bookmark_borderAn Invitation to William Lane Craig

An Invitation to William Lane Craig

On May 23 and June 9, respectively, the Secular Web published revised versions of two of my three essays on the kalam cosmological argument that had previously been published on that website. Today, I have sent an e-mail letter to Dr. William Lane Craig requesting that he publicly respond to these essays for the reasons set forth in that letter. A copy of that letter appears below. The reader will please note that I informed Dr. Craig in my letter that I would post (or attempt to do so) on the reasonablefaith.com and the secularfrontier blogs. I very much hope that the reader of this post will read my two essays on the philosophical aspects of the kalam cosmological argument.

My letter reads as follows:

Dear Dr. Craig:
June 29, 2014
Perhaps you may have personally noticed, or your attention has been called to the fact, that updated/revised versions of two or my three essays on the kalam cosmological argument are now available on the Secular Web. They are “The Kalam Cosmological Argument: the Question of the Metaphysical Possibility of an Infinite Set of Real Entities” [2002, updated May 23, 2014], accessible at http://infidels.org/library/modern/arnold_guminski/kalam.html, and “The Kalam Cosmological Argument: The Question of the Metaphysical Possibility of an Infinite Temporal Series” [2003, revised June 9, 2014[, accessible at http://infidels.org/library/modern/arnold_guminski/kalam2.html. For the reasons set forth below, I cordially invite you once more to publicly respond to my theses concerning the philosophical aspects of the kalam cosmological argument.

My writings make it abundantly clear that I agree with you that the typical ways in which the application of Cantorian transfinite arithmetic to the natural world are attempted generate counter-intuitively absurd consequences—consequences which justify the rejection of the metaphysical possibility of an infinite temporal series of infinite or finite duration. The reason for this outcome is that the typical ways in question presuppose that denumerably infinite sets[1] of natural entities or of temporal events are necessarily equipollent, i.e., that there must be a one-to-one correspondence between the members of any two denumerably infinite sets of real concrete entities or of events. This presupposition in turn is ultimately grounded upon the flawed notion that real infinites are similar in all relevant aspects to mathematical denumerable infinites. I argue in my two essays why at least some denumerably infinite sets of entities or events are metaphysically possible—or, at least, that the metaphysical impossibility of such sets cannot be legitimately grounded upon transfinite mathematical considerations. In short, the philosophical kca fails for the reasons set forth in my two essays.

In my e-mail to you, dated 27 January 2014, I wrote (with added matter within brackets):

It behooves me to also call your attention to the following. Quentin Smith [your frequent collaborator and/or sparring partner], then editor of the philosophical journal Philo, wrote in his acceptance letter (07/2002) of my first KCA paper: “Your paper has been studied thoroughly for some time and there is agreement that it is at least an under-cutting defeater of Craig’s beliefs about real infinites, probably even an overriding-defeater. More importantly, it introduces a novel metaphysical theory of the relation of transfinite arithmetic to concrete reality.” In a follow-up message Smith remarked; “We liked your paper…. My second KCA paper (“The Kalam Cosmological Argument Yet Again [etc]”) was submitted to Philo but, alas, not accepted. Quentin Smith, however, in his email of 10/04/2003 wrote that only 12 papers of about 200 submissions can be accepted for publication in an issue of Philo. He wrote: “The readers liked it and found it plausible …..[A]lthough your paper made it into our top 20, it did not quite make it into our top 12 that we will publish. Nonetheless, I liked reading your article, as did the others.”

The world wonders why you have not yet answered me since my two essays in question were peer-reviewed and present a persuasive challenge to your version of the kalam philosophical cosmological argument.[2] This is all the more puzzling since, unlike so many naturalist critics of your version of the kca whose views on the matter you have chosen to publically consider, I am a very commonsensible naturalist. Thus I adhere to the A (dynamic or tensed) theory of time (together with the notion of absolute simultaneity); as well as to the first premise of the kca (i.e., everything [i.e. every concrete, natural or supernatural, entity] that begins to exist has a cause [for its beginning]), as foundational properly basic beliefs. I emphatically reject epiphenomenalism and the physical closure principle. I would classify myself as an interactionist property dualist since I know that some of my so-called intentional states (e.g., purposes, beliefs) are causally efficacious by virtue of their mental content. However I am quite willing to acknowledge that a person who holds to something like the spiritual but naturally generated emergent self as described by William Hasker can be properly classified as a metaphysical naturalist (and could possibly be even a commonsensible one at that), provided that he also holds that this emergent self does not survive death. Like you, I agree that with the notion of a first philosophy that includes synthetic propositions constituting the foundational principles upon which the presuppositions of the natural sciences and inference in everyday life are based. And like you, I hold that the opinion that it is true, or even metaphysically possible, that the natural world has an uncaused absolute beginning is one that is counter-intuitively absurd in excelsis. On the other hand, of course, I maintain that the history of the natural world which is constituted by or that includes the history of this physical universe consists of denumerably infinite series of events of infinite duration. So I again challenge you to seriously consider and comprehensively respond to my two essays recently republished on the Secular Web.[3]

Sincerely yours,

Arnold T. Guminski

[1] A denumerably infinite set, whether of mathematical or real entities, is any set the members of which correspond one-to-one to the members of the infinite set of natural numbers (i.e., 1,2,3,….)

[2] The Secular Web editors deemed the original version of my second essay to have been peer-reviewed. However the just revised version of the essay was peer-reviewed by an anonymous referee for the Secular Web.

[3] In the interest of arousing public interest in my challenge to you, I am concurrently posting this letter on the reasonablefaith.com forums blog and the Secular Web blog (https://secularfrontier.infidels.orgt/).

bookmark_borderDoes Cosmos Promote Atheism?

