Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The twin hypothesis

Jeff Lowder: 
A second alternative explanation is the twin hypothesis, according to which Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother who faked the Resurrection by walking around pretending to be Jesus, after the real Jesus had died. This possibility was identified by Christian historian Paul Maier — note I said “identified” not “defended” — and then defended by Robert Greg Cavin in his Ph.D. dissertation. Unlike the Resurrection hypothesis, the Twin hypothesis entails all of the data to be explained. It has an overall higher balance of prior probability and explanatory power. According to Bayes Theorem, that’s all one needs to show that the Resurrection is not the best explanation.  
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/05/08/why-skeptics-do-not-need-the-hallucination-theory-to-reject-the-resurrection/

i) There's no evidence whatsoever that Jesus had a twin brother, while there is prima facie evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

ii) How does the postulate that Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother have a higher prior probability and explanatory power than the Resurrection? How would that be kept secret for 30+ years? In order for his twin brother to show up about 18 hours after the Crucifixion, to impersonate Jesus, where was he hiding all that time? 

After Jesus became a local celebrity in Palestine, wouldn't people begin to notice his identical twin brother? If you look like a famous person, people take notice. 

Why do atheists resort to such a cockamamie conspiracy theory? How is that supposed to be rational? If Christians resorted to theories like that, how would atheists react? The twin hypothesis is a backdoor admission of secular desperation. 

iii) How would that explain the empty tomb? On the twin-theory, there'd still be a body in the tomb. So Lowder and Cavin require an extra, add-on, auxiliary hypothesis. 

iv) Is Jeff saying the postulate of an unknown identical twin has higher probability than God raising Jesus from the dead? If so, how does Jeff quantify the probability that God had no reason for raising Jesus from the dead? 

Or is Jeff assuming it's less probable because there is no God to raise Jesus from the dead? If so, then his argument is contingent on an extra, add-on, auxiliary hypothesis regarding God's nonexistence. 

v) The twin-hypothesis contradicts other alternative theories. 

Keith Parsons:

It is pretty easy to show that any "alternative" scenario, such as a "Passover Plot" scheme or a twin hypothesis has improbable and implausible features. So, the apologist goes through each such alternative and concludes that each was unlikely. His conclusion? The only "reasonable" account is that a dead man was miraculously resurrected--not resuscitated, resurrected. That is, he was given an entirely new, supernatural body that could do magical things like pass through locked doors a la Marley's ghost, but was still material enough to eat a piece of fish. Uh huh. 
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/05/08/why-skeptics-do-not-need-the-hallucination-theory-to-reject-the-resurrection/#comment-2666544568

i) It's true that Jesus was dead too long to be resuscitated. However, Keith is posing a false dichotomy. The alternative is not "an entirely new body". According to the Gospels, Jesus was only dead for about 18 hours. Even if his body underwent necrosis, it didn't disintegrate. What would be required is miraculous restoration, not wholesale replacement. 

ii) According to the Gospels, Jesus could do "magical" things before he died. Jesus could do "magical" things when he had a normal body. In that event, he didn't need a "supernatural body" to do "magical" things after he rose from the dead. 

No doubt Keith denies that Jesus was a bona fide miracle-worker. But my immediate point is that he's drawing false inferences from the source material. 

I do not know how Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Maybe he swam, or rode his horse, or maybe he paddled a raft. I am pretty sure that he did not sprout wings and fly across. The apologists' modus operandi is to throw cold water on every naturalistic explanation and then offer, as the only "reasonable" explanation, the explanation that, to the skeptic anyway, looks like the most implausible of all.

i) Caesar didn't need to sprout wings and fly to cross the Rubicon.

ii) Caesar was just an ordinary human being.

Keith's analogy is disanalogous with the nature of the Christian claim. He fails to engage the argument on its own terms. Jesus and Caesar are not comparable propositions. He's attacking the Christian claim by drawing a parallel that's not not analogous to the issue at hand. That's a straw man comparison. 

To be a skeptic about the resurrection, you do not need the hallucination theory or any theory at all. You simply note that what we have is a farrago of scenarios of varying degrees of implausibility, with the orthodox Christian answer as the most implausible scenario of all. We will NEVER know what happened. It was too long ago in circumstances that were too obscure and recorded only in records written years after the event by parties with a strongly vested interest. Maybe we can infer to the best explanation, but even the best explanation will not be very good.

Yet in this very same comment thread, Keith testifies that:

Growing up in the Deep South as a Christian and regular church attendee I never heard of the "resurrection apologetic" until I was an adult and an atheist. In church we used to sing a hymn with the following rather corny lines: 
He lives! Salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives?He lives within my heart! 
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/05/08/why-skeptics-do-not-need-the-hallucination-theory-to-reject-the-resurrection/#comment-2668343552


According to his HuffPo bio, Parsons was born in 1952. That makes him about 64, as of 2016. Notice his confidence in recalling events that happened to him in childhood, some 50-60 years ago. We have no independent corroboration for his testimony. And he has a strongly vested interest in what he says. 

17 comments:

  1. "Village Atheist" is an appropriate label. Good grief.

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  2. And the funny thing is, these are the very same atheists / "skeptics" who will tell you that we can know and rationally believe that millions of years ago "somehow" life came naturalistically from non-life (sounds very much like a "resurrection" type event to me), and that we can know and rationally believe that millions of years ago "somehow" one life form evolved into another one, and that we can know and rationally believe that millions of years ago consciousness "somehow" naturalistically and magically "emerged" from non-consciousness, and so on and so forth...and yet we cannot know what happened 2000 years ago to a man for whose story we have eye-witness testimony to the events. To me, the lack of perspective is breath-taking. At least if they were constant across-the-board skeptics, I could understand, but the whole idea that you can dismiss the resurrection as completely improbable but then swallow the whole naturalistic abiogenesis thing as if its a certainty (something you must do to be a naturalist) is just &$^%& crazy.

    Maximus
    www.voxmaximus.blogspot.com

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    1. believe in nothing, fall for anything.

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  3. "He lives! Salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!" It is not at all unreasonable that someone raised on the sort of fluff and dander exemplfied by that hymn would think of Christianity as he does; you know, calling the church's bluff.

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  4. But how is the Caesar thing a straw man? Wasn't the point to show how Jesus didn't need to be anything else than an ordinary human being, and that even the eye witnesses do not mean that he "needed" to have been resurrected? Yes, from a theist point of view, they are indeed different, but not from a skeptic's point of view, right?

    Also, Lowder didn't really claim that the twin hypothesis was a credible version of the events, only that it fills the criteria of a bayesian analysis, so pointing out that an identical twin would be unlikely is really missing his point I think. Even if that was his point, wouldn't a resurrection be pretty unlikely too unless you stipulate Jesus as the son of God... and that was what the resurrection was supposed to give evidence to, not vice versa.

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  5. "But how is the Caesar thing a straw man? Wasn't the point to show how Jesus didn't need to be anything else than an ordinary human being…"

    But Lowder didn't show that because he didn't mount an actual argument for the twin hypothesis or rebut counterarguments.

    "and that even the eyewitnesses do not mean that he 'needed' to have been resurrected?"

    You mean, a case of mistaken identity? If so, Lowder needs to present an argument for that claim.

    "Yes, from a theist point of view, they are indeed different, but not from a skeptic's point of view, right?"

    Since skeptics themselves don't actually believe the twin hypothesis is the true explanation, the twin hypothesis is equally incredible from from a theistic viewpoint and skeptical viewpoint alike.

    "Also, Lowder didn't really claim that the twin hypothesis was a credible version of the events, only that it fills the criteria of a bayesian analysis, so pointing out that an identical twin would be unlikely is really missing his point I think."

    If Caven and Lowder don't take the twin hypothesis seriously as credible version of events, why should anyone else take it seriously? If no reasonable person thinks that's what actually happened, why should we credit that as a bona fide alternative explanation for what happened? It's an ad hoc concoction that exists purely to evade the Resurrection, and not because it has any merit in its own right. That's textbook special pleading.

    "Even if that was his point, wouldn't a resurrection be pretty unlikely too unless you stipulate Jesus as the son of God... and that was what the resurrection was supposed to give evidence to, not vice versa."

    i) What makes you think the Resurrection was supposed to evidence the divine sonship of Christ? The NT generally attributes the Resurrection to the agency of the Father.

    ii) It also depends on whether the "skeptic" is mounting an internal or external assessment of the Resurrection. If he's judging the Resurrection to be "pretty unlikely" on secular grounds, then he assumes a burden of proof to provide a separate argument for his secular frame of reference.

    iii) Moreover, even if he's a secularist, presumably that's a provisional position based on evidence–a position subject to revision or falsification in light of counterevidence.

    Although a miracle presumes the existence of supernatural agents, it doesn't presume prior belief in supernatural agents.

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    1. First of all, thank you for a civil and coherent reply.

      "But Lowder didn't show that because he didn't mount an actual argument for the twin hypothesis or rebut counterarguments."

      What do you mean? Do you know Bayes Theorem? The twin hypothesis was never meant as a serious alternative hypothesis, but meant to show how other, however improbable, explanations could recount the events depicted in the Bible. I Lowder had actually himself laid out the twin hypothesis, not only mentioned its existence, he still would not need to "mount arguments", because that is not called for in a bayesian interference. I'm sure that most atheists would not feel a need to disprove events depicted in the NT, since it was written after the actual eye witnesses were gone, and several other descriptions ("graves opened and the dead walked the earth") are even less probable than the resurrection of one man, not to mention internally inconsistent.

      "why should we credit that as a bona fide alternative explanation for what happened?"

      You should not, that was the entire point. See above.

      "What makes you think the Resurrection was supposed to evidence the divine sonship of Christ?"

      I don't think the event was meant to evidence it, but apologists often use the description of the resurrection in the Bible as evidence (even the main evidence) of the divinity of Jesus.

      "Although a miracle presumes the existence of supernatural agents, it doesn't presume prior belief in supernatural agents."

      True, but a miracle in a world filled with miracles is not miraculous. A miracle in a world without any sort of supernatural realm is an enormous postulate indeed. To quote Sherlock Holmes: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

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    2. "Do you know Bayes Theorem?"

      Frankly, there's a lot of dilettantism afoot in that regard (e.g. Richard Carrier).

      I'm not a big fan of Bayesian probability theory. For one thing, assigning prior probability values is contingent on what we think the world is like. So that's circular. What is probable depends on how the world works. What kind of world we live in. Those are metaphysical and empirical questions that must be settled before you start plugging concrete values into the theorem.

      Moreover, the dichotomy between prior and posterior probability strikes me as arbitrary. Why divvy it up that way? Why act as though we only know so much when assigning prior probability values, only to offset that preliminary assessment with what we know when assigning posterior probability values?

      "The twin hypothesis was never meant as a serious alternative hypothesis"

      You say it as if that's self-justifying when, in fact, that's the problem.

      "but meant to show how other, however improbable, explanations could recount the events depicted in the Bible."

      Which is an exercise in misdirection if these aren't realistic.

      "I'm sure that most atheists would not feel a need to disprove events depicted in the NT, since it was written after the actual eye witnesses were gone…"

      When do you imagine the NT was written?

      "and several other descriptions ('graves opened and the dead walked the earth') are even less probable than the resurrection of one man."

      A question-begging assertion on your part.

      "not to mention internally inconsistent."

      Another tendentious assertion.

      "A miracle in a world without any sort of supernatural realm is an enormous postulate indeed."

      Neither theists nor atheists postulate a miracle in a world without any sort of supernatural realm.

      "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

      That adage doesn't select for naturalism. Indeed, Doyle was a member of the British Society for Psychical Research, and wrote many books and articles on spiritualism and mediumship.

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    3. Johannes Wiberg

      "Do you know Bayes Theorem?"

      1. That's a red herring. It's not as if one has to know Bayes in order to critique what Lowder has written here. It's not as if Lowder himself makes full use of Bayes.

      2. I think some atheists use Bayes to intimidate Christians who aren't conversant in mathematics. But Bayes isn't exactly difficult mathematics. Heck, if Richard Carrier can learn something of Bayes, then anyone can!

      3. While we're on the topic, it's easier to teach someone with no mathematical knowledge but a mathematical mind or sense the ins and outs of mathematics than it is to teach a person with a lot of mathematical knowledge (perhaps thanks to schools which have rote taught them mathematics) to have such a mathematical mind or good sense of mathematics.

      It's like how some people can write well because they had good grammar lessons, English classes, and the like, but that doesn't necessarily make them great writers. By contrast, there are some people who might have had a poor literary education, but nevertheless have an inimitable way with words, who might in fact be great writers (e.g. John Bunyan).

