Tuesday, September 21, 2010

McCormick vs. DiSilvestro at CSUS (Debate #2)

Debate #2 – From Lourdes to Lazarus (Miracles and Probability)

McCormick leads off with some basics of NT scholarship: Who wrote what, when, with which sources, and such like. He goes on to grant, for the sake of argument, a number of miraculous events at Lourdes, France. He charitably calculates the ratio of actual miracles to claimed miracles to be .0000165, and thus deduces a provisional probability of eyewitnesses accurately reporting miracles. He then points out that generally illiterate and uneducated Iron Age peoples are far more credulous and apt to accept miracle claims than we moderns who have been inculcated with scientific skepticism, and provides a few more reasons not to believe the disciples' testimonies in particular, e.g. bereavement hallucinations, Asch effects, attention effects, and other demonstrable psychological issues which effect the reliability of eyewitness testimony. He goes on to talk for a bit about the gospel sources themselves and how they came together over a lengthy process of canonization. He wraps up with a slide called “An Amplification of Doubts” which is doubtlessly one of the most powerful visual summaries of the arguments against the resurrection of Jesus I've ever seen: Click here.

DiSilvestro again tries to draw convincing distinctions (relevant disanalogies) between Lourdes and the Biblical resurrection accounts, such as the idea that apostles were martyred for their beliefs. He does not cite particular martyrologies as sources, or mention when they were written or by whom. Speaking of disanalogies, he also makes up a few of analogies of his own, one from NBA all-stars, one from the beliefs of students or professors, one from innocent convicts, and one from pillow talk. None of these analogies come remotely close to the .0000165 ratio of reliable to unreliable reports, so they can all be readily dismissed. He does eventually hit this issue head on, however, claiming that miracle reports are far more reliable than McCormick has claimed, citing to various anecdotal and personal experiences. I found it a bit disturbing to hear a philosopher basically just passing on glurge stories. I'm downgrading the rating on this one just because the theist comes off as just plain silly for an extended period at this point, and this proves neither enjoyable nor enlightening. Well, okay, the supernatural blinking “PORNOGRAPHY” sign was kind of fun.

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