Probability of Cognitive Dissonance = 1/0

When I started a student freethought group at UF, I asked our faculty advisor, Prof. of Philosophy Gene Witmer, whose books I should get if I really wanted to read the strongest arguments that theism had to offer. His suggestion?

Richard Swinburne, Oxford philosophy professor, prolific author of serious works of theistic apologetics (e.g., The Existence of God, Is There a God?, Providence and the Problem of Evil)...who has apparently lost his marbles.

He claims in The Resurrection of God Incarnate to have mathematically calculated the likelihood of Jesus' resurrection, using Bayesian probability, at 97%. His logic [lack thereof]?

  1. The probably of God's existence is one in two. That is, God either exists or doesn't.
  2. The probability that God became incarnate, that is embodied in human form, is also one in two.
  3. The evidence for God's existence is an argument for the resurrection.
  4. The chance of Christ's resurrection not being reported by the gospels has a probability of one in 10.
  5. Considering all these factors together, there is a one in 1,000 chance that the resurrection is not true.

oy vey!

Mark Chu-Carroll has an analysis, if one is even deserved for this kind of madness, which can be summarized thusly:
By a similar argument, I can say that probability of pink winged monkeys flying out of my butt is one in two: that is, either they will fly out of my butt, or they won't. The probability that those monkeys will fly to the home of this Oxford professor and pelt it with their feces is one in two. If pink winged monkeys fly out of my butt, that's an argument for the likelyhood of a fecal attack on his home by flying pink monkeys.

Do I really need to continue this? I don't think so; I'd better go stock up on monkey food in my bathroom.

On another note of sadness, five Mexican children were killed as they prayed at a cross by lightning. Why should we believe there was a God on the other end of those prayers, again? Oh wait, I remember now, everything God does is good, including allowing five children, ages 9-16, to be killed by lightning while offering up prayers and thanksgiving to God. What was I thinking? I'd better go pray for a plastic cross, of course.


Aaron M. Rossetti said...

Bro. Danny,

Picking up your tracks at 'the power struck cross that killed the kids even though they were praying' news bit...

I remember as a Christian believing that things happened because I prayed. When things didn't happen even though I did pray, it was easy to assume that it just wasn't God's will.

Strange coincidences and serendipitous occurrences stand as experiential evidence to strengthen the faith of a believer. However, these things still happen to me while I'm not a believer and don't pray to any god. We could think that these things that work out 'right on time' is a spill over of god's favor and because he still sees me as his elect, but these things happen to those who have never heard of Jesus or don't believe in God at all.

Which leads me to my request of the Christians…

Please give us personal testimonies of real life things that could only happen for Christians and because of their special relationship with God. These things cannot include anything having to do with spiritual realities such as 'getting their sin paid for' or 'being right with God' or 'getting to go to heaven when they die.' I'm asking for power-packed things that are unique only to Christians, please.

We all look forward to your testimonies.

Daniel said...

Of course, Christians can selectively assume both positions on being "elect/favored/saved"...they can use some scriptures to point to how Paul et al were martyred, and so Christians shouldn't expect special treatment. OTOH, there are plenty of verses that support that idea that God got someone out of a fix (or waged and won a war on their behalf) just because God liked that person a lot .

As with all things Christian, the Bible is used to justify either position.

Aaron M. Rossetti said...

Think about the bible. This is all by memory, but if I'm off a bit the point will be made anyway. The book was written over a 1000 year period by over 40 authors all from walks of life, from shepards in fields to kings in palaces. However, there are only a couple of books that give accounts of the exact same events (note that I said 'events' and not 'ideas' or 'principals'), so within itself, there is little to compare itself against. The places where events do overlap, there are many questions that arise. The only place to test the validity of the historicity is by extra-biblical sources. I haven't really studied much of this aspect, so I'd be interested to know both sides of the story as that goes. My study of itself by itself was enough to convince me that it was written by man and ultimately not a perfect being's word to mankind. If it was filtered through the hands of fallible man, what are we to believe? What is our guide?

This seems to be the crux of the whole thing on planet earth... WHO'S DRIVIN THE SHIP? WHO & WHAT SHOULD WE FOLLOW? (insert change of topic here)

I used to argue till I was blue in the face against relativism and the idea of their being no absolute truth. I'll never forget my come back to... 'there is no absolute truth.' I'd always ask... 'Ok, is that true? Absolutely true?' Gosh I felt smart when I said it too.

This is all in theory land to me now. Mental hummdrum... totally non-applicable. Everyone knows that there are aparent truths and I think both sides are more concerned about the moral aspect of reletivism, than we are this 'truth' thing.

A good Christian friend of mine says that without an objective source of morality that is independent of mankind, then there can be know ultimate morality because man is in charge and he can just change it.

I'm learning, especially after loosing my faith in god and jesus, that there really is good in the heart of all mankind. I'd have to say that eventhough most of the people I interact with everyday are not believers, they are very honest and wonderful people. If all of man's heart was, was evil and steeped in sin, why don't we see the results of this heart. There's something else sustaining all of this that's not dependent on everyone believing in a god.

I guess we'd have to honestly ask ourselves if 'the church' is more moral than 'the world.' And using the picture that the media displays of 'the world' isn't very fair. People who don't believe in a god can genuinely love and respect one another. They don't need an 'independent source of objective morality' and neither do I. I know when I've been a jerk. I reject the idea of a 'holy ghost,' so what is it that lets me know I was a jerk?

Oh... and what's the easiest way to format 'comments' to the posts. Are there shortcut commands like when you do an original post? Thanks.

Daniel said...

I wanted to add that I had a very nice exchange with my student group adviser on the AAFSA blog about this, and should give Swinburne more credit. Read why there.

Also, Chris Hallquist came to the same conclusion, and offered his own "quasi-apology"

Robert O'Brien said...

As I've said elsewhere, the first step is perfectly legitimate; a prior probability of .5 is conservative.