Stargazing is my hobby, and I subscribe to various related publications, including the magazine Astronomy. Bob Berman is a regular columnist for Astronomy and his columns are usually entertaining and informative. Occasionally they are peevish, as when he recently devoted much of his monthly column to a matter of pronunciation. He insisted at length that the name of the first magnitude star Vega is pronounced “Vee-ga” not “Vay-ga.” Well, I guess we all have pet peeves. One of mine is people who make a federal case out of differences in pronunciation. BTW, I have always said “Vay-ga” and have no plans to change.
In his column for the August 2014 issue of Astronomy, Berman takes on Neil deGrasse Tyson and his recent, superb Cosmos series. In an essay titled “Astronomy and God,” Berman charges that the series engages in anti-God propaganda with “religious putdowns” in every episode. Berman recognizes that devoting his monthly column to the perennially explosive science and religion issue is “about as wise as inviting the Three Stooges into a crystal glassware shop.” He should have followed his wiser instincts. His column badly misfires and should embarrass him and the editors of Astronomy.
I watched the entire Cosmos series and found it to be a beautiful, clear, and inspiring piece of popular science exposition—much like the Carl Sagan original. I saw nothing, absolutely nothing that a rational religious person should have found offensive. Admittedly, I am an atheist and when it comes to religious putdowns, I may be sensitivity-challenged. So, what are these “putdowns” Berman alleges? In one episode, Giordano Bruno, tied to the stake and awaiting burning, is offered a crucifix to kiss and turns his head away in disgust. This is a putdown? Bruno had been imprisoned in a dungeon for years, tortured, and was about to be put to an excruciating death—all because his vision of an infinite cosmos was considered heresy.
Does the representation of Bruno turning away from a sanctimonious, hypocritical crumb of grace—and the self-abasement and repudiation it would have implied—constitute an insult to Christianity? How should Cosmos have depicted the scene? Or does Berman think that the whole representation of the Bruno business has no place in a program devoted to science and can only serve as an inflammatory affront to believers? After all, Bruno was a visionary (maybe we should say “crackpot”), not a scientist. Still, the Church did stigmatize, warn, threaten, and, indeed, sometimes punish those who disagreed—on scientific grounds or otherwise—with the official line about the nature of the cosmos. That is simply a fact, and a salient fact, of the history of science. Should Cosmos have simply ignored that fact?
Another alleged putdown is in the episode dealing with evolution, where there was emphasis on the architecture of the eye, a particular battleground between evolutionists and “intelligent design” theorists, says Berman. Apparently, Berman regards it as a deliberate poke in the eye to ID theorists even to mention the issue. Once again, though, the debate about the evolution of “organs of extreme perfection,” like the eye, is important to the history of evolution. Darwin considered this objection in the Origin of Species and replied to it at length. It was as staple of the early critics of natural selection. The point, therefore, did not arise only in recent debates over ID, and mentioning it in the series was not a gratuitous provocation, as Berman seems to think.
Berman claims that the new Cosmos series, like the original written by the agnostic Sagan, portrays religion as “a superstition anathema to science.” In consequence, he says, “religious groups have been howling.” Really? Which ones? Has the Vatican issued an official protest? What about the Archbishop of Canterbury? The Methodists? Rastafarians? If creationists and fundamentalists are the “religious groups” Berman has in mind, I say let ‘em howl. The louder, the better. Fundamentalists ladle out the vitriol when are on the attack, but they cringe, whimper, and pout when they perceive any slight against them, and whine about the “anti-Christian bias.” Of course, for a fundamentalist, the operant definition of “anti-Christian” is “whatever does not support my brand of fundamentalism.” In reality, Berman’s claim that Cosmos is anti-religious is not in the slightest supported by any of his citations of the series.
Berman says that any appearance of advocacy by science will make people think that science is just one more “view” or “position” rather than “an impartial portal to truth.” He counters, with an air of profound insight, that “Atheists cannot prove God’s nonexistence, nor can religious folks prove the opposite.” Berman does admit that science works on the basis of naturalistic assumptions that make no appeal at all to plan or purpose:
“As we know, science says that one strange moment long ago, the cosmos suddenly appeared out of nothingness. Thereafter, random motion eventually produced golden retrievers and all the rest.”
But, says Berman, “This view is neither right nor wrong. It is merely science acting appropriately.”
Gee. I can’t think of any message more likely to promote the idea that science is just another ideology than to say that methods and assumptions of science are neither right nor wrong, but just the way science does things. That is what the “social constructivists” and postmodernists say about science and they most certainly regard it as just another ideology. But Berman also speaks of science as a “portal to truth.” Is he saying that the naturalistic assumptions of science have nothing to do with it being conducive to truth? Could science be done just as well, or better, by looking for plan and purpose? ID theorists think so. Does Berman? If not, why not? On the other hand, if methodological naturalism is one of the heuristic assumptions guiding science to truth, advocating it cannot be a bias.
Berman concludes with a call for humility and a list of questions that indicate what is allegedly unknowable, or at least presently unknown. One of the alleged imponderables he lists is “Do cats dream in color?” Another is the question of what preceded the Big Bang. I’m not convinced that these are unanswerable, but, for the sake of argument, let’s admit that there may be questions that we want to ask but which science will never answer. So what? Does this make it one scintilla more likely that we will get answers to such questions from religion? Over the centuries, the answers given by religion have gone down like bowling pins, and science has been the bowling ball. The rhetoric of being “on the right side of history” may be overused these days, but if history does have a right side, science is on it. Further, we live in an era of burgeoning irrationalism. Anti-science stalks not just the A.M. airwaves, and Koch brothers-funded “think” tanks, but the very halls of Congress. Come to think of it, these days a bit of outright, unabashed advocacy might be a good thing.

bookmark_borderThe Case for the Death of Jesus

I have written several posts about William Craig’s “case” for the death of Jesus in his book The Son Rises. In those posts I showed that Craig made about 81 historical claims, but failed to provide any historical evidence for 85% of those claims, and provided only weak and dubious historical evidence for the other 15% of claims. In short, Craig provided solid historical evidence for ZERO of the 81 historical claims he makes in his “case” for the death of Jesus. He completely failed to show that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and thus his case for the resurrection is also a complete failure.
However, I can imagine a response to my objection to Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus:
You are right. William Craig has generally ignored the issue of whether Jesus died on the cross, and his case for the death of Jesus in The Son Rises is pathetic. But the problem here is that Craig does not take this issue seriously, and so he does not make a serious effort to prove that Jesus died on the cross. In his view, the question of whether Jesus actually died on the cross was settled long ago, and there is no need to re-hash the issue.
However, other Christian apologists take this question more seriously, and they make a more serious effort to build an historical case for the death of Jesus on the cross. So, defeating Craig’s half-hearted effort in The Son Rises is something bordering on a Straw Man fallacy. You need to consider the cases made by other apologists. There are other Christian apologists who do a better job on this issue, such as Norman Geisler, Michael Licona, and Gary Habermas. Until you consider the cases made by these apologists, you have only refuted one of the weakest cases available.
I think this is a reasonable response to my objection to Craig’s case for the resurrection. So, I plan to move on to examine cases for the death of Jesus by Geisler, Licona, and Habermas. I believe they in fact do a better job building a case for the death of Jesus than Craig has, so their cases deserve serious examination and consideration.

