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February 02, 2010

Comments

BEH,

Actually, I didn't start out to make "a big deal against aliens". I started out by saying that there was more evidence for aliens than for re-aminated corpses, so why reject the former while accepting the latter? In either case, I think the evidence is not adequate, but if we're going by the amount of evidence, then aliens win.

Then at some point, you asked why I thought that there was not enough evidence of alien visits, so I gave you the reasons. When your response to my first point was to assign zero value to the views of intelligent, well-informed and highly trained astronomers such as Sagan, I realized that this was a pointless to continue to offer arguments or explain my reasons.

In any event, I gave you an appropriate amount of proof.

"If someone could show me a piece of technology far beyond what we can build or show me an alien body or anything else that can’t possibly have a boring explanations, then maybe we’d have something."

In the absence of this evidence, I think that that boring explanations are simply far, far more likely to be accurate than the X-Files explanations. To steal a cliche from medicine, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. It's not that it's impossible that the sound is due to zebras, but before we conclude "zebra", I think that it's appropriate to demand that the zebra proponents produce a striped body.

Joe,

I think the way you put it makes it clear you are objecting to it pretty strongly. Comparing it to 'reanimated corpses' is not a respectful way to frame the question of extraterrestrial life, nor the matter of the Christian faith. I mean, do you honestly expect me to think that you are being respectful of those issues when you frame it in that way?

As for taking Sagan opinion as nothing: it was nothing personal against Sagan. You can usually find experts on both sides of a debate, so I was looking for something more than a ‘refer to the experts’ answer. Simply put, it is not his opinion I am interested in, but rather how he got to it, and to see if he got it right or not in this case.

“We know that atmospheric conditions can play tricks with lights, we know that humans can create frauds, we know that humans can be deluded or confused or misinterpret what they see. So, what’s more likely? Aliens? Or atmospherics, fraud and mental hiccups?”
I actual agree with you in principal on some of these, effort should be taken to screen out ‘boring’ explanations, but if some are still left should they just be dismissed? You seem to assign zero value to the remaining eye witness testimony, because you feel it is wrong, that it must have a different explanation.
"If someone could show me a piece of technology far beyond what we can build or show me an alien body or anything else that can’t possibly have a boring explanations, then maybe we’d have something."
Obviously those would be smoking gun cases, but is that the only acceptable type of evidence for this question? If so, how do you determine what level of proof a particular claim requires?

Brad,

Telling the truth and what counts as knowledge mean quite a lot to me. That's why I do what I do. I aim to teach truth and refute error.

RonH

"You can usually find experts on both sides of a debate, so I was looking for something more than a ‘refer to the experts’ answer. Simply put, it is not his opinion I am interested in, but rather how he got to it, and to see if he got it right or not in this case."

Ah, the old “experts on both sides of a debate” gambit as if all those labeled “expert” by a given side are equal in ability, knowledge, training, expertise, intelligence, etc. If you’d like to know how Sagan arrived at his conclusions, no problem. Sagan wrote extensively on subject, and his books are still available. I’d start with “The Demon-Haunted World”, and I believe that “Cosmos” also addresses the question, but there are plenty of other writings in which he tackled the subject.

“If some are still left, should they just be dismissed?

Dismissed completely and totally and without considering the possibilities of aliens? No. But should we jump to the conclusion that the allegedly unexplained hoofbeats are made by zebras or give equal weight to the zebra conclusion? Not without a striped body. Not when the explanation offered is an extraordinary one.

”Obviously those would be smoking gun cases, but is that the only acceptable type of evidence for this question? “

Why shouldn’t it be? Why not require a smoking gun before leaping to fantastical conclusions?

If so, how do you determine what level of proof a particular claim requires?

Levels of proof depend on variables such as whether or not a given explanation has been tested and confirmed before. Atmospherics, fraud and delusion are well-known, well-tested, well-established explanations. They are consistent with what we understand about how the world works here on Earth. Alien visitation? Not so much, for reasons I’ve already outlined. So, again, before we move that explanation to the top of the pile, we do need some smoking guns.

Now, do we have to demand higher levels of proof when someone shouts “zebra”? No, but when we don’t, it’s easy to slip into “demon-haunted worlds”, and I’m not interested in going there.

“Comparing it to 'reanimated corpses' is not a respectful way to frame the question of extraterrestrial life, nor the matter of the Christian faith.”

Why not? In both cases, we’re talking about amazing, fantastical claims based on “witnesses”. I see many parallels in the claims, and I’m curious as to why one would accept one and reject the other, or for that matter, why one would accept both.

RonH: Once again, do I understand that you are denying that you assume any necessary preconditions to hold knowledge? Isn't your statement "But make no mistake I don't really claim to Know only to know." just such a precondition?

I think that you could answer: yes, no, I don't know, I don't understand, or you can continue to avoid the question. What will it be?

Joe said: "To steal a cliche from medicine, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. It's not that it's impossible that the sound is due to zebras, but before we conclude "zebra", I think that it's appropriate to demand that the zebra proponents produce a striped body."

But on the plains of Africa it would be the reverse. There is additional context that is important.

Fantastical conclusions to some, are not considered fantastical.

Carl Sagan is famous for his into.: "The Cosmos is all that there is or ever was or ever will be."

Just as Shostak made his claim, Sagan makes a claim that is not scientific but is his own presupposition.

Would you consider Sagan's claim fantastical?

"But on the plains of Africa it would be the reverse. There is additional context that is important."

Quite right. But in the context in question is the Planet Earth. And here on Earth, we've yet to see a (striped) alien body or (striped) alien technology. In the context of our planet, the hoofbeats have always turned out to belong to horses. If the sounds are due to zebra, if aliens have visited, there are specific and concrete ways in which this could be demonstrated. There are potential observations, which if made, would more than convince me. Like Sagan, I think it would be really cool if we could find definitive evidence of alien life. But so far, no zebras.

