Public message # 4096 CULT_WATCH ECHO Entered 15:58 Thursday 16-May-91 To: All Re: Ev

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Public message # 4096 CULT_WATCH ECHO Entered 15:58 Thursday 16-May-91 From: James Robert Pierce on 8:7000/27 To: All Re: Evidence??? Evidence That Demands a Verdict? The Christian invertibly remarks that the "eyewitness" testimonies contained in the four gospels concerning the resurrection of Jesus constitute evidence which demands a verdict. Is this true; should a verdict be given concerning the testimony of Jesus' resurrection? First, let me make it clear, this post doesn't prove that Jesus didn't rise from the dead! This post considers the nature of evidence and testimony as it applies to the resurrection narratives. The testimony of an individual always involves the inference of that individual, i.e. testimony will always include what the witness inferred to be the case from his/her own experience, or point of view. However, for testimony to count as evidence it must be of such a nature that it is restrained to just the facts of any case. Furthermore, the testimony, in order to be considered evidence, must refer to matters of fact of common and certain knowledge. If a witness testifies to experiencing event A at 10:00 AM, then testifies of experiencing event C at 10:30 AM, but doesn't experience event B at 10:15 AM; can such a witness be in a position of making a valid inference? In fact, it is the case that any statement concerning event B will be a inference from events A and C where B is associated with events A and C. That is, any inference of B is valid if and only if it is the case that it is associated with A and C and B follows from the evidence contained in testimony concerning A and C. The above assertions can be validated through several examples. Let A = Jones walking his dog, and let C = Jones returning home from walking Fido. B is an "open" event (an open event is one which you do not experience, or is outside your pool of knowledge) to any eyewitnesses involved with events A and C since none of them witnessed B. Now, Jones walked Fido and returned. Upon his return (event C) he tells you that while he was in the woods he was accosted by several women at once, this is event B. Suppose further that Jones shows you what appears to be finger nail marks upon his skin and lipstick on his collar. You are of the opinion that Jones is an ugly man; so who would accost him? But, you know that such an inference is not based upon fact. You are driven to believe his testimony as true in so far as you had witnessed both events A and C. However, you also know that you cannot affirm event B as an actual occurrence as told by Jones, i.e. you have no reason disbelieve Jones, but you are restricted to drawing inferences from your pool of knowledge which doesn't include event B; therefore, you can't claim that Jones had actually been accosted: you can only infer that he was. What has been demonstrated this far? Event B has only been made known to you through the testimony of the man who claimed to have been accosted: you can only infer that what he has said is true in so far as events A and C show that he did walk Fido and return; however, you couldn't draw the inference that event B actually occurred as stated by Jones, since you, the witness, are constrained to keep your inferences within the limits of your own pool of knowledge and experience. Another example. Let A = Jesus' death on the cross. Let C = Jesus' appearances after his death. It is clear from the gospel narratives that event B, in this case, was not witnessed by any of the disciples of Jesus. Event B is the actual resurrection of Jesus. Can a resurrection be validly inferred from the disciples' experience of events A and C? The disciples could hold any opinion they thought valid. If they had seen Jesus die, and if they had seen Jesus alive latter, then they could come to believe that he had "risen from the dead." At this point the Christian may think that I have proven the resurrection to be the case. Do not be deceived! If you agree this far, then look out! The Christian is constrained by what can be advanced as "proof" in this case. The disciples were free to form any opinion as to what best explained their alleged experiences. We can trust that if their motivations were not directed through a self claim, right, or share in the resurrection of Jesus, then their inferences become stronger. Furthermore, we can trust that if their testimony is not extraordinary, then their inferences become stronger. But notice, if their testimonies are "interested" and are extraordinary, then we have reason to doubt the reasonableness of their inferences. We are not in a position to claim they had actually seen Jesus nailed to a cross; nor, are we in a position to claim that they had actually seen Jesus after his death: we are the modern day bystander. Furthermore, the disciples were not in a position to claim that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, since they didn't witness the actual occurrence. They could only infer his resurrection from their experience of his alleged death and his alleged appearances after death. Just as in the case with Jones above, the disciples were constrained to appeal to evidence within the range of their experience and knowledge; they were constrained to appeal to evidence which was not extraordinary and within the common experience of every person. The upshot of all of this is that the disciples could only maintain that they had seen the man Jesus die. As far as the resurrection is concerned, the disciples didn't witness it and thus were not in a privileged position to claim it had actually occurred. Due to the extraordinary nature of the alleged "appearances" of Jesus after his death, the disciples were constrained to admit to nothing beyond common experience. That is, their opinion that Jesus had risen from the dead was valid if the evidence was such that suggested he had actually died and risen from the grave. However, if seeing angels and men walking through walls can be considered beyond common experience, then such experiences are doubtful and are not considered to be valid evidence in support of an experience. At best, the disciples could not claim that Jesus had actually risen from the dead: they could only give what was their best opinion, from their knowledge and common experience, as to what had actually occurred concerning an event they didn't witness. Furthermore, due to the fact that the synoptic gospels are hearsay in nature, and due to the fact that all evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is provided through individuals who held interest in his resurrection and his teachings, and due to the fact that any "resurrection" should be considered an extraordinary event; we are constrained to not accept any opinion of the resurrection as true. We can expect that there was a Jesus who lived and died; a Jesus who had many followers, but this is as much of the truth we can reasonably hold concerning what has been said about Jesus. As bystanders to the alleged resurrection we cannot claim that the resurrection is a historical fact; that is an actual occurrence in time. We can form a opinion from the gospels as to the possibilities of the claims given to us, but our opinions must be constrained by reason and common experience. In short, there is no evidence surrounding the resurrection which demands a verdict!


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank