bookmark_borderTorley’s Response to Cavin & Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus

This was apparently published last December, but I wasn’t aware of it until today. Vincent Torley provides an interesting Intelligent Design perspective on C&C’s slide presentation on the resurrection of Jesus.
LINK

bookmark_borderCavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 3: The Projection and Unknown Removal Theories

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s third main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC3. There is an alternative theory to the Resurrection that is a far superior explanation.

1. Explanatory Power Revisited
Although repetitive, for the convenience of the reader, I’m going to repeat what I wrote at the beginning of Part 2 since it bears directly upon Part 3. In order to properly assess CC3,

… it’s crucial that we first clarify what “explanation” means. In order to do that, let us begin by reviewing some basic concepts from Part 1 of this series. Let us divide the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.
These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

In Part 2, we saw that H (combined with B) does not predict E more than not-H (~H), and so H does not explain E. In this post, I will discuss C&C’s argument that one version of ~H, the combination of the “Projection” and “Unknown Removal” Theories, when combined with B, does predict E more than H, and so ~H does explain E.
2. Why Even Outlandish Naturalistic Hypotheses Are Better Explanations than the Resurrection
Here is C&C on slides 250-251:

What this means is that, their protestations to the contrary not withstanding, resurrectionists do not take the (alleged) historical facts seriously—they have no explanation for the empty tomb or the postmortem appearances of Jesus. Even the most outlandish “naturalistic” hypothesis—e.g., Deceptive Space Aliens—is a better explanation of the (alleged) historical facts than the indeterminate unknown postulated by the “X-Man” theory!

Let R be the Resurrection hypothesis and let X be any naturalistic hypothesis which predicts (i.e., makes probable) the evidence to be explained. In its logical form, then, C&C’s argument seems to be this.

(1) Given two or more rival explanations for the evidence to be explained, the best explanation is the explanation which has the overall greatest balance of prior probability and explanatory power.
(2) The evidence to be explained–Jesus’s empty tomb and his postmortem appearances–is known to be true. [assumption]
(3) R has an extremely low prior probability, i.e., Pr(R|B) is virtually zero. [From the Anti-resurrection Prior Probability Argument]
(4) R, by itself, has no explanatory power, i.e., Pr(E|R&B) = 0.
(5) X explains the evidence to be explained and has explanatory power B, i.e., Pr(E|X&B) > 1/2. [by definition]
(6) X has a non-zero prior probability, i.e., Pr(X|B) > 0.
(7) X has a greater overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power than R, i.e., Pr(X|B) x Pr(E|X&B) > Pr(R|B) x Pr(E|R&B).

If correct, this argument shows that even outlandish naturalistic theories–i.e., those with very low but not negligible prior probabilities–are better than the Resurrection theory as an explanation. But, C&C argue, there is a non-outlandish naturalistic theory which explains the data even better.
3. The Projection and Unknown Removal Theories
As I read them, C&C defend what I call a “Combination Theory” to explain the postmortem appearances of Jesus and the empty tomb. They defend what I call the “Projection Theory” as an explanation for the postmortem appearances of Jesus and what I call the “Unknown Removal Theory” to explain the empty tomb. In their words:

This theory of the unknown removal of the corpse of Jesus from the tomb and group hallucinations based on strong expectations has a higher overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power than the Resurrection! [slide 263]

Regarding this Combination Theory, they write:

Such hallucinations might be nocturnal and hypnopomic—coming out of dreams “replaying” the suggestions of the premortem Jesus—and thus seem utterly real! Being in the form of visions, the idiosyncratic nature of the group hallucinations would be of no concern. The tomb in Jerusalem would be too far away to aversely affect the disciples’ expectations. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the body of Jesus would have been moved from the tomb without his family and followers knowing.  [slides (259-262)]