"Fantastical conclusions to some, are not considered fantastical."

That's true. For some, it would not be fantastic to claim that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I'm not sure that Sagan's claim is particularly relevant, so why bring it up? I think I'd have to know for sure what Sagan means by the word "cosmos" before deciding if it was fantastical or not. Pending clarification of the term "cosmos", I'd say that this is not a statement that I'd be inclined to make myself.

Joe,
I bring Sagan's quote up because it is type of claim parallel in my mind to the claim made by Shostak in the original post.

Ah, so we've come full circle then.

Hi RonH, glad to know you are seeking to tell the truth and that you value knowledge. Just for information, are you familiar with Plato and Aristotle['s] quest of knowledge--forms, essence/substance, categories etc...?

Joe,
“experts on both sides of a debate” gambit” yeah, in this discussion it was a bit of a gambit. All experts are not created equal. Part of the issue is indeed identifying credible experts to listen to. As for the books, they sound like an interesting read.

“Why not require a smoking gun before leaping to fantastical conclusions?”
Two things here: one is how to determine how fantastical a claim is. The other is how inflexible a body of proof you seem to demand. In the zebra case you want the 'striped body' as proof. In the alien case you want a physical body to examine before believing. A proof that leaves no room for possible doubt. But is this level of proof fair? Evolutionist tend to believe in the big bang, a theory which holds that all the matter/energy in the universe, and in fact space/time itself came into being out of literally nothing. Nothing takes up no space at all, it is not even the size of this period. No time existed before the bang occurred, therefore it was not some product of untold eons of time, it just happened. This idea seems extremely fantastical by the standards you have given. Yet where is the 'smoking gun' level proof of this claim?

“Comparing it to 'reanimated corpses' is not a respectful way to frame the question of extraterrestrial life, nor the matter of the Christian faith.” Why not?”
You took offense when I referred to Sagan expert opinion as “smart people told me so” why? Is he not smart? Is he not a guy? Did he not relay his knowledge to you? Yet you took offense.
“I’m curious as to why one would accept one and reject the other, or for that matter, why one would accept both.”
If this were true would you not attempt to pick terms that the people you are dealing with are less likely to react negatively to? As for ufos; you yourself have said that you don’t rule out the possibility, yet you lump it together with ‘zombies’, essentially dismissing both positions as pure nonsense.

"Evolutionist tend to believe in the big bang."

I think you're confusing evolution with cosmology. "Evolutionists" are biologists, paleontologists, geneticists, ect., but not astronomers. Unfortunately, the conflation of evolution with cosmology is a common mistake.

"You took offense when I referred to Sagan expert opinion as “smart people told me so".

I'm not sure "took offense" as much as "threw up my hands in frustation". I'm just tired of folks minimizing the importance of knowledge and expertise, especially when the discussion touches on science. I thought that's what you were doing. Now, if I misinterpreted your remark, if you intended to give Sagan all of the credit that is due to him, then my apologies for the misinterpretation.

"If this were true would you not attempt to pick terms that the people you are dealing with are less likely to react negatively to? As for ufos; you yourself have said that you don’t rule out the possibility, yet you lump it together with ‘zombies’, essentially dismissing both positions as pure nonsense."

I don't understand. If I'm not ruling out the possibility, then I'm not dismissing both positions as pure nonsense, right? I'm just asking for more evidence for reasons I've already outlined. If you're satisfied with less evidence, then so be it.

I also don't understand the problem with my terms. "Reaminated corpse" is an accurate and neutral description of the claims of Christians with respect to Jesus. After the crucifixion, Jesus was a corpse. Then, his body was reaminated; reaminated means to bring something lifeless to life. What's the problem?


William,

I assume my senses are fallible.
I assume I sometimes make mistakes in reasoning.
I assume my emotions sometimes overwhelm my reason.
I assume some evidence I encounter is misleading.

Probably I could think of more such assumptions. On the other hand, I have evidence supporting these assumptions. So does it really make sense to call them assumptions? I don't know.

Can I run my whole life's reasoning to ground and say it all depends on some list of 5 assumptions?
If I did, could I prove that those 5 assumptions were unique? Had I traced things differently, might I have come up with 4 different assumptions? I don’t know.

Does that seem like an answer? Maybe your question makes no sense to me. Maybe you want to explain it a bit.

My knowledge is in pretty tough shape. Yet my life goes very well relatively speaking and it seems only partly due to luck. Many times when things go well I'm simply forced to credit my powers of observation and reason. That and paying attention to the things that really matter.

RonH

Joe said: "For some, it would not be fantastic to claim that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden."

Perhaps, but to focus more on the subject of the original post we are really talking about the claim that there exists a creator God.

What would make this a fantastical claim any more than Sagan's comment on the cosmos?

The belief in a realm beyond nature is common. The concept of god is common. Why should this be characterized as fantastical?

On planet earth there are multiple contexts and I think that pertinent to the original post, they are nature and supernature, matter & spirit.

I accept the existence and interaction of both.

If you insist that only material evidence is appropriate to know anything about supernature you have set yourself up for finding only limited evidence.

Science is a good tool to understand and manipulate matter. It allows us to understand something about the universe. It has its limits for obtaining certain kinds of knowledge.

Here is a link that may be of interest:

http://www.tothesource.org/2_3_2010/2_3_2010.htm


RonH said: "Does that seem like an answer?"

Yes, in a roundabout kind of way. If I understand, you acknowledge that at a fundamental level humans must make assumptions. After that, evidence can be assembled that supports or contradicts those assumptions. When you say :"But make no mistake I don't really claim to Know only to know." you mean that you have no certainty that what you know is true (to Know).

