How to Think about Historical Evidence about Anything, Part 1: The Credibility of Testimony

Note: So far as I know, no one working in New Testament scholarship, apologetics, counter-apologetics, or ancient history is applying the concepts in this blog post. As will soon become obvious, most of the ideas in this blog post are not mine, but if other people find these techniques useful, I would appreciate being given credit for the idea to apply them outside of their source discipline. 1. Schumian Framework for Decomposition of the Credibility of Testimony Suppose witness W testifies E* … [Read more...]

Weighing Theistic Evidence Against Naturalistic Evidence

In the next-to-last paragraph of his book, C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason, Victor Reppert makes a very interesting statement: However, I contend that the arguments from reason do provide some substantial reasons for preferring theism to naturalism. The "problem of reason" is a huge problem for reason, as serious or, I would say, more serious, than the problem of evil is for theists. (emphasis mine) I think this is a very interesting statement for two r … [Read more...]

Does God Exist? Part 1

The overarching question for my ten-year plan is:Is Christianity true or false?After I clarify this overarching question, the first major question to investigate is this:Does God exist?I will, of course, at some point need to address the traditional arguments for the existence of God (ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments).  But I want my investigation to be systematic, and to avoid the problem of BIAS in the selection of arguments and evidence to be c … [Read more...]

Why Do So Many People Have a “Winner Takes All” Approach to Evidence about Gods?

If you've a regular reader of this blog -- or any other blog or website devoted to the existence of God -- you've probably noticed how often partisans for one side or the other have a "winner takes all" approach to the evidence. In the past, even I was guilty of making statements like, "There is no evidence for God's existence."It now seems to me that one should be very cautious before making such statements (or the theistic equivalent, "There is no evidence against God's existence.") The … [Read more...]

On Admitting There Might Be Some Evidence for the Other Side

Note: I thought I had blogged this before, but a quick search didn't turn anything up.Have you ever noticed how rare it is for a person to admit there might be any evidence against their position, at least (or especially) when it comes to religion? I think this should make people suspicious about whether their cognitive biases are playing a larger role than they might like to admit.People can mean different things by "evidence." Solely for the sake of discussion, I'm going to define … [Read more...]

A Key Difference between Science and Religion

In science, we ask, "What's the evidence?", before believing. Only religion* asks us to believe first and consider the evidence later, if ever.Two clarifications:1. I am not claiming that all religions do this. Rather, I'm claiming that if/when this happens, it only seems to happen in the context of religion. (If I've missed any non-religious examples of this, please let me know and I will issue a correction!)2. Nor am I making the scientistic claim that the only way to know … [Read more...]

Jesus on Faith – Part 6

Here is the "Doubting Thomas" story from Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, t … [Read more...]

Evidential Asymmetry, Scientific Confirmation of Prayer, and Horrific Evils

1. The General CaseOne of the most important (and equally most often forgotten) lessons that Bayes's Theorem can teach us about evidence is that the strength of evidence is a ratio. To be precise, let H1 and H2 be rival explanatory hypotheses, B be the relevant background information, and E be the evidence to be explained. Now consider the following ratio: Pr(E | B & H1) ----------------- Pr(E | B & H2) If Pr(E | B & H1) > Pr(E | B & H2), then this ratio is greater … [Read more...]