Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Atheists still relying on Hume for support

An atheist visitor has attempted to use Hume's argument against miracles to deny the reality of Jesus' resurrection. And he's doing this even though he also rejects Hume's statements on cause and effect and asserts that the universe has existed from eternity or that it caused itself to come into being. He hasn't explained that to me yet. Don't get me started on that one.

Regardless, Hume’s “in principle” argument is today, generally recognised by philosophers to be, in the words of the atheist philosopher of science John Earman, an “abject failure.”

Hume’s maxim is as follows: No testimony . . . is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless this testimony is of such a kind that . . . its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

Hume’s argument actually falls into two more or less independent claims. On the one hand, there is his claim that miracles are by definition utterly improbable; on the other hand there is his claim that no evidence for a purported miracle can serve to overcome its intrinsic improbability. As it turns out, both of these claims are now known to be mistaken.

I’ll take his second claim first - No amount of evidence can serve to establish a miracle.

Probability theorists have asked just how much evidence it takes in order to establish the occurrence of highly improbable events. For a good example of this discussion see S. L. Zabell, “The Probabilistic Analysis of Testimony,” Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference 20 (1988): 327-54.

It is now realised that if one simply weighs the probability of the event against the reliability of the witness to the event, then we WOULD BE LED into denying the occurrence of events which, though highly improbable, we reasonable know to have happened. For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night’s lottery was 2198563, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, perhaps one out of several million, and even if the morning news’ accuracy is known to be 99.99 %, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness’s reliability, so that we should never believe such reports. In order to believe the report, Hume would require us to have enough evidence in favour of the morning new’s reliability to counter-balance the improbability of the winning pick, which is absurd. This means that Hume’s argument could lead us into situations where we would be forced to deny the testimony of the most reliable witnesses because of general considerations. And that goes not only for miraculous events, but, for non-miraculous events as well, as Hume himself admitted with respect to the man in the tropics confronted with travellers’ tales of ice.

Probability theorists saw that what also needs to be considered is “What is the probability that the given testimony would have been given if in fact the event never happened?” One can immediately see the ramifications for the case at hand; How probable is it that the disciples would claim a resurrection took place when no such thing occurred?

Thus, to return to our example, the probability that the morning news would announce the pick as 2198563 if some other number had been chosen is incredibly small, given that the newscasters had no preference for the announced number. On the other hand, the announcement is much more probable if 2198563 were the actual number chosen. This comparative likelihood easily counterbalances the high prior improbability of the event reported.

The realisation on the part of probability theorists that other factors need to be included in the correct calculation of the probability of some event comes to expression in “Bayes’ Theorem.” In the case of miracles, where
M = some miraculous event
E = the specific evidence for that event and
B = our background knowledge apart from the specific evidence, the so-called “odds form” of the Bayes’ Theorem would look like this:
Pr(M/E&B) / Pr(not-M/E&B)
= Pr(M/B) / Pr(not-M/B)
x Pr(E/M&B) / Pr(E/not-M&B)

Given this ratio we can also compute the actual probability of M. If we represent the ratio as A/B then we can compute the probability of M given the total evidence by A/(A+B). So if the ratio is 2/3, then the probability of M given the total evidence is 2(2+3) = 2/5 = .4 or 40%.

Regarding the resurrection of Jesus, which would be a miracle, we’re asking here which best explains the specific evidence that we have, M (a miracle) or not M (no miracle).

The evidence that we have is:
. Jesus death by Crucifixion
. The empty tomb
. The conversion of the sceptic and Church persecutor Paul
. The conversion of the sceptic James
. The dramatic change in character of the disciples
. The explosive beginning of and current presence of the Christian Church

These are facts of history that demand an explanation. M or not M.

Unfortunately, Hume never discusses the second ratio representing the explanatory power of the miracle’s occurring or not occurring. He focuses almost exclusively on Pr(M/B), the intrinsic probability of a miracle, claiming that it is so inevitably low that no amount of evidence can establish a miracle. But that is plainly wrong, since no matter what non-zero value one assigns to the first ratio, the miracle may be very probable on the total evidence if the second ratio is sufficiently large.

A further factor which is neglected by Hume is the remarkable impact of multiple, independent testimony to some event. I’ve given you 23 independent extra Biblical testimonies to the events described above. If two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only .01 x .01 = .0001, or one out of 10,000; the odds of three such witness’s being wrong is .01 x .01 x .01 = .000001, or one out of 1,000,000; and the odds of six such witness’s being mistaken is .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 = .000000000001, or one out of 1,000,000,000,000. In fact, the cumulative power of independent witnesses is such that individually they could be UNRELIABLE (as surely an atheist would claim them to be) more than 50% of the time and yet their testimony combined to make and event of apparently enormous improbability quite probable in light of their testimony. With respect to Jesus’ resurrection, it is difficult to know how independent some of the witness are - though in the case of people like Peter, James, and Paul, independence is well established.

So much for Hume’s in principle argument!

Again, Hume says, “No testimony . . . is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless this testimony is of such a kind that . . . its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

Hume’s way of putting his maxim is rhetorically loaded, however, equivocating on the term “miraculous.” since it is not at all miraculous that human testimony be false. Any miracle, no matter how small, would seem to be more miraculous than the testimony’s being false. Indeed, it would seem purely stupid to suggest that the disciple’s being mistaken would be a greater miracle than Christ’s resurrection! But Hume’s maxim is not really using “miraculous” in the sense of “naturally impossible.” To see this point, suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is more intrinsically probable that Jesus would rise from the dead than that the disciples were either liars or were lied to. In such a case their testimony may, indeed, be sufficient to establish the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, even though Jesus’ resurrection is, technically speaking, much, more miraculous than their testimony’s being false. Of course, Hume argues that a miraculous event will always be more improbable than the falsehood of the testimony in support of it.

But that only goes to underline the point that the real issue here is the probability of the events, NOT their miraculousness. The miraculousness of an event is merely the means by which Hume endeavours to show its improbability. It’s the improbability of miracle claims that Hume is after.

There is a line beloved in the “free thought” subculture that “extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence.” What we now see is that this seemingly commonsensical slogan is, in fact, false as usually understood. In order to establish the occurrence of a highly improbable event, one need not have lots of evidence. The only plausible sense in which the slogan is true is that in order to establish the occurrence of an event which has a very low intrinsic probability, then the evidence would also have to have a very low intrinsic probability, that is, Pr(E/B) would have to be very low. So, to return to our example of the pick in last night’s lottery, it is highly improbable, given our background knowledge of the world, that the morning news would announce just that specific number out of all the numbers that could have been announced. In that Pickwickian sense the evidence for the winning pick is, indeed, extraordinary. But obviously, that isn’t the sense that sceptics have in mind when they say that it take extraordinary evidence to establish the occurrence of an extraordinary event. For that condition is easily met in the Pickwickian sense.

The sceptic can’t reasonably mean that the miraculous events require miraculous evidence, for that would force us to reject any miracle claim, even if wholly natural evidence rendered the miracle more probable than not. What the sceptic seems to be saying by his slogan is that in order to believe rationally in a miraculous event, you must have an enormous amount of evidence. But why think that is the case? “Because a miracle is so improbable,” the sceptic will say. But Bayes’ Theorem shows that rationally believing in a highly improbable event doesn’t require an enormous amount of evidence. What is crucial is that the evidence be far more probable given that the event did occur than given that it did not. Again, how probable is it that the testimony has been given even though the event did not occur? The bottom line is that it doesn’t always take a huge amount of evidence to establish a miracle.

In order to show that no evidence can in principle establish the historicity of a miracle, Hume needs to show that the intrinsic probability of any miracle claim is so low that it can never be overcome. This takes us back to the first part of Hume’s argument, that miracles are by definition utterly improbable. Hume claimed that the uniform experience of mankind supports the laws of nature rather than miracles. Now such an assertion appears at face value to be question-begging.