      4. Although I too think Bayes has its limitations, Tim and Lydia McGrew (among others) have used Bayes in their apologetics for Christianity. And to far greater effect than most if not all the internet atheists I've read or seen.

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    4. You seem to be purposely trying to misunderstand me. Do you believe in psychic powers, PSI, or voodoo? Do you believe in the Greek gods, or the Nordic ones? I'm guessing you consider most of this very unlikely, and you probably brush it away as "supernatural nonsense". You might have seen evidence for some of these, but you probably hold to the idea of extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence. Most rational people believe, generally, in a natural world, but many people have one or a couple of exceptions to this rule... for some reason or other. You choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I hope you agree that the resurrection of a person when that person have been dead for more than 24 hours is not something that can happen in a completely natural world. So, out of the blue, we must stipulate the existence of magic, and the supernatural realm. For me to believe in the truth of such an event, it would take more than myself being an eye witness. What is more likely, that the world contains magic, or that I hallucinated? One of these is a scientifically accepted phenomenon, the other throws out everything science - with its unparalleled track record - has discovered and hands us the word "magic". I find the twin hypothesis enormously more probable, even if I find fabricated evidence enormously more probable than that.

      "When do you imagine the NT was written?" - that is a very condescending question; I'm sure we both have seen various historians claiming various dates and what the general consensus is. If not, you can always check Wikipedia, I don't think you need me to find this out for you. If you want to make a point, then feel free to point me to a specific source claiming something that goes against what I have inferred.

      Also, are you saying that NT is not internally inconsistent?

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    5. Johannes Wiberg

      "You seem to be purposely trying to misunderstand me."

      No need to blame others for your poor communication.

      "Do you believe in psychic powers, PSI, or voodoo?"

      Yes.

      "Do you believe in the Greek gods, or the Nordic ones?"

      No.

      "I'm guessing you consider most of this very unlikely, and you probably brush it away as 'supernatural nonsense'."

      As a Christian, I believe in the "supernatural" (to use your term).

      "you probably hold to the idea of extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence."

      What makes you think we hold to "extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence"? For starters, you'll have to define what you mean by "extraordinary" with regard to "claims" as well as "evidence".

      "Most rational people believe, generally, in a natural world, but many people have one or a couple of exceptions to this rule..."

      Why such a "rule" in the first place? How is it rational to presuppose only the natural world exists and to believe otherwise is an "exception to this rule"?

      "You choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus."

      My belief in the resurrection of Jesus is not a blind faith if that's what you're suggesting.

      "I hope you agree that the resurrection of a person when that person have been dead for more than 24 hours is not something that can happen in a completely natural world."

      You assume without argument we live in "a completely natural world".

      "So, out of the blue, we must stipulate the existence of magic, and the supernatural realm."

      You just "stipulated" we live in "a completely natural world". That's not something you can take for granted.

      "For me to believe in the truth of such an event, it would take more than myself being an eye witness."

      This is a similar attitude to people who don't believe people have ever landed on the moon. They think the video footage was faked, etc.

      "What is more likely, that the world contains magic, or that I hallucinated?"

      That depends. It depends on the case at hand. It depends on your mental state at the time. And so on.

      "One of these is a scientifically accepted phenomenon,"

      Define "science". Define what should be "a scientifically accepted phenomenon" and what should not.

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    6. "the other throws out everything science"

      An assertion without an argument.

      "with its unparalleled track record"

      What makes you think "science" has an "unparalleled track record"?

      You speak as if "science" is a unified enterprise. But "science" is made up of men and women in history. Some have done much to advance science, others have not. Some have even regressed science.

      "has discovered and hands us the word 'magic'."

      That's just your tendentious characterization of the resurrection of Jesus. You don't even bother to define what you mean by "magic". Instead you use "magic" as a derogatory term here.

      "I find the twin hypothesis enormously more probable, even if I find fabricated evidence enormously more probable than that."

      Another assertion without an argument. You don't say why you "find the twin hypothesis enormously more probable".

      "'When do you imagine the NT was written?' - that is a very condescending question;"

      You can't follow your own logic (such as it is). You originally said the NT was "written after the actual eye witnesses were gone". Hence Steve's question. That's not "condescending". That's completely germane based on what you said.