I reconstruct C&C’s argument for this Combination Theory as follows.
B: The Relevant Background Evidence
1. Jesus saw himself as some kind of messianic figure.  [defended on slides 254-257]
2. Jesus believed he must die in that capacity.  [defended on slides 254-257]
3. Jesus told his disciples to go to Galilee, after his death, where they would see him in heavenly glory.  [defended on slides 254-257]
4. The disciples were eagerly expecting Jesus to rise from the dead and appear to them from “heaven” in Galilee. [defended on slides 254-257]
5. “On Friday, April 7, 30 C.E.: Jesus was brutally scourged and crucified by Roman soldiers as a political criminal; he died on the cross at about 3:00 P.M.”[1]
6. “By sunset Friday, April 7. 30 C.E.: Jesus was removed from the cross, placed in graveclothes, and laid in a tomb; and a very heavy stone was set in front of the entrance.”[2]
7. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the body of Jesus would have been moved from the tomb without his family and followers knowing. [slide 262]
E: The Evidence to be Explained
1.  “Mary Magdalene and other women found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb, at about sunrise on Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E. The graveclothes in which Jesus had been buried were found lying neatly on the bench of the tomb somewhat later that morning.”[3]
2. “Certain individuals and groups, at various times and places, had what they took to be encounters (visual and auditory) with Jesus risen from the dead. These witnesses were:
a. Mary Magdalene and another woman near the tomb on the morning of Sunday, April 9,30 C.E.
b. Simon Peter in Jerusalem in the late morning or early afternoon of Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E.
c. The eleven disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E.
d. The disciples in Galilee sometime in late April or early May 30 C.B.
e. A group of over five hundred individuals in Galilee (7) sometime in late April or early May 30 C.B.
f. James (the presumed brother of Jesus) sometime in later.
g. All of the apostles (including James) sometime later.”[4]
H: Rival Explanatory Hypotheses
R’: A supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, involving Jesus as a bodily raised corpse, took place. [see slides 188-189]
P: The disciplines projected their expectations in the form of group hallucinations and false memories. [see slide 258]
U: Unknown to the disciples, someone removed the corpse of Jesus from the tomb.
The Argument Formulated

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | P & U & B) > Pr(E | R’ & B).
(3) Pr(P & U | B) !> Pr(R’ | B).
(4) Therefore, Pr(P & U | E & B) > Pr(R’ | E & B). [From (2) and (3)]

4. Conclusion
C&C conclude that the combination of P&U is a vastly superior explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus to the Resurrection hypothesis.
Notes
[1] Robert Greg Cavin, “Miracles, Probability, and the Resurrection of Jesus: A Philosophical, Mathematical, and Historical Study,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Irvine, 1993, p. 313.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid, pp. 313-314.

bookmark_borderCavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 2: The Failure of the Resurrection ‘Explanation’

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s second main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC2. The Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.

1. Explanatory Power

In order to properly assess CC2, it’s crucial that we first clarify what “explanation” means. In order to do that, let us begin by reviewing some basic concepts from Part 1 of this series. Let us divide the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.

These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

The key takeaway is that if H (combined with B) does not predict E more than not-H (~H), then H does not explain E.

2. Four Problems with the Resurrection Hypothesis

2.1. Licona’s Resurrection Hypothesis is a Circular Explanation

“H explains E” is a necessary condition for H to be an explanation of E. But what does it mean for H to explain E? As Jan Narveson writes, part of what it means to say that H explains E is that H helps us understand how or why H leads to E (or, at least, how or why H gives us more reason to expect E than ~H does).

Well, for one thing, an explanation has to explain. That is: the proposal, the hypothesis, put forward as doing the explaining has to be such that, once you understand the thing and you understand the phenomenon to be explained, you can see how, yes, one of those things would lead to one of these things being the way it is–and not some other way.

Let us define a circular explanation as follows.

H is a circular explanation of E if (1) H is explicitly defined as the hypothesis that E is true; and (2) if the explicit reference to E is removed from H, the remaining content in H does not help us understand how or why H leads to E (or, at least, how or why H gives us more reason to expect E than ~H does).

So the problem with circular explanations is that they are no explanations at all. They successfully predict that E is true (or more likely to be true) without helping us to understand how or why E is true (or more likely to be true).

Cavin & Colombetti (C&C) observe that, on Licona’s definition of the Resurrection hypothesis, the Resurrection hypothesis is a circular explanation for the resurrection and empty tomb. Consider Licona’s definition.

Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus appeared to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse.[1]

The italicized words are the explicit references to the postmortem appearances. Licona’s hypothesis predicts the postmortem appearances only because he builds the appearances into his hypothesis. His hypothesis does not, however, explain how or why Jesus appeared to people after his death.

2.2. Non-Circular Versions of the Resurrection Hypothesis Lack Explanatory Scope and Explanatory Power

C&C’s second objection follows from their first. If we modify Licona’s hypotheses by removing the explicit references to the appearances, the remaining content isn’t very informative. The Resurrection hypothesis becomes the claim that there was

a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, [involving] Jesus [as a] bodily raised corpse.

The problem, of course, is that this modified Resurrection hypothesis no longer predicts the empty tomb and the appearances (or, at least, it no longer makes the appearances more probable than the hypothesis that Jesus was not resurrected does.)

2.3. The Resurrection Hypothesis is Ad Hoc

Let us begin by defining “revivification” as a generic term to encompass any transformation of a corpse into a living body of some kind. One kind of revivification is resuscitation, viz., the mere restoration of a corpse to its original premortem state. For example, the New Testament claims that Lazarus was resuscitated. Another kind of revivification is resurrection, viz., the transformation of the corpse into a living, powerful, incorruptible, and glorious body which can never again suffer illness, injury or death. The New Testament claims that Jesus was resurrected, not merely resuscitated (as was Lazarus).

Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine that we know nothing about the New Testament, but, somehow and at the same time, we know that (a) Jesus was dead; (b) Jesus was buried in a tomb; and (c) Jesus was resurrected from the dead. We would not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances because the resurrection hypothesis, by itself, tells us nothing about the postmortem activities of Jesus. For example, it’s possible that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and stayed in the tomb, admiring his transformed body. Or, after the Resurrection, perhaps Jesus teleported to central America and appeared to people there so that he could be crucified again.

In order to rule out these and countless other scenarios, Resurrectionists must make “dubious assumptions about the postmortem activities of Jesus” (184). As C&C explain, these assumptions include “the Ascension, the ability to pass through solid matter and to appear and disappear at will, telepathy, clairvoyance, and the power to create ‘heavenly’ visions of glory” (185). The problem with these assumptions, however, is that they are not implied by either the modified Resurrection hypothesis or our existing (background) knowledge (184). This is what I take C&C to mean when they charge that the Resurrection hypothesis is ad hoc.

Cavin & Colombetti (C&C) provide a brilliant parable to illustrate this point.

Suppose Jones is found empty by Peter, John, and the two Marys. Later that morning, Jones is seen by the two Marys. Later that day, Jones is see at the club by his two employees. And three years later, people see Jones skydiving.

The hypothesis, “Jones woke up,” would not and does not predict the empty house; Jones’ appearance to the two Marys and his employees; or his skydiving. Jones’ waking up is, at best, a necessary but not a sufficient condition for his post-waking activities. What would predict the empty house is not the “wakening” hypothesis, but the “leaving” hypothesis: Jones left the house.  Along the same lines, the “wakening” hypothesis doesn’t predict any of Jones’ appearances; we need one or more other hypo
theses to explain them.

2.4. “Atoms or Schmatoms” Explanatory Dilemma

Again, consider the modified, non-circular version of Licona’s resurrection hypothesis. There was

a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, [involving] Jesus [as a] bodily raised corpse.

The “indeterminate nature” of the risen Jesus creates another explanatory problem for the Resurrection hypothesis: it turns the risen Jesus into an “X-Man.” But how can an indeterminate, an unknown “X,” explain any historical facts (194)? C&C argue that it can’t. In support, they present the “‘Atoms or Schmatoms’ Explanatory Dilemma.”

(1) If Jesus was revivified from the dead, his post-revivification body was either composed of atoms or schmatoms.

(2) If Jesus’s post-revivification body was composed of atoms, then Jesus was not resurrected.

I want to make two comments regarding this premise.

First, the resurrection body, by definition (I Cor. 15), is supposed to be imperishable (immortal, unable to age, get sick, be injured, etc.). A body composed of atoms would not have these properties, and, thus, for that reason, not be a resurrection body. (In contemporary physical chemistry, I think, each molecule is defined as composed of a certain number of atoms of a certain subset of the elements in a certain configuration, and element is, turn, defined as composed of X number of protons, neutrons, electrons, etc., and that each of these particles is defined as having a certain mass, charge, spin, half-life, etc.)

