Principle of Analogy

Principle of Analogy February 15, 2013

There’s a name for a simple and common sense idea that is often abused in apologetics circles, the Principle of Analogy.

Bob Price explained it this way:

The principle of analogy is so simple, so natural, that everyone uses it in daily life.

Imagine someone sitting down in front of the television after a long day at work. The first image he sees is that of a giant reptile squashing tall buildings. Is one’s first hunch, “Oh! The news channel!”? Probably not.

More likely one surmises the TV set had been left on the science fiction channel. Why? Because one’s world of contemporary experience does not include newscasts of giant dinosaurs wreaking havoc in modern cities, but one has seen monster movies in which such disasters are quite typical. Which analogy does the TV screen image fit?

How do we categorize a miracle claim from history? What’s it analogous to? Does it look like the plausible activities of ordinary people or does it look like legend? You can’t say for sure, of course, but which bin does this claim best fit into?

Did a winged horse fly Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and back? Did Joseph Smith find golden plates with the help of the angel Moroni? Is the “Buddha Boy” able to meditate for months without food or water? Could Sathya Sai Baba raise people from the dead? Can faith healers cure illness that modern medicine can’t? Science has no analogy to these claims, but mythology and legend do.

Incredibly, I’ve heard Christians reject this principle and argue instead that an atheist must bring positive evidence against their claims. Don’t simply say that the Jesus miracles look like myth or legends, so we should classify them that way; no—that doesn’t count.

Say for example that the question is whether Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The Christian points to this story in John—that’s the evidence in favor. And then he says, “So where’s your evidence against?”

Of course, I have no direct evidence against this particular event. I have no direct evidence that Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus or that Merlin wasn’t a shape-shifting wizard or that Paul Bunyan didn’t exist or that George Washington didn’t fly around Mount Vernon with a jet pack. The plausibility test that we all use helps ensure that we don’t simply believe everything we hear or read. Well, all of us, I guess, except someone who’s eager to make exceptions to preserve a preconception.

Something can violate the Principle of Analogy only with substantial evidence. The claim “I can see through opaque objects” properly fit into the magical category until Wilhelm Röntgen demonstrated x-rays.

Until we have an analogy to a miracle story, it properly belongs in the magical category as well.

I believe that an orderly universe,
one indifferent to human preoccupations,
in which everything has an explanation
even if we still have a long way to go before we find it,
is a more beautiful, more wonderful place
than a universe tricked out with capricious, ad hoc magic.

— Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

(This is a modified version of a post that originally appeared 8/29/11.)

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  • Will

    I love this liberals false logic about Jesus and Lazarus being raised from the dead! The bias is glaring! Ignores that these are eyewitnesses accounts! Ignores that Jesus was hated and if what He did was not happening all u have to find are critics writing counter writings against it. They had just as much interest in disproving Jesus when they called Him a demon worker and hated His followers to the degree they were killing them in Ancient Rome! This illogical liberal skeptic ignores that there would not be a faith according to Paul if Jesus didn’t raise Himself! It also ignores people wouldn’t believe unless they could touch Jesus.. and there were some who still rejected even after seeing Jesus which rules out this is mythological recordings.. not to mention 25000 pieces of archeological evidences for the text.. which only history records people and places plus events.. u have to special pledge. Just a laughable article.

    • Joe

      I love how people see partisan bias in religious topics.

      Also how they reply to posts from 2013.

      Ignores that these are eyewitnesses accounts!

      They aren’t eyewitness accounts.

      • Will

        Joe.. I love how liberals share partisan bias in relgious topics as well as if their comments are not bias. Showing your hypocrisy I have to say if u are claiming no bias

        I just saw the post and happens to come across it so whats your point? Common sense if i have not come across it until now duh…

        Yes they are eyewitnesses accounts.. i expect it from you to say that since it is a bias opinion of course.

        • Joe

          They aren’t eyewitness accounts. No serious biblical historian would say that.

          I’m claiming no liberal bias, just the facts.

        • Will

          Joe and I have to say you are not stating facts.. i can name historians that do say its historical. I can quote those who have studied and found the archeologycal backing for it at 25000 sites pertaining to people, cities and some of the events. You are simply mistaken at best.

        • adam

          “i can name historians that do say its historical.”

          Still waiting…..

        • Will

          Sir William Ramsey, Donald J. Wiseman (who documented in a book which if u want the name i will give it), G. D. Williamson, William F. Albright. Still waiting for someone to show that Luke who wrote the Book of Acts was wrong anywhere about things he mentioned historically. Naming over 30 cities within the text and not once been found to be inaccurate. That also includes people as well.

