Making the inference to the supernatural

The apologist needs to show that if Jesus rose from the dead, he probably rose supernaturally (i.e. there was divine involvement). But how can he do this? He can only do this by showing that Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally. In other words,

P1. Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally. [I'm granting - for purposes of argument - that Jesus really did rise from the dead].
C. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

When we ask the apologist how he will attempt to establish (1), his defense will be to appeal to current science and our knowledge about the possibility of people coming back from the dead. In other words,

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

This route seems more promising, and if we grant (P1), as most do, then only one question remains: Is the inference from (P1) to (C1) valid? It would be if the apologist can demonstrate the following:

Assumption ~A: there probably could not have existed relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise naturally from the dead.

Why is (~A) needed in order for the inference from (P1) to (C1) to be valid? To see that (~A) is needed, consider:

Assumption A: there probably could have existed relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise naturally from the dead.

If (A) were true, then clearly the inference from (P1) to (C1) would fail, and if there were no good reason to believe that (~A) were true, the inference would also fail. Hence the apologist is forced to argue that (~A) is true, which I do not think he can do. Thus we finally come to:

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally, and ~A.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

Now we see the problem: there's no good reason to accept (P1) because there's no good reason to believe (~A).

60 comments:

Eric said...

"Hence the apologist is forced to argue that (~A) is true, which I do not think he can do."

Spencer, I don't think this is the case at all. The apologist doesn't have to show that it's *probably* the case that there *could not* have existed relevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise from the dead, but,

(~A') It's *more plausible than not* (not 'probably': good arguments don't necessarily need true or probable premises; rather, it's sufficient that a premise be more plausible than its denial -- though of course probable or true premises would be better) that it's the case that there *did not* (not 'could not': your standard implies logical impossibility, whereas we're dealing with a supposedly historical event; I don't have to show that the U.S. government *could not* have taken out the WTC buildings to show that it *did not*) exist relevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise from the dead.

Contemporary arguments for the resurrection are usually abductive, not deductive or (strictly) inductive. Your reasoning above, however, in which you argue that apologists need to defend (~A), presupposes an inductive approach. I think that (~A') helps to bring this misunderstanding on your part out (to some degree).

Spencer said...

Eric,

Let's assume for the moment that all the apologist needs is the "more plausible than not" demonstration.

You wrote:
---------
(~A') It's *more plausible than not*...that it's the case that there *did not* (not 'could not') your standard implies logical impossibility
-----------

The 'could not' does not imply logical impossibility -- the most it has to imply is physical impossibility. To say that my dog (probably) 'could not' have flown out the window like superman's dog is not to say that that would be (probably) "logically impossible", but (probably) "physically impossible."

So, if we use your "more plausible than not" criterion, we have: the following is more plausible than not. It is physically/naturally impossible that my dog could not have flown out the window.

When we consider (~A'), we have: the following is more plausible than not. More plausibly than not, there could not have existed relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise naturally from the dead.

(~A') simplified: More plausibly than not, there could not have existed naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that could have enabled Jesus to rise naturally.


Let (~A'') simplified be: More plausibly than not, there *did not* in fact exist naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that could have enabled Jesus to rise naturally.

You say all you have to show is "there did not exist...", instead of "could not have existed..." Okay, but how do you propose to show the former without the latter?

P1. ~A'
C. ~A''

I admit this follows, but if (P1) is removed, from what premise does (~A'') follow? Neither ~A' or ~A'' strike me as true.

Spencer said...

Eric,

Of course, if we use the "more plausible than not" test, we would have to completely change the original argument from:

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally, and ~A.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

to,


P1'. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally, and ~A''.
C1'. Therefore, it is more plausible than not that Jesus did not rose naturally.
C2'. Therefore, it is more plausible than not that Jesus rose supernaturally.

I never heard WLC argue this way -- he always, to my knowledge, uses the stronger term "probably."

agolab said...

It took me awhile to figure out exactly what you were doing here. Most of my confusion comes in with the introduction of the modal "could" in ~(A) in addition to the 'probably' which already occurs. It's unnatural. Instead, it seems like you've added that 'could' into the assumption you would require of the Christian theist for (P1) so that you can say (A) (which you would affirm). Perhaps I'm mistaken, but the 'could' does not seem necessary at all for the inference to be made.

The proper assumption ~(A) which I think would be made here is the following:

~(A) There probably weren't relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) between Jesus and the rest of humanity which could explain why Jesus, but not the rest of humanity, might have been able to rise naturally from the dead.

In which case (A) is highly unattractive for the atheist:

(A) There probably were relevant differences... between Jesus and the rest of humanity...

But, let's say that you're willing to bite the bullet and admit (A). I would pressure you, however, to specify what probable relevant differences could exist to make one man rise from the dead naturally while no other known instance has ever occurred.

If you fail to specify a probable natural difference between Jesus and other humans, then your argument seems weak at best. How could you admit that there probably was some difference between a large majority of humans and one man such that that one man rose from the dead after being scourged and crucified, but you don't know what it was? That seems laughable.

There could have been differences, I agree. But there could also be differences in any possible situation (of course my dog could logically have natural differences which make her be the one dog that lives to be fifty). When we're talking about probabilities, whether or not something is logically possible is not what we're primarily concerned with. The Christian's claim is not that there probably couldn't have been relevant differences, it is that there probably weren't.

In the end, I don't think your counterargument succeeds. There's probably better ways to argue this point.

