Sunday, 08 April 2007
It is my pleasure on this Easter morning to defend Richard Carrier’s arguments that are against belief in the supposed supernatural resurrection of Jesus.
I have already noted that Carrier's standard of proof is absurd.
Is it any more absurd than believing it is better to exist in the worst possible conditions forever than to not exist? I have a whole list of absolute absurdities from you on our “doctrine of hell” discussion. That doesn’t faze you at all. His standard of proof is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…and you uphold the very same standard yourself. You say later that doubting the Bible is an extraordinary claim and you yourself would require extraordinary proof to overturn your belief…so clearly his standards are not at all out of whack.
I also noted that Carrier grossly underestimates the importance of the Resurrection, if true. According to him, "The Resurrection demonstrates no more than amazing natural events or, at best, supernatural events of a minor scale." As I noted, there is no way that the Resurrection could have occurred through known natural causes; experience overwhelmingly shows us that dead people generally stay dead and they don't randomly come back to life.
Aliens who use advanced technology would classify as an amazing natural event.
And if this is a "supernatural event of a minor scale," then what exactly is a supernatural event of a major scale?
Lazarus was raised from the dead and we don’t even have a national holiday for that. Bringing one corpse back to life is small potatoes and all this shows is your complete blind acceptance of your religious tenets (even though you’d probably think Muhammad riding to heaven on a winged horse is trivial) and your shear lack of imagination that you can’t even fathom a miracle even slightly grander or more public…but I’m sure it has nothing to do with your lack of imagination…you’ve probably imagined lots of fantastic things more elaborate than a resurrection. So it must be that you are programmed to not think even slightly outside the box when it comes to Christianity. What else can I conclude? Is it not an extraordinary claim to say that you can’t imagine something bigger? How is that not absurd? How do you expect to convince anyone but yourself?
Jesus was right when He taught that "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31).
It is interesting to note that Jesus is quoting Abraham who happened to possess the kind of evidence in his life that Carrier would accept…not to mention passages like these basically prove that God doesn’t even expect you to think there is an evidential case to be made…you are supposed to accept the resurrection on pure Biblical hearsay and nothing more.
Regarding his standard of proof, Carrier further comments that "... even the author of the Gospel of John depicts Thomas the Doubter as rational and wise for refusing to believe without direct observation, and this shows that we have no more grounds to believe than Thomas did, and until granted the same evidence as he, we are as right as he was to call it bunk." First, I ought to point out the context (which Carrier conveniently ignores): "Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:29)
Right, this is another scamtastic proof that the Bible’s perspective is that there is no case to be made for the resurrection. It is the giant seal of approval on credulity. Not to mention that Carrier makes use of this “ignored” verse himself elsewhere. He’s not ignoring the context, he’s using a common element in the correct way to disown the inconsistency. There are more people that are like Thomas in the world and Jesus has no place for them…in other words if he truly desired everyone to saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), he’d give the doubting doubters’ their due. But instead he gives miracles to towns he knows ahead of time won’t repent (Matthew 11:21) and he doesn’t give them to towns he knows would have repented and he says so plainly in the gospels. God’s “standard of proof” is going to damn many honest people that would have “gotten right with God” had they known what the deal was first hand. I don’t know why you would love such a monster.
Second, I should point out that this is an irrational standard of proof.
Jesus didn’t call Thomas irrational…in fact, he said quite the opposite: “blessed are the irrational.”
No one alive has seen George Washington - we don't even have photographs - and yet no one doubts that he existed or that he really was the President.
Not an extraordinary claim.
No one has directly seen an atom, far less subatomic particles, and yet no one doubts that they're there.
Not an extraordinary claim.
I haven't personally been to Africa, but that doesn't cause me to automatically doubt anything I read about it in National Geographic.
Except, probably, all the stuff about evolution because your absurd creationist standard of evidence hasn’t been met. BTW…the existence of Africa…also not an extraordinary claim.
And the list could go on and on.