To say that uniform experience is against miracles is implicitly to assume already that all miracle reports are false. That is to say, as we come to some alleged miracle claim, we do so knowing that all past miracle claims apart from this one have been spurious. Hume seems to be saying Pr(M/B) in terms of frequency. Miracles are utterly improbable because they diverge from mankind’s uniform experience. But the frequency model of probability simply will not work in this context. For trying to construe the probabilities in Bayes’ Theorem as objective frequencies would disqualify many of the theoretical hypotheses of the advanced science. For example, scientists are investing long hours and millions of dollars hoping for an observation of an event of proton decay, though such an event has never been observed. On Hume’s model of probability such research is a waste of time and money, since the event will have a probability of zero. In the case of Pr(M/B) the guidance for assigning probability cannot take the simple minded form of using the frequency of M-type events in past experience; that frequency may be flatly zero (as in proton decay), but it would be unwise to therefore see Pr(M/B)=0.

How we assess the intrinsic probability of M will depend on how M is characterised. Take the resurrection of Jesus, for example. The hypothesis “Jesus rose from the dead” is ambiguous, comprising two radically different hypotheses. One is that “Jesus rose naturally from the dead”; the other is that “Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead,” or that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” The former is agreed on all counts to be outrageously improbable. But the evidence for the laws of nature which renders improbable the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the grave is simply irrelevant to the probability of the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead. Since our interest is in whether Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead, we can assess this hypothesis on its own.

Bottom line, it is evident that there is no “in principle” argument here against miracles. Rather what will be at stake, as the example of Jesus’ resurrection illustrates, is an “in fact” argument that handles a putative miracle claim in its historical context, given the evidence for God’s existence. So the Humean sceptic has failed to show that any possible miracle claim has an insuperable low intrinsic probability. Couple this result with our earlier conclusion that even incredibly low intrinsic probabilities can be outweighed by other factors in Baye’s Theorem and it is evident why contemporary thinkers have come to see Hume’s argument as a failure.

Hume had an excuse for his abject failure because the probability calculus hadn’t yet been developed in his day. But today you no long have any excuse for using such a fallacious reasoning in denying the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

13 comments:

VeridicusX said...

"An atheist visitor has attempted to use Hume's argument against miracles to deny the reality of Jesus' resurrection. And he's doing this even though he also rejects Hume's statements on cause and effect and asserts that the universe has existed from eternity or that it caused itself to come into being. He hasn't explained that to me yet. Don't get me started on that one.

Regardless, Hume’s “in principle” argument is today, generally recognised by philosophers to be, in the words of the atheist philosopher of science John Earman, an “abject failure.”"

I know that you're a Christian because you simply can't help lying. And you are a bare faced liar. Anyone can read my statements to see if they cohere with your outrageous lying.

First of all, you are the one who has consistently alluded that, "Anything which has a beginning has a cause". You then go on to provide evidence in favor of the theory that our spacetime universe had a beginning - that is to say, Space and Time and their contents had their beginning at the birth of the universe.

Well explain how, if time came into being at the birth of the universe, there can be a "before" where a "cause" can happen?
Your own argument shows that there was never a time when the universe did not exist. This is NOT the same as saying that the universe is eternal or that the universe "caused itself".
Anyone who is not such a dyed-in-the-wool liar as you will be able to parse this simple information without the blatant falsehoods you seem unable to avoid.

Secondly, I did not "use Hume's argument", but his principal statement against miracles, which boils down to, "It would take a miracle to prove a miracle".

If you have some argument that would rebut this, please present it.
Your own post points out that improbable things can and do happen. How then does one prove that an improbable event is a miracle?

The laws of probability and large numbers means that you need a miracle to establish a miracle.

Even if you could show that someone rose from the dead, which you can't, you cannot show that *that* event was a miracle.

Notice how *my* argument doesn't even intersect the false dichotomy that you raise from Hume's statement?

Hume's allegedly naive view of possibility and probability may have been rebutted but this core statement still stands.

"The empty tomb"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.

"The dramatic change in character of the disciples"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.

"The explosive beginning of ... the Christian Church"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.

While we're abusing mathematics why don't we change 'M' to mean, "an event caused by The Flying Spaghetti Monster".