        • adam

          “Naming over 30 cities within the text and not once been found to be inaccurate.”


          That means Spiderman is history?

        • Will

          One of the dumbest meme’s i have seen in awhile! Also very illogical while ignoring many things said in the text. Like why they would mix real people with fake people and then die for it! Yes Adam that makes a lot of sense! The number of people that saw this Jesus and I have seen no counter writings against their claims. Jesus had enemies and so did the Writers. Where are the distractors that were recorded that did not accept Jesus even seeing the miracles with the Writers? Jews that did not accept Jesus as the Messiah that hated Him! Where are they at? You like many do realize that they also recorded people that didn’t accept His teachings b/c they thought Jesus was basically crazy! Thats not mythological writing. So i’ll laugh at the meme’s logic which is not logic at all!

        • adam

          ” Like why they would mix real people with fake people and then die for it! ”

          Like Jim Jones?
          David Koresh
          Joseph Smith.

          Stories told by either delusional or power hungry people.

          ” Jesus had enemies ”

          OBVIOUSLY not any worthy of being documented at the time he was supposed to be alive.

          ” Where are the distractors that were recorded that did not accept Jesus even seeing the miracles with the Writers?”

          Yes, where are they?
          Answer is: they dont exist.
          NOBODY during his lifetime and death saw anything worthy of documenting.

          ” Jews that did not accept Jesus as the Messiah that hated Him! ”

          And yet NOT A SINGLE WORD from the Jews at the time.

          ” So i’ll laugh at the meme’s logic which is not logic at all!”

          So what? You laugh through your own ignorance.
          Is this willful ignorance, or just blindness?

        • Will

          Here is a classic quote from a Historian… you simply do not know what u are talking about..

          Sir William Ramsay that the critical views of New Testament history have been overthrown and its historicity established. Ramsay was himself converted from the critical view by his own research into the evidence. He wrote:

          I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts], for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tübingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

          Geisler, N. L. (1976). Christian apologetics (p. 326). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

        • Joe

          Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

          What does that prove, except the author lived in Asia-minor at the time?

        • Will

          I think the point went over your head my friend. It simply proves its written within history if everything pointed out in Acts concerning people, places etc have never been proven to be false but historical makes the text trustworthy.

        • Joe

          Nothing in acts had been proven false? What about Simon Magus?

          Are you saying every historical book is true?

        • Glen Cram

          The story of Simon Magus in Acts is perfectly plausible; the later legends of his flying over Rome not so much.

        • Will

          Are you Special Pleading considering what we know with 25000 pieces of Archeological evidence? I’ll give the book if u want to go buy it.. but are u Special Pleading?

        • Joe

          Are you Special Pleading considering what we know with 25000 pieces of Archeological evidence?

          How am I special pleading?

        • adam

          ” It simply proves its written within history if everything pointed out
          in Acts concerning people, places etc have never been proven to be false
          but historical makes the text trustworthy.”

          Then it is the same for Spiderman.

        • Will

          Full of straw men.. i won’t keep entertaining your trolling from here on out.. u do it again i’ll just ignore replying.. b/c its a waste of time

        • Will

          It is a fact that Historian Josepheus who lived from 37AD – 100AD wrote about Pilate and Caesar to name a few historical people verified via archeological evidences that are written inside the bible by the eyewitnesses.. so Jospheus is a classic outside source or corrabaring the accounts of the eyewitnesses… so your bias its as simple as that.. u can stay in denial.

        • adam

          ” Ignores that these are eyewitnesses accounts!”

          What eyewitness was alive at the time Josepheus wrote?

        • Will

          Its irrelevant about the eyewitnesses being alive. but since u asked.. John the Apostle was still alive when Josepheus was born.. The Apostle Paul didn’t die until somewhere around 60-70AD which means he was alive when.. in fact most of the Apostles were still alive prior to 70AD when the temple was destroyed b/c they would have recorded it being destroyed since Jesus predicted it was going to be destroyed. You do know where the temple is located right? What does it matter to u? Even if anything was shown to support the text u won’t believe anyways…

        • adam
        • Will

          Already answered this why keep repeating the non-sense and straw mans? A opinionated quote by this man means nothing to me.. next!

        • Will

          The Apostle John was one of a few that didn’t die via persecution. He lived and died sometime after 100AD according to tradition.

        • adam

          “He lived and died sometime after 100AD according to tradition.”

          Tradition at the time meant that disease was caused by ‘spirits’ and ‘demons’ and could be cured with magical words.

          tradition is no indicator of truth.

        • Will

          Oh.. thats where u are wrong.. there is a Tradition within my wife’s family that the women give birth at a specific hospital. That is true and its documented that my wife’s mother and my wife have kept the tradition.. the majority of the women in this family are born at this special hospital. So tradition can have truth to it.. in this case your bias is showing Adam. B/c u don’t accept the biblical text and those within the Christian faith keeping tabs on when Apostles died can’t be truthful.. ah there is no reason to be dishonest on when someone died. They know when Pope’s have died but that should be rejected b/c Adam says so… They couldn’t have possible written it down when the First Pope died to Pope IV etc etc b/c u reject it.. sorry tradition can be and have truth in it.

        • Greg G.

          He didn’t say that tradition was necessarily wrong. But some traditions are wrong. One martyr is said to have died two different ways in two different places. That proves that the martyr accounts are not reliable. That they all seem to appear many decades after the fact, it appears there was something going on about the apostolic line and the noble death, probably due to a Greek influence.

        • Will

          I thought I already mentioned this.. John was Still alive.. john did not die until some time after 100AD. So what is your point? Historians and Archeology supports the text it does not matter to me your rejection of it.. if u want to reject it go and live your life why is it a concern to u if your mind has been made up? Why debate the issue if your mind is made up? I mean u guys all those interacting with me is laughable! If u don’t believe in fairy tales then why are u arguing the point? To FUNNY!

        • Michael Neville

          In the Harry Potter books King’s Cross Railway station in London is mentioned several times. I’ve even taken trains from King’s Cross myself so I know it exists. By your argument we can say that Harry Potter is corroborated by me.

          Josephus is a weak reed for Christians to lean on. It is pretty well accepted by historians that the Testamonium Flavium is a 4th Century forgery by a Christian apologist named Eusebius.

          We may remark here on the passage in Josephus which has occasioned by far more comment than any other, the so-called Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. XVIII. 63 – 4) concerning Jesus. The passage appears in all our manuscripts; but a considerable number of Christian writers – Pseudo-Justin and Theophilus in the second century, Minucius Felix, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Orgen in the third century, and Methodius and Pseudo-Eustathius in the early fourth century – who knew Jeosphus and cited from his works do not refer to this passage, though one would imagine that it would be the first passage that a Christian apologist would cite. In particular, Origen (Contra Celsum 1.47 and Commentary on Matthew 10.17), who certainly knew Book 18 of the Antiquities and cites five passages from it, explicitly states that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as Christ. The first to cite the Testimonium is Eusebius (c. 324); and even after him, we may note, there are eleven Christian writers who cite Josephus but not the Testimonium. In fact, it is not until Jerome in the early fifth century that we have another reference to it.

          “Josephus (CE 37-c.100),” in William Harbury et al., ed., The Cambridge History of Judaism vol. 3 (1999) pp. 911 – 912. Cited in Debunking Christianity: Why Josephus’ So-called Testimonium Flavianum Must be Rejected by Harry H. McCall 11/29/2008

        • Will

          I don’t really need to use Josephus to prove the text as historical. First off it has to be shown why the Writers of the text did not record historical people or places? That has not been shown. Luke wrote the book of Acts and mentioned some 30 plus cities verified via archeology? Why would i believe he lied about people when some of them also have been uncovered? Why would i reject the Biblical text with some over 20000 archeological findings from the OT to the NT that verifies it as written within history? Where are the people that hated Jesus where are their writings to say the Apostles lied? U first have to show why the Writers did not write History. The critics moved the goal post in the past to say what outside sources and Josepheus was used. But they want to reject Josepheus and attack his credibility which is ad hom while ignoring he wrote and recorded names like Herod, Augustus, Pilate etc. That does not remove that fact that him recording those names confirms the Writers of the Gospels recorded the same names.. that confirms with archeology that they were real people. So no reason to lie about Jesus and die for that lie now is there…. move on son you don’t scare me copy and pasting some bias nuts words…

        • Michael Neville

          So you admit that Harry Potter is also historical since King’s Cross is mentioned in it.

          Why somebody lies is less important than did they lie. The Biblical Jesus is based on other divine or semi-divine characters.

          * Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, healed the sick and raised the dead.

          * Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, ritual madness and religious ecstasy, was born of a virgin (a woman who had not had sex with a man). He was a preacher who was killed and then resurrected.