Spencer said...

agolab,

I do not need to affirm (A). If the apologist cannot show (~A) to be true, it doesn't follow that I must believe (A) to be true, because it doesn't follow - from his failure to prove (~A) - that there *were* in fact naturally relevant differences. From the apologist's failure to prove (~A), all that follows is that we have no good reason to believe (~A).

Eternal Truths said...

I do not think it is possible to demonstrate that "Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally." Especially since extra-biblical historical evidence for the resurrection event remains unaccounted for. I wrote a review of bible scholar Robert VanVoorst's book, Jesus Outside the New Testament on my blog if anyone is interested in checking that out.

On a related note, as for the inference to the supernatural as "the best explanation," many Theists (although many non-Christian) appeal to irreducible complexity (i.e. consciousness and the bacteria flagellum) to support intelligent design. I know this site is focused primarily on Christianity, but I wanted to see what others thought on this subject.

Sarah

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
When we ask the apologist how he will attempt to establish (1), his defense will be to appeal to current science and our knowledge about the possibility of people coming back from the dead. In other words,

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.
----------
It would be a foolish apologist who phrased his argument this way. For C1 doesn't follow from P1 by any logical inference. At the very least, some premise expressing an inductive principle would have to be introduced. But I would expect the apologist to be more likely to argue in this way:

P1. On the basis of available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead [Supported by various quotations from suitably eminent biologists or atheists].
P2. Jesus rose from the dead. [You kindly granted this]
C1. Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally. [From P1]
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally. [From P2, C1]

Not only is the conclusion of this argument false, the argument itself is flawed. I don't have time right now to explain the problem: Hopefully I'll get a chance later today. But it is an argument I would expect intelligent apologists to be more likely to use.

PhilosophyFan said...

Suppose an apologist takes this route: A naturally occuring resurrection does not explain Jesus' behavior nor his disciples' behavior.

sfwc said...

Right, back to the argument that you are more likely to encounter:

P1. On the basis of available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead [Supported by various quotations from suitably eminent biologists or atheists].
P2. Jesus rose from the dead. [You kindly granted this]
C1. Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally. [From P1]
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally. [From P2, C1]

The problem is in the dropping of the clause 'on the basis of the available data' in C1, which really ought to read: 'On the basis of the available data, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally'. The fact that it has already been dropped by this stage hides the fact that it can't be taken on into C2: 'On the basis of the available data, Jesus probably rose supernaturally' doesn't work, since C2 relies on P2, which is not part of the available data but is a hypothesis granted for the sake of the argument. But the formulation 'On the basis of the available data and the assumption that Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus probably rose supernaturally' doesn't work either, for what is needed in order to deduce this is a premise more like 'On the basis of the available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead, where the probability is evaluated conditionally with respect to the assumption that Jesus rose from the dead.' This statement is probably not supported by a great many eminent biologists or atheists, since it is false.

Spencer said...

sfwc,

I realize that this argument is incomplete:


P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

As I indicated in my post, the following is valid:

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally, and ~A.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.

busterggi said...

Would it be too upsetting to say that I think the initial premise is false?

First, did Jesus really die on the cross?

According to the bible he wasn't up there very long & even the corpses of crucified criminals (which Jesus was) were left up for a time as a warning, Jewish holiday or not as the two zealots weren't taken down. Also his legs weren't broken as was the custom. If you believe the bible account then his removal from the cross defied custom so something exceptional, but not supernatural, was going on.

Second, why would the women have waited three days before washing the corpse? If the time had been taken to wrap it, as the story says was done, then it would have already been washed. And why were the materials the bible says the women were bringing not for corpse preparation but for medicinal purposes?

Nope, there are too many plot holes in the story for me to be convinced that Jesus even died on the cross let alone was resurrected.

Spencer said...

busterggi wrote:
-------
First, did Jesus really die on the cross?
--------

This question is not relevant: I've granted - for purposes of argument - that Jesus died and rose again.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
As I indicated in my post, the following is valid:

P1. The rest of humanity can't rise naturally, and ~A.
C1. Therefore, Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally.
C2. Therefore, Jesus probably rose supernaturally.
----------
Nope, still in need of an inductive principle. And even more highly unlikely to be used by intelligent Christian apologists.

Spencer said...

philosophy fan wrote:
-------
Suppose an apologist takes this route: A naturally occuring resurrection does not explain Jesus' behavior nor his disciples' behavior.
--------

Yes, I'm sure the apologist would say something like this. My response: Jesus as a MSB (Merely superpowerful being) could have acted just like the Jesus we read in the gospels (why not?), even though he was not a DB (Divine Being, and was thus advanced enough so that his physical feats *seemed* to indicate divinity.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
--------
Nope, still in need of an inductive principle. And even more highly unlikely to be used by intelligent Christian apologists.
---------

Incorrect. The apologist needs something like ~A in his premises.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
The apologist needs something like ~A in his premises.
----------
First of all, the apologist only needs this if he gives an argument following the structure you outlined. That is not likely, if he or she is intelligent. Second, my point was not that ~A is unnecessary if such an approach is taken, but that there is a need for some inductive principle as well.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
------
First of all, the apologist only needs this if he gives an argument following the structure you outlined. That is not likely, if he or she is intelligent. Second, my point was not that ~A is unnecessary if such an approach is taken, but that there is a need for some inductive principle as well.
---------

~A *is* an inductive principle -- without it, the argument cannot be made no matter what structure it takes.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
~A *is* an inductive principle -- without it, the argument cannot be made no matter what structure it takes.
----------
Calling ~A an inductive principle is a bit of a stretch, but I'll let that slide. My point is that it isn't enough: Some stronger or additional inductive principle is needed for this structure. Notice that the more likely argument I mentioned earlier makes no mention of ~A.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
------
Notice that the more likely argument I mentioned earlier makes no mention of ~A.
-------

Doesn't matter -- ~A is nevertheless assumed. If A were true, the inference would fail.

agolab said...