Your appeal to the trustworthiness of witnesses would be good if we had any witnesses, (apart from Paul). The accounts, in Acts, of Paul's experience of Jesus are untrustworthy at best and an indication of some sort of mental illness at worst. Paul's letters when combined with the stories in Acts, give us a clue as to how "the appearances of Jesus" were regarded and lead to the reasonable theory that his experiences of Jesus were subjective.

Your argument style is impressive. It's a shame that it's based on so much hand waving and misunderstanding.

For example:

"The hypothesis “Jesus rose from the dead” is ambiguous, comprising two radically different hypotheses. One is that “Jesus rose naturally from the dead”; the other is that “Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead,” or that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” The former is agreed on all counts to be outrageously improbable."

Huh? How is it that you could have missed the whole point of the rebuttal of Hume that you've presented? Is it that you've borrowed it without understanding it?

"But the evidence for the laws of nature which renders improbable the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the grave is simply irrelevant to the probability of the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead."

... Or the probability that the Invisible Pink Unicorn made him disappear and reappear on Candy Mountain with Pooh Bear and The Cat In The Hat.

"Since our interest is in whether Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead, we can assess this hypothesis on its own."

Which of course leads us back eventually to the statement, "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless that testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be an even greater miracle that the fact which it endeavours to establish."

In the unlikely event that someone physically rises from the dead, I will need to exclude mundane explanations first. If I establish beyond reasonable doubt that someone did rise from the dead, either a verifiable miracle occurs to confirm that the improbable event in question was a miracle, or the falsehood of the statement itself would 1) be more improbable than the resurrection in question and 2) would require divine intervention.

Anyway, thanks for that, at least I now realize that if I invoke the Flying Spaghetti Monster I can establish that an unproven historical event is a miracle!

And so on ...

Makarios said...

“I know that you're a Christian because you simply can't help lying.”

I don’t know how many times you’ve said this but it's starting to wear a little thin. As I understand a lie, it’s when a person deliberately passes on, what s/he knows to be false information or deliberately withholds true information.

I am not knowingly doing either.

So, you can keep on saying that I’m a liar if you want. I just thought you should know that you’re wrong.
=============

“First of all, you are the one who has consistently alluded that, "Anything which has a beginning has a cause".”

Well, it’s not MY statement. That premise is drawn from continuous observation, repetition and verification, i.e., that’s what the scientific method of investigation tells us. I’m just using a scientific statement to make my point.
===========

“You then go on to provide evidence in favor of the theory that our spacetime universe had a beginning - that is to say, Space and Time and their contents had their beginning at the birth of the universe.”

Again, that’s a scientifically established claim. I’m just repeating it. In fact, no cosmogonic model has been:
As repeatedly verified in its predictions,

As corroborated by attempts at its falsification,

As concordant with empirical discoveries, and

As philosophically coherent as the Standard Big Bang Creation Event Model.

I think, if I remember correctly, those are all things that you attempt to live your life upon. Except when it goes against your chosen world-view :-)
-------------

“Well explain how, if time came into being at the birth of the universe, there can be a "before" where a "cause" can happen?”

I don't see why a cause can't happen at any point. Obviously it can because it did. Science tells us so. Regardless, in this case there wasn’t a "before" the universe began. God existed timelessly until He created the universe and He has since existed in time after He created the universe. Or, if you like, a person could say that God existed in undifferentiated time prior to His Creation and in differentiated time after the Singularity.
===========

“Your own argument shows that there was never a time when the universe did not exist.”

I disagree. Tell me. What evidence do you have that God and the universe are one and the same?
==============

"It would take a miracle to prove a miracle".

Except that it doesn’t. If you read the post carefully, I show how Bayes’ Theorem shows quite clearly that a miracle is NOT needed to prove a miracle.
-----------

“If you have some argument that would rebut this, please present it.”

As above
---------------

“How then does one prove that an improbable event is a miracle?”

That's a good question. Historical Context would be a good start. Let me back up just a bit. First, IF God exists, then we have a good reason ton consider a link between some
events and a divine cause.

