WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
- In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
- In Part #8 I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
- In Part #9 I argued that his Objection #3 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
- In Part #10 I argued that his Objection #4 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
- In Part #11 I argued that his Objection #5 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
- In Part #12 I argued that his Objection #6 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
Since the first six of Kreeft’s seven objections against TCT are all miserable FAILURES, it is likely that Objection #7 will also be a miserable FAILURE.
OBJECTION #7: INEVITABLE EXPOSURE OF THE CONSPIRACY
Here is Peter Kreeft’s Objection #7 against TCT:
If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples’ adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…
There are two sentences here, each providing a different reason why a conspiracy by the Twelve apostles to deceive others (into thinking that the apostles had personally and physically seen the risen Jesus) would have inevitably been exposed:
- If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples’ adversaries…
- Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…
A briefly stated reason is given in support of (1):
…the disciples’ adversaries…had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud [perpetrated by the Twelve apostles].
I will start by analyzing and evaluating reason (2), and then move on to analyze and evaluate reason (1).
REASON (2): THE INEVITABLE EXPOSURE OF CONSPIRACIES
Skeptics dislike conspiracy theories, and I am a skeptic. So, I am naturally reluctant to criticize reason (2), which sounds very much like a typical skeptical objection to conspiracy theories:
2. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…
The expression “such intrigues” is a reference to “conspiracies”. So, we can clarify the meaning of this statement:
2a. Common experience shows that: All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.
If (2a) is a correct interpretation of (2), then there is a serious problem with (2), because there is a serious problem with (2a).
On the one hand, (2a) presents itself as an empirical claim: “Common experience shows that…”. On the other hand, it seems fairly clear that the core claim is NOT an empirical claim, but is rather a TAUTOLOGY, or something very close to a tautology. The core claim in (2a) is this:
All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.
This is a very broad generalization, so one immediately suspects that there might be a few exceptions to this very general “rule”.
Try to think of a counterexample to this generalization. Name JUST ONE conspiracy that has never been exposed. Good luck with that! If you can point to a conspiracy X, then, guess what, you KNOW about conspiracy X, and thus conspiracy X has been EXPOSED.
In order for a conspiracy to NOT be EXPOSED, it must be a conspiracy that no one KNOWS about, except for the conspirators themselves. So, in order to come up with a counterexample of a conspiracy that has never been “exposed”, one must point out a conspiracy that nobody knows about (other than the conspirators). But if nobody knows about conspiracy X, then one cannot point to conspiracy X and use it as an example of a conspiracy that has specific characteristics (such as never having been exposed).
I suppose that if I myself am a participant in a conspiracy, and that conspiracy has never been exposed, meaning that only the conspirators are aware of the conspiracy, then I can be aware of a potential counterexample to the universal generalization that “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.” However, as soon as I use this conspiracy as a counterexample in a discussion with someone who is not a co-conspirator in that conspiracy, then I have EXPOSED the conspiracy.
It is thus extremely difficult to come up with any counterexamples to the above universal generalization about conspiracies.
Furthermore, the use of the word “inevitably” makes it even more difficult to come up with any counterexamples. Suppose that there is a conspiracy Y which was created one thousand years ago, and yet it has never been EXPOSED. It would seem that conspiracy Y would be a counterexample to the universal generalization about conspiracies, but it is NOT.
A defender of the universal generalization could note that conspiracy Y might become EXPOSED this year, or next year, in which case it would be true that it was “inevitably” exposed. And if conspiracy Y continued for another thousand years without being EXPOSED, it is still possible that after a few more years it would be EXPOSED, thus making it true that it was “inevitably” EXPOSED. There is no clear time limitation on what would count as “inevitable” exposure, so there is no finite amount of time that a conspiracy can remain un-exposed which would disprove the universal generalization that “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.”
Because it is impossible or virtually impossible to falsify or disprove the universal generalization that is at the core of (2a), it appears that generalization at the core of (2a) is NOT an empirical claim; it is NOT a claim that we can evaluate on the basis of experience. Because (2a) asserts that the universal generalization is an empirical claim (“Common experience shows that…”), and yet the core claim in (2a) appears to NOT be a claim that is subject to evaluation on the basis of experience, (2a) is, or appears to be, a FALSE statement.
(2a) appears to be similar to the statement that “Common experience shows that all triangles have three sides.” Yes, it is true that “All triangles have three sides”, but this is NOT an empirical claim; it is NOT something that “Common experience shows” us to be so. The universal generalization that “All triangles have three sides” is known to be true based on the meanings of the words “triangle” and “has three sides”. If one knows the meaning of the word “triangle” then one knows that “All triangles have three sides”. We don’t have to study hundreds or thousands of triangles in order to come to know the truth of this universal generalization; we only need to understand the meaning of the word “triangle” and the meaning of the words “has three sides”.
There is a further problem with the use of the word “inevitably” in the generalization “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed”. Because the word “inevitably” has no implied time limit, this generalization leaves open the possibility that a conspiracy could remain UNEXPOSED for a thousand years, or even for two thousand years. But if there was a conspiracy among the Twelve apostles, a conspiracy to lie about having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus, it was only necessary for that conspiracy to remain UNEXPOSED for a few years. That is all the time that would be needed to get the Christian movement started, to persuade hundreds or thousands of people to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
EXPOSURE of that conspiracy a decade or two after the crucifixion would not necessarily have killed off Christianity or belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, in constructing this generalization using the term “inevitably” to make the generalization invulnerable to counterexamples and contrary experiences, one also removes the significance of this generalization in terms of The Conspiracy Theory. What matters in terms of TCT, is whether the conspiracy remained hidden for a number of years. EXPOSURE of this conspiracy after a decade or two might not have the sort of devastating impact that EXPOSURE of the conspiracy would have just a few weeks after it began (i.e. a few weeks after the crucifixion of Jesus).
What this means is that the fact that the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection has persisted for two thousand years does NOT mean that there was never a time when a conspiracy among the apostles was EXPOSED. It might well have existed and been exposed a decade after the crucifixion of Jesus, but the EXPOSURE was too late to stop the new Christian movement and the (by then) entrenched belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
The generalization asserting that all conspiracies are “inevitably exposed” is too weak for Kreeft’s purposes. Exposure that occurs a decade or two after the crucifixion might have very little impact on the advancement of Christianity and the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the fact that Christianity and the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection has persisted for two thousand years, does NOT show that a conspiracy between the Twelve apostles to deceive others (about their having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus) was never EXPOSED. For all we know, it might have been exposed a decade after the crucifixion, but that was too late to put the brakes on the growing Christian movement.
To Be Continued…
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