bookmark_borderAtheists’ Favorite Parts of the Bible

There is a link on Debunking Christianity to an interesting article by Valerie Tarico on the topic of atheists’ favorite Bible verses. I thought that they would be the really horrid ones like II Kings, Chapter 2, where we have the lurid story of the prophet Elisha, who was approaching the town of Bethel when a group of children began to mock his baldness. Elisha curses them in the name of The Lord and two she-bears come out of the woods and maul forty two of the children. Now being among the hair-challenged myself, I would resent a gang of ill-mannered urchins, but having them mauled by bears seems a bit over-the-top.
Then there is I Samuel, Chapter 15, where Samuel orders Saul to subject the Amalekites to genocide—and kill all their animals too. I guess killing all the people wasn’t enough. The donkeys and sheep were evil too. Or I thought that the favorites would be all the bizarre rules and prohibitions from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. You know: The ones about how you should stone to death a young smart-aleck who mouths off to his parents or how you should treat slaves, or how a man becomes unclean if he touches anything a menstruating woman has touched. Atheists like such verses because it is fun to watch fundamentalists practice logical and moral contortionism trying to explain them away.
No, the Tarico article plays it straight; it notes the portions of the Bible that atheists genuinely admire. For me, the best thing in the Bible is the Book of Job. Well, I don’t like the bizarre beginning with God and Satan making bets with each other or the sappy ending where Job gets everything back—I guess like the Who down in Whoville in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I understand that the prologue and epilogue were added later. Another later addition is the repetitious and tiresome speech of Elihu from Chapter 32 through 37. The rest of the book, however is magnificent.
The stuff you heard in Sunday school about how “patient” Job was is a lot of malarkey. Job is anything but patient as he rails at God and demands to know the reason for his suffering. In poetry far more splendid and powerful than the musings of latter-day existentialists, Job declares the meaninglessness and futility of life. His message is summed up in the slogan, “Life is a bitch. Then you die.” In no uncertain terms Job condemns a scheme of things that causes the innocent to suffer. He demands answers from God again and again and will not shut up or back down when his self-righteous “comforters” assail him. These “comforters”—tormentors, really—are the typical sanctimonious, unctuous blowhards who can make your worst tragedy even worse by blaming you. These vile characters insist that Job himself must be responsible for his own suffering since God is just and would not punish him unless he had sinned. Job gives no ground at all to his mental and moral inferiors, but insists that he is righteous and does not deserve his suffering.
When God speaks from the whirlwind, the effect is stunning. The quality of the poetry, which had been superb before, now becomes ineffable. You have got to read it in the King James Version. My favorite bit is where God demands of Job “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with an hook?” God has made the fearsome crocodile, so powerful that no weapon can harm him. Spears and arrows bounce off his armor, yet he is beautiful as well as terrifying: “Are not his eyes like the eyelids of the morning?” If none can stand before the leviathan, who can stand up before God?
Of course, this is no answer to Job at all. God has no answer to the question of why the innocent suffer and just tells Job to shut up. The author of Job as good as admits that there is no answer to the “problem of evil.” He refuses to embrace the facile, self-righteous theodicy of the “comforters.” God censures them in no uncertain terms. No, the innocent suffer and there is no explanation why, the author of Job admits. I admire this candor as much as I despise the concomitant suggestion that we should be so awed by God’s creation that we are cowed into not questioning His Ways. Rubbish. Job’s outrageous suffering gives him every right to demand an answer. The Book of Job, then, is an astonishingly candid admission—right in the middle of the Bible—that God rules an unjust universe and nobody knows why.
So, would any other atheists like to share their favorite parts of the Bible?

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 8

In the first three paragraphs of William Craig’s “case” for the claim that Jesus died on the cross, Craig makes 60 different historical claims, but provides only ONE piece of actual historical evidence for just ONE of the 60 historical claims. Furthermore, the one piece of historical evidence provided by Craig is irrelevant to the historical claim it was supposed to support, based on a modern scholarly translation of the Major Declamations.
In paragraph four, Craig makes 22 historical claims, nearly half of which are supported ONLY by the historically dubious Fourth gospel:
although the Roman guards broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus, [claim 2]
they did not break Jesus’ legs [claim 3]
because [claim 4]
they saw that [claim 5]
He was already dead. [claim 6]
…one of the soldiers took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the side [claim 8]
to ensure that He was dead, [claim 9]
…blood and water flowed out. [claim 11]
wrapping the body in linen and aromatic spices, [claim 19]
in Jesus’ case about seventy-five pounds of them. [claim 20]
Based on the assumption that claims (8) and (11) are true, Craig asserts some related medical claims, even though he has no medical expertise:
This flow [of blood and water] could have been a serum from the pericardial sac, mixed with blood from the heart,[claim 12]
or a hemorrhagic fluid in the pleural cavity between the ribs and the lungs. [claim 13]
No historical evidence is given in support of the remaining historical claims, except for claim (25):
According to procedure, […one of the soldiers took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the side] [claim 7]
Jesus was taken down from the cross [claim 14]
and buried in the customary Jewish manner. [claim 15]
This included [claim 16]
binding the hands and feet [claim 17]
and [also included wrapping the body in linen and aromatic spices] [claim 18]
the body was then laid in a tomb carved out of rock, [claim 21]
and a great stone was laid across the entrance. [claim 22]
This was then sealed, [claim 23]
Claim (25) is supported only by the gospel of Matthew:
a guard was set around the tomb. [claim 25]