I would affirm sfwc that few scholars would utilize this kind of an argument. Most are a bit more sophisticated in their treatment. Nevertheless, I don't think it's entirely useless, nor do I think that Spencer's treatment of the argument is philosophically appropriate.

Spencer, as far as affirming (A) or ~(A), you are free to remain uncommitted, to a degree. However, your doing so is dependent on (1) there not being any reason to accept either, (2) there being an acceptable alternative or (3) there being reasons but you being unable to determine either position to an extent which satisfies you (if we are actually seeking truth, then you should be seeking to affirm one or the other proposition). I assume there is no alternative. As for (1), there seems little reason to believe that Jesus had relevant differences from your normal human being that would allow him to rise from the dead. At least, just as much reason as Gengis Khan, Julius Caesar, or some random peasant in ancient China did. Rather, there's a high probability, given our lack of knowledge of what any relevant difference could be, that there were no differences between Jesus and most human beings in regards to natural resurrection. This seems to be a fairly good reason to affirm my updated ~(A). Perhaps you could explain to me why this doesn't satisfy you?

We can't say that Jesus wasn't different to any definite degree of certainty. But to require that kind of a standard is unreasonable. I don't even have that much certainty that the world is as I see it nor that George Washington was America's first president.

I'm satisfied with the rather high probability that Jesus was like any human in relevant respects to naturally being able to rise from the dead, especially if there are no known differences that would be relevant in this regard. You can say something like "he could have been an alien," or "ancient Palestine could have had this chemical in the ground that aroused dead men." Yeah, a lot of things are logically possible when we talk about history; but to say that and then refuse to commit? Can you really say you're looking for truth, then?

If that were the case, then your lack of commitment to either position is a show of uncharitable intellectual engagement on your part: refusing to take a stand in order to save yourself from having to affirm a conclusion that you don't like. It's unfortunate if this is the case and I hope it isn't, because that's no better than the usual tactics of flustered uneducated Christians and UFO fanatics.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
Doesn't matter -- ~A is nevertheless assumed. If A were true, the inference would fail.
----------
Which step of the argument I outlined assumes it? Which step fails on the basis that A is true?

Spencer said...

agolab,

I maintain that the apologist *must* hold something like (~A) in in order for his argument to work. Do you disagree? Do you think (C1) can follow if there's no good reason to think there probably *were not* natural differences between Jesus and the rest?

you wrote:
-----------
Spencer, as far as affirming (A) or ~(A), you are free to remain uncommitted, to a degree. However, your doing so is dependent on (1) there not being any reason to accept either, (2) there being an acceptable alternative or (3) there being reasons but you being unable to determine either position to an extent which satisfies you (if we are actually seeking truth, then you should be seeking to affirm one or the other proposition).
-------------

I feel free to remain uncommitted because all I need to do is prevent (~A) from being established.

you wrote:
----------
As for (1), there seems little reason to believe that Jesus had relevant differences from your normal human being that would allow him to rise from the dead. At least, just as much reason as Gengis Khan, Julius Caesar, or some random peasant in ancient China did. Rather, there's a high probability, given our lack of knowledge of what any relevant difference could be, that there were no differences between Jesus and most human beings in regards to natural resurrection. This seems to be a fairly good reason to affirm my updated ~(A). Perhaps you could explain to me why this doesn't satisfy you?
-------------

To say that there is "little reason" to believe were naturally relevant differences is not to say there is "good reason" to believe there were naturally relevant differences. I take it you think the apologist can *presume* (~A) to be true until someone convinces him otherwise. In other words, (~A) is true until we have good reason to doubt it.

If you are claiming this, then I submit to you the following:

P1'. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, then, barring very good reasons to suppose otherwise, we should not assume it is implausible that these capability differences cannot be explained, at least in part, in terms of relevant differences in the physiology of X and O. [premise]
P2'. Jesus had various supernormal capabilities that no non-supernormal human beings have. [assumption]
P3'. There are no very good reasons to suppose we should assume it is implausible that these capability differences, between Jesus and non-supernormal human beings, cannot be explained, at least in part, in terms of relevant differences in their physiology. [premise]
C1'. Therefore, we should not assume it is implausible that capability differences, between Jesus and non-supernormal human beings, cannot be explained, at least in part, in terms of relevant differences in their physiology. (from P3, P1)

This argument puts the burden squarely on the apologist to establish (~A) by asking him to refute (P3').

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
--------
Which step of the argument I outlined assumes it? Which step fails on the basis that A is true?
-----------

C1 doesn't follow if (A) were true.

Pi. On the basis of available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead [Supported by various quotations from suitably eminent biologists or atheists].

Pii. Jesus rose from the dead. [You kindly granted this]

Pii. But there were probably naturally relevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity. (A)

Ci. Jesus probably couldn't have risen naturally. [From Pi]

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
C1 doesn't follow if (A) were true.
----------
No, C1 still follows (except that, as I said earlier, it needs the clause 'on the basis of available data'), since P1 applies to all humans and Jesus was human (I accept that the apologist might have to make a separate argument on this latter point, but I don't think they'd have a lot of trouble convincing an audience).