Second, a body made of atoms (even assuming we can "stretch" the meaning of the term "resurrection" to encompass it) would be at best negligibly likely to lead to the empty tomb and postmortem appearance stories of Jesus as we find them in the gospels. A Jesus made of atoms would require energy (food) to survive, move, etc.; would thus realize that he’s not immortal, etc.; would be unable to disappear from the tomb and reappear outside and to disappear in Emmaus and reappear in the Upper Room; would quickly realize that he could be injured; and, thus, injured and killed by old his enemies if he re-entered the city to go meet his disciples there, etc.

(3) If Jesus’ post-revivification body was composed of something else (“schmatoms”), then there is no way to make testable predictions about what the post-revivification Jesus would be or do.

(4) If there is no way to make testable predictions about what a Jesus composed of schmatoms would be or do, then a Jesus composed of schmatoms does not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances.

(5) If a Jesus composed of scmatoms does not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances, it cannot explain an empty tomb or postmortem appearances.

(6) Therefore, either the postmortem Jesus was not resurrected or the resurrection of the postmortem Jesus cannot explain the empty tomb or the postmortem appearances.

3. Conclusion

C&C conclude that the Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.

Notes

[1] Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 582-83. Italics are mine.

bookmark_borderCavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 1: The Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

As I reported earlier, Greg Cavin has graciously allowed us to publish the slides for his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus. While only Cavin debated Licona, both Cavin and Carlos Colombetti  (C&C) co-authored the slides used in the debate, so I’ve mentioned both C&C in the title.

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s first main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC1. The prior probability of a specifically supernatural Resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that the Resurrection Theory has virtually zero (0) plausibility.

1. Prior Probability, Explanatory Power, and Final Probability

In order to properly assess CC1, it’s crucial that we first clarify what “prior probability” means. In order to do that, let us begin by dividing the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.

These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

Bayes’s Theorem states that the final probability of a hypothesis is a function of both its prior probability and its explanatory power. So the final probability of a hypothesis is the probability that a hypothesis is true, conditional upon both our background evidence and the evidence to be explained.

A common mistake made by many people is to confuse prior and final probabilities. For example, suppose someone, call him Thomas, says that a hypothesis H has a prior probability of 1 in 100 billion. Does it follow that Thomas thinks H is false? No! All that follows is just that Thomas thinks the prior probability of H is 1 in 100 billion. In order to figure out whether Thomas thinks H is true, we need to know what Thomas thinks about H’s explanatory power. Thomas might think that H’s explanatory power is so high that it completely outweighs its prior probability, in which case Thomas will (if he is rational) think that H is probably true.

Let us now turn to C&C’s defense of CC1.

2. The Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

The statistical syllogism is an inductively correct argument that moves from general to particular: “what is generally, but not universally, true (or false) is also true (or false) for a particular case.”[1] It has the following form.

1. X% of Fs are Gs.
2. a is F.
3. Therefore, [it is X% probable] a is G.

Because the statistical syllogism explicitly refers to probability, the interpretation of a statistical syllogism is dependent upon the probability interpretation used in the argument. For example, if one adopts a frequency interpretation of the probability value X, then one will have a corresponding frequency interpretation of the statistical syllogism. According to the frequency interpretation of the statistical syllogism, F is called the reference class, the class of individuals or properties that a belongs to or is referred to. G is called the attribute class, the class that has the property attributed to a.[2]

In a statistical syllogism, regardless of how one interprets probability, X can refer to either a single value (i.e., 65%) or a range of values (i.e., 90-95%). We often use fuzzy probabilities for X to represent a range of values without providing actual numbers for the limits of the range.[3] Fuzzy probabilities are expressed with phrases like most of, usually, probably, often, frequently, almost all, vast majority, high percentage, and the like.

