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Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 17: Follow Up Investigation

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 17: Follow Up Investigation November 30, 2021

WHERE WE ARE

In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics Peter Kreeft raises 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory in an attempt to DISPROVE or REFUTE that skeptical theory.  Kreeft thinks he can prove the resurrection of Jesus by disproving a few skeptical theories about the resurrection of Jesus, such as the Hallucination Theory.

Kreeft’s first three objections focus on the idea of the credibility of eyewitness testimony in support of the resurrection of Jesus.  These objections evoke the centuries-old idea of a court trial providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.

In recent posts, I have provided powerful evidence in support of two important factual claims:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.
  • In Part 13 of this series, I provided evidence showing that human memory is UNRELIABLE.
  • In Part 14 of this series, I provided evidence that very young children (ages 2 to 3 years old), and young children (ages 4 to 10 years old) are DISHONEST and that teenagers are also DISHONEST.
  • In Part 15 of this series, I provided evidence that college students are DISHONEST.,
  • In Part 16 of this series, I provided evidence that adults in general are DISHONEST.

Taken together, Parts 14, 15, and 16 provide solid evidence showing that humans are in general DISHONEST.

These empirical FACTS about human memory and human behavior provide good reasons for skepticism and doubt about eyewitness testimony.  So, these FACTS undermine the first three objections by Kreeft against the Hallucination Theory.

I also began to challenge the idea that a court trial could provide powerful evidence that proves the resurrection of Jesus.  This challenge is in relation to the alleged 500 witnesses who supposedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus.  This claim about the 500 witnesses constitutes Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.

I have challenged this objection by carefully considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper modern criminal investigation, such as might now be conducted in the case of a serious crime, like murder, rape, kidnapping, or armed robbery.  In Part 12 of this series, I considered the basic tasks and procedures for conducting a “Preliminary Investigation” of a crime scene and of witnesses present at the crime scene.  The conclusion I reached was this:

First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.

Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.

Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.

Such a proper “Preliminary Investigation” is crucial for the prosecution to build a strong case that could potentially prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular person committed the murder (or other serious crime) in question.

In this current post, I will continue this line of thought by considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper “Follow-up Investigation” into a murder (or other serious crime).

 

A. PREPARATIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES

Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to prepare to interview witnesses to a crime (from p.21 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

FI-A1. Did a follow-up investigator review available information about the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of witnesses BEFORE interviewing those witnesses?

First of all, it is very unlikely that there was any preliminary investigation into this event, and it is extremely unlikely that there was a preliminary investigation that was done carefully and properly in accordance with modern procedures and standards.  Furthermore, most people in first century Palestine and the surrounding areas were illiterate, and could not read or write.  So, even if there was a generally proper initial investigation of this event, this probably would NOT have produced a full and accurate written record of the information gathered in that preliminary investigation.  So, the best that a follow-up investigator could do (assuming that the follow-up investigator was not the same person as the preliminary investigator) would be to discuss the event with the preliminary investigator to find out verbally what the preliminary investigator had discovered.  Such a verbal transmission of information would provide an INCOMPLETE and BIASED and INACCURATE collection of information relative to what was actually discovered by the preliminary investigator.

Second, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event (even if we count an investigation that happens weeks or months after the event as being a “follow-up investigation” without there having been any “preliminary investigation” within hours or days of the event).  Even if there had been a follow-up investigation, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so an investigator probably would not have bothered to carefully “review available information” about the alleged appearance of Jesus prior to interviewing alleged witnesses of this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses carefully reviewed the available information about this event prior to interviewing the alleged witnesses.

FI-A2. Did a follow-up investigator conduct interviews with these hundreds of witnesses as soon as these witnesses were physically and emotionally capable?

First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of people.  Second, there is no immediately obvious motivation for an investigation to occur immediately after the alleged event (i.e. within hours or a few days), so even if there was an investigation of this event, it probably would have taken place weeks or months or years after the event allegedly took place.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses of this alleged appearance of Jesus as soon as the witnesses were physically and emotionally capable of being interviewed (i.e. an hour or a day after the event).  This means that IF any such interviews took place weeks or months or years after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between witnesses and with people who were not present during the event, as well as simply by the passage of time and the natural fading of memories.

FI-A3. Did a follow-up investigator select an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those witnesses? 

First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so even if there had been a follow-up investigation of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is unlikely that an investigator would have put any thought or effort into finding an environment that would minimize distractions while maintaining the comfort level of the alleged witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator selected an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those alleged witnesses.

FI-A4. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses and for accurately recording or documenting the interviews of the hundreds of witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus (e.g. notepad, tape recorder, cam corder, interview room)?

