Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Probability and Resurrection



,,,,I oppose efforts to reduce religous belief and experience to calculations of probability. I oppose trying to say that the resurrection is probable or improbable. I don't even want to argue for the resurrection by showing it to be probable, or trying to. I certianly do not believe that showing it to be improbable disproves it. A few weeks ago I posted on the CADRE blog an essay on Bayes Theorem and why I think it can't be applied to a probability of God's existence.That was attacked by Secular Web founder Jeff Lowder. I answered him in two parts, part 1 here, part 2 here. Now I apply this to the resurrection. I want to say at the outset in the comment section of Lowder's blog someone ask about applying BT to arguments like fine tuning. I'm for that because that's a matter of empirical proof..

 ...I dont' really think I "beat" Jeff Lowder. I don't put good discussions into such crass terms. Here's why if we were debating in a tournament situation with a judge and possibility of winning or losing, I might have a good chance of winning: he never actually answered my major issue, that being, the inappropriate nature of reducing the dynamic of ultimate trnasformative experience to probabilistic calculation. On the other I may have been misleading in the way I approached it. I did not do it to be tricky but it my be my fault. I created the impression that I thought Bayes doesn't work by talking about it's nefarious reception among mathematicians and math professors. I wasn't trying to mislead. I didn't mean to say that the track record among Mathematics professors proves it doesn't work, only that it's not fool proof it's not absolute, it doesn't apply for everything.

....I'm all for it in terms of empirical evidence. Things are a lot more tricky when you try to team up God and empirical evidence.My major point was that no new information about God is going to come forth in manner that can be subjected to scientific scrutiny. God is not part of the domain of science. One must simply accept it. To bleieve in God is think there terms that are beyond the pale of scientific reductionism. Now that may strengthen the ideology of atheism becuase they are going to say "ah ha! see, ah ha! God can't be proved scientifically?" But in the long run it threatens to destroy the ideology of atheism, because it means that the area under the (supposed) control of atheist thinking can't be the only from of knowledge, thus the ideology is totally defeated then and there. The atheist ideology asserts that scinece is the only form of knowledge, once that is disproved then the whole ideology is automatically false a prori.

....Science itself is not defeated because science is not about these dippy games of "defeating" the other side. Science will go on finding facts about he physical workings of the world and leave those areas of knowledge beyond its scope to other areas of endeavor. For the ideology that attaches itself to science and tries to ride on it's coat tails the tails will be cut off. Lowder assumed that I don't like Bayes which is not true. He also assumed that we can compere belief and unbelief as competing hypothesis. My point was that we can't. Belief in God is not a competing explanation for the workings of the physical world, it's a complete world view. It's a world view unto itself but for the bit about the physical workings of the observable world it assumes the findings of scinece. Rather it leaves science to the proper domain.

....It has to be understood in terms of own inner logic and it has to be taken on its own terms. It's comparing apples and oranges. In terms of the resurrection one must compare things that are meaningful to compare to make a probability. We can't assume that it's meaningful to compare a miracle with naturalistic events because the miracle is supposed to be impossible. Naturally it is improbable. Being improbable doesn't mean it's not so. It means you have to take it on it's own terms.the thing about arguing for the resurrection, like with God argument I never argue for proof. It can't be proved that the resurrection hapepned. It can be argued that there's good reason to think it did. The evidence allows for that conclusion, meaning it doesn't disprove it. It doesn't prove it either.The proof is always going to be in the experiencing of God's reality in your life. 

 ....In arguing for the resurrection as an event in history one is not arguing matheamtical probablity but a  "reasonable status." There is good reason to believe X happened. It's not a matter of subjecting the possiblity to a calculation. Most of the standard arguments for the resurrection (such as McDowell's for example) work by ascertaining deduction based upon the circumstances of the evidence then eliminating alternate possibilities logically. It's not a matter of chances or odds. I'm not saying you can't attach a number based upon how alternatives one excludes, but there's no need to. The point is not "this is worth believing becuase it's the most likely thing that happened." It's not, it's the least likely thing. Who would think God would raise someone from the dead to undo what had beeb done and thus redeem the world from sin? While I'm not opposed to calculating probability for empirically determinable events, it doesn't make since to subject the resurrection to such calculation.

....What's the ultimate point of it all? If we calculate the resurrection and we find it's improbable, which we must because it's a miracle, that's supposed to mean it didn't happen, or that we shouldn't believe it happened because it's unlikely? How likely would it be to find a seminarian in a major liberal seminary who is a communist supporting the Sandinista, and at the same time a charismatic Christian who speaks in tongues? The probability is against it, yet in the late 80s I was that guy. Or I should say "comrade?"

 ,,,,Religion is about ultimate transformational experience. It's a dynamic of world view and understanding that culmenates in existential and phenomenological overhaul. It's on a different scale of both value and reality from the calculations of scientific reductionism. Trying to put it into those terms is only going to lose the phenomena and reduce the experience to something that can be charted and graphed but it's going to lack the phenomenological dimension that makes religion work. It's not something that can be predicted. That's not to say that there is predictive power in hypothosies drawn from study of the phenomena. We can predict things based upon the use of the M scale. But there's a huge difference in predicting a behavior and actually grasping the existential import of it. In the human era (1960s) people expressed a tentative acceptance and kind of distrust of computers with the phrase, drawn form instructions about old fashioned computer cards, "do not fold, spindle or mutilate." A lot of people made a metaphor about of that as though they were the computer card. Don't fold, spindle, or mutilate me, or the human spirit. The same applies to the human experience that is wrapped up on religious experience.













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