Yes, there are many mundane claims out there that can be accepted with a minimum of proof. You are absolutely correct.
My point being that we don't need to have personally seen something in order to reasonably believe in it;
You are quite correct and that is why many Muslims believe that Muhammad really was visited by an angel of light and why many of the Heaven’s Gate cult even when they didn’t see the space ship tailing the comet sent the telescope they bought back because “it was obviously broken.”
surely even Carrier would admit that it's perfectly reasonable to believe in George Washington in spite of never having seen him, and that anyone who rejected Washington's existence on these grounds would be a very irrational person.
It’s too bad you are making a complete straw man out of his arguments.
In fact, we accept certain things that no one has ever seen, like the existence of atoms, and yet no one argues that beliefs in atoms is irrational (in fact, just the opposite; anyone who denied the existence of atoms would surely be taken to be a very ignorant and unreasonable person).
But at the same time, we do take a person to be exceedingly irrational if they still believe in aether or some other discarded theory about the invisible workings of physics. All you can hope to do here is make an agnostic case…but that is perfectly consistent with the scope of Carrier’s argument since we still wouldn’t be justified believing such an extraordinary claim on such a minimum of evidence. And on the scale of the supposed God of the entire universe such a claim is too un-extraordinary since surely that kind of god could do a hell of a lot better before the eyes of everyone…why such an evidential low key event buried in the ambiguity of history? Why does he leave it to fallible humans thousands of years later who don’t perform similar miraculous feats to tell the tall tale?
So why is this standard of proof any more rational when applied to Jesus' life and Resurrection? It's not - therefore it is highly irrational to deny Jesus' Resurrection on these grounds.
But you are misapplying his standard…the part you are working with isn’t even a proof negative…it’s the case for not believing in it positively. Not the negative case for upholding that it in fact didn’t happen. The argument isn’t, “I know this doesn’t happen because it doesn’t happen now.” The argument is, “I am not justified in believing it happened based on the evidence I have now.” As long as you are “refuting” the former, you’ll get no where.
Carrier then digresses for awhile into a defense of physicalism (a type of monism that teaches that all that exists is physical, and that everything can be reduced to it, in particular humans). This is a very problematic position for a number of reasons, several of which I address in another post.
Maybe I’ll go take a look at that…
Carrier argues that, since the Resurrection contradicts his firsthand experience, he must reject it. He gives the rather amusing example of "... no amount of persuasion will convince me that a poisonous snake won't kill me, no matter how many men named Jesus are reported to have said otherwise." He refers to this passage from Mark several times, even though the text is an obvious interpolation; in fact, Mark 16:9-20, which is what he was referring to, was most likely added later by an overzealous scholar in an attempt to complete the Gospel sometime in the early 2nd Century; nearly all scholars, conservative or otherwise, agree that this text was not written by Mark and was not part of the original Gospel. Carrier conveniently ignores that, preferring to claim that Jesus taught that his Disciples would be automatically protected from snake poison. (He makes the same false claim in his book, by the way).
And yet it’s still in the Bible. Carrier is totally aware of the bogus endings of Mark and makes use of that in other arguments. But the point is it is still canonized and the general inerrantist crowd has to accept it anyway (and many fight to maintain the passage’s authority). Not to mention Paul is said to have survived a poisonous snake bite as well…so it really doesn’t matter. This is just an example of the “many wondrous signs” no one sees today. An intellectually honest person wouldn’t regard the speck in Carrier’s eye (assuming there is one), but would instead pull the plank out of his scamtastic cessationist eye and give us an actual good reason why God’s invisible entourage of dubious propositions isn’t readily available to the senses when such an obvious benefit to humanity would result.
Which leads into my first point. As I said, I will dispute both of Carrier's premises; there is no reason to believe that there are not miracles occurring right now
and even if there aren't miracles occurring today that isn't a sufficient reason to believe that they've never happened.
But there is sufficient reason to think people are credulous and make stuff up today and the probability is for that reason (apart from busting the supernatural realm on some count) on that side of the debate.