First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so nobody had an idea of what is required for a proper interview of a witness.  Third, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator could read and write, because most people in first-century Palestine and surrounding areas were illiterate, and even if the investigator could read and write, there would be little motivation to carefully produce a full written record of the interviews of hundreds of alleged witnesses, because most people would be unable to read those documents.  Also, there was no such thing as a tape recorder or video camera in the first century, so such standard ways of accurately preserving the contents of an interview were unavailable in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator of the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses ensured that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and for accurately recording or documenting those interviews.

FI-A5. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stay separated from each other prior to being interviewed (so that they would not discuss this event with each other)?

First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, because there were no professional detectives in the first century and because psychologists have only very recently discovered how easily memories of eyewitnesses can become corrupted or how easily completely false memories can be implanted in the mind of a witness, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have been concerned about keeping the witnesses separated from each other.

Furthermore, even if by some miracle there was an investigator of this event, and the investigator requested and advised all of the hundreds of alleged witnesses to NOT discuss the event with each other, it is highly unlikely that the witnesses would have complied with this request.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator ensured that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stayed separated from each other (so that they did not discuss the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other) prior to being interviewed.  This means that IF any follow-up interviews of the witnesses took place some days, weeks or months after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between the various witnesses.

FI-A6. Did a follow-up investigator determine the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted the preliminary investigation (into this alleged event where hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus)?

It is not clear to me what the purpose or motivation is for this task.  Perhaps this is just one way to establish rapport with the witness.  Perhaps the motivation is to find out if the previous interaction between the preliminary investigator and this witness was congenial and whether the witness was cooperative and forthcoming with the previous “preliminary” investigator.

However, recordings or complete notes from the preliminary interview of that witness should contain information about whether the witness was congenial, cooperative, and forthcoming during the preliminary interview, so this step seems redundant and superfluous.

In any case, it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, it is unlikely that the follow-up investigator would ask questions about how the previous preliminary interview went.  For one thing, it is very unlikely that there would have been any preliminary investigation to look back upon.  For another, concerns about the congeniality and cooperation of a witness in a previous interview would probably be of little interest to a first-century person who has never seen or thought about a professional detective or professional investigation into a crime or important event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator determined the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted a preliminary investigation of this alleged event.

CONCLUSION ABOUT PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS BY A FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATOR

In the case of EACH ONE of the six key tasks concerning preperations by a follow-up investagator for follow-up interviews of the hundreds of witness who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is extremely unlikely that these key preparation tasks were performed, because it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and because even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of the event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have attempted to do these key tasks.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of human memory in the first century, and there was no such thing as tape recorders or video cameras in the first century, and because very few people were able to read and write in the first century.

 

B. CONTACT WITH WITNESSES FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS

Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for contact between a follow-up investigator and a witness just prior to conducting a follow-up interview of that witness (from p.22 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

FI-B1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus develop rapport with each of the hundreds of witnesses prior to interviewing each witness?

FI-B2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event inquire of each witness about the witness’s prior contact with any initial investigator(s) of this event before interviewing each witness?

FI-B3. Did a follow-up investigator refrain from volunteering any specific information about this alleged event or about the identity or activity of the person who allegedly made an appearance before the crowd of witnesses to each of the hundreds of witnesses before interviewing each witness?

It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation or conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Even if there was someone who conducted an investigation of this alleged event, it is very unlikely that this investigator followed the guidance indicated in item B1, or in item B2, or item B3.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, there was no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that there was a follow-up investigator who interviewed hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and who followed these three guidelines just prior to interviewing each of the witnesses to that alleged event.

 

C. CONDUCTING FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES

Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to conduct follow-up interviews of witnesses to a crime (from p.22-23 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

 

FI-C1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus encourage each of the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting?

It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person would have encouraged the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to volunteer information about the event without prompting.

FI-C2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial?

It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.  This is unlikely because there were no professional detectives in the first century, no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century, and because recording or documenting all of these details reported by hundreds of witnesses would have been extremely difficult in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into this alleged event encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.

FI-C3. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event ask open-ended questions and augment those with close-ended specific questions about the event when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?

FI-C4. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event avoid asking the witnesses leading questions when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?

It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed hundreds of witnesses in accordance with these two guidelines. (See my comments in Part 12 of this series on the same questions concerning a preliminary investigation).

FI-C5. Did a follow-up investigator caution each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event?

It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person cautioned the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd).  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator cautioned each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event.

FI-C6. Did a follow-up investigator ask each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to mentally re-create the circumstances of the event when the follow-up investigator interviewed these witnesses?

FI-C7. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to use non-verbal communication to describe the event (e.g. drawings, gestures, objects) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?

FI-C8. Did a follow-up investigator avoid interrupting each of the hundreds of witnesses to the alleged event when the investigator was interviewing these witnesses?

It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed each of the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event and followed the guidelines stated in items C6, C7, and C8 (for the same reasons I have given in relation to the previous five guidelines).