When you say: "My 'worldview' doesn't 'assume' any 'necessary preconditions' while 'denying their 'authority'." you don't mean that your world view doesn't assume necessary preconditions but only that you don't deny the authority of those preconditions. But then if you don't deny their authority then you do think that you Know. Is that right?

"The belief in a realm beyond nature is common."

Quite right. Millions of people believe in fairies, goblins, multi-armed elephant gods, jackel-headed gods, golden tablets, celetial teapots....

All of these beliefs involve a "realm beyond nature". Do you find any of these claims fantastical?

Joe,

“Evolutionist tend to believe in the big bang.” I think you're confusing evolution with cosmology.”
Nice dodge. I said that ‘evolutionists tend to believe in(or agree with) the (concept of a) big bang’. Do you mean to say that most evolutionists disagree with the big bang theory? However if you are intent on splitting hairs I will restate it for you: “Cosmologist tend to believe in the big bang.”
Do you disagree that it is a fantastical claim? (which was the point I was getting at)

“I don't understand. If I'm not ruling out the possibility, then I'm not dismissing both positions as pure nonsense, right?”
Actually yes, you are. While you leave open the technical possibility, at the same time you assign it a value of nonsense (that it is unworthy to be taken seriously). Which is why you keep mentioning fairies (which I suppose you also leave open the possibility for).

"Reaminated corpse" is an accurate and neutral description of the claims of Christians with respect to Jesus.”
Neutral? Really? Tell me, does this description fit that of a zombie, yes or no?

As I mentioned before, when I referred to Sagan’s expert opinion as ‘smart people told me so’ you ‘threw up [your] hands in frustation’. You deemed that though the words were technically accurate ‘he is smart, he is a person, and he told you so (communicated his expertise to you)’ they were dismissive. And you felt it was wrong to be dismissive of him and his work, hence your frustration. So why wont you recognize that the terms "Reaminated corpse" may not convey true neutrality to your audience? That it implies a disrespectful rather than respectful approach to the subject.

"Actually yes, you are. While you leave open the technical possibility, at the same time you assign it a value of nonsense (that it is unworthy to be taken seriously)."

I don't think that you understand what I've said. The very fact that I've thought about what it would take to establish the claim tells you that I'm not assigning it a value of "nonsense". The very fact that I've given you a set of possible observations, which if made, would establish the claim, tells you that I'm not assigning it a value of "nonsense" or think it unworthy of examination. As you know, I have a lot of respect for Sagan. Sagan spent much of his life looking for evidence of ETs. Why would I respect Sagan if I thought that there was zero chance that ETs exist and/or if I thought it was also complete and total nonsense from start to finish and unworthy of serious consideration? I'm just asking for much better evidence than a mashed-up wheat field. Ok?

“Cosmologist tend to believe in the big bang.”

I not sure that the word "believe" is the appropriate one, because scientists do not "believe" in a particular theory in the same way someone someone "believes" in a particular relgious concept like, say, the resurrection. Instead, scientist produce testable hypotheses and models based on their understanding of how the natural world works, and then they try to disprove the hypotheses using non-fantastical tests. If they fail to disprove the hypotheses or fail to find something inconsistent with their understanding of how the non-fantastical world works, then they gain confidence in the models and theories. They also know that at any point in time, evidence may come in from the non-fantastical world that disproves the theory, and they'll have to start over again.

I'm not a cosmologist and I don't know much about the details of the big bang theory. Frankly, astrophysics makes my head hurt. But I think that the theory is consistent with our understanding of how the natural world works, and I assume that it's the best explanation available today. I'm pretty certain that it also contains testable elements, that it's subject to disproof, and that it may be tossed out tomorrow. In another words, it's based in the real world and tested by non-fantastical means. So, I'm not sure where the "fantastical" bits would be.

I still don't understand the problem with "reaminated corpse". It's a perfectly accurate description of the claim in question. This is not the same as your sarcastic dismissal of Sagan, et al.

Actually, I choose this phrase, in part, for its precision. You see, not everyone agrees on what is meant by "resurrection" or "rose of the dead". Are we talking about something that is pure spirt? Are we talking about a "spirit body" that can pass through walls unlike normal bodies? Are we talking about a fleshy, "cut me, do I not bleed" body? Clarity is important, because degree to which the claim is "fantastic" depends on exactly what is meant by "resurrection".

Obviously, the most fantastic claim would be the one that says that the resurrection means that means that a dead, decaying, physical body (or corpse) regained all of the life functions of a normal fleshy body (was reaminated). I assume that you believe this claim, and to be certain that I understand precisely what you believe, I use the phrase "reaminated corpse". This is your claim, yes? Then what's the problem?

Now, if "reaminated corpse" also fits the description of a zombie, so be it.

WW,

I think we're getting somewhere.

This time you left out "to hold knowledge" by which I think you mean "to hold Knowledge".

Certain is an other word we can play the capitalization game with, like know/Know.

I guess the point is whatever I assume, even if you think it is borrowed from your worldview, I assume it as a practical matter. I don't assume it is True. If I made no assumptions I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Nor could I stay in bed for that matter.

Let's say my assumptions, reasoning, claims, knowledge, etc. all top out at 99.999%. If I were to borrow something from you I wouldn't put it at 100%. If you did put it at 100% it's not the same thing as your version, is it? If we agree it's not at 100% it's probably not one of the things you object to my borrowing.

RonH

“As you know, I have a lot of respect for Sagan. Sagan spent much of his life looking for evidence of ETs.” So you are saying you respect the subject, it might well be real, but sufficient evidence has not been brought forward at this time to confirm it? Well since you do respect Sagan, and I doubt that you would bash a subject he is so connected with, I accept that you did not mean to slight the field of ufo research.