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
-------
No, C1 still follows (except that, as I said earlier, it needs the clause 'on the basis of available data'), since P1 applies to all humans and Jesus was human (I accept that the apologist might have to make a separate argument on this latter point, but I don't think they'd have a lot of trouble convincing an audience).
---------

Again, incorrect. This is an obvious point: if there were probably naturally relevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, then just because the rest of humanity probably can't rise naturally, it doesn't follow that Jesus -- who was different -- couldn't have risen naturally (it makes no difference if Jesus was human).

The same point holds if there is no good reason to assume that Jesus and the rest were probably no different. For unless there's good reason to assume Jesus was "like everyone else," that he was probably no exception to the general rule, C1 cannot follow.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
if there were probably naturally relevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, then just because the rest of humanity probably can't rise naturally, it doesn't follow that Jesus -- who was different -- couldn't have risen naturally (it makes no difference if Jesus was human).
----------
Recall what P1 says: 'On the basis of available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead.' This statement is about all humans, not just the rest of humans, so it even applies to Jesus if A is true, provided he is human.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
--------

Recall what P1 says: 'On the basis of available data, it is probably impossible for humans to rise naturally from the dead.' This statement is about all humans, not just the rest of humans, so it even applies to Jesus if A is true, provided he is human.
---------------

No, it *CAN'T* apply to Jesus if (A) is true, because of (A) were true, that there probably were naturally relevant differences, then Jesus was an exception to the general rule. You cannot apply a general rule to an exception, by definition -- this is a logically undeniable fact.

Eric said...

Spencer, a few quick points (sorry, another busy day!).

First, I grant your point about 'could not' implying physical impossibility in your premise. However...

1. 'Could not' implies 'did not,' while 'did not' doesn't imply 'could not.' If it were the case that I could not have walked to work yesterday, then it would follow that I did not walk to work yesterday. However, if it were the case that I did not walk to work yesterday, it wouldn't follow that I could not have walked to work yesterday. The point is that 'could not' is stronger than 'did not,' and it seems to me that did not will do the job just fine. (Another example, in case you object to the 'choice' element involved in the previous example: if the sun could not have exploded yesterday, it did not explode yesterday; however, it doesn't follow that if it did not explode yesterday, then it could not have exploded yesterday.) Hence, the 'could not' standard is unnecessarily strong.

2. Keep in mind it's not simply 'did not,' but '*more plausibly than not* did not.' There's a big difference there. No one could show that George Washington *did not* father a child with Martha, but we can minimally show that he *more plausibly than not did not* father a child with Martha.

3. WLC does indeed use an abductive argument for the resurrection. He explicitly refers to it as an 'inference to the best explanation,' which is of course another way of speaking about abduction.

4. Abductive arguments will take into account a host of considerations your arguments ignore. For example, the religious milieu in which Jesus lived and acted, Jesus' teachings about himself, the deep symbolism involved in his actions and their parabolic nature, the relationship between his actions and the form of Judaism he was critiquing, his assent to the Hebrew scriptures, early Christian beliefs about Jesus' nature (remember,we have a high Christology as early as Paul), the growth and development of Christianity, the ad hoc nature of alternative proposals (e.g. Jesus was an alien, or that he differed physiologically and rose naturally, etc.). Note none of this rules out the *possibility* that any alternative is true (as I've said before, no argument from the resurrection entails the conclusion, 'God raised Jesus from the dead'), but it does make them much less plausible.

Spencer said...

Eric,

I agree that 'could not' is stronger than 'did not,' but still: in the case of Jesus, how can you argue [more plausible than not] 'did not' without the 'could not'?

Remember, let (~A'') simplified be = More plausibly than not, there *did not* exist naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that enabled Jesus to rise naturally.

How do you establish (~A'')?

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
No, it *CAN'T* apply to Jesus if (A) is true, because of (A) were true, that there probably were naturally relevant differences, then Jesus was an exception to the general rule. You cannot apply a general rule to an exception, by definition -- this is a logically undeniable fact.
----------
There are a couple of different meanings of 'general statement', which we should be careful not to confuse. The laws of physics are general statements in that they hold (so far as we can tell) without exception. But often 'general statement' is used to mean something a little weaker; something which is very often, but not always, the case. Now, if some statement in a logical argument is only general in this second sense, then this needs to be specified with some modifier like 'generally'. Without such a modifier, universal statements are taken as genuinely universal. P1 states that one such genuinely universal statement is probably true, on the basis of current data. The application of this to the special case of Jesus in C1 needs no additional assumptions.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
--------
The application of this to the special case of Jesus in C1 needs no additional assumptions.
---------

Again, unless we have good reason to think Jesus is "just like everyone else," that he is probably no exception to the rule, then we have no good reason to think the general rule applies to Jesus. To *assume* that the general rule applies to Jesus is to assume that (~A) is true -- Jesus is probably just like everyone else.

Skirtgirl said...

What about faith being the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen? Then you don't need all of those stupid point things. There is no difference between the flesh of Jesus and our own flesh (he was born of the flesh of David and it is written in Hebrews that He was tempted in all points such as we are). If you never sinned, you'd rise from the dead, too. "Oh Death, where is your sting? Oh, Hades, where is your victory?" 1. Cor 15:55. By the way, someone who truely believes never apologizes. But there is hope for us all! I for one, am very happy. www.brunstad.org.

Scott said...

SkirtGirl wrote: What about faith being the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?

If we're going to discuss things we might hope for, but are unseen, then why have hope the God of theism?

Why have hope in a God who eternally judges me on decisions I've made based on incomplete information? Why have faith in a God who eternally punishes me without the ability to learn from such punishment? Why have faith in a God who savored the smell of burnt offerings? Why have faith in a God who demanded human sacrifice?

Surely, we could hope for a force or being that lacked all of the ancient, tribal, xenophobic nonsense we find in nearly every holy book.

