Monday, March 23, 2009

"An obvious natural explanation"

An unbeliever commented on a post by Jason:


Here is a sufficient naturalistic explanation for your "evidence": people make up stories. See Matt 27:52, for an easy example.

I am pointing out an obvious natural explanation for the so-called evidence.

I responded by saying that a natural explanation would be that the evidence is just fabricated. That is, people wrote that some people found the empty tomb, but in fact that could be just a made up story. Other people wrote that some people saw Jesus alive after he died, but the writers could have just made that story up too. Hearsay evidence is extremely weak. So, there you have a natural explanation that sufficiently accounts for the evidence.

I am not claiming that my "made up story" hypothesis is the best explanation of the evidence. Rather, my hypothesis is simply an example of a naturalistic account of the evidence. That's all.

Let's try this: Give me one piece of evidence for the resurrection that could not be accounted for by a fabricated story.

For any claim of a historical event, if the evidence we have for that event comes from writings, then that evidence could be fabricated.

Let’s analyze his argument, such as it is:

1. Suppose, for example, there’s “so-called evidence” that I live in Del Mar, but work in downtown San Diego. What are some explanations for how I commute to work?

i) I hop in my car and take the southbound freeway to downtown San Diego.

ii) Or:

a) I take a plane to Oregon.
b) Take a taxi to Idaho.
c) Hitchhike to Nevada.
d) Ride a tricycle to Arizona.
e) Walk to Mexico.
f) Take a helicopter to Catalina Island.
g) Take a boat to San Diego.

Both explanations are naturally possible. It’s possible to take a square route to work. It’s also possible to use different modes of transportation.

Does this mean that both explanations are “obvious” explanations which “sufficiently account” for the evidence? Remember, Unbeguiled doesn't think we need to favor the best explanation.

Would you be justified in opting for either (i) or (ii) to explain how I commute to work?

2.It’s insufficient to claim that Mt 27:52 is an easy example. Asserting that it’s an easy example doesn’t make it so. Where’s the supporting argument?

3.Unbeguiled is assuming, without benefit of argument, that all our evidence for the empty tomb is hearsay evidence. Once again, where’s the argument?

4.Is hearsay evidence extremely weak? Take his claim that “people make up stories.” What is Unbeguiled's evidence for that claim? Is that based on extensive firsthand observation on his part? Has he independently investigated a representative sampling of cases in which “people make up stories”? Or does he rely on secondhand (i.e. hearsay) information for that claim?

5.Apropos (4), what about Mt 27:52? Does he have firsthand evidence that Matthew fabricated that story? Did he interview the parties to that transaction? If not, then by his own yardstick his naturalistic explanation for Mt 27:52 is “extremely weak.”

6.Unbeguiled says “For any claim of a historical event, if the evidence we have for that event comes from writings, then that evidence could be fabricated.”

What’s his evidence for that claim? Isn’t his claim that people fabricate historical evidence itself a historical claim? Doesn’t that very claim rely on historical evidence that people fabricate historical evidence?

If everything’s a forgery, how do you prove that anything’s a forgery? What supplies the external check?

How does he exempt his claim from the solvent of his own historical skepticism?


  1. D'oh, more of that logic stuff, Steve! Why can't you just let go and let God? I mean, Beguiled deserves a chance! If nothing else, then do it for the ophaned puppy dogs. And the children.

  2. I happen to know for a fact that Steve's tricycle has several miles logged on it.

  3. Steve, you sir are an officer and a gentleman. Great rebuttal.