“I not sure that the word "believe" is the appropriate one” Alright, how about ‘cosmologists tend to accept the theory of the big bang’
“I'm not sure where the "fantastical" bits would be.” The entire universe is said to emerge from absolutely nothing and you don’t find that a fantastic claim? I can’t recall the last time I saw something emerge from literally nothing. I can’t recall the last time anyone, anywhere, has seen something emerge from nothing. I am not asking you to say that it is impossible, not even that it can’t be backed up, just that the claim is a fantastic claim. If a magician claimed he could really pull a rabbit out of thin air (not as a trick, the real thing) I think you would consider that a fantastic claim.

“Obviously, the most fantastic claim would be the one that says that the resurrection means that means that a dead, decaying, physical body (or corpse) regained all of the life functions of a normal fleshy body (was reaminated). I assume that you believe this claim, and to be certain that I understand precisely what you believe, I use the phrase "reaminated corpse". This is your claim, yes? Then what's the problem?”
First: when you say, ‘the most fantastic claim’ do you mean compared to the other options in this case, or do you mean the most fantastic claim in all existence? I was unclear on that. Second: perhaps due to watching too much sci-fi, the terms ‘reanimated corpse’ fit more closely to zombie than Christ to me, so I find it distracting. You say your choice of terms was for precision, but to me it is precise in a different way. The first term is reanimate: having motion or life put back to in an object. What object? A corpse. Corpse: a soulless, lifeless, decaying body. Thus: an animated dead thing= zombie. So given that there are possible explanations which are a closer fit to the description of 'reanimated corpse', reanimation is not a sufficient term to imply the returning of soul, life and health. To put it another way; while I would not mind being brought back to life, I would not want to be a reanimated corpse. It just sounds creepy.

Oops, I meant to adress that one to Joe.

Joe,
"This is not the same as your sarcastic dismissal of Sagan, et al."

It was not sarcasm; I do think he is a smart person. It was a dismissal, a dismissal of experts’ opinions because I wanted to avoid an expert vs. expert debate that I saw as a dead end. ‘my expert says this’ ‘well my expert says your expert is wrong’ ‘well my experts says your expert is wrong’ ect, ect. (You pointed out that that was too haste of a verdict, and that we could at least thin down the number of experts based upon experience in the field.) My subsequent point was that a person could be technically accurate while still being dismissive, which was what I felt you were doing.


Brad B,

familiar with Plato and A...

Yes. Familiar. Not ignorant. Not expert.

RonH

WW, whoever might be interested,

I followed your link...

http://www.tothesource.org/2_3_2010/2_3_2010.htm

... to ...

http://tinyurl.com/yhajbsj

... where Ard Louis compares evolution to the kind of self-assembly that produces the individual bacterial flagellum.

He says one might think this self-assembly shouldn't happen because it's too unlikely: there are millions of ways of wrong configurations for the proteins and only one right one. So, Louis says, you could make an intelligent design style argument that the individual assembly must be guided.

But, Louis points out, people have recently come to understand the mechanism(s) that allows the one right configuration to occur. It's not a matter of either beating long odds or intelligent guidance. There's a mechanism that makes the odds argument invalid. Evolution is the analogous mechanism that makes the intelligent design argument fail.

He's making an argument against intelligent design. biologos.org actually promotes theistic evolution. Is that the position you promote?

RonH

"I accept that you did not mean to slight the field of ufo research."

Well, to be precise, there are some types of UFO research I respect because they start by assuming that boring explanations are much more likely (e.g. Sagan), and some types that I do not (e.g. Von Daniken). Those who do the type that I respect all say, so far, no aliens.

"The entire universe is said to emerge from absolutely nothing."

Again, I'm not especially well-versed on the subject, but I believe that what the cosmologists are saying is that we can trace the history of the universe back to certain point, and beyond that, we can't saying much of anything. I really don't think that they are saying "the universe emerged from nothing". I think that they are saying that a some point in time, we have the start of the current universe and this start was a material start (energy and/or matter), and then we go forward in time from there. We can work our way back to a certain start point, and that's as far as we can go. Scientists deal with the material world and not with the question of where the material came from in the first place. This sort of research can be done without appealing to anything fantastical.

No one knows where the material for starting the universe came from. No one. There's a big difference between saying "the universe came from nothing" and saying that we can work our way back to a certain start point, but beyond that, it's all up in the air. Saying "God did it" is not so much an answer as it is a place holder reflecting current ignorance.

Now, I think some cosmologists like to play with ideas like "multiverses" and some like to speculate about the possibility that the current universe was created from the collapsed remains of a previous universe. But I think they'll tell you that this is mostly speculation at this point, and I have no idea if anyone will ever come up with a way to test these ideas. It's fun to speculate, but again, no one knows.

"When you say, ‘the most fantastic claim’ do you mean compared to the other options in this case, or do you mean the most fantastic claim in all existence."

When I write the comment, I was mostly thinking in terms of compared to other options, but I don't have a problem also calling this the most fantastic claim of all time.

Joe

"We're still relying on the words of humans."

I am assuming you are human. Does that mean that simply because you are human we should disregard your words?

"And humans tend to see what they want to see and to interpret the vague words of sacred writings as the wish to interpret them. "

Is that the way we should take your views or should we take into consideration the particulars when we consider your arguments? Which is the more reasonable?

"I am assuming you are human. Does that mean that simply because you are human we should disregard your words?"

Yup, I'm human. So, you can treat my words as you'd treat the words of any other human. Same thing goes for the words in the Bible. Just treat them as you'd treat the words of any other human writers.

Joe,
I think I see where you are coming from. Basically the big bang concept might well be a fantastic claim, if it were being claimed as truth. This would then require extraordinary proof be given. Skeptic scientist however limit themselves to creating and comparing models to observable data, if there is a high correlation they use it, but avoid the claim aspect. They then limit themselves to claims that their results match what is observed. In a similar vein, Sagan said that, "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know." While he may not believe in the existance of God, he limits himself to claiming that which he can prove. Is that a fair summery of what you are saying?

“I don't have a problem also calling this (Christ rising from the dead) the most fantastic claim of all time.” Out of curiosity, what sort of proof do you think would be required to prove such a claim?

"Basically the big bang concept might well be a fantastic claim, if it were being claimed as truth."

Yes, that's part of it. In addition, it's non-fantastic because it's testable and based in the material world, and because I don't think that it addresses the question of what came before the big bang (claim that the universe came from "nothing"). I would say the "limit" in question is more of a "limit to claims that can be tested", and the key question will be whether or not their results match the predictions of the claims.

I could come up with plenty of possible proofs, but I'm afraid it might lead some to say that I'm asking for too much.

Joe,

"it might lead some to say that I'm asking for too much." I suspect you may be right about that.

Well then I think that about wraps it up for now. Thank you for clarifying the skeptical position to me.


Tony,

Saying we have no video, radar, lie detectors and living witnesses is absolutely ridiculous. The claims about Jesus walking the earth were in a time when none of this was available except living witnesses and this happened 2000 years ago. What they did have though were people who were martyred and went to the grave swearing they saw the living Christ after his death. No one would die for something they KNEW to be a lie. You cant throw out prophecy either. Specific details concerning the life of Christ were recorded hundreds of years before he came. The chances of one person fullfilling these specific prophecies is over 1 trillion to the tenth power. In other words "It just so happens" does not work here.

Jordan,

so do you believe that aliens have visited earth then?

Jordan,

The "fulfillment of prophecy" argument is just a variation on the "witness argument". How do you know if the prophecies were fulfilled or not? It's a matter of trusting the witnesses.

In addition, it's a matter of how certain OT words are interpreted (see how folks treat the words of Nostradamus).

In regard to the issue of witnesses of ufo and other; it seems to me that witnesses should be placed in several different categories.

One would be for vague witnesses, such as the ones who only see lights in the sky. They can not clearly tell what they are seeing, they may think it a flying saucer, but it might be a jet plane. This is equally true in court cases where the witness did not get a good look at the perpetrator, it was dark, I just saw them for a second, they were across the street, etc.

A second for witnesses who were drunk, or on drugs, anything that would limit the reliability of their senses.

The third category is for those who did get a good look, but may not understand/remember what they saw. You may see a car go down the road, but did you get the make/model/color? A lot of these details slip paced the average person.

The forth category would be for those who stand to gain from what they witness. If they gain money for their report, etc.

A fifth category would be for people who are familiar with the subject in question. If the person was someone who designed cars for a living, they might notice such things as make/model/color. I might not be able to ID a person I saw for a second running out of a bank, but I could ID a family member I have known for years.

Finally a sixth category would be groups of witnesses; where more than one person sees the same thing. This category would help guard against false reports, which is why in court it is important to have others able to back up your story.

Obviously the most credible witnesses will be from the fifth and sixth categories.

So, from this it seems like the witnesses in favor of Christ are on a firm basis, whereas the ufo witness generally are on less firm of a standing.

I have one simple thought. Let's just suppose aliens do exist (not saying that they do). We are still left with the question, "where did the first life come from?" The existence of aliens does not rule out the existence of a creator, right?

BEH,

Nice job of special pleading.

Start with the conclusion that you want ("our witnesses are better than your witnesses"), and then create the criteria.

Joe,

Can you give me reasons why you think these criteria are flawed/biased? I started with the basic question, 'what would make a witness’ observations more reliable?' and went from there. I don’t think this is a case of ‘special pleading’ at all. Even if I am mistaken in my conclusion and the reports for ufos are of better quality than I am aware; these criteria should help indicate the reliability of what the witnesses observed in any given case.

"What would make a witness’ observations more reliable."

How about corroborating physical evidence? This exists with alleged UFOs. When we turn to the question of the fantastic claims, this does not exist with your witnesses . How about supporting contemporaneous accounts from independent sources? You know, like someone else noticing a reaminated corpse. Again, this doesn't exist with respect to your witnesses. How about accounts written by your witnesses at the time of the witnessed events? Doesn't exist with your witnesses.

A problem with your fifth catagory? Familiarity with the subject in question could actually lead to more errors, because it could bias the way people to see what they see. That is, when people are familiar with a subject, they begin to begin to interpret what they see in terms of that subject. They may see what they want to see instead of seeing what actually is. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You could, in fact, get a more accurate account from a "naive" witness.

As far as groups of people are concerned, before this can be useful, we need the independent, first-person eyewitness statements from each and every member of the group before we can conclude we have a greater reliability. One person saying that a group saw something is actually just one person's witness; it's not a group witness. I would also add that groups of witnesses can be more inaccurate than individual witnesses because of way individuals in groups are influenced by the opinions of others in the group. Groups can be more wrong than individuals.

If you want to use your fifth and sixth catagories, we do some evidence that your witnesses fail to meet your fifth and sixth criteria.

Your witnesses failed to recognize Jesus, despite the fact that they knew Jesus for years. When your witnesses were assembled in a group, there was disagreement about what was being seen. Makes you wonder about their reliability.

In the end, your catagories may be essentially irrelevant as far as your witnesses are concerned, because we know so very little about your witnesses. We have essentially no information about these witnesses from independent sources. Even the Bible provides very little information about all but a handful of the people who are said to have seen the fantastic R.C. So, how are we to determine whether or not they even meet your criteria. For example, we know nothing about the drinking habits of your witnesses. I would add that we also have very few first-person witness account. Instead, we have compilations of stories in which the compliers are not the witnesses. And the compliers generally fail to identify the sources of information

In other words, it's really next to impossible to determine if your witnesses are better than anyone else's witnesses. It really comes down to which witnesses you prefer to believe. You can say your witnesses are better, but there is no way to accurately test the proposition.

Joe,

Question: since I have already expressed the opinion that ‘reanimated corpse’ is not the correct term to use, that I find it a distraction and an attempt to misrepresent the issue, why is it that you are insisting on using it when speaking to me?
Why is this important? Well, quite simply it comes down to the issue of what sort of conversation we are to have. Are you working toward an amicable conversation, or are you simply attempting to antagonize?

I am not trying to antagonize. I understand that you were initially unhappy with my term. I assumed that you would be less unhappy after I had explained why I chose this term. I used the term again for the same reasons I used it the first time. Precision and clarity.

If you wish to give me another term for the following, I'd be glad to use it. What shall we call the following?

A human body dies. It's completely and totally and unquestionably dead. All of the brain cells are dead. All of the other cells are dead. The process of decay and decompostion has begun.

Now, that same object becomes alive again. The brain is fully functional. Blood is pumped from a heart through blood vessels. The digestive tract produces fecal waste. It has all of the properties of a normal, living human body.

Give me a term, and I'll use it.

Joe,
Very well; personally I think the term ‘resurrection’ is adequate here, especial since you have stated very specifically that you are referring to a physical resurrection rather than a purely spiritual one. However 'physical resurrection' or 'bodily resurrection' would serve as well.

As for your earlier objections: I think this may be an issue of how the term ‘reliable’ is being used. My use was ‘if the witnesses are being truthfull, how much weight can we give their testimony? That is: how reliably did they witness it?’ How well did they see it? For how long did they see it? How likely are they to be mistaken about what they saw? But if your point is to question the ultimate truthfulness of their claim then yes, I agree that we still need corroborating evidence.
Before reviewing supporting evidence though I would say that the claims of the disciples are such that either they are telling the truth, or they are lying; I do not see how they could simply be mistaken. With the ufo cases, which are generally characterized as people seeing lights or seeing strange objects in the sky, those types of cases have a greater likelihood of being instances of misidentification (swamp gas, atmospheric conditions, secret experimental aircraft, etc). In such cases the claim itself is weakened by the poor conditions they had to witness it, (dark, distant, for a short time, etc) thus making a less reliable testimony for extraterrestrial spacecraft. Contrast this with Thomas putting his hand in Jesus side; either it is the truth or it is not, but it is pretty hard to make a mistake about something like that.
Does this establish the truth of the claim? By itself no; but it does establish how likely it is that the witnesses were simply mistaken in what they claim to have seen.

So, are we in general agreement about this so far?

Bodily resurrection it is.

"The claims of the disciples are such that either they are telling the truth, or they are lying."

I'm afraid that it's not that simple. I don't think that we can dismiss the possibility of error in observation. People under great stress can come to believe that they are seeing and hearing things that do not exist in a material sense (and we are talking about material bodies here). After my grandfather died, I sometimes saw him in my mind with such clarity that I might have concluded that he was still alive. People are falliable, people make mistakes, and that is not something that can ever be completely dismissed. That's especially so when the choice of explanations is between the conclusion that something seemingly impossible happened and conclusion that the explanation lies in the falliability of the human psyche.

Further, and I think more significantly, the testimonies in question are not recorded until long, long after the events are said to have occurred. The story of Thomas is a case in point. It only appears in John, and I believe that John is generally considered to be the last gospel written. That's plenty of time for events to become, well, enhanced in the telling. Further, the record of the post-crucifixion events is not a record written by the witnesses themselves, and that introduces the possibility for still more errors and enhancements.

With respect to aliens, I'm sure that you are aware that not all of the accounts involve something as simple or as vague as seeing lights in the sky. Many people really believe that they have had physical, material contact with aliens and their spacecraft under conditions of good lighting, etc. So, are they lying, deluded or telling the truth? Keep in mind that these accounts might be seen as stronger than the accounts of your witnesses because they include physical evidence, because the accounts are recorded by the witnesses at the time of the events (first-person and contemporaneous), and because they are, at least in part, corroborated by additional, independent, contemporaneous witness. The evidence of alien visitation is stronger than the evidence for bodily resurrection.


Joe,

“People under great stress can come to believe that they are seeing and hearing things that do not exist in a material sense”

I think we may be in danger of becoming a bit too open ended on this. Just because some people have had some hallucinations does not prove in any way that these people did, nor that hallucinations would serve as an adequate explanation for what they did. Jesus’ resurrection came at the end of a long line of miracles, miracles other people would remember. The blind seeing, the lame walking, raising Lazarus from the dead, etc. If we attribute Christ’s rising from the dead to be strictly a mass hallucination had by the disciples, are we to also assume that they hallucinated the miracles as well? And if so, why should any of the people have listened to them? The disciples would have been considered to be insane, and nothing more. The priest would have shown the people Jesus’ body and that would have been the end of it. The Disciples would stand up and say ‘you know when Jesus fed five thousand men with just five roles and two fish?’ and the crowed would have said, ‘no, we were there, it did not happen!’
Instead many of the people did believe what the disciples said; believe it so strongly they were willing to be tortured and killed for their belief. Are we to assume that they all had incredibly short memories?

“With respect to aliens, I'm sure that you are aware that not all of the accounts involve something as simple or as vague as seeing lights in the sky”
Are there particular cases you wish to bring up?

"Just because some people have had some hallucinations does not prove in any way that these people did, nor that hallucinations would serve as an adequate explanation for what they did."

When people make fantastic claims, then yes, hallucinations can always serve as an adequate explanation. Certainly, hallucination is always are more likely explanation than an explanation that is contrary to everything we understand about how the world works. when people really want to believe that something is so, it's remarkable what the mind can do. See the accounts of those anally probed by aliens...do you believe that these are hallucinations or not?

Miracles.

Where are the descriptions of the miracles found? Any first-person witness statements from each of the disciples saying "I saw Jesus turn water into wine"? Any contemporaneous corroboration of the miracles? Any evidence that the Roman rulers took any notice of man performing a remarkable series of miracles? Any physical evidence?

Assume that there is a long line of miracles. Then what explains the doubts of the disciples when they allegedly saw the resurrected body? Why did they fail to recognize Jesus when they saw him? If these folks were so used to seeing miracles, if they believed that Jesus was a miracle man, then there should be no reason for doubt or confusion when Jesus returns from the dead.

"Many of the people did believe what the disciples said; believe it so strongly they were willing to be tortured and killed for their belief."

Let's try a little re-wording here...

"Many of the people did believe what Joseph Smith said; believe it so strongly they were willing to be tortured and killed for their belief."

So, Joseph Smith was telling the truth, right?

As far as witnesses of aliens goes, I believe that RonH recommended "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens".

One other point about the reliability of your witnesses. Paul claims that he was told that 500 people saw the resurrected body. I think it's very, very unlikely that this could be accurate. Paul's account is not reliable.

Joe,

“When people make fantastic claims, then yes, hallucinations can always serve as an adequate explanation.” Well I guess that says it all. Why bother debating further, we have reached the end of the line. If you are right and group hallucinations can ‘always’ serve as adequate explanations then the skeptic will always pick it. You have no evidence that this was a case of hallucination. No evidence at all.

“Certainly, hallucination is always are more likely explanation than an explanation that is contrary to everything we understand about how the world works.” Contrary? How is that? Even skeptic say they do not rule out the possibility of God existing, and if He exists the miraculous would not be contrary at all.

You list the doubts the disciples had as flaws in the story, I see them as strengths. You said that people have ‘when people really want to believe that something is so, it's remarkable what the mind can do.’ Yet they had doubts, it was not a matter of them willing themselves into believing, they had doubts but were convinced by the evidence shown them.

“Any contemporaneous corroboration of the miracles?” According to Edwin Yamauchi, PH.D, the Jewish Talmud does refer to Jesus as a false messiah who practiced magic.

“Joseph Smith” a different case entirely, one that should be reviewed on its own merits, not lumped in here.

“Paul claims that he was told that 500 people saw the resurrected body. I think it's very, very unlikely that this could be accurate. Paul's account is not reliable.”
Craig Blomberg, PH.D. would disagree with you, in fact he is uses that reference to support the accuracy of the New Testiment in ‘The Case for Christ’

"You have no evidence that this was a case of hallucination."

And you have no evidence that it wasn't. You have no physical evidence, no contemporaneous first-person accounts, no comtemporaneous corroboration from independent sources. Here we have the most remarkable, amazing, fantastic series of events in the entire human history of the world. But these events left no contemporaneous written or physical record. At the time of the events, very few people seem to have noticed these remarkable, amazing, unprecedented, fantastic, miraculous occurences. Very odd.

In any event, with regards to hallucinations, I don't know that it was hallucination, and you don't know that it wasn't hallucination. The question is, which is more likely, given what we know about the human mind, including the way minds can be manipulated in group settings? (By the way, since you care so much about terms, I'm not sure that "hallucination" is necessarily the best term here)

Can I completely and totally rule out "supernatural". Nope. But how often have you, personally, chosen a supernatural explanation over a natural explanation for all of the events that you have observed in your life? How often have you favored a supernatural explanation for any and all of the events in human history? How about when the claims are made be people of a different faith? How about in Joe Smith's case? Smith's case is not entirely different, and it does deserve to be lumped in here, because it offers a much better documented case of the origin of a religion, and there are many parallels with the origin of Christianity.

"They had doubts but were convinced by the evidence shown them."

Again, given their pre-crucifixion experiences, I see little reason for why they should have doubted at all. I certainly see little reason for the failture to recognize Jesus when they saw him. I suspect that the references to doubters was made necessary by the reality that there were many who were close to the action and who continued to doubt the claims of those who talked of a resurrected body. The continued existence of the doubters, and the challenge posed by the doubters, could not be ignored. So we have the story that the doubters were later convinced.

The late appearence of the Thomas story is a good example of this backfilling process. I've always thought that it was an odd coincidence that the story in John assigns the name of Thomas to the doubter. Why "Thomas"? I suspect that this may have been in response to the existence of alternative views of Jesus that were circulating at the time as the "Gospel of Thomas". Could just be a coincidence, but I wonder.

In reality, we don't know if the doubters were convinced or not, because we don't have individual first-person witness statements. We don't know, specifially, who doubted, we don't know why they doubted, we don't know who later changed their minds and we don't know who remained unconvinced. The stories that we have in the gospel accounts are passed down from the handful of people who thought they encountered Jesus in some way after his death. The views of those who were close to the action, but who saw things differently were unrecorded or didn't survive. These are the accounts that I'd like to be able to read, but unfortunately, we only get one side of the story in the record that remains.

"According to Edwin Yamauchi, PH.D, the Jewish Talmud does refer to Jesus as a false messiah who practiced magic."

And what is the date for this reference? When does the Jewish Talmud first refer to Jesus as a false messiah?

"Craig Blomberg, PH.D. would disagree with you, in fact he is uses that reference to support the accuracy of the New Testiment in ‘The Case for Christ’"

Well, that's nice, but I don't know Craig Blomberg, and I'm not familiar with his argument. I do know that if the resurrected body of a messiah appeared before 500 people, then Jerusalem would have blown sky high. Didn't happen.