      "I'm sure we both have seen various historians claiming various dates and what the general consensus is. If not, you can always check Wikipedia,"

      The fact that you would mention Wikipedia in this case reflects very poorly on you. Wikipedia is hardly a reliable source let alone a scholarly or academic source.

      "I don't think you need me to find this out for you. If you want to make a point, then feel free to point me to a specific source claiming something that goes against what I have inferred."

      You didn't "infer" anything. You just made a bare assertion i.e. that the NT was "written after the actual eye witnesses were gone".

      "Also, are you saying that NT is not internally inconsistent?"

      No. Where did you get that idea? Evidently you have difficulty with basic reading comprehension.

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    7. "Do you believe in psychic powers, PSI, or voodoo?"

      I believe in the paranormal and the occult. That doesn't mean I credit any particular claim.

      "Do you believe in the Greek gods, or the Nordic ones?"

      If you're attempting an argument from analogy, you need to furnish an argument for why you think heathen theism is comparable to Christian theism or classical theism. For instance, Greek and Nordic gods are superhuman humanoids. That's not even analogous to classical theism.

      "but you probably hold to the idea of extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence."

      No I don't.

      "Most rational people believe, generally, in a natural world, but many people have one or a couple of exceptions to this rule... for some reason or other."

      It's like a machine with a manual override. The machine is programmed to work automatically, but personal agents can override the programming.

      "I hope you agree that the resurrection of a person when that person have been dead for more than 24 hours is not something that can happen in a completely natural world."

      Since I don't believe in a completely natural world to begin with, so what?

      "So, out of the blue, we must stipulate the existence of magic, and the supernatural realm."

      No, not out of the blue. Not even a stipulation. It can be an inference. Or there can be direct evidence for miracles.

      "For me to believe in the truth of such an event, it would take more than myself being an eye witness. What is more likely, that the world contains magic, or that I hallucinated?"

      By your own admission, you have an unfalsifiable belief in naturalism. No evidence can overturn it. Any ostensible evidence must be hallucinatory.

      "One of these is a scientifically accepted phenomenon, the other throws out everything science - with its unparalleled track record - has discovered and hands us the word 'magic'."

      Scientific phenomena typically involve unintelligent natural processes that operate with mechanical regularity. Over against that is the existence of personal agents. Personal agents can manipulate or circumvent natural processes to produce a result that's different than what would happen if nature was allowed to take its course. Scientists do that all the time, because scientists are personal agents. So your position would actually eliminate the role of the scientist.

      "If not, you can always check Wikipedia."

      That's hardly a scholarly source.

      "Also, are you saying that NT is not internally inconsistent?"

      Yes, that's what I'm saying.

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    8. Oh, sorry, I misstook you guys for people actually worth having an intelligent discussion with. Sorry for taking up your time, go back to your Ouija boards and I'll go back to the real world.

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    9. Oops, sorry, I misread this statement:

      "Also, are you saying that NT is not internally inconsistent?"

      I thought it had said "internally consistent," but I see I'm mistaken.

      "Oh, sorry, I misstook you guys for people actually worth having an intelligent discussion with. Sorry for taking up your time, go back to your Ouija boards and I'll go back to the real world."

      Ouija boards can be associated with the occult, which orthodox Christians believe is real, but which we know the Bible forbids. Hence your suggestion about to "go back to your Ouija boards" is very strange, to say the least.

      At any rate, anyone can read what we've said and what you've said in this thread, and see which side has been more reasonable here.

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    10. So you're a fideistic atheist. You've insulated your atheism from all possibility of empirical disconfirmation. You just want to project the image of rationality, rather than exemplify the reality of rationality.

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  6. I just noticed something else about what Jeff Lowder said that struck me. He stated that: "Unlike the Resurrection hypothesis, the Twin hypothesis entails all of the data to be explained." But does it? For example, if we take the Gospels as eye-witness testimony, as we should, then the fact is that the Twin hypothesis does not explain all the data. For example, it does not explain Jesus appearing and disappearing in the sight of everyone. Nor does it explain the wounds that Jesus still had and which the Thomas touched. After all, did the twin just stab himself in the side as well? And would putting your hand in a gaping and festering wound really convince you that the man resurrected.

    So no, the twin hypothesis does not seem to account for the evidence (at least not in any reasonable sense), unless, of course, that specific evidence is conveniently ignored.

    Maximus
    www.voxmaximus.blogspot.com

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