First, I believe that there are, in fact, miracles occurring today. The burden of proof is not on me in this case, it's on Carrier;
LMAO. So of course we see that extraordinary claims really do require extraordinary proof, eh?
since he's claiming that something never occurs, it's his job to prove that.
No…he’s claiming, “All that is needed is the demonstration that God, like the laws of nature, is a regular, functioning part of what exists today, and that he actually has powers sufficient to work a resurrection” and “If God were regularly performing unquestionable miracles today, perhaps turning all guns in the world into flowers, rendering the innocent impervious to harm, protecting churches with mysterious energy fields, and all the queer things we would expect if there really was a god, then the very same argument that I use here would actually vindicate the resurrection as most probably miraculous.” You on the other hand are basing your epistemology on nothing. You can say all you want that, “Just because we don’t see them today doesn’t mean they didn’t happen then.” But that doesn’t justify what you require it to justify, “That because we don’t see something today, that means it did happen then.”
There are two ways of doing that: the first is to say miracles are impossible a priori (i.e. without experience; prior to examination). However, this is not the route that Carrier has chosen; he has chosen the empirical direction.
Yeah, but you basically are trying to turn it back into priorism in this pointless exercise of logic you don’t apply anywhere else.
Since his argument is based on experience, it's his job to refute every account of miracles (and there are plenty of them). After all, just because Carrier hasn't experienced them (assuming he actually hasn't) doesn't mean that no one has experienced them (I've never been to Africa, but plenty of other people have), and all you really need is for one person to experience a genuine miracle to prove that it occurred (even if I haven't been to Africa, the fact that other people have proves it exists).
Just as a brief digression, there are 4 kinds of statements:
A: Universal affirmative - all S is P, X is always the case, etc.
E: Universal negative - no S is P, X is never the case, etc.
I: Particular affirmative - some S is P (i.e. there is at least one S that is P), X is sometimes the case (i.e. there is at least one instance where X is true), etc.
O: Particular negative - some S is not P (i.e. there is at least one S that is not P), X is sometimes not the case (i.e. there is at least one instance where X is not true)
A implies not O and E implies not I. Therefore, if I, not E. In other words, proving an particular affirmitive (I) statement is sufficient to prove that the universal negative is incorrect. Thus, in order to prove the universal negative statement, one must disprove the particular affirmative. My point in all this is, of course, that saying that there is no supernatural or that there are no miracles is a universal negation - i.e. if naturalism is true, there can't be any supernatural of any kind, and if one denies that miracles occur, one must say that there are never miracles of any kind. If there is even one miracle, then miracles occur; if there is supernatural of any kind, then naturalism is false. Which is why it's so absurd for Carrier to claim that the Resurrection at best proves only "minor supernatural events"
But he’s not making the claim that it does…what he’s saying is that even if the supernatural historicist case succeeds (which he says it doesn’t) all it does is prove a minor supernatural event…that doesn’t prove this god actually made the whole universe or knows enough about genetics to create a zoo from scratch. Are we only allowed to use logic against naturalism or does one positive statement prove a universal positive statement? I have a dog in my house…does that prove there is a dog in every house? Christians need this one miracle to vindicate their entire epistemology (that is the standard they try to set) and even if they were successful at proving this miracle occurred…that’s only the tip of the iceberg…and that’s Carrier’s point. Christian apologetics still has a long way to go even if it is successful with proof of the resurrection.
- even if the Resurrection really was a "minor miracle" or "minor supernatural event" (which it wasn't), then that proves that Carrier's worldview is wrong.
No actually his worldview just has one proposition added to it…some minor “god” performed one miracle 2,000 years ago.
Any supernatural event, no matter how minor, proves that there is a supernatural, and any miracle, regardless of how minor, proves that miracles occur, so calling them "minor" doesn't help Carrier at all.