Second - signs exist that identify an act as a miracle. It is true that a historical event, by itself, could never be labeled as a miracle without additional criteria. We need another yardstick, besides the event in itself, to say that God performed it. And we have just these sorts of pointers in the case of the resurrection. In addition to the outstanding evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, we have:
. The religio-historical context of His claims to divinity.
. He was know as a powerful miracle-worker.
. He claimed that how people responded to Him would determine where they spent eternity. . Further, no plausible natural explanations can account for all of the known facts regarding the resurrection of Jesus.
. Never in history has there been such a unique combination of events, along with additional criteria.

Third - expanding the laws of nature in order to eliminate the miraculous nature of the data surrounding Jesus’ resurrection creates more problems. For example, some will argue that it is preferable to accept that there were “natural miracles,” or exceptional oddities like mass hallucinations, or chronic drug use on the part of Jesus’ followers to accepting the existence of real supernatural miracle. But a huge problem is that no single natural option, however unusual, can explain all of the evidence for the resurrection, even if we stretch this further position of referring to it as a natural miracle.

On the one hand, such an adjusted hallucination theory, for example would still leave facts like:
. The empty tomb.
. Paul’s conversion,
. James’ conversion,
. The beginning of the Christian Church and other facts unexplained.

But on the other hand, this revised theory is even more problematic than it first appears. It does not simply require one group hallucination (which goes against the very individualistic nature of hallucinations by the way), but several of them. A separate group hallucination would be required for every time Jesus appeared to a group of people. Instead of a single group hallucination which again, is foreign to modern psychology, we need several of these “natural miracles” in a row. Should we conclude, then that mass hallucinations do not occur, EXCEPT among Jesus’ followers, and then they did so repeatedly? Certainly, this would seem to be a highly problematic admission for naturalists, since it appears in itself to border on a real miracle. And even if we accepted that possibility, we still would not have resolved several of the critically acknowledged historical facts. A resurrection looks more plausible than these repeated rational contortions.
---------------------

“"The empty tomb"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.”

Well, since you don’t care what the most skilled historical scholars in the world have to say on the subject, I doubt that I CAN show you. It seems to me that either you don't know one single thing about historical evidence, or you simply discard what you know when it comes to dealing with subject matter that challenges your world-view.

Nevertheless, if you admitted historical means of attestation in all cases, including the life of Jesus, you would know that attestation by enemies and multiple attestation to any event is like finding gold to scholars. That, combined with other factors leads scholars to believe that it’s true.
==========

"The dramatic change in character of the disciples"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.

"The explosive beginning of ... the Christian Church"
Show me evidence that is not hearsay and/or invention.

Veridicus, these two pseudo challenges are childish. There isn’t a scholar on the planet who would dispute the historicity of these two facts. Doesn't it embarass you to have to go to these lengths to maintain your belief system?
==========

While we're abusing mathematics why don't we change 'M' to mean, "an event caused by The Flying Spaghetti Monster".

Because if a Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, it would have been brought into existence by Creator God who is the Greatest Conceivable Being.
=============

As to the rest of your silliness, let’s just ask, what is the intrinsic probability of the hypothesis R = “God raised Jesus from the dead.”

Because you were unable to follow me in the post itself, I have low expectations that you’ll be able to do so here, but I’ll give it a try.

How we assess Pr(R/B) will depend on whether our background knowledge B includes the facts which support the arguments of natural theology for God’s existence, such as the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, objective moral values and obligations, and so forth. If it does not, the Pr(R/B) will be lower than if it does, for then our evidence E, will have to carry the full burden of justifying belief in God’s existence as well as Jesus’ resurrection.

If we let G = God’s existence, the Theorem on Total Probability tells us:
Pr(R/B)
= [Pr(R/G&B0
x Pr(G/b)]
+ [Pr(R/not-G&B)
x Pr(not-G/B)]

Now Pr(R/not-G&B0 is 0, since it is impossible for God to raise Jesus if God doesn’t exist!
So Pr(R/B) reduces to just
Pr(R/G&B)
x Pr(G/B).