FI-C9. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to contact follow-up investigators when additional information about this alleged event is recalled?

FI-C10. Did a follow-up investigator instruct each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged event with other potential witnesses?

FI-C11. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts concerning the alleged event [or:] to avoid telling the story about the event to others who were not present during the event, and to avoid listening to others who were not present talk about the event?

Concerning guidelines C9, C10 and C11, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews of the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in accordance with these guidelines (see my comments in Part 12 of this series about similar guidelines concerning preliminary interviews of the witnesses).

 

CONCLUSION ABOUT FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF THE HUNDREDS OF WITNESSES

It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the first century and did so in accordance with the 11 guidelines for follow-up interviews that I have discussed above.

 

OVERALL CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROVING THE RESURRECTION IN A COURT TRIAL

What we DON’T KNOW about the hundreds of witnesses who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus could fill VOLUMES.  We don’t know how many people were actually present during this event (500 is a very round number and was very likely a rough guess of the size of the crowd that was made weeks or months after the event by some unknown person).

We also don’t know how many people in the crowd actually experienced seeing a person that they took to be Jesus.  Paul asserts that “more than 500” witnesses saw the risen Jesus at the same time and same place, but it is very likely that he is just passing along a story that he was told about this event and it is quite possible that either he or the story teller had mistakenly inferred that ALL of the people in the crowd (perhaps a crowd of 300 or 400 people) saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, when in fact only SOME of the people in that crowd saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, perhaps only a handful of people in that crowd.

We don’t know where this event took place.  We don’t know what year this took place.  We don’t know if it took place during the winter, spring, summer, or fall.  We don’t know how Paul learned about this alleged event.  We don’t know the names of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know the race or ethnicity of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know about the intelligence or level of education of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know whether this event took place indoors or outdoors, in the early morning, in the middle of the day, or late at night.  We don’t know if the light was good or if it was dark.  We don’t know if the wind was howling or there was no wind.  We don’t know if it was raining or the sky was clear.  We don’t know if the people in the crowd had been drinking or not.  We don’t know about the quality of eyesight or hearing of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We have no information about the honesty or dishonest of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know how old ANY of the alleged witnesses were at the time of the alleged event.

Most importantly, we DON’T KNOW whether ANY of these witnesses had ever seen the historical flesh-and-blood Jesus prior to his death.  So, for all we know, EVERY one of these witnesses was INCAPABLE of identifying anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth, because none of them had previously met Jesus of Nazareth.  The testimony of these hundreds of witnesses might well be just as WORTHLESS as Paul’s testimony about his own experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

We also don’t know whether these witnesses would describe their experience as being an ORDINARY VISUAL experience, or if they would describe their experience as a DREAM or a VISION.  We don’t know if  all of the witnesses had precisely the same experience of the person who they identified as being the risen Jesus.  Would each of them describe a person of the same height?  same hair style?  same type of facial hair?  same color and style of clothing?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this event lasted.  Was Jesus “seen” for just a couple of seconds? or a couple of minutes? or a couple of hours? Did the experience last the same amount of time for every witness? or did it last for a few seconds for some, a few minutes for others, and an hour or two for others?

We don’t know if there was a careful and objective preliminary investigation into this alleged event.  We don’t know if there was a careful and objective follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  However, we have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful preliminary investigation of this alleged event that was conducted in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.  We also have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful follow-up investigation of this alleged event in which hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event were interviewed in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines that are used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.

But such careful and proper preliminary investigations and follow-up investigations are crucial to any reasonable effort by a prosecuting attorney to correctly identify the person who commited the murder (or other serious crime), to provide sufficient evidence to charge that person with murder, and to prove in a court trial that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   A prosecutor cannot simply pull a witness off the street and put them in a witness stand and hope that the witness has some credibility and some relevant knowledge about the murder or the murderer.  The use of witnesses in a modern court trial requires that there be a foundation of solid investigation and documented evidence from the crime scene, and documented properly conducted interviews of relevant witnesses.  Apart from a proper preliminary investigation and a proper follow-up investigation,  it would be practically impossible for a prosecuting attorney to put together a solid case for the guilt of any murder suspect.

Furthermore, I have argued extensively that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.

Therefore, the whole idea of there being a court trial in which witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus would provide testimony that would PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead is a RIDICULOUS FANTASY that one can only believe by completely ignoring the reality of how modern criminal investigations and the scientific study of human psychology and human memory provide the foundations for successful prosecutions of serious crimes in actual modern court trials.

In view of these various considerations, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #3, concerning the claim that “over five hundred” witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time and at the same place, FAILS.  This third objection does NOT provide a solid or strong reason to reject the Hallucination Theory.  This is a very weak objection that is grounded primarily in WISHFUL THINKING and FANTASY.

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