Debunking Christianity -- And Then Some!
I thought Matt did a fine job. I liked his approach that we should be very suspect of the historical data that we have rec'd. It had to pass through so many hurdles to get to us and each time it could be changed and no doubt was. As he said, even if you assume 80% got through each transistion in tact, that would leave us with 40% certainty today. I would say bump it up to 90% and that still leaves us with less than a 50-50 chance that the data we have today is reliable.I also liked his illustration in which he asked the audience: "How would you like to be on trial for murder and the two witnesses that are brought up to testify against you say, 'I was walking down the road and saw a bright light in the sky and heard a voice telling me that the defendant committed the murder.' The second says: "I heard from a person who heard from another person who heard from another person that the defendant committed the crime."What chance do you think the defendant would have of being convicted?
A civil, street-level debate which us non-philosophers can understand. I think a completely neutral listener would think that Matt McCormick won the debate. The argument about being on trial for murder and using the evidence of hearsay witnesses was devastating, since christians love to use the courtroom and evidence analogy so much!The argument that DeSilvestro used about the actual contradictions (which he didn't deny were there) in the NT accounts being an argument in FAVOR of their factual historicity, made me laugh. I used that same logic years ago when I was a christian, and it makes me cringe. Such narrative contradictions blow the inerrancy belief out of the water, but it doesn't much damage the belief that the story of Jesus is very powerful and can still be used as the foundation of a religion, however little based on historical fact it might be.
I don't have audio to listen to this, but I read the link to Matt's blog. All I have to say is that Matt has a valid point if he indeed is trying to argue against the jesus idol -- that would be the manmade version of jesus - the one that might have said, "You must rely solely on hand-me-down information because after I die that is all that is going to remain of me because I intend to be an historical figure." Since that idol ought to be debunked, I fully agree that Matt has a good approach towards this issue.Yes, there is oral tradition (Jesus, afterall, said to share the good news) but it is intended to provoke/inspire a relationship with God, not as an historical figure, but a very real presence in our everyday lives. Scooterwes said, "I used that same logic years ago when I was a christian, and it makes me cringe."The thing about the variation of eyewitness accounts is that it is authentic and evidenced in reality. The main message remains incorruptible about the nature of God and that is that we do not sacrifice to Him but He is willing to sacrifice for us in order to put this appeasement practice/vision down.Bye,3M
Thanks for the comment, guys. And thanks John for linking the debate. A clarification on the probabilities. All other things being equal, a chain of transmissions with 5 links and .8 fidelity in each one means that any given piece of data going through the system has only a .32 chance of getting out the other side. I didn't complete this thought at the debate, but here's the real kicker. The Lourdes, France example shows us that at best people are reliable only 1/100,000 or 1/1,000,000 or even 1/10,000,000 in the cases where they claim that they have witnessed miracles. Lourdes (and lots of other cases) shows us that people are really, really unreliable at reporting miracles. So that means at a minimum, the number that we put at the front of this string of multipliers in the transmission question isn't a .8. It's more like .000001. Then you have to multiply again and again for each of the stages of transmission. This is a silly exercise, of course, but what it does show is that the information that we have about the resurrection is ORDERS of MAGNITUDE smaller than it needs to be for us to even get to the .5, suspending judgment, level about it. See this post: An Accumulation and Amplification of DoubtsAnd this post for elaborations:Putting Odds on JesusThanks again Ken. Matt McCormick
The setting of this debate causes me to cringe. I only came to practice christianity within the mega-church movement of the early nineties and the friendly-hipster persona of the youth minister is the kind of marketing I fell for. Simply personal commentary on my own shallow intellect (in arguably a time of great emotional need).
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