Although the basic existence of a god and many other items supernatural cannot be entirely disproven, the existence of a decent, loving, benign moral creator that has the best interests of his human creations can be scientifically tested. I am the person who literally has done the most to prove that a Good God simply cannot exist because of the deadly nature of our planet to children. And that worshipping a creator god in search of boons is inherently immoral. I am also the leading researcher when correlating the relationship between levels of popular a/theism and socioeconomic conditions, which leaves no statistical doubt that the more atheistic democracies are, the better off are their citizens, and for inherent reasons it is not possible for highly religious societies to be highly successful. I am therefore anti-theism, similar to say Dawkins. As such I am not like many atheists tolerant of religion and belief, it is bad idea in terms of truth and for societies. That does not mean atheism cannot have its own downsides as I shall discuss in these blogs. I try to be fair and objective, and am often vexed when other atheists are not that. Or well informed. I am often aghast at the limited knowledge base of attendees at atheist groups. Lots of them don’t know that our planet is 4.5 billion years old. Sheesh.
 
I am an equal opportunity skeptic. Our society is deeply, cynically hypocritical, that being true of most of the majority who are theists here and abroad. Belief in supernatural deities for which evidence of their existence is extremely weak and their goodness is readily disprovable is widely seen as normal if not noble, while a host of other paranormal beliefs that are no better founded are commonly derided and condemned as baseless and mere superstitions. These days I have people asking this dinosaurologist if it is really true that aliens killed off the dinosaurs to pave the way for humanity, an item they picked up from cable and online “documentaries.” That outlandish notion lacks any actual evidence, but it is no more or less plausible than the conceit that a transcendent entity created our universe and planet. I am not a hypocrite when it comes to matters paranormal godly and secular, they are all bogus as far as can be determined. Faith is not truth, it is sheer opinion.
 
Becoming an Atheosecular Researcher
 
Having meme evolved into a strongly convinced but not absolutist agnostic atheist by 20 and not having seen anything close to suggesting I should change my mind since, I spent the mid 70s to the mid 90s focusing on my paleozoological research and art. Including doing the primary design work for the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park (do not blame me for the flawed appearance of the rest of the JP dinos, and the original King Kong is a way better dinosaurs and other monsters on an island movie, albeit typically racist per the times). Although not the very first I was among the very few illustrating smaller dinosaurs with feathers and fuzz which would be verified in the 90s, was the first to note that some dinosaurs might also be secondarily flightless birds, was the first to calculate that the bigger flying pterosaurs were massive monsters weighing as much as lions and tigers and bears, and named a number of dinosaur groups and genus-species (some of which remain in force) – you can check out my paleo work and art at www.gspauldino.com. Being an iconoclastic polymath is my thing. Did little about the nonreligion thing even as I was appalled by the anti-scientific religious right and its perverted consort creationism. In the mid 90s I started attending local atheosecular groups, partly for social reasons. On the positive side of matters in those days of post cold war optimism I was pleased to see the poll data indicating that the USA was in fact becoming increasingly irreligious, as I documented in my first atheism themed article in a 2002 Free Inquiry.
 
But I was a very frustrated fellow. About the scientific investigation of the societal impacts of religion and nontheism. In order to understand that and many other things you have to have the comparative stats on hand. Duh. Lots of people were claiming mass deity belief is critical for societies to be well run, others denied it. But where were the objective, large scale statistical comparisons needed to test who was right? When I realized the correlations had not been produced which was an enormous failure of the sociological community, I went ahead and did them my little self, establishing a new field of research without really trying in the process. I was being innovative in this arena as I had in paleo. It was a fairly extensive project, but there was plenty of data available and the results were fascinating. I published them in the peer reviewed J Religion & Society and Evolutionary Psychology (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305), as well chapters in academic books. The research – which has never been refuted because it is objectively not possible to do so — got a fair amount of media attention. Including being labeled the church’s public enemy #1 by MSNBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna10351693) which I am quite proud of, and an appearance on FoxNews which I parried the sleazy reporter fairly well. The work, bolstered by the efforts of others, has done a fair amount to shift the public discourse more towards the favor of atheism.
 
In a statistics tells us a lot about morality parallel line of analysis, I had known since reading the first sentences of Arthur C. Clarke’s book version of 2001 A Space Odyssey that around 100 billion people had been born. I also knew that juvenile mortality rates are around 50%, so that meant some 50 billion children had been tormented to death by the diseases as outlined by Twain, and even greater numbers have miscarried. This was another ground breaking look at the old problem of how a perfect God and our imperfect planet do not go along with one another. I published an analysis in Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf) – no other atheists have scored the coup of publishing anti-theistic works in mainstream religious journals – that was the first publication to ever present the number of deceased children, and showed how theologians have bent over backward to evade the problem for ages that because mass death of youngsters directly refutes the belief that God is Good and deserves admiring worship, and that such is not at all noble. Very frustrating is that my efforts to get media attention for the core refutation of religion, and a response from the theists who have no means of producing a plausible counterargument, went nowhere. In order to tale another shot and that while updating the analysis I am publishing a two-parter on the subject in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1). So far that has not been more successful at getting wide attention, with Religion News Service cynically rejecting my press release the theocads.
 