Sure it does because this one minor miracle doesn’t prove hardly anything you need it to in terms of the rest of Christian epistemology. Apologists are trying to mix mysticism and empiricism and it just doesn’t work. One validated claim doesn’t justify an entire artifice. One needs a pile of validated claims so that the entire weight of the worldview is supported. We use this reasoning all the time…does a particular girl like you? Well she was nice to you once…but then it tapered off…is she ready to marry you? No, you wait for sustained validation over the course of time to justify the entire wedding picture. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, for all we know a rogue god from the Olympian pantheon may have been in town and decided to mess with some delusional apocalyptic Jews.
My second point being that, given that even one miracle or supernatural event proves that Carrier is wrong, and given that there are firsthand reports of miracles happening today, the burden of proof is on Carrier to show that none of these reports are true.
No the burden in on someone to show that even one of these reports is true. Because if we go with this “standard” you have to accept reincarnation and alien abduction and a host of other categories of “eyewitness” reports when alternative explanations work better…are often proven…and are therefore more probable when it comes to times when we don’t have sufficient evidence one way or the other.
The second point I should refer to is that, even if it is true that miracles don't occur anymore, this does not prove that miracles didn't happen then. Carrier does not, and cannot, offer us any evidence that this is the case. First, I should point out that the obvious assumption behind this, and all of Carrier's case, is empiricism (the idea that our experience and observations are the primary, or only, way of discovering truth). Carrier can't even prove that experience and observation is reliable in any non-circular way (it is perfectly easy to conceive of our experience being unreliable in such a way that we would never know that it was unreliable; in fact, if our experience was wholely unreliable, how would we ever discover that it was? This is like the Cartesian Demon argument that Carrier makes elsewhere), far less that empirical data trumps all other data.
Surely you’ve read his book and know how he dealt with this already. Even with a Cartesian demon, he can still argue that naturalism is the best explanation of that prescribed delusion. If you are going to disown experience as being primary, then even your experience of the Bible or even your own experience of your own acceptance of your biblical axiom is in dispute and you have no valid connection to it. Obviously we accept the best methods for acquiring truth about the world and it is only meta-scammers that will deprioritize the scientific method for the sake of their dubious propositions. The result can only be one thing…a sub-par worldview.
Carrier must take the validity and authority of human reason and experience to be a priori true.
As must we all. To go against it is to dismiss yourself from the discussion. If you are not an authority on truth…then how can you validate the Bible’s authority?
Not only that, but these must be taken to be the ultimate authority; anything can be settled by an appeal to experience, observation, or human reason.
It’s just the best authority around that we know of. It doesn’t have to be infallible.
This is not true; on the contrary, the Bible ought to be taken as being a priori true. In that sense, I'm not trying to "prove" the Bible, I take it as axiomatic. There is no greater authority than the Bible, and therefore an appeal to human experience cannot trump the Bible. Conversely, Carrier must assume from the very beginning that the Bible is not authoritative, but that humans are, so his entire argument has basic worldview and starting point problems.
Might we not all start out as agnostic? Do we have to have the stereotypical Muslim and Mormon pop in for them to say, “Hey, the authority of the Koran is axiomatic!” and “Hey the authority of the book of Mormon is axiomatic!” It is perfectly obvious we all have to start out with Carrier’s observational axioms…but when we compare our lists of properly basic beliefs…when we find them to diverge we might want to have a better standard than, “I’m just going with this for no particular reason and that’s why you should, too.”
Thus, Carrier's argument that the Resurrection contradicts his experience is based on quite a few assumptions,
So it is an assumption for him to say that he’s never seen a miracle before or been able to validate that any have occurred?
not the least of which is that his experience is actually reliable and a good test of truth, and a flawed, man-centered worldview.
Is that somehow worse than a baseless and patently anti-empirical, delusion centered worldview?
Even under his own worldview, though, Carrier can't justify his claims that no miracles now implies none then, and he doesn't give us any particularly good reasons to believe him.
If human reason isn’t valid, then what good would good reasons be to you?
Thus concludes the second part of my defense of the Resurrection.