But, as Craig is well aware, the story in Matthew about guards watching the tomb of Jesus is doubted by many N.T. scholars, so simply pointing to the gospel of Matthew is not sufficient, not to mention that there are dozens of critical background questions about the gospel of Matthew that Craig has not even attempted to answer.
Craig has published an entire article defending the historicity of this one story found only in Matthew: “The Guard at the Tomb.” New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 273-81. You can read the article for yourself on Craig’s website:
The Guard at the Tomb
If simply citing the passage from Matthew was sufficient, then there would be no need for such an article. But, as the first sentence of the article states:
Matthew’s story of the guard at the tomb of Jesus is widely regarded as an apologetic legend.
Since many N.T. scholars doubt or reject the historicity of this story in Matthew, it is intellectually dishonest for Craig to assert this event as an historical fact and to simply point to the gospel of Matthew as his evidence.
Since claim (7) is a duplication of a claim from paragraph three, there are just 21 new historical claims in paragraph four, bringing the total number of historical claims in paragraphs one through four to 81.
No historical evidence was provided for 69 out of the 81 historical claims. For ten claims Craig points to (or could point to) passages in the Fourth gospel that describe events or details found ONLY in that gospel, a gospel considered to be historically unreliable by most of the leading Jesus scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries. For one claim Craig points to a story found only in the gospel of Matthew, a story that many leading N.T. scholars doubt or reject as being unhistorical. For one claim Craig provided the very poor historical evidence of the passage from Major Declamations (which he did not even bother to quote).
Thus, of the 81 historical claims that Craig makes in his “case” for the death of Jesus:
85% are simply asserted to be true with NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE being provided.
14% of those claims are supported by pointing to historically dubious passages about events or details that are found in ONLY ONE of the four gospels, mostly the historically unreliable Fourth gospel.
And one remaining claim is based on the weak and pathetic evidence of a passage from a book of fictitious courtroom speeches written by one or more unknown authors as an exercise to entertain others and to show off their fancy speech-making skills.
The fifth and final paragraph of Craig’s case merely repeats and summarizes previous claims, and provides no additional historical evidence in support of any of the many claims he has made. So, it should come as no surprise that Craig has not persuaded me that Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday.
The only thing that Craig has managed to prove, is that it is simply NOT POSSIBLE to make a reasonable case for the death of Jesus on the cross in just two or three pages. It was just a bad idea from the start.
If one needs to make dozens of historical claims, as Craig has done in just a few paragraphs, then since each of those claims needs to be supported with historical evidence, and since each piece of historical evidence requires a significant amount of clarification, explanation, and justification as to how and why it is relevant and provides strong evidence for the claim in question, it will require at least two or three pages for EACH PIECE of historical evidence (recall that Craig wrote an entire article defending the historicity of the one passage in Matthew about the guard at the tomb), and since dozens of pieces of evidence will be required, we are talking about the need for one or two hundred pages to lay out a reasonable case for the death of Jesus on the cross.
I conclude that in Craig’s book The Son Rises, his very short “case” for the death of Jesus on the cross is a failure, and therefore I conclude that Craig’s case for the resurrection is indeed a complete failure, because he has failed to establish a basic assumption that is needed to prove the resurrection, namely the claim that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday.

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 7

In the first three paragraphs of William Craig’s “case” for the claim that Jesus died on the cross, Craig makes 60 different historical claims, but provides only ONE piece of actual historical evidence for just ONE of the 60 historical claims.
Furthermore, in part 6 of this series we saw that the one piece of historical evidence provided by Craig was CRAP. Based on a modern scholarly translation of the passage in question, the evidence is simply irrelevant to the historical claim it was supposed to support, and even given a more favorable alternative translation, the passage is at best weak and questionable evidence for only a part of the historical claim.
It is now time to move on to paragraph four, in which Craig makes a number of historical claims, about 25 claims by my count:
The gospels report that [claim 1]
although the Roman guards broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus, [claim 2]
they did not break Jesus’ legs [claim 3]
because [claim 4]
they saw that [claim 5]
He was already dead. [claim 6]
According to procedure, [claim 7]
one of the soldiers took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the side [claim 8]
to ensure that He was dead, [claim 9]
and, John reports, [claim 10]
blood and water flowed out. [claim 11]
This flow could have been a serum from the pericardial sac, mixed with blood from the heart,[claim 12]
or a hemorrhagic fluid in the pleural cavity between the ribs and the lungs. [claim 13]
Jesus was taken down from the cross [claim 14]
and buried in the customary Jewish manner. [claim 15]
This included [claim 16]
binding the hands and feet [claim 17]
and [also included] [claim 18]
wrapping the body in linen and aromatic spices, [claim 19]
in Jesus’ case about seventy-five pounds of them. [claim 20]
the body was then laid in a tomb carved out of rock, [claim 21]
and a great stone was laid across the entrance. [claim 22]
This was then sealed, [claim 23]
and, according to Matthew, [claim 24]
a guard was set around the tomb. [claim 25]