A major achievement was in 2011. I kept sending op-eds to major venues without success. Then it occurred to me to do one on the chronic discrimination against atheists, and do it in association with others. That worked, the Washington Post carried it. The piece garnered 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 80,000 likes. Nice. But that was the end of such major consideration of my work in the mainstream media and press. Dozens of efforts to place pieces in mainstream opinion venues have gone nowhere. And it is not just me. A big running problem is the stunning lack of attention paid to atheists by the mainstream news media, my next blog will be on that issue.
 
My atheo frustrations do not end there. Fact is that institutional atheosecularism has not been as effective as it needs to be. Basic means for promoting a world view include setting up think tanks to generate data driven information, and a news service to help distribute it. For reasons obscure to me this has not yet happened, despite my and others efforts to get such going. The lack of financial support had severely hindered the research and analysis by myself and others that would likely improve the situation for atheists around the globe. More about that later on this site.
 
Starting in 2017 I have had a regular column in Free Inquiry. That’s a major audience, but one can read my tomes only if one subscribes to the magazine which I suggest people do, and only nontheists subscribe. This blog expands the audience for my popular articles beyond FI. Also, those columns are limited to something over 1000 words, which is too short to fully address many issues. Things are complicated. One of the reasons why we are in the global discourse pickle we are in is because many pieces are more propaganda presentations than well thought out arguments backed up by solid data.
 
Coming Features
 
I will be covering a lot of cool topics. How the failure to develop fusion power has greatly slowed down the decline of theism and bettering the global economy – the former is dependent on the latter — while aiding theoradicalism. How the giant New Zealand moas and elephant birds of Madagascar disprove the contention of William Lane Craig that the good God has to allow predators to mug and chow down on other creatures – don’t get me started on how theists say animals do not really suffer because they are too dumb. Why the scandalous failure of nontheists to vote at the same per capita rate as theoconservatives is why the religious right minority is still a major political power in this country. How about how conservative Christianity is backing the right wing autocratic forces of Europe. Then there is how Dwight Eisenhower was the president who initiated modern government promotion of religion. Did you know that Yosemite Valley is one of the best disproofs of the Biblical creation story, and why – think granite. Here’s a goodie. Few realize that the establishment of the national parks was to a great extent an effort to promote god belief among White Americans at the expense of the Original Peoples, that’s a reason why park ranger uniforms are based on old US Army garb. Bet you did not know that. You may know that the antiabortion movement is really an effort to return the nation to its godly traditional ways of the 1950s, but if not I shall explain.
 
What virtually no one knows is that it was the Catholic Church that did more than anything else to put Hitler into power, largely to ensure the stream of tax revenue they still enjoy. Everyone knows about the pedophile scandals that have rocked and damaged the church, but not about the incredible links between the Vatican and mob elements that used to generate international headlines and inspired the Godfather III, but have been shunted aside. Do not forget how the Manifest Destiny that drove the ethnic cleansing of the America’s was a Godly project made possible by the diseases of Twain’s God liquidated most of the population.
 
Ever wonder why the American religious right is all for fossil fuels oil especially? I’ll explain that one. And don’t you believe that nonsense that while Jesus was probably not divine, he was a man of peace. He was not. If he existed.
 
And there’s a lot more.
 
Since I got into active atheism the good news has been how theism has been declining way faster in the USA than even I hoped, with nonreligion soaring by an astonishing 10% of the population each decade, and atheists as broadly defined now making up perhaps a fifth or a quarter of nation (for the stats see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Gallup found church membership was at 70% in 2000, now is only 50%. On the disappointing side the atheist movement is not expanding in tune with the population dynamics, perhaps because of the general decline is social organizations. On the very bad side theoconservatism has, despite losing some demographic ground – even white Republicans are less religious than they used to be – retained a much more powerful grip on much of the government than I predicted. And in their fury to maintain their power are going increasingly bizarro world toxic and autocratic here and abroad. Meanwhile other versions of paranormal thinking are doing all too well, especially concerning alien visitors and even flat-earthism which is a religious movement if you don’t know. But don’t blame everything on the theists. The virulent Chinese government is atheist.
 
Hope you find my coming pontifications of interest, and even better of use.