>>At the time of the events, very few people seem to have noticed these remarkable, amazing, unprecedented, fantastic, miraculous occurences.

Joe, sometimes you're ridiculous. You asked, "Where are the people to corroborate it?" so Paul tells about 500 living eyewitnesses, and you excuse this with no argument whatsoever by saying you find it "unlikely," therefore it's not reliable, and therefore nobody corroborated it. A little circular, you think? You asked for something contemporary, and I showed you a contemporary creed about the resurrection dated as early as one or two years after the resurrection. You said that wasn't contemporary enough.

Here's what I conclude, Joe. Either you'll find a way to discount whatever answer we give (e.g., to expect to find a source "more contemporary" than one or two years for an ancient event in order for it to count as contemporary is just silliness), you don't want to hear an answer, or you don't really care.

And additionally, this isn't contrary to "the way the world works" since "the way the world works" in orderly, meaningful ways rather than random and meaningless, and the existence of real, non-physical things that are completely different kinds of things than matter and so could not come from it, rationality, morality, etc. all point to a personal mind behind it all. It's "the way the word works" that gives the background and foundation for believing that the resurrection really happened and makes atheism so unlikely.

>>I do know that if the resurrected body of a messiah appeared before 500 people, then Jerusalem would have blown sky high. Didn't happen.

Actually, if that had happened immediately, that would have given me less reason to believe in the resurrection, because it would have undermined everything the Gospels say about Jesus. (It did, of course, happen when the unrest got great enough for the Romans to come shut everything down in 70AD.) But if it had happened immediately when those who had actually followed Jesus saw him, that would have proved that the stories about Jesus were made up later. Why? Because Jesus made it very clear to His followers that He did not come to cause political unrest. He made it clear to His followers what He expected of them after He left. If, then, those who were familiar with Him saw Him alive, we would not expect a political revolt. Therefore, if a political revolt happened, we would know at the very least that the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels was not the Jesus these people knew.

"This isn't contrary to "the way the world works"

How often have you, personally, chosen a supernatural explanation over a natural explanation for all of the events that you have observed in your life? How often have you favored a supernatural explanation for any and all of the events in human history? How about when the claims are made be people of a different faith?

"Paul tells about 500 living eyewitnesses."

I don't think that you get it. Paul's account is one person's account. It's the testimony of a single witness. It's also a hearsay account. It's not the same as the eyewitness testimony of 500 people, so it's not the same as 500 witnesses. We have one witness (Paul) who is not an eyewitness. Paul could have used any number he pleased. Say that someone heard about what Paul said and disagreed with him. What could they do about it?

"You asked for something contemporary, and I showed you a contemporary creed about the resurrection dated as early as one or two years after the resurrection."

Well, I'm not sure that the dating of this creed is a settled matter. You are taking the most favorable estimate and treating it as fact. And again, the statement is made by someone who was NOT an eyewitness. It's not even clear what "appeared" means, because Paul ranks his experience as equal to those of Peter, and we know that Paul did not see the resurrected body. Then Paul goes on to chide others for expecting that "resurrection" means that you get your physical body back, suggesting that resurrection may mean something different from a physical, flesh and blood body brought back to biological life.

“Jesus made it very clear to His followers that He did not come to cause political unrest.”

I’m not so sure about that. There’s some ambiguities in the words attributed to Jesus. I think that it would have been easy for many of his followers to believe that Jesus was trying to bring about a Kingdom of God on Earth, whether Jesus intended this or not. I think that many interpreted the OT prophecies as promising a new Israel, a new political kingdom, with the Romans out and the Jews triumphant, and it would have been easy to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy. You see, it doesn’t really matter what Jesus intended. It’s how fallible humans respond that matters. It’s how humans with their own hopes and dreams interpret events that matters. I also think that it’s clear from the NT that Jesus’ followers didn’t always do as Jesus said to do.

“If those who were familiar with Him saw Him alive, we would not expect a political revolt.”

I think you’re wrong, because I think that you fail to appreciate how humans actually behave, especially in crowds, especially when they are primed to revolt. Further, you fail to take into account the behavior of those who aren’t especially close to Jesus, but who hear from others that the messiah killed by the hated Romans is invincible and has returned from the dead and has been seen by 500 people. A resurrected Jesus might be able to control a small number of close companions. He would not be able to control the entire population of the region. The day after 500 people see the resurrected physical body of potential messiah, the day after 500 people see that the hated Romans can not kill Jesus, the day after 500 people see the most incredible, amazing, fantastic thing in the history of the world…you have thousands and thousand of people pouring into Jerusalem, looking for the messiah. It leaves a mark. It doesn’t matter if Jesus never appears again. You can not stop tens of thousands of people from looking for him. You can not stop tens of thousands of people from blowing the place sky high. It’s an exponential reaction that starts with 500, and there’s no way to control it.

(Ironically, had Paul kept his claims modest, he would actually be much more credible than he is.)


"Either you'll find a way to discount whatever answer we give, you don't want to hear an answer, or you don't really care."

If I was of another faith, if I was trying to convince you of the supernatural elements of my faith, if I was trying to convince you that my faith is the only true faith...then you would respond to me exactly as I've responded to the apologists here. Would that make you silly or ridiculous?

Forgot something.

"It would have undermined everything the Gospels say about Jesus."

You're forgetting that the gospels are written decades after Jesus was gone. That's plenty of time to re-interpret and re-draw the potrait of Jesus in light of events on the ground at the time the gospels were written. It's not a radical claim to say that all writings reflects the period in which they are written, and the gospels do not necessarily reflect the actual, historical Jesus. Nor do they necessarily accurately reflect everything that Jesus did or did not say. Sure would have been nice if Jesus had left behind an autobiography.

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