The very first claim Craig makes in paragraph four is FALSE. Furthermore, it is clearly false to anyone who is familiar with the Passion narratives in the gospels. The Fourth gospel (attributed to John) is the ONLY gospel of the four canonical gospels that reports the story about the breaking of the legs of the two criminals. So, it is simply FALSE to say that “The gospels report that although the Roman guards broke the legs of the two men…”. This does not inspire confidence in Craig as a careful historical scholar.
The claims about the stabbing of Jesus with a spear, are also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel, and the flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side is also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel. The claim about the use of seventy-five pounds of aromatic spices is also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel. So, Craig is relying heavily on the Fourth gospel for information about the death and burial of Jesus. Claims (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (8), (9), and (11) all rest on the Fourth gospel alone, as do claims (19) and (20). Claims (12) and (13) are proposed explanations for the “fact” asserted by claim (11), so claims (12) and (13) are relevant only if claim (11) is true.
Also, claims (12) and (13) are medical claims, but Craig is not a medical doctor, nor is he an expert in human physiology. So, he has no relevant expertise, and thus no authority upon which to simply assert such medical claims. Since there is no end note or reference to someone who does have relevant medical expertise, we can set those two claims aside as having no basis.
Three of the claims in paragraph four concern the contents of various gospels. The remaining 22 claims are concerned with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Of the 22 substantial historical claims, about half are based ONLY on the Fourth gospel.
As with the passage from Major Declamations, Craig fails to address dozens of questions that a reasonable person would need to have answered before accepting a passage from one or more gospels as being solid evidence for an historical claim about Jesus.
For example: Who wrote the gospels? What do we know about the authors? Did they have first-hand knowledge about Jesus’ crucifixion or burial? If not, how did they come by the information and stories about Jesus that they wrote down? Are they persons of honesty and integrity? Do the authors have any religious, political, or philosophical beliefs or values that might influence or bias what they wrote? When were the gospels written? What sort of genre are the gospels? Are they historical/biographical works? How old are the oldest manuscripts of the gospels that currently exist? How well preserved is the text of each gospel? Are there lots of significant differences and variations between existing manuscripts or only a few minor differences and variations? Are there textual issues or issues of translation or interpretation with any of the relevant passages? Etc., etc….
It is absurd and question-begging for Craig to draw any historical conclusions simply on the basis that “the gospels report…” certain events or details. Any critical thinker who is not already a committed Christian believer ought to have some doubts about the historical reliability of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.
Any one who is aware of the views of mainstream biblical scholars and Jesus scholars will know that such historians and scholars generally view the “reports” of the gospels with a good deal of skepticism and doubt. This general skepticism and doubt about the gospel accounts is even stronger when it comes to “reports” of events and details that are found exclusively in the Fourth gospel.
Many leading Jesus scholars of the 20th and 21st Centuries have rejected the view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable historical source of information about Jesus:
• Gunther Bornkamm
• Joachim Jeremias
• James Robinson
• Norman Perrin
• E.P. Sanders
• Geza Vermes
• Ben Meyer
• Marcus Borg
• John Meier
• Gerd Theissen
• James Dunn
http://crossexamination.blogspot.com/2009/02/mcdowells-trilemma-argument-part-4.html
Gunther Bornkamm, E.P. Sanders, and Joachim Jeremias on the Fourth Gospel.
http://crossexamination.blogspot.com/2009/02/mcdowells-trilemma-argument-part-5.html
Norman Perrin, James Robinson, Geza Vermes, Ben Meyer, and Marcus Borg on the Fourth gospel.
http://crossexamination.blogspot.com/2009/03/mcdowells-trilemma-argument-part-6.html
John Meier, Gerd Theissen, and James Dunn on the Fourth gospel.
William Craig is well aware of the fact that mainstream N.T. and Jesus scholars have rejected the view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable source of information about Jesus. Craig is perfectly within his rights to disagree with mainstream N.T. and Jesus scholars on this question, but he has no right to simply ASSUME that the Fourth gospel is a historically reliable source. This is a view that most N.T. and Jesus scholars have rejected, so Craig ought to caution his readers on this point and provide some significant evidence and argumentation in defense of the highly controversial view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable source of information about Jesus. It is childish and pathetic to simply point to the Fourth gospel as “historical evidence” for claims about Jesus, especially for claims that are supported ONLY in the Fourth gospel and nowhere else.
Craig might have been blissfully ignorant of the serious problems with his use of the Major Declamations as historical evidence for claims about the crucifixion of Jesus, and his readers were no doubt also blissfully ignorant about those problems, but Craig knows better when it comes to using the gospels as historical evidence, and so do many of the skeptics and doubters that Craig is attempting to persuade and evangelize. He knows that mainstream N.T. and Jesus scholars are skeptical about the reliability of the gospels, and have generally rejected the Fourth gospel as a reliable source of information about Jesus. Thus, the offhand use of the gospels as historical evidence (“The Gospels report that…”) is completely unacceptable. This is NOT a serious attempt to provide historical evidence in support of historical claims about Jesus.

bookmark_borderBoghossian: Publishing in Phil of Religion = Childish

I confess I had to do a double-take when I read the following tweet from Peter Boghossian.

Notice what Boghossian is claiming. Boghossian is not just claiming that theists who have had books or articles published in the philosophy of religion should be disqualified from sitting at the adult table. His claim applies equally to nontheists who have been published in the philosophy of religion. Off the top of my head, that list includes all of the following philosophers.

  • Louise Antony
  • Julian Baggini
  • Raymond Bradley
  • Robert Greg Cavin
  • Carlos Colombetti
  • Ted Drange
  • Paul Draper
  • John Earman
  • Evan Fales
  • Antony Flew (included for all of the time he was a nontheist)
  • Richard Gale
  • Adolf Grunabum
  • Arnold Guminski
  • Paul Kurtz
  • Stephen Law
  • John Loftus
  • J.L. Mackie
  • Stephen Maitzen
  • Michael Martin
  • Matt McCormick
  • Delos McKown
  • Bradley Monton
  • Kai Nielsen
  • Graham Oppy
  • Keith Parsons
  • Herman Philipse
  • Massimo Pigliucci
  • John Post
  • James Rachels
  • J. Wesley Robbins
  • William Rowe
  • Bruce Russell
  • J.L. Schellenberg
  • Theodore Schick, Jr.
  • John Shook
  • Quentin Smith
  • Jordan Howard Sobel
  • Jason Thibodeau
  • Michael Tooley
  • Mark Vuletic
  • Andrea Weisberger
  • Tyler Wunder

I take the above list to be a reductio ad absurdum against Boghossian’s ridiculous tweet. As someone else wrote,

I’m sure William Lane Craig is licking his chops at the chance to debate Boghossian. If it happens, I predict an epic takedown of Boghossian by Craig.
ETA: Added Louise Antony, Antony Flew, Stephen Law, Stephen Maitzen, Herman Philipse

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 6

William Craig claims that Jesus rose from the dead. In making this claim, Craig takes on a heavy burden of proof, including the burden to prove that Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday. However, in most of his books, articles, and debates, Craig simply ignores the question of whether Jesus actually died on the cross. So, it appears to me that Craig’s case for the resurrection is a complete failure.
However, in The Son Rises (hereafter TSR), Craig does make a brief attempt, in just five paragraphs (consisting of 35 sentences), to prove that Jesus actually died on the cross. So, before we can completely toss Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus aside as a failure, we need to consider his case for the death of Jesus in TSR. In previous posts, I have shown that in the first three paragraphs of his “case” for the death of Jesus, Craig makes dozens of historical claims, but provides almost nothing in the way of actual historical evidence.
One exception to this absence of evidence in the first three paragraphs is a single end note (the only end note for the entire five-paragraph “case”) that points to a passage in an actual historical (i.e. ancient) document. The end note is provided as evidence for the following historical claim:
21. The Romans, if they did not simply leave the body [of a victim of crucifixion] on the cross until the flesh decayed or was eaten by birds or wild animals, would ensure death by stabbing the victim [of crucifixion] with a lance.
This historical claim is supported by the following end note:
Quintillian Declamationes maiores 6. 9.
In Part 5 of this series of posts, I pointed out that there are dozens of questions (at least three dozen) left unanswered by Craig concerning this bit of evidence, questions that a reasonable person would need to have answered before accepting this historical evidence as being relevant and as providing strong support for claim (21).
I’m not going to try to answer all of the dozens of questions here, but will provide answers to some of them, in order to show that there are in fact several RED FLAGS, several issues that raise doubts and concerns about this passage as evidence for claim (21). In other words, if Craig was doing actual honest historical investigation and argumentation, he would need to deal with even more questions than the basic three dozen that I have pointed out, because in answering some of those questions, RED FLAGS would be raised and new questions would therefore need to be answered before a reasonable person would accept this passage as relevant and strong evidence for claim (21).
Who the hell is Quintilian?
(Note: I’m shifting to what appears to be the more common spelling of this name).
Looking at the end note, one might guess that Quintilian was a Roman historian who wrote about the activities and practices of Roman soldiers or the Roman military. Perhaps Quintilian even had some personal experience as a Roman soldier or an officer in the Roman military that would give him first-hand knowledge of how crucifixions were carried out. But these guesses about Quintilian don’t match up to reality.
Quintilian was born in Spain around 40 C.E., shortly after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, so he lived in the first century, which is the best century for a source of information relevant to the crucifixion of Jesus. So far, so good.
But Quintilian was not a Roman soldier, nor an officer in the Roman military, nor was Quintilian an historian. Quintilian was a famous and highly regarded teacher of rhetoric and orator; in addition to teaching rhetoric, he would take on clients to argue for their position in a legal dispute. This is a RED FLAG. Quintilian was neither a Roman soldier nor an officer in the Roman military nor an historian of the Roman military. So, it is not clear why he should be considered a reliable source of information about the practices of Roman soldiers in carrying out executions by crucifixion.
What the hell is Declamationes maiores?
Since Quintilian was an expert in rhetoric and was not an historian, his writings might not include historical writings but rather consist of persuasive speeches and instruction concerning the creation and delivery of persuasive speeches.
As it turns out, the title of the book that Craig has cited is Major Declamations, which means, roughly: long speeches, and the content is basically fictitious courtroom speeches. The creation, perfection, and delivery of such speeches was a basic exercise of rhetoric in the days of the Roman Empire.
This is another RED FLAG. The work that Craig has cited is not only NOT a work of history, but is a work involving fictional characters and fictional stories, which were created NOT to present factual historical data, but as academic exercises used to develop and show off one’s rhetorical skills.
Worse yet, a common criticism of declamations as an educational exercise is the tendency of such exercises to stray from reality:
A common criticism leveled at declamation by contemporary and later observers concerned the subject matter of declamation and its separation from reality. Surprisingly, some of the sharpest censure is expressed by declaimers and rhetoricians themselves. The most famous is Quintilian…(The Major Declamations Ascribed to Quintilian: A Translation, by Lewis Sussman, p.v)
Furthermore, the actual content that we find in the Major Declamations provides a good deal of support for this criticism:
Indeed, in the Major Declamations we do find a sorcerer, an astrologer, a few wicked stepmothers, a tyrant, and the like. We could easily concoct the basis of a classic mystery thriller from MD 2, about a blind son apparently framed by his stepmother for murdering his father. A rather lurid set of circumstances occurs in MD 12, where the population of a city is reduced to cannibalism and its grain procurement agent is charged subsequently with dallying during his mission to secure provisions. One wonders how MD 18 and 19 could find room in a school curriculum: these paired controversiae deal with a handsome son suspected of committing incest with his mother. One finds further room for such speculation about MD 3 where a soldier in Marius’ army is on trial for the murder of a superior officer who tried to rape him. We even have a ghost story: in MD 10 a woman sues her husband for maltreatment because he hired a sorcerer to prevent his son’s spirit from visiting her. The common criticism therefore is that cases such as these are unnatural and far removed from the world of reality. (Major Declamations, p. v)
The translator, Lewis Sussman, worries that the reputation of declamations as “being totally unrealistic” has prevented historians from taking declamations seriously as a source of historical information:
Such a view causes scholars to disregard the information found in these collections and to relegate them to an inferior status among our ancient sources. (Major Declamations, p.vi)
Perhaps we can find some useful historical data in these ancient fictitious courtroom speeches, but clearly we cannot simply take the content of such speeches at face value. Extreme caution and careful analysis will be required to separate fact from fiction in these speeches.
Another important fact that Craig neglected to mention is that Quintilian was probably NOT the author of the passage to which Craig points, and may not be the author of ANY of the courtroom speeches found in Major Declamations:
The most widely held view now is that, indeed, Quintilian is not the author of the Major Declamations. (Major Declamations, (p.viii)
Sussman gives his own view on the authorship of this work:
Perhaps the key to the authorship question may be that someone at some time, perhaps in late antiquity, compiled a collection of notable declamations, among which were, in the larger collection at least, one by Quintilian (or perhaps someone bearing the same name). The power of Quintilian’s name was such that it eclipsed the lesser known rhetoricians represented and soon extended over the entire collection.
(Major Declamations, p.ix)
This is a RED FLAG. We don’t know who wrote the fictitious courtroom speech to which Craig points as historical evidence. So, we don’t know, for example, that this speech was composed in the first century (during the lifetime of Quintilian). It may have been composed in the second or third century, and thus could be from two hundred years after Jesus’ was crucified. Also, since we don’t know the author of this speech, we don’t have any external information about the beliefs and values and experiences and character of the author. The author might have been a person of great integrity and honesty, or the author might have been a lying, cheating, thief, who had almost no knowledge of the practices of Roman soldiers (not a huge leap considering we are talking about a rhetorician or a lawyer).
Another RED FLAG is that declamations were full of rhetorical pyrotechnics and emotional appeals, making them less than straightforward prose, and making them difficult to translate and to understand. These speeches included
“…a conclusion, emotion-filled and often overdone.”(MD, p.iii) “Special attention is paid…to achieving emotional effects, especially pathos.” (MD, p.iii).
Showing off of rhetorical skills often involved sacrifice of clarity:
Frequently interspersed within the arguments in an attempt to crystallize and clinch the declaimer’s point are short, pithy, epigrammatic utterances (sententiae). But instead of helping to achieve clarity through such summarization, these sententiae are often so enigmatically constructed that confusion and ambiguity result.
(MD, p.iii)
…one constantly finds, often to the point of excess, all the flourishes and stylistic devices expected from a professional master of rhetoric during the Silver Age. Alliteration, assonance, anaphora, and asyndeton are especially common, along with every other kind of trope and figure. Prose rythm is carefully observed. Rhetorical questions abound…. Superlatives are freely and excessively used… Antithetical and exaggerated utterances abound. The use of sententiae, previously mentioned, is a marked feature of the declamatory style;…Irony, sarcasm, and hyperbole are essential ingredients of the argumentative style.
(MD, p.iii & iv)
Overall, the impression…is one of poetic coloring….Yet the pervasive flavor throughout the majority of the Major Declamations is one of verbosity, pomposity, affectation, and bombast…. Surely the style is one of an expert exulting in and displaying for an audience his mastery of every device in the rhetorician’s repertoire. The effect is to render comprehension difficult indeed, either through excessive prolixity or terseness.
(MD, p.iv)
In other words, translation and interpretation of this work is difficult and tricky.
What the hell is the content of Major Declamations 6.9?
As if the previous RED FLAGs weren’t enough, the biggest, reddest flag concerns the actual content of the passage to which Craig points us, but which Craig did not bother to quote. Prior to Lewis Sussman’s translation of MD, the most recent translation into English was done three hundred years ago by John Warr. So, if you want a modern translation, a translation which takes into account “the subsequent advances in scholarship, our understanding of the textual tradition of this work, and…the recent appearance of a superbly done Latin text by Hakanson” (MD, p.i), then you will want to consult the translation created by Sussman.
Here is the relevant portion of MD 6, section 9, translated by Sussman:
But bodies are cut down from crosses, executioners do not prevent executed criminals from being buried, and the pirates did no more than throw the corpse into the sea.
(MD, p.75)
Do you see anything about Roman soldiers using their lances to stab victims of crucifixion here? No. How about Roman soldiers using their lances in any way? No. How about stabbing a victim of crucifixion with any sort of weapon or tool? No. What about the idea that victims of crucifixion would often be left to rot on a cross? No. If anything, this passage indicates that the normal practice was to allow burial of the crucified person. So, if you use the modern English translation of MD, then the passage to which Craig points provides NO SUPPORT AT ALL for claim (21)!
In fairness to Craig, there is an ambiguity in the Latin here. The word ‘percutio’ is translated as ‘cut down’ by Sussman, but some others translate this as ‘strike’ or ‘pierce’. So, it is possible that this passage provides some degree of evidence for the practice of stabbing victims of crucifixion, depending on how the passage is translated. But there is no reference to a ‘lance’ being used in this passage, so striking might not refer to ‘stabbing with a lance’. It might mean striking with a fist, or striking with a club, or stabbing with a nail, or stabbing with a needle, or stabbing with a small knife. There is a whole lot of room for alternative translations and interpretations of this passage.
But given the scholarly advantages of the Sussman translation, the best bet is that the passage says NOTHING about striking or stabbing a victim of crucifixion.
In view of the many RED FLAGs that have been raised by answering a few of the three dozen questions that Craig failed to answer, I conclude that the historical evidence that Craig has provided in support of claim (21) is crap. It appears to be irrelevant to claim (21) or at the very best to provide only weak and questionable support for claim (21).
This outcome demonstrates the importance of doing a careful job of explaining, clarifying, and defending the relevance and significance of a piece of historical evidence in relation to a specific historical claim. Craig did not address even ONE of the three dozen questions that he ought to have touched upon. But when we take it upon ourselves to dig up the answers to some of those critical questions, it turns out that his historical evidence is either irrelevant or is insignificant as support for claim (21).
P.S. Note that answering and reflecting upon just a few of the three dozen basic questions about this bit of historical evidence has required me to write well over the five skimpy paragraphs that compose the entirety of Craig’s “case” for the claim that Jesus actually died on the cross.
Clearly, if Craig had taken the task of presenting historical evidence for the death of Jesus seriously, if he had attempted to answer and take into consideration even one-third of the three dozen questions that he should have addressed concerning this piece of historical evidence, then he would have written more on this ONE piece of evidence than he wrote for his ENTIRE “case” for the death of Jesus on the cross. This is further evidence that it is absurd to try to make an historical case for the death of Jesus in just two or three pages.