The classical defenders of miracle did not treat them as arguments FOR God’s existence; rather God’s existence was taken to be implied by facts already included in B. So let’s include in B all the facts that go to support the premises of the arguments of natural theology. On this basis let’s suppose that the probability of God’s existence on the background knowledge of the world Pr(G/B) is at least 0.5. the remaining probability to estimate is Pr(R/G&B), the probability that God would raise Jesus from the dead, given that God exists. We may think of this probability as the degree of expectation that a perfectly rational agent would have that, given G&B, God would raise Jesus from the dead. God has never before intervened to do such a thing, so far as we know, and there are other ways He could vindicate Jesus, should He want to, if He even wants to. So how would a perfectly rational agent assess the risk of betting in this case that, given G&B, God would raise Jesus from the dead? In estimating this probability, we mustn’t abstract from the historical context of Jesus’ own life, ministry, and teaching, insofar as these can be included in our background knowledge. When we include in B our knowledge of the life of the historical Jesus up to the time of His crucifixion and burial, I don’t think we can say that God’s raising Jesus is improbable. So just for the sake of illustration let’s say that:
Pr(R/G&B) = 0.5.

In that case Pr(R/B)
= 0.5
X 0.5
= 0.25,

or one out of four. Such an intrinsic improbability is easily outweighed by the other factors in Bayes’ Theorem.

Now in fact I think that it is impossible to assign a value to a probability like Pr((R/G&B) with any sort of confidence, and so Pr(R/B) will remain inscrutable. The difficulty here is that we are dealing with a free agent (the Creator of the universe), and how do we know what He would do with respect to Jesus? But I think we can say that there is no reason to think that Pr(R/G&B) is terribly low, such that Pr(R/B) becomes overwhelmingly improbable. We certainly cannot take Pr(R/G&B) to be terribly low simply because of the infrequency of resurrection, for it may be precisely BECAUSE of the resurrection’s uniqueness that it is highly probable that God would choose so spectacular and event as a means of vindicating Jesus. In any case, I think it is evident that there is no “in Principle” argument here against a miracle. Rather, what will be at stake, as our example of Jesus’ resurrection illustrates, is an “in fact” argument that handles a putative miracle claims in its historical context, given the evidence for God’s existence.

VeridicusX said...

""It would take a miracle to prove a miracle".

Except that it doesn’t. If you read the post carefully, I show how Bayes’ Theorem shows quite clearly that a miracle is NOT needed to prove a miracle.""

Bayes' Theorem does NOT show that a miracle is NOT needed to prove a miracle, (and indeed it cannot do so). It shows that a miracle is NOT needed to prove an extraordinary or improbable event.

VeridicusX said...

"Further, no plausible natural explanations can account for all of the known facts regarding the resurrection of Jesus."

To the best of my knowledge, to date there are no known facts regarding the resurrection of Jesus.

You are still, throughout your reply, conflating hearsay and invention with fact.

Without independent corroboration it would be difficult to even establish eyewitness testimony as fact from this distance, but you still insist that hearsay and obvious fables can be used to establish facts.

Please do the world a favor and discover what a fact is.

"... some will argue that it is preferable to accept that there were “natural miracles,” or exceptional oddities like mass hallucinations, or chronic drug use on the part of Jesus’ followers to accepting the existence of real supernatural miracle. But a huge problem is that no single natural option, however unusual, can explain all of the evidence for the resurrection, even if we stretch this further position of referring to it as a natural miracle."

I provide a plausible hypothesis which meets all the known facts ...

It is probable that there was a Rabbi called Y'shua who promoted a Torah only style of Jewish religion along with the teaching that even if he died he would return to them. He was crucified by the Romans.
His followers indulged in some practice - perhaps only "faith" in his words that he would appear to them after his death - which led to the subjective experience of "the Risen Christ".
Those who managed to have this experience, or who said they did, obtained standing in the fledgling church.

We can see from Luke that Paul's experience of "the Risen Christ" was likely subjective and Paul implies that his visual experience was of the same kind as that of the others - "... He appeared lastly to me ...". "The Risen Jesus" was a being Paul regarded as a life-giving spirit and in a body Paul regarded as "raised a spiritual body".

None of this requires a physical event which not even the Bible says was observed by anyone.

