Saturday, May 30, 2020

McLatchie vs. Blais on miracles & probability

Just some observations after listening to the debate:

1. This wasn't primarily a debate over Hume and miracles. It started off that way, with brief argumentation involving Bayesian probabilities, but it quickly went off the rails. Rather the debate was a far-ranging debate that covered a lot of other topics. For example, some time was spent on debating Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, biblical inconsistencies, undesigned coincidences, and the dates of the Gospel. I think Jonathan won these debates; Blais didn't seem terribly familiar with the biblical material except in broad strokes. Also, the last moments of the debate were mainly spent debating design. Jonathan easily won this part of the debate, hands-down. Blais was obviously out of his element.

2. That said, I think Blais spoke the most throughout the debate, both in terms of amount of words and amount of time. In fact, Blais seemed to realize this when at one point he admitted he didn't want to "dominate" the debate. Yet Blais still kept interrupting Jonathan throughout the debate.

In fairness, Jonathan could have been more assertive. And the moderator (not Justin Brierley) could have done a better job at steering and focusing the debate. The moderator was far too hands-off.

3. At times, Blais came across like he was attempting the Gish gallop. The stated debate topic was on Hume and miracles, but Blais brought up the existence of God, the various flavors of theism (e.g. Blais thinks the Norse god Loki counts), the historical reliability of the Bible, biblical inconsistencies, the reliability of testimonial evidence, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, the canonical status of biblical books (e.g. Timothy), scribal interpolations (e.g. the woman caught in adultery), Jesus mythicism, parallels between early Christianity and other religions (e.g. Mormonism), parallels or analogies between miracles and UFO sightings, the progress of science dispelling superstition, and so on as if he expected Jonathan to address each and every one of these. Yet each of these could make for separate debates in their own right.

4. Nevertheless, there wasn't anything particularly novel or unfamiliar with what Blais brought up, at least not to anyone who has followed Christian and atheist debates. Blais cites and is obviously heavily relying on secular atheists like Carl Sagan, Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Sean Carroll, among others. There have been reasonable responses to most if not all of these by Triablogue members and many other Christian apologists.

5. Blais expected testimonial evidence about miracles to rise to the standard of a randomized controlled trial in modern medical research. However, why should an RCT even be an appropriate test of miracle claims in the first place? Also, it's not as if it'd be empirically possible to do an RCT on someone rising from the dead. And as far as that goes, there's nothing necessarily wrong with accepting the reliability and credibility of a single case study that's been well documented. Indeed, it only takes one bona fide miracle to demonstrate the possibility of miracles.

6. Blais tried to draw parallels between UFO sightings and Christian miracle claims. However, he needs to present an argument for why UFO sightings parallel or are analogous to Christian claims about miracles in the first place. Otherwise it's like seeing parallels between (say) Jesus' death and resurrection and the Osiris myth, but on closer inspection they're not alike.

No comments:

Post a Comment