Also regardless of the probability interpretation used, inductively correct statistical syllogisms must obey two rules. First, X must be greater than 50%; the closer X is to 100%, the stronger the argument.[4] Second, the statistical syllogism, like all inductive arguments, must obey the Rule of Total Evidence, which is the requirement that the premises of an inductively correct argument must represent all of the available relevant evidence. “Relevant” here means something that can affect the probability (X) of the conclusion. In the context of the statistical syllogism, when selecting the reference class F, we must consider the class that is most relevant to the probability that a is a G. In practical terms, this translates into two requirements. First, the defining properties of F are relevant to a’s being G, and, second, F is the most narrowly specified of such classes.[5]

In support of CC1, C&C present the following statistical syllogism, which they label, accordingly, the “anti-resurrection prior probability statistical syllogism” (slide 108).

1. 99.999…999% of the dead are not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.
2. Jesus was dead.
3. Therefore, [it is 99.999…999% probable that] Jesus was not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.

Here we see the importance of the earlier distinction between prior probability and final probability. While the argument’s name refers to prior probability, the actual conclusion of the statistical syllogism does not. This might give one the incorrect impression that C&C are claiming that the final probability of Jesus’s being dead is 99.999…999%.

3. The Justification for the Probability Estimate in the Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

One incorrect way to interpret the statistical syllogism would be to think it refers refers to the percentage of the dead who are not supernaturally interfered with by God. In that case, one might get the impression that C&C’s basis for that prior probability value just is an appeal to observational-relative frequencies. Such an interpretation would be incorrect, however.

In the context of refuting Licona’s assumption that C&C’s argument presupposes atheistic naturalism, their anti-resurrection prior probability argument is based on negative natural theology, i.e., the Via Negativa, specifically on the tendency of God not to interfere with the decomposition of dead bodies – to not supernaturally raise the dead. Thus, according to C&C, the correct way to interpret the anti-resurrection prior probability argument is to interpret it using the epistemic interpretation of probability.

While observational-relative frequencies are often used for calculating prior probabilities, C&C make it clear that they believe observational-relative frequencies are “particularly ill-suited for the purposes of calculating the prior probability of the Resurrection” (274). This is because “for all or almost all of us the observational frequency of resurrections is strictly zero, yet inferential statistics does not permit us to calculate a strictly zero prior probability from (finite) observational frequencies of zero” (275-276).

So how
, precisely, do C&C justify their astronomically low prior probability value for the Resurrection? Statistical Mechanics. Appealing to the “Postulate of Equal A Priori Probabilities,” C&C point out that all microstates having the same energy have the same prior probability. In the case of Jesus’ corpse, the equally epistemically probable microstates in which the corpse of Jesus is dead vastly outnumber those in which his body is alive (316). Because that is so, “the prior [epistemic] probability that the body will die and undergo complete decomposition”—in other words, the prior [epistemic] probability that the corpse will not resurrect—is “virtually 100%” (320-21).

It seems, then, that C&C want to make an inference from natural revelation, namely:

(NR) 99.999…999% of the dead decompose, viz., 99.999…999% of the potential microstates of a post-mortem body are microstates in which the body is dead.

to a generalization about supernatural resurrection:

(SR) 99.999…999% of the dead are not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.

This inference appears to rely upon the following principle (the “Via Negativa”):

(VN) Necessarily, if God causes it to be the case that P, then P.

Notice that VN entails that necessarily, if ~P, then God does not cause it to be the case that P.

In order to see an example of how C&C justify the inference from (NR) to (SR) using (VN), let us now turn to an objection. Their response to this objection illustrates how they believe the inference from (NR) to (SR) can be justified.

4. The Divine Interference Objection

One obvious objection to the anti-resurrection prior probability argument is that it ignores the possibility of divine interference: “the one hundred billion people who’ve died and stayed dead prove only that apart from God’s supernatural intervention the dead don’t rise” (61). Since God has the power to supernaturally raise the dead, the anti-resurrectionist must show that God would not supernaturally raise Jesus from the dead. C&C call this the “divine interference objection.”