Appeals to the Gospels do not help here. They are anonymous, they are not eyewitness testimony, they contradict each other, they get testable physical facts wrong, they get known historical facts wrong, they contain the private thoughts and words of individuals that the author could not have witnessed and even if they obtained the information from the person in question, they don't say so and even if they did they would only become hearsay anyway, etc.

Show me a "skilled historical scholar" who believes that it is a fact that "the tomb" was empty and I'll show you a fraud.
It seems that we have ONE story of an empty tomb in the anonymous "Gospel of Mark" which is then embellished, (and contradicted), by the other anonymous authors.

I am not going to argue with you on this one. Facts are facts, no matter how deluded you are.

VeridicusX said...

"“Well explain how, if time came into being at the birth of the universe, there can be a "before" where a "cause" can happen?”

I don't see why a cause can't happen at any point. Obviously it can because it did. Science tells us so."

Science does not tell us so. You keep on appealing to science when the general consensus in science is that there are uncaused events. Nuclear decay is regarded as uncaused. Virtual particles are regarded as uncaused. The fundamental indeterminacy of sub-atomic particles is regarded as uncaused. Quantum entanglement gives us uncaused correlations. If spacetime is finite and expanding then the universe itself is uncaused.

"Regardless, in this case there wasn’t a "before" the universe began."

Agreed.

===========

"God existed timelessly until He created the universe and He has since existed in time after He created the universe. Or, if you like, a person could say that God existed in undifferentiated time prior to His Creation and in differentiated time after the Singularity."

I have two interpretations of this statement:

1) Your statement is meaningless. There is no timeless time. It is a nonsensical statement.

Time means change. Time is a measure of change. To exist timelessly means to exist changelessly. Undifferentiated time means static or changeless change! No change means no events. No feelings, no thoughts, no personality, no actions, no creation.
Under this interpretation, your conjecture means that either the universe was not created and there was not a time when the universe didn't exist or it means that the universe doesn't exist.

2) Bearing '1' in mind, there is an alternative interpretation. The universe is a spontaneous change in what is eternal. There is still no time when the universe did not exist. The conjectured personality of God emerges at the same time as the universe.
To say that something is created implies a deliberate act of will, a volitional act. Your statement necessarily excludes this. Your statement also necessarily excludes a reason for the existence of the universe.

(I'm assuming that, because you used a personal pronoun with the word God, you believe that God is a personal entity).

It follows that the conjectured personality of God and the existence of the universe are both consequences of a spontaneous and continuing change in an anterior impersonal (pre-personal?) reality which you are calling God.
The event we call the universe and what you are calling God would seem to be the same reality if you are right.
It also follows that this anterior reality does not exist anywhere or anywhen and possesses no energy in the form of force, radiation, matter or information. This anterior impersonal reality (God) would seem to be 'potential' or 'nothing'.

There may be other interpretations but I suspect that they will be semantics.

===========

"“Your own argument shows that there was never a time when the universe did not exist.”

I disagree. Tell me. What evidence do you have that God and the universe are one and the same?"

"I disagree." is not an argument.
Capital 'U' Universe is everything that exists and is greater than any of its elements. It follows that God and the small 'u' universe are one and the same.
But, I don't see the necessary connection between "there was never a time when the universe did not exist" and the identity of God and the universe.

Makarios said...

Veridicus, I'm still wondering,

How do you define a "miracle" and

How would you define or describe or imagine the "subjective" Jesus sighting that you say Paul had.

VeridicusX said...
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VeridicusX said...

"How do you define a "miracle""
Remember we agreed that, "An extraordinary event is not necessarily a miracle, but a miracle is necessarily an extraordinary event"?

A miracle is an extraordinary or an improbable event with a divine cause.
It may not be impossible to establish that an improbable or an extraordinary event has occurred, but establishing that the event in question had a divine cause would require a miracle.
And no, you can't point to "prophecy" even if prophecy were real, because as you've demonstrated, an extraordinary natural event without a divine cause, but meeting all the criteria of the "prophecy", may have happened instead.

"How would you define or describe or imagine the "subjective" Jesus sighting that you say Paul had."
There are pretty much no limits to the amount and kind of experiences we can create internally, (as dreams demonstrate).
The limits are the limits of the imagination, the belief and suggestibility, the drugs, the dreams, the stress, the grief, the joy, the illness, the asceticism...