          * The Egyptian god Osiris was also born of a virgin and was killed and resurrected.

          * Osiris’s son, Horus, was known as the “light of the world”, “the good shepherd”, and “the lamb”. He was also referred to as “the way, the truth, and the life.”

          * Krishna, a Hindu avatar of Vishnu, had a miraculous conception that wise men were able to come to because they were guided by a star. After he was born a ruler tried to have him found and killed. His parents were warned by a divine messenger so they escaped.

          Any educated 1st Century Middle-Easterner could have invented Jesus out of odds and ends of mythology. As to why, religious fanatics of various flavors were thick on the ground at that time and place. They were all trying to get followers because, as Mark Twain put it so well, “Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.” Running a religion is more lucrative than many endeavors and doesn’t require heavy lifting.

          BTW you’re not on twitter. You can use the word “you” instead of “U”. Do so, it’ll make you look less ignorant.

        • Will

          Where are Asclepius’ followers and what do historians say?

          Dionysus.. where are his followers? Name them? When were the writings written down and what do historians say?

          Osiris same applies as what i have previously asked.
          Horus, Krishna as well.

          U would save yourself some time pointing out those things b/c the writers were eyewitnesses in what Jesus did.

          So no.. your statement then posting a bunch of fluff is noted. They did not copy.

          2 Peter 1:16New International Version (NIV)

          16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

          U went on this attack thinking what? That they borrowed? No they could have been stoned under the OT laws for misleading people.. in the NT they died for what they saw not based on borrowed myths! When u have over 500 men and this does not include women and children its over 1000s seeing Jesus post Resurrection.. no its not borrowed! People don’t make up a lie then die unless u have friends that a prone to doing such a thing! Its laughable your post i have seen the same old song and dance as if that solves the puzzle.. no it solves it for u b/c u want to believe it without ever showing how and what historians say.. the archeological support for the text showing the writers of each wrote within history… i don’t see that.. and by the way greek mythology is not the same and i could post more but whats the point?

        • Michael Neville

          Damn but you’re a mass of ignorance.

          You fail to understand what my point was. I agree that the Greek/Roman and Egyptian gods are not worshiped any more, but they were going strong during the 1st Century. Krishna is still worshiped. The Jesus mythos has roots in Greek and Egyptian mythology. I pointed out some of these roots.

          You were the one to bring up Josephus. I showed that the Testamonium Flavium is not something that he wrote, so it’s not a good idea for Christians to rely on it as “evidence” that Jesus existed.

          The Gospel writers were not eyewitnesses to Jesus.

          As for the rest of your rant, I can dismiss it as just a rant. Will Shakespeare described it perfectly: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth Act V Scene 5

          One last thing: You’ll look less like an idiot if you start using correct English. “U” is not the second person pronoun.

        • BlackMamba44

          Holy shit. These moronic trolls are really coming out of the woodwork.

        • Greg G.

          The use of “U” makes me think this is a Candy Smith sock.

        • adam

          “I don’t really need to use Josephus to prove the text as historical.”

          Then why try?

          ” First off it has to be shown why the Writers of the text did not record historical people or places?”

          You mean like in Spiderman and other tales of fiction?

          “Luke wrote the book of Acts and mentioned some 30 plus cities verified via archeology?”

          Luke-Acts does not name its author.

        • Will

          Another straw man.. u guys are good at that.. not naming an author for example is irrelevant.. i know people who have made true statements and have used their comments in discussions to for example protect their identity and it does not mean b/c i didn’t give their name that its not a true statement!

          Luke has plenty of historical accurate information and archeology supports that.. its totally irrelevant your opinion and meme posting… i just laugh at there is about 5 people on one person all posting the same old straw man arguments!

          No prove that Luke is not archeologically accurate.. the meme does not remove that.. keep on trolling i won’t answer trolling statements from anyone here on out when its a repeat of information..

        • adam

          ” Why would i reject the Biblical text with some over 20000
          archeological findings from the OT to the NT that verifies it as written
          within history?”

          Same reason we reject the super powers of Spiderman.