bookmark_borderSome Logic in Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument

I have been struggling for the past week or two to make clear the logic behind one premise of Swinburne’s cosmological argument. Perhaps those readers of The Secular Outpost who have an interest in logic or in Swinburne’s arguments will be able to help me with this task.
Actually, his inductive cosmological argument is very simple:
1. A complex physical universe exists.
Therefore:
2. God exists.
It is not this argument that I am struggling to understand and clarify, but rather Swinburne’s critical argument for the claim that the above cosmological argument is a good inductive argument, that the empirical claim (1) provides evidence which increases the probability that (2) is the case.
Here is the premise of Swinburne’s critical argument (CPU = complex physical universe):
(TCA15) The probability that a CPU exists given that God does not exist is approximately equal to the probability that a CPU exists without an explanation.
Swinburne spells out his reasoning in support of (TCA15) in just a few sentences in The Existence of God, 2nd edition (hereafter EOG):
Let h be the hypothesis of theism, and k be mere tautological evidence. Let e be the existence over time of a complex physical universe. e could not, as we have seen, have a scientific explanation. Either e occurs unexplained, or it is due to the action of a person, the most likely being God. It is now reasonable to ignore the alternative that we have shown to be a priori much less probable, that e was brought about by a person or persons of very large but finite power, very considerable but limited knowledge, etc. Hence we may regard P(e|~h & k) as the probability that there be a physical universe without anything having brought it about. (EOG, p.149)
I think that Swinburne’s logic is correct here, but I want to spell out the reasoning in a careful and rigorous way, to verify that his logic is in fact OK. But it appears that there are many little inferences involved here, perhaps a dozen or more steps to get from premises to the desired conclusion, and I have had difficulty figuring out just how to get from the premises to the conclusion. I think I’m getting close to being able to spell out the logic behind Swinburne’s verbal statement of the argument, but I’m not quite there yet.
Some abbreviations that I will use (CPU = complex physical universe):
e: A CPU exists.
s: A CPU exists and there is a scientific explanation for this fact.
p: A CPU exists and there is a personal explanation for this fact.
n: A CPU exists and there is no explanation for this fact.
t: A CPU exists and the explanation of this fact is that God brought about the existence of a CPU.
f: A CPU exists and the explanation of this fact is that one or more finite gods (who don’t owe their existence to an infinite person/God) brought about the existence of a CPU.
g: God exists.
k: [tautological truths – all the truths of logic, math, and analytic conceptual truths]
The conclusion that we are trying to get to is (TCA15), which can be symbolized this way:
P(e|~g & k) is approximately equal to P(n|k).
The term “approximately equal to” is a bit vague, but in relation to an inductive cosmological argument, I think it is reasonable to think of probability values in terms of tenths: 0, .1, .2, .3, .4, .5, .6, .7, .8, .9, and 1.0.
A probability of 1.0 means certainty, certain truth. A probability of 0 means certain falsehood. Given this general scheme, it is reasonable to interpret the phrase “approximately equal to” as meaning something like “plus-or-minus .1”. For example, a probability of .5 is “approximately equal to” a probability of .4, but NOT “approximately equal to” a probability of .3, and is “approximately equal to” a probability of .6, but NOT to a probability of .7. So, let’s clarify the conclusion accordingly:
Conclusion: P(e|~g & k) is equal to P(n|k), plus-or-minus .1
NOTE: Since probability values do not go below 0 or above 1.0, P(e|~g & k) cannot be equal to -.1, even if P(n|k) is equal to 0. Similarly, P(e|~g & k) cannot be equal to 1.1 even if P(n|k) is equal to 1.0.
Let’s put some of the premises on the table.
e could not, as we have seen, have a scientific explanation.
This claim might be represented as ~s. But Swinburne’s claim is actually a bit stronger. His claim is that it is logically impossible that the existence of a complex universe has a scientific explanation. This could be symbolized using a conditional probability claim:
(P1) P(s|k) = 0
This says that we know for certain that s is false given only tautological truths (truths of logic, mathematics, and analytic conceptual truths). In other words, we know that s is false based strictly on logic.
From (P1) we can infer the falsehood of s:
(P2) ~s
Either e occurs unexplained, or it is due to the action of a person
This claim is based on a previous claim made by Swinburne. The previous claim was that there are only three possibilities concerning an explanation of the existence of a CPU: (1) it has a scientific explanation, (2) it has a personal explanation, or (3) it has no explanation at all. We can represent this as follows:
(P3) IF e, THEN either s or p or n.
It is also obvious that the s implies e, and p implies e, and n implies e, so the implication runs both directions:
(P4) e IF AND ONLY IF either s or p or n.
From (P4) we see that there are only three logical possibilities for explaining e, and from (P2) we see that one of those possibilities has been eliminated, so we can infer that there are only two possibilities concerning the existence of a CPU:
(P5) e IF AND ONLY IF either p or n.
This inference would require a few steps in a logic proof, but it is fairly obvious that if you eliminate one of a total of three logical possibilities, then you are left with only the two remaining logical possibilities.
…the most likely [personal explanation of the existence of a CPU] being God. …the alternative [personal explanation] that we have shown to be a priori much less probable, that e was brought about by a person or persons of very large but finite power, very considerable but limited knowledge, etc.
This claim could be represented as an inequality. The probability that a CPU exists and was brought about by God given only tautological background knowledge is GREATER THAN the probability that a CPU exists and was brought about by one or more finite gods (who don’t owe their existence to an infinite person/God) given only tautological background knowledge:
P(t|k) > P(f|k).
However, because of the phrase “much less probable” and because of the requirement to show that some probability value is equal to another plus-or-minus .1, I believe that Swinburne needs a stronger premise than this. I think what his argument requires, to be successful, is the claim that the probability that a CPU exists and was brought about by God given only tautological background knowledge is GREATER THAN TEN TIMES the probability that a CPU exists and that it was brought about by one or more finite gods (who don’t owe their existence to an infinite person/God) given only tautological background knowledge:
(P6) P(t|k) > 10 x P(f|k)
Swinburne does not explicitly assert (P6) but it seems fairly clear to me that he needs to make a claim along the lines that P(t|k) is an order of magnitude greater than P(f|k) in order for the logic of his argument to work (based on my understanding of “is approximately equal to X” as meaning “equals X, plus-or-minus .1”).
From Swinburne’s point of view the claim that God exists is less than completely certain, so the probability that God exists is less than 1.0. This implies that the probability that a CPU exists and that God is the explanation for that fact given only tautological knowledge is also less than 1.0:
(P7) P(t|k) < 1.0
Considering (P7) in the light of (P6), we can draw a further inference:
(P9) P(f|k) < .1
It is now reasonable to ignore the alternative that we have shown to be a priori much less probable, that e was brought about by a person or persons of very large but finite power, very considerable but limited knowledge, etc.
I think Swinburne’s reasoning here is probably correct, but a number of steps of logic are involved, so there could be a problem hidden in the details. That is why I want to work out the details.
Another premise that is not explicit in the quoted paragraph is that personal explanations of the existence of a CPU can be divided into two possibilities: either God (an infinite person) brought about a CPU, or else one or more finite gods brought about a CPU:
(P10) IF p, THEN t or f.
Since t implies p, and f implies p, the implication works both directions:
(P11) p IF AND ONLY IF t or f.
Hence we may regard P(e|~h & k) as the probability that there be a physical universe without anything having brought it about.
The words “we may regard” X “as the probability” I have interpreted to mean “X is approximately equal to the probability”. Also, I’m using ‘g’ to represent the claim ‘God exists’ instead of using ‘h’. So, the conclusion that we are attempting to derive from the premises is this:
Conclusion: P(e|~g & k) is equal to P(n|k), plus-or-minus .1
================================
UPDATE:
There are a couple of tempting errors that Swinburne might have made in reasoning to get to the conclusion.
One tempting error is to assume this:
g IF AND ONLY IF t.
It is true that t implies g, and it is also true that ~g implies ~t. However, the logical relationship does not work in the reverse direction. The assumption that g implies t is FALSE, and the assumption that ~t implies ~g is also FALSE.
This is because in both Christian theology and in Swinburne’s concept of God, it is not necessary that God brings about a CPU. For Swinburne, it is somewhat likely that God would bring about a CPU because it is somewhat likely that God would bring about humanly free agents, and humanly free agents require the existence of a CPU. But this means that God could also have chosen NOT to bring about humanly free agents, and NOT to bring about a CPU. Therefore, there is a chance that God exists but that there is no CPU, given only tautological background knowledge.
We know, of course that there is a CPU, so this is not what actually happened, but our knowledge that there is a CPU is empirical knowledge, knowledge based on experience, not knowledge based purely on logic or tautological truths. If we imagine ourselves to be in a state of ignorance concerning empirical matters, and knowing only tautological truths, then the fact that God exists would NOT by itself logically imply that there is a CPU, for God might well have chosen not to bring about a CPU. Thus, the assumption that g implies t is false, because t implies e (the existence of a CPU), but g does NOT imply e.
Another possible error in Swinburne’s reasoning is to treat “is approximately equal to” as a transitive relation. The relation “is equal to” is a transitive relation, meaning that equality transfers through a chain:
IF x equals y and y equals z, THEN x equals z.
But “is approximately equal to” is NOT a transitive relation, so the following assumption would be FALSE:
IF x is approximately equal to y and y is approximately equal to z, THEN x is approximately equal to z.
To be continued…