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
Again, unless we have good reason to think Jesus is "just like everyone else," that he is probably no exception to the rule, then we have no good reason to think the general rule applies to Jesus.
----------
As I said in my last comment, what is referenced in P1 is not just a general rule (at least not in the sense you mean this), but a universal one: No exceptions. Not even for the normatively challenged.

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
-----------
As I said in my last comment, what is referenced in P1 is not just a general rule (at least not in the sense you mean this), but a universal one: No exceptions. Not even for the normatively challenged.
-------------

How, then, do you propose that the intelligent apologist will attempt to establish your (P1) -- which as no exceptions -- without establishing (~A)? Your (P1) *cannot* be established until (~A) is established, for it presupposes (~A), and so something like the argument I proposed is unavoidable.

Eric said...

"I agree that 'could not' is stronger than 'did not,' but still: in the case of Jesus, how can you argue [more plausible than not] 'did not' without the 'could not'?"

Hi Spencer

You seem to be suggesting that it's necessary to establish 'more plausibly than not could not' if one is to establish 'more plausibly than not did not.' I don't think that this is the case. Take this conditional proposition:

(1) If S did not A, then S could not A.

In a conditional proposition, the consequent establishes a necessary condition for the antecedent (I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new; I'm just laying out my argument.) Now, let's look at a substitution instance of (1):

(2) If Martha did not have children, then Martha could not have children.

I think it's obvious that the implication here is false. While not being able to have children (the consequent) is a sufficient condition for M not having children (the antecedent), it's not a necessary condition: M may have chosen not to have children. So, if I were asked to establish that Martha, more plausibly than not, did not have children, I wouldn't have to establish first that Martha, more plausibly than not, could not have children. In short, the latter is not a necessary condition for the former.

Now we can move on to:

(~A") simplified = More plausibly than not, there *did not* exist naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that enabled Jesus to rise naturally.

Now, it seems to me that you're saying that to establish (~A") simplified, we have to establish:

(~A"') More plausibly than not, there *could not* exist naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that enabled Jesus to rise naturally.

However, this implies that (~A") is a necessary condition of (~A"'). But this gives us,

(3) (~A"') --> (~A")

(3), however, is a substitution instance of (1), and we've already seen that (1)'s implication is false. Therefore, it can't be the case that we have to establish (~A"') before we can establish (~A"). Before we go on to how one might then go about establishing (~A"), are we agreed on this?

sfwc said...

Spencer wrote:
----------
How, then, do you propose that the intelligent apologist will attempt to establish your (P1) -- which as no exceptions -- without establishing (~A)? Your (P1) *cannot* be established until (~A) is established, for it presupposes (~A)
----------
'Presupposes' is a bit misleading, since the apologist is unlikely to reference anything like ~A in the course of their justification. But I'll accept that the P1 I gave implies 'On the basis of available data, ~A', with the modified, did-not, version of A that you have been discussing with Eric.

I mentioned in my first comment the strategy that I would expect apologists to rely on in backing up P1 – a recourse to authority. I guessed that they would give a few quotes from eminent atheists and biologists to back it up. To be honest, in the context of a debate that is the most you can expect. There isn't time, in that setting, to recapitulate the reasoning that led scientists to these conclusions.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
----------
However, this implies that (~A") is a necessary condition of (~A"'). But this gives us,

(3) (~A"') --> (~A")

(3), however, is a substitution instance of (1), and we've already seen that (1)'s implication is false. Therefore, it can't be the case that we have to establish (~A"') before we can establish (~A"). Before we go on to how one might then go about establishing (~A"), are we agreed on this?
--------------

I fully realize that in many instances, one does not have to establish 'could not' in order to establish 'did not.' I don't think this is possible in the case of Jesus, but I remain open.

Please continue with trying to establish (~A"): "More plausibly than not, there *did not* exist naturally relevant differences (i.e. physiological, technological, etc) that enabled Jesus to rise naturally."

Spencer said...

sfwc wrote:
---------
'Presupposes' is a bit misleading, since the apologist is unlikely to reference anything like ~A in the course of their justification. But I'll accept that the P1 I gave implies 'On the basis of available data, ~A', with the modified, did-not, version of A that you have been discussing with Eric.

I mentioned in my first comment the strategy that I would expect apologists to rely on in backing up P1 – a recourse to authority. I guessed that they would give a few quotes from eminent atheists and biologists to back it up. To be honest, in the context of a debate that is the most you can expect. There isn't time, in that setting, to recapitulate the reasoning that led scientists to these conclusions.
-------------

The point is: something *like* (~A) is necessary to make the argument work. This cannot be reasonably denied.

Spencer said...

Eric,

Whatever argument you may have, it must take into account of the following:

Pi. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, then we should assume these capability differences *probably* can be explained, at least in part, in terms of either: (a) relevant physiological differences between X and O, and/or (b) relevant technological differences between X and O, unless we have very good reasons to suppose otherwise.
Pii. Jesus had various supernormal capabilities that the rest of humanity do not have. [assumption]
Ci. Therefore, we should assume these capability differences *probably* can be explained, at least in part, in terms of either: (a) relevant physiological differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, and/or (b) relevant technological differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, unless we have very good reasons to suppose otherwise.

The argument is sound if (Pi) is true, and there's very good reason - i.e. numerous inductive confirmation - for thinking that (Pi) is true. Hence, we should presume (A'') until we have good reason to suppose (~A'').