Makarios said...

If something was to occur outside the laws of physics, which would seem to be the case with Jesus' healings and such, would that automatically be considered a miracle - assuming of course that something could actually happen outside of the laws of physics?

VeridicusX said...
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VeridicusX said...

If something was to occur outside the laws of physics, which would seem to be the case with Jesus' healings and such, would that automatically be considered a miracle - assuming of course that something could actually happen outside of the laws of physics?

Even if healings could be established, which given the record of modern-day healers is improbable, it would be impossible to establish that they have a divine cause, (without a miracle).

To say that "an event occurred outside the laws of physics" is to say that "no event occurred". Perhaps you mean that "an event occurred spontaneously" or "an event occurred which violates the laws of physics"?

If you mean that an event occurred which violated the laws of physics, we could measure the results but not the magical step(s) leading to and producing the results. This would leave a potentially infinite set of possibilities as to the cause of the "healing". And because the event occurred spontaneously, from our frame of reference, our understanding of probability and the Law of Large Numbers (LLN) means that we could assume that the event was purely natural.

It seems that Jesus or the writers of the Gospels understood that it was impossible to establish a divine cause of an improbable event especially if you allow the supernatural, so the "unforgivable sin" was invented. It doesn't cover all the bases but it sets up enough fear for those who subjectively live in a world of magic and the supernatural.

Makarios said...

“Even if healings could be established, which given the record of modern-day healers is improbable, it would be impossible to establish that they have a divine cause, (without a miracle).”

What today’s frauds do has no bearing at all on what God did through and in Jesus.
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“To say that "an event occurred outside the laws of physics" is to say that "no event occurred".”

Except for the Big Bang which took place before matter, time, space and the laws of physics existed.

This makes the Big Bang the first miracle because the only Cause that fits the evidence is Creator God. Everything else has proven to be unworkable.

Yes, I know what your cherry picking of dictionary definitions says. Nevertheless, the universe cannot have always existed and except for a few thousand pantheists no one believes that the universe is god and god is the universe.

VeridicusX said...

What today’s frauds do has no bearing at all on what God did through and in Jesus.

We have verifiable evidence of today's frauds but no verifiable evidence of the alleged miracles of Jesus.

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Except for the Big Bang which took place before matter, time, space and the laws of physics existed.

I think you'll find that the Big Bang was a physical event. And I think that you'll also find that there is still no "before time".

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This makes the Big Bang the first miracle because the only Cause that fits the evidence is Creator God. Everything else has proven to be unworkable.

I think that we went over this. No time = No before. No time = No causes. Time is a defining aspect of the universe that was born with the universe. There is therefore, no time when the universe did not exist.

I also showed that if you (unnecessarily and contrary to reason) insist on a cause, in the absence of any valid evidence, there are a potential infinity of possible conjectures. With yours being among the least likely because there is conjectured to be only one Omni God type entity across all possible worlds *and* it has contradictory, infinite attributes, making the type of entity infinitely improbable, (see the Ontological Argument).

In fact, a Creator Easter Bunny is more likely because it does not have infinite, contradictory attributes.

Its a bit like playing "Let's Make a Deal" with an infinite amount of doors knowing that the prize almost certainly doesn't exist.

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Yes, I know what your cherry picking of dictionary definitions says. Nevertheless, the universe cannot have always existed and except for a few thousand pantheists no one believes that the universe is god and god is the universe.

The only person cherry picking the dictionary seems to be you. I gave you enough dictionary references. If you can find that the main dictionary definition of Universe is something like, "that which God created", I'll concede the point. Any honest person will know what the definition of Universe is though, particularly in the way that I've used it. For the record I'm using it to mean "everything that exists anywhere".

"That than which none greater can be conceived" is the Universe or Reality. And that is the traditional definition of God. (OK, so it doesn't have white hair and make 12 or 13 year old adolescent girls pregnant, (even though they are engaged to someone else), so that the "innocent" progeny can, in a supernatural perversion of justice, unjustly bear the "guilt" and "punishment" of the "guilty", but it does meet the definition).