Does having more access to information mean we’re more informed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Two times this week, I have seen an interesting event happen. In both cases, I have been discussing with an atheist on Facebook. In both cases, I have seen them make a claim that’s completely false. In both cases, I saw them Google for a resource to use. In both cases, the link they provided that they said backed their case in fact did not back their case. In fact, in both cases, they used the same web site and seeing as it’s a web site where I know the guy who runs it, I know the quality is excellent and my opponents didn’t realize what they had done.
In the first case, I was told that it was at the Council of Nicea that the Bible had been edited. The excellent site that was used to demonstrate this claim was www.Tertullian.org and the specific page was this one. This site is run by Roger Pearse who is a Christian and an excellent researcher so I knew something was wrong immediately. With this, it didn’t take too long. All I had to do was read the first paragraph. I will bold in the important parts.
There seem to be a number of legends about the First Council of Nicaea (325AD) in circulation on the internet, presented as fact. Some people seem to think that the council, which was the first council of all the Bishops of the Christian Church, either invented the New Testament, or edited it to remove references to reincarnation (or whatever) or burned large numbers of heretical works, or whatever. These are in error. This page documents the problem and provides links to all the ancient source material in order to allow everyone to check the truth for themselves.
In the next case, it was someone trying to tell me a pagan deity like Mithras was born on December 25th. Even if Jesus was not born on this day, it is a false claim to say all these pagan deities were born on that same day. The page I was linked to was this one. Yet had the person even bothered to read, he would have seen that again, it wasn’t friendly to his claims.
Cumont stated that the birthday of Mithras was 25 December, on the basis that a solar feast took place on that date and Mithras would, of course, be included. The idea was only speculation, but has been widely taken up. Clauss repeats the claim. But Beck states that this is not the case. In fact he calls this assertion ‘that hoariest of “facts”‘. He continues: “In truth, the only evidence for it is the celebration of the birthday of Invictus on that date in the Calendar of Philocalus. ‘Invictus’ is of course Sol Invictus, Aurelian’s sun god. It does not follow that a different, earlier, and unofficial sun god, Sol Invictus Mithras, was necessarily or even probably, born on that day too.”
But later Clauss states; “the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)], held on 25 December, was a general festival of the Sun, and by no means specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.”
Steven Hijmans has discussed in detail the question of whether the general “natalis Invicti” festival was related to Christmas but does not give Mithras as a possible source.
Please note this. For the sake of argument, it could be Pearse is wrong in his claims. I’m quite confident he isn’t, but let’s suppose he is just for the sake of argument. What matters is that in both cases, the person had likely just typed something in on Google and just copied the first few links without bothering to even read what they said confident that what they put up had to prove their point.
And this is the problem.
There are too many people today who think just being able to Google is all they need to make an argument and if they can find a link that says something, then that establishes it.
News flash to some of you. Not everything on the internet is true.
You see, one of the problems of the internet is anyone whatsoever can set up a blog, web site, YouTube channel, write an Ebook, etc., and be seen as an authority. Now of course I’m not going to deny there is some excellent work out there by non-scholars. I would hope some of you reading this blog think that this is the case here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have pseudo-research but just look impressive.
If you know how to use Google, it can be an excellent tool. If you don’t know how, it can give you the appearance of knowledge without the substance thereof.
If you want the best knowledge, you will need to read the books by leading authorities in the field you want to learn. These authorities also do not produce their material for free. Every now and then, you can find some resources that are free, such as the podcast that I host regularly.Yet despite that, there is no replacement whatsoever for reading the books that you need to read.
Imagine going to a doctor and as you describe your symptoms you see him on his computer. Now this isn’t always an unusual scene. Sometimes he’s entering in data on your case. Yet what would happen if you asked him what he was doing and he said “Oh. I’m googling in your symptoms to see what you have and what the best treatment would be?” I hope all of you would be going to find a new doctor.
In Japan, one of the delicacies you can get is Puffer Fish. The problem with the meai is that the fish contains a deadly poison so if you want to serve it, you have to cook it in just the right way so that it is no longer a threat. In fact, you have to be specially licensed in order to prepare this meal. How many would be willing to have the meal at a Japanese restaurant if you knew the cook was instead just using Google to learn how to do it?
Google can too often just allow a person to be lazy and look like they know something when they don’t. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for work. There is no shortcut on the path of knowledge. If you want to learn something, you will have to work at it. You can use Google as a tool, but do not expect it to do all the work for you.