Also,


Pi'. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, then we should not assume [more plausibly than not that] these capability differences cannot be explained, at least in part, in terms of either: (a) relevant physiological differences between X and O, and/or (b) relevant technological differences between X and O, unless we have very good reasons to suppose otherwise.
Pii'. Jesus had various supernormal capabilities that the rest of humanity do not have. [assumption]
Ci'. Therefore, we should not assume [more plausibly than not that] these capability differences cannot be explained, at least in part, in terms of either: (a) relevant physiological differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, and/or (b) relevant technological differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity, unless we have very good reasons to suppose otherwise.

Even if we should not *presume* (A'') to be true, this above argument demonstrates that we should not *presume* (~A'') until we have good reason for supposing it's truth. In either case, the burden of proof is now on you.

Eric said...

Spencer, I'm going to flesh out Pi before I go on:

Pi. If Jesus has the capability to turn water into wine, to heal the sick and blind, to raise the dead, to walk on water, to tell the future, and to resurrect -- capabilities that no other human being, past or present, had or has -- then we should assume these capability differences *probably* can be explained, at least in part, in terms of either: (a) relevant physiological differences between Jesus and other human beings, and/or (b) relevant technological differences between Jesus and other human beings, unless we have very good reasons to suppose otherwise.

Now, it follows from P1 that,

(1) Prima facie, Jesus' acts were not miraculous.

Do you honestly think (1) is true?

In 'The Blind Watchmaker,' Dawkins talks about the probability of a statue of the Virgin Mary waving at you. Now, here we have an easily understandable natural explanation of how this could happen -- all the randomly jostling molecules that compose the statue's arm randomly move in the same direction, and then randomly move in the opposite direction. Here, we have a perfectly possible natural explanation, we understand the possible mechanism, and so on. Yet, it nonetheless seems implausible to me to say,

(2) Prima facie, a waving statue of the Virgin Mary is not miraculous.

If I'm right about this, and (2) is false (Dawkins seems to agree with me: "A miracle is something that happens, but which is exceedingly surprising. If a marble statue of the Virgin Mary suddenly waved its hand as us we *should* treat it as a miracle, because all our experience and knowledge tells us that marble doesn't behave like that"), then, given that (unlike Dawkins's example) we lack a naturalistic account of Jesus capabilities, and even lack the ability to demonstrate that Jesus' capabilities *could* be explained naturalistically, and that Jesus actions greatly outnumber the one-time event of a waving statue, it seems to me that the onus is on you to show that Jesus' capabilities could be naturally accounted for. Mere possibility isn't enough -- Dawkins's Virgin Mary statue example has possibility on its side, in addition to comprehensibility (which the Jesus example decidedly lacks), yet, I would argue that it's still the case that (2) is false. But if (2) is false, then, a fortiori, (1) is false. And, if (1) is false, and (Pi) entails (1), then (Pi) is false.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
-----------
(1) Prima facie, Jesus' acts were not miraculous.

Do you honestly think (1) is true?
-------------

Yes. See my new post (which will be up soon).


You wrote:
-----------

(2) Prima facie, a waving statue of the Virgin Mary is not miraculous.
-----------

I agree -- prima facie, it is not miraculous.



you wrote:
----------
If I'm right about this, and (2) is false (Dawkins seems to agree with me: "A miracle is something that happens, but which is exceedingly surprising.
------------

This is not an adequate definition of "miracle" -- supernatural causation needs to be involved. Something "exceedingly surprising" is insufficient.

Eric said...

"(2) Prima facie, a waving statue of the Virgin Mary is not miraculous.
-----------
"I agree -- prima facie, it is not miraculous."

Let's stick with (2), since (a) it's more manageable than (P1), and (b) if (2) if false, (1) is false, and hence (Pi) false. I have four questions:

1. Why do you conclude that (2) is true?

2. The odds against the statue's arm moving randomly are so great that the entire age of the universe wouldn't provide you with sufficient time to write out all the zeroes. Given this sort of improbability, and the completely ad hoc nature of any alternative hypotheses (e.g. aliens we have no reason to believe exist using a technology we cannot understand and have no reason to believe exists moved the arm to trick us) why isn't it the case that minimally we're dealing with a prima facie miracle?

3. How would you distinguish between an immensely improbable jostling of the molecules in the statue's arm, and a miracle?

4. What criteria must an event meet to qualify as a miracle?

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
--------

if (2) if false, (1) is false,
and hence (Pi) false.
--------

No, I deny this --(2) is talking about a statue, whereas (1) is talking about a biological entity. The argument, strictly speaking, applies only to biological entities. So, even if I were to agree with you on (2) -- I don't -- it wouldn't follow that I'd be committed to rejecting (1).

Eric wrote:
----------

I have four questions:

------------

Given that I deny the inference from the falsity of (2)to falsity of (1), are they really relevant? If so, why?

btw, my newest post - which I believe is relevant to this discussion - is now up.

Eric said...

"No, I deny this --(2) is talking about a statue, whereas (1) is talking about a biological entity."

That is a completely irrelevant disanalogy. The point is, with (2) we have a possibly miraculous event which we could explain naturally with ease, while with (1) we have a large number of possibly miraculous events we cannot even begin to explain naturalistically, and which we're not even sure could be explained naturalistically. Hence, if (2) is prima facie miraculous, (1) is, a fortiori (given the greater number of events in (1), our lack of a naturalistic mechanism in (1), and our inability to understand if a naturalistic mechanism is even possible in (1)) prima facie miraculous. Your disanalogy is entirely irrelevant.