In response, however, C&C argue that “it’s a blatant straw man” to saddle them “with the view that the antecedent probability of what God wills must be determined a priori” (95). The divine interference objection is fallacious, they argue, because it ignores “the evidence of God’s self-revelation in Nature—seen a posteriori in everyday experience and science” (96). That evidence shows that God “has an exceptionally strong tendency not to supernaturally intervene in natural affairs” and, indeed, “not to supernaturally raise the dead” (103-04). Thus, using the Via Negativa, we don’t need to speculate a priori about what God would do; rather, we can empirically discover what God does and, more important, does not do. “Since whatever God wills to happen must happen, it follows that the antecedent [epistemic] probability that God would will Jesus to rise from the dead is astronomically low” (105).  Accordingly, C&C conclude that the anti-resurrection prior probability argument stands.

Notes

[1] Merrilee H. Salmon, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking (third ed., Harcourt Brace: New York, 1995), 99.

[2] I owe these definitions to Salmon 1995, 100.

[3] Cf. L.A. Zadeh, Fuzzy Sets, Fuzzy Logic, and Fuzzy Systems: Selected Papers (River’s Edge, NJ: World Scientific, 1996).

[4] If Z were to equal 100%, then the generalization would be categorized as a universal generalization, not a statistical generalization. The argument would then become a deductive argument.

[5] William Gustafson, Reasoning from Evidence: Inductive Logic (Macmillan: New York, 1994), 50.

bookmark_borderMUST READ: Greg Cavin’s Case Against the Resurrection of Jesus

Greg Cavin has graciously allowed me to publish a PDF version of his slides from his debate with Michael Licona on the resurrection of Jesus. For anyone interested in arguments for or against the resurrection of Jesus, these slides are an absolute must read. In my opinion, they constitute a major contribution to the ongoing debate about the Resurrection and are the best case against the Resurrection yet presented. Cavin decisively refutes arguments for the resurrection made by all of its prominent defenders, such as the McGrews, Swinburne, Craig, Davis, Habermas, Licona, Geisler, McDowell, and Strobel.

In his slides, Cavin defends three main contentions.
1. The prior probability of a specifically supernatural Resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that the Resurrection Theory has virtually zero (0) plausibility.
2. The Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.
3. There is an alternative theory to the Resurrection that is a far superior explanation.
In defense of these three contentions, Cavin identifies and refutes sixteen (16) myths perpetuated by Christians who defend the Resurrection. (The numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the PDF file.) Cavin’s refutation of these objections constitutes a tour-de-force against Resurrection apologetics.

  1. The Burden’s on the Skeptic Objection: The skeptic is required to explain the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus. (37-45)
  2. The Skeptic Assumes Atheism Objection: The skeptic falsely assumes that God does not exist, so his skepticism about the Resurrection is unjustified. (46-49)
  3. The Natural–Not-Supernatural–Resurrection-is-Impossible Objection: Resurrection cannot be caused by purely natural means. (50-56)
  4. The Divine Interference Objection: The skeptic wrongly ignores God’s supernatural intervention saying that the Resurrection has a low prior probability. (45-117)
  5. The Best Explanation Objection: The Resurrection theory is the best explanation of the Empty Tomb and Postmortem Appearances of Jesus. (118-226)
  6. The Frequencies Objection: It is a fallacy to appeal to frequencies as evidence for the low prior probability of the Resurrection since this ignores the action of external agents. (227-277)
  7. The Science Objection: Science cannot prove that the Resurrection is improbable. (278-324)
  8. The Total Evidence Objection: The prior probability of the Resurrection is inscrutable because the total relevant evidence isn’t available. (325-335)
  9. The Religio-Historical Context Objection: The skeptic ignores the religio-historical context of the Resurrection. (336-351)
  10. The Reference Class Objection: It is impossible to determine the correct reference class for the Resurrection. (352-354)
  11. The Naturalism Objection: The anti-resurrectionist assumes the truth of naturalism. (355-367)
  12. The Criteria of Adequacy Objection: The Resurrection Theory alone satisfies all the Criteria of Adequacy. (368-373)
  13. The Mathematics Objection: Mathematical probability cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (374-380)
  14. The Plausibility-Prior Probability Objection: Plausibility must be used as a criterion in place of prior probability. (381-387)
  15. The Anti-Bayes’ Theorem Objection: Bayes’ Theorem cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (388-425)
  16. The There-Are-No–Contradictions-in-the-Easter-Narratives Objection: The skeptic falsely holds that there are no contradictions in the Easter narratives. (426-430)