        • Will

          yawn…. great straw man

        • Will

          Who is arguing for Jospheus belief in Jesus? I mean u posted this opinion of McCall to prove what? Jospheus mentions Pilate and Herod thats whats relevant not what he believed in Jesus or not? Scholars know he didn’t believe in Jesus so this was really pointless! But even without Josphenus.. archeological support for Herod and Pilate to name just two people written about by the Gospel writers shows they are still writing within history! Don’t really need Jospheus’ writings in the first place but this is just used b/c bias critics like yourself and many can’t get beyond the presuppositions ya’ll have and can’t logically show why the writers should not be considered writing within history given the archeological support the text has i would say it historically accurate.. and a reason to reject it as historically accurate needs to be shown..

        • Greg G.

          Pilate and Caesar are also known from other writers and from archaeological evidence. Most of the historically verified characters in the New Testament are found in Luke and Acts and most of those are known to us only from Josephus. Some of them are mentioned in Acts in ways that show Luke was getting his information from Acts as related information about the characters are found in nearby passages of Josephus and some are mentioned anachronistically in Acts but are mentioned by Josephus in nearby passages in the text.

          The story of Jesus teaching in the temple at age 12 is similar to Josephus impressing the elders of the temple at age 14. Paul’s shipwreck in Acts is so similar to the shipwreck Josephus tells about, one would have to think they were on the same ship. Berenice is mentioned in Acts but seems to be name-dropped for verisimilitude because she does not play a role in the Acts story but she does play a role in the Josephus account where she is associated with Agrippa.

        • Joe

          What did he write about Jesus?

        • Will

          Jospheus just confirms people they wrote about outside of the Gospels. Thats where its important and the critics operate with their bias against it! I don’t really care to much for the bias opinions against Josphues. All the opinions to reject his corroboration of those same people like Herod or Pilate. I guess archeological evidences for those too should be thrown out to b/c people can’t accept anything that proves the writers wrote within history. Not my problem..

        • Joe

          You didn’t answer my question.

          We have archaeological evidence for Pilate and Herod. Not for Jesus.

        • Will

          Here is another quote I’ll give with an Historians i have more than shown that and I can give u another quote with the book u can examine to see that there are 25000 plus findings for the Biblical text and the book u can go buy and look it up.. it is u who are in denial and arguing with u about this is mute if u can’t remove your presuppositions from the discussion.. so don’t waste my time if u are not going to look into it and just want to argue from special pleading arguments..

          In like manner Luke is commended by the classical historian, G. D. Williamson for showing “complete familiarity with the thought, expression, and habitual terminology of the speakers, and … what memories the people of that time possessed!—if not on written notes, which we have reason to believe were commonly made.”

          Geisler, N. L. (1976). Christian apologetics (p. 326). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

        • Greg G.

          Luke used Josephus as a source for his gospel and Acts. Calling him a great historian by comparing him with Josephus is just grading him on how well he plagiarized.

        • Will

          Nice accusation & opinion.

        • Greg G.

          I gave you a sample of the evidence about two weeks ago here:

          There is much more.

        • Joe

          “Luke” was written probably a century after the events in question. It copies from Mark and Matthew, but changes some things.

          How is that accurate?

        • Will

          You said Probably! Haha that means u are guessing! Why don’t u look unbias historians and what they have said about Luke and how long after? I’ll give you a hint! The Writers wrote about Predictions Jesus made and one of the Predictions Jesus made was the Temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. Jesus Cruxifiction was 33AD? The Temple Destroyed in 70AD. Luke would have recorded it and the other Gospels with Matthew and Mark as well. By them not admitting that shows that they were completed and argues it was way less than a 100yrs. By the way a 100 yrs is not enough time for myth to creep in according to Historians understanding and study. Believe what u want.. i don’t listen to peoples bias…

        • Joe

          You said Probably! Haha that means u are guessing

          No, I’m being honest about the limits of what we can know historically. You should try it some time.

          You’re saying Luke was written at the same time as Mark?

        • adam

          ““complete familiarity with the thought, expression, and habitual
          terminology of the speakers, and … what memories the people of that time

          “what memories the people of that time

          Ah, a MIND READER.

          THIS is the very best you’ve got to demonstrate the truth of the bible?

        • Will

          You can move on with your evident Presuppositions… that much is showing!

        • Bruce Kopetz

          Will. Please stop digitally jerking off in public. It’s embarrassing for me and should be humiliating for you.

        • Facebook User

          Its only opinion that they are eyewitness accounts. Opinion is no good for defending a big thing like a resurrection. Nobody says you should give a madman the nuclear war codes just because you think you should. You need to be sure.

        • Facebook User

          You need to read over the tone you deliver- its full of anger and hate. I had a look at your discus. We need to be careful to think not engage in insults against those who disagree with us.

    • adam