BTW, I'll check out the new post when I get a chance.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
--------
That is a completely irrelevant disanalogy. The point is, with (2) we have a possibly miraculous event which we could explain naturally with ease, while with (1) we have a large number of possibly miraculous events we cannot even begin to explain naturalistically, and which we're not even sure could be explained naturalistically. Hence, if (2) is prima facie miraculous, (1) is, a fortiori (given the greater number of events in (1), our lack of a naturalistic mechanism in (1), and our inability to understand if a naturalistic mechanism is even possible in (1)) prima facie miraculous. Your disanalogy is entirely irrelevant.
------------

I don't believe the disanalogy is irrelevant at all: in one case we're talking about non-biological things, and in the other - which is what my argument limits itself to - we're talking about biological entities.

That said, I don't actually think (2) is prima facie miraculous -- just the opposite, in fact. My only point is: even if it *were* prima facie miraculous, that has little bearing on (1).

Eric said...

"I don't believe the disanalogy is irrelevant at all: in one case we're talking about non-biological things, and in the other - which is what my argument limits itself to - we're talking about biological entities."

You can assert that the disanalogy is relevant, but you've yet to provide an argument that it's irrelevant. I provided an argument that it's irrelevant. But, here's another example, also from 'The Blind Watchmaker,' that removes the biological disanalogy, yet retains all the relevant elements of the VM example: A cow in fact jumps over the moon. Or, here's an example of my own: a person walks through a wall. Both events are possible, both present us with ridiculously improbable but possible naturalistic explanations, and the explanations in both cases can be explained and understood with an appeal to current scientific theories. Yet, I daresay that the following propositions are true:

(3) Prima facie, a cow jumping over the moon is miraculous.

(4) Prima facie, a person walking through a wall is miraculous.

To quote Chesterton, 'I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable.' (Interestingly, Oscar Wilde, the anti-Chesterton in many respects, said something similar: 'Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable.'). We may simply have reached an impasse here at this point with respect to conflicting intuitions.

"That said, I don't actually think (2) is prima facie miraculous -- just the opposite, in fact."

Hence my four questions.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
----------
You can assert that the disanalogy is relevant, but you've yet to provide an argument that it's irrelevant. I provided an argument that it's irrelevant.
------------

What argument? You're basing your case for (2) solely on inconceivability. which is insufficient. You have yet to show the logical connection between (2) and (1). And again, since my argument is strictly limited to biological entities, you need to show why (Pi) and (Pi') are false.

You wrote:
-------
Yet, I daresay that the following propositions are true:

(3) Prima facie, a cow jumping over the moon is miraculous.

(4) Prima facie, a person walking through a wall is miraculous.
-----------

I deny both.

Eric said...

"What argument? You're basing your case for (2) solely on inconceivability. which is insufficient. You have yet to show the logical connection between (2) and (1)."

Huh? I explicitly said that (2) *is* conceivable. I think you need to reread my post.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
---------

Huh? I explicitly said that (2) *is* conceivable. I think you need to reread my post.
------------

I mean you think it inconceivable that (2) has naturalistic explanations.

Eric said...

"I deny both."

You can of course consistently bite that bullet, but it's a bullet few are willing to bite. Heck, Dawkins won't even bite it! Consistency is no virtue if it leads to implausibility. If someone in the room with you *actually* walked through a wall, and if, when you went outside to confirm that he was there, a cow *actually* jumped over the moon, someone were to say, 'My goodness! We probably just witnessed two miracles!' next to no one would gainsay him. If you were to come back with, 'Sure, a man just walked through a wall, and sure, a cow just jumped over the moon, but there's probably a perfectly natural explanation for both -- it's not the case that they were more likely miracles than not,' who would be speaking implausibly? This isn't to say we shouldn't investigate each case to see if their naturalistic explanations can be sustained; however, one can undertake such an investigation while accepting the proposition, 'Prima facie, we just observed two miracles. However, to be safe, we should investigate.' I can consistently think, 'Prima facie, my fiancee is cheating on me. However, to be safe, I should investigate further.'

Now, here we have two plausibly miraculous events which we easily can explain naturalistically. If we were to imagine a situation in which dozens of similar events occurred for which we not only could not come up with any naturalistic explanations, but which also contradicted all we know about science, and which were of such a nature that we could not even say if it's possible that they have a natural cause, we'd obviously have a much stronger case that we'd witnessed a number of miracles. If the earlier bullet was difficult to bite and be taken seriously while doing so, this one is darn near impossible to bite and be taken seriously.

Eric said...

"I mean you think it inconceivable that (2) has naturalistic explanations."

Completely false. I said quite clearly that there's an obvious, if improbable, naturalistic explanation. The question isn't one of conceivability, but of plausiblity. What's more plausible: that an event so improbable that 15 billion years wouldn't be sufficient to write its probability out has occured naturally, or that it occurred miraculously? Again, we may simply have different intuitions here. I'd say, 'More plausibly than not a miracle, but let's investigate'; you'd say, 'More plausibly than not a natural event, but let's investigate.' I fail to see why your intuition is more plausible than mine here.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
-----------
You can of course consistently bite that bullet, but it's a bullet few are willing to bite. Heck, Dawkins won't even bite it! Consistency is no virtue if it leads to implausibility. If someone in the room with you *actually* walked through a wall, and if, when you went outside to confirm that he was there, a cow *actually* jumped over the moon, someone were to say, 'My goodness! We probably just witnessed two miracles!' next to no one would gainsay him. If you were to come back with, 'Sure, a man just walked through a wall, and sure, a cow just jumped over the moon, but there's probably a perfectly natural explanation for both -- it's not the case that they were more likely miracles than not,' who would be speaking implausibly? This isn't to say we shouldn't investigate each case to see if their naturalistic explanations can be sustained; however, one can undertake such an investigation while accepting the proposition, 'Prima facie, we just observed two miracles. However, to be safe, we should investigate.' I can consistently think, 'Prima facie, my fiancee is cheating on me. However, to be safe, I should investigate further.'
-------------

Please see my latest post regarding burden of proof (we can continue this discussion in that comment thread if you like).

The two examples you gave, however extraordinary, doesn't strike me as miraculous (i.e. probably caused by a divine power), just absurdly incredible. I think induction is on my side here, so I don't have to bite the bullet at the cost of losing plausibility.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
----------
Completely false. I said quite clearly that there's an obvious, if improbable, naturalistic explanation. The question isn't one of conceivability, but of plausiblity. What's more plausible: that an event so improbable that 15 billion years wouldn't be sufficient to write its probability out has occured naturally, or that it occurred miraculously? Again, we may simply have different intuitions here. I'd say, 'More plausibly than not a miracle, but let's investigate'; you'd say, 'More plausibly than not a natural event, but let's investigate.' I fail to see why your intuition is more plausible than mine here.
------------

Two things.

1. If you're not arguing from inconceivability for (2), you certainly made this argument for (1) when you said: "(1) is, a fortiori (given the greater number of events in (1), our lack of a naturalistic mechanism in (1), and our inability to understand if a naturalistic mechanism is even possible in (1)) prima facie miraculous."

2. Regarding the plausibility of (1), you're failing to distinguish the improbability of an event occurring on its own, by chance, and the improbability of an event occurring via some directed intention.

A person who has no intention of walking through walls, doesn't know how to control this ability, probably won't ever walk through a wall. However, this is not to say that a person with advanced technology can make the improbable probable (I'm thinking of Douglas Adams' Improbability Drive).

Eric said...

"I think induction is on my side here, so I don't have to bite the bullet at the cost of losing plausibility."

On the contrary, it is induction that tells us how ridiculously improbable these events are. That's why even Dawkins would concede, 'miracle!' in such cases. I'm actually granting even more than Dawkins: all I'm saying is, 'More plausibly than not, miracle.' However, that's all I need.

If you respond to this post on this thread, I'll respond on your new thread.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
---------
On the contrary, it is induction that tells us how ridiculously improbable these events are.
----------

If they are the result of chance.

Eric said...

Spencer, your new post isn't showing up, so I'm going to respond here.

"1. If you're not arguing from inconceivability for (2), you certainly made this argument for (1) when you said: "(1) is, a fortiori (given the greater number of events in (1), our lack of a naturalistic mechanism in (1), and our inability to understand if a naturalistic mechanism is even possible in (1)) prima facie miraculous.""

I said nothing about inconceivability. I said that unlike (2), (1) contradicts all we know about science, that we know of no mechanism in the case of (1), and we aren't even sure if there is a naturalistic mechanism in the case of (1). This is a far cry form arguing from inconceivability. I'm saying that if (2), which is in perfect accord with modern science, which is easily explained and easily understood is plausibly miraculous, then (1), for the three reasons I gave above, is even more plausibly miraculous.

"2. Regarding the plausibility of (1), you're failing to distinguish the improbability of an event occurring on its own, by chance, and the improbability of an event occurring via some directed intention."

Merely intending to walk through a wall, or to jump over the moon won't increase the probability of either event *at all*. Hence, unless you want to beg the question, I fail to see how this increases the plausibility of (1) one iota. I doubt that those who 'intend' to win at the slot machines perform any better, over the same number of turns, than those who feel certain they'll lose.

Spencer said...

Eric wrote:
---------
I said nothing about inconceivability. I said that unlike (2), (1) contradicts all we know about science, that we know of no mechanism in the case of (1), and we aren't even sure if there is a naturalistic mechanism in the case of (1). This is a far cry form arguing from inconceivability. I'm saying that if (2), which is in perfect accord with modern science, which is easily explained and easily understood is plausibly miraculous, then (1), for the three reasons I gave above, is even more plausibly miraculous.
--------------

Your third reason is certainly an argument from inconceivability: "our inability to understand if a naturalistic mechanism is even possible" -- I have no idea how this is any different from the inconceivability argument. Your second reason -- lack of naturalistic mechanism -- really is no reason at all, since our ignorance, prior to any investigation, is no indication for the supernatural. All that follows is our ignorance of the causes.

I don't know what your first reason is.

I guess you might be able to argue:

p1. If general reason R, then (1) is plausibly miraculous.
p2. General reason R.
c1. (1) is plausibly miraculous.

This argument could be sound depending on what R is, which would also have to be sufficient strong to override (Pi) and (Pii).

You wrote:

-----------
Merely intending to walk through a wall, or to jump over the moon won't increase the probability of either event *at all*. Hence, unless you want to beg the question, I fail to see how this increases the plausibility of (1) one iota. I doubt that those who 'intend' to win at the slot machines perform any better, over the same number of turns, than those who feel certain they'll lose.
-------------

I don't mean mere intention makes the event more probable -- the directed intention has to be done in the right way (e.g. via advanced technology).

Spencer said...

Eric,

The new post is up now.

Scott said...

Eric,

Rather than a statue waving, a human limb regenerating would be a better example.

Salamanders can re-grow entire limbs, including bones, cartilage, blood cells and even nerves. Wounds heal without scars.

Should salamanders had become extinct, we may have assumed that no living creature could re-grow limbs outside the womb. However, this would have been a false assumption, and could have very well been labeled "Miraculous."

Furthermore, based on ongoing research, we may gain the ability to endow human beings with the ability to re-grow limbs using technology.