WHERE WE ARE
In Parts 1 through 7 of this series, I argued that at least six of Josh McDowell’s seven objections (in The Resurrection Factor; hereafter: TRF) against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
In Part 8 of this series, I began to examine McDowell’s one remaining objection: Objection TRF2 (“Very Personal”). I pointed out that McDowell confuses a legitimate conceptual point with a significant empirical claim. While it is a legitimate conceptual truth that it is not possible for two people to experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” because hallucinations and dreams, are purely subjective phenomena that occur in a person’s mind, it is also an empirical truth that two people can experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” in the sense that two people can have hallucinations or dreams that have the same detailed description.
McDowell mistakenly infers from the conceptual truth that two people cannot experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” the conclusion that two people cannot experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” in the sense that two hallucinations (or dreams) have matching detailed descriptions. McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION here, because the phrases “the same hallucination” and “the same dream” are ambiguous phrases, and McDowell shifts from one meaning of this phrase to another meaning in the course of his confused reasoning.
Furthermore, I argued that two people having “the same dream” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, because dreams are based on our experiences and memories, and because people often have similar experiences and similar memories. We know from empirical studies that people often have similar dreams, especially if those people have similar experiences when they are awake. For example, many students have dreams about teachers, and classrooms, and about failing exams. Hallucinations are also based on our experiences and memories, as McDowell himself admits, so two people having “the same hallucination” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, for the same reason.
DINING WITH JESUS
In the second paragraph of the section in TRF where McDowell explains Objection TRF2 (Very Personal), he talks about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus where Jesus supposedly eats with other people:
Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared. And He not only exhibited His wounds, but He also encouraged a closer inspection. An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you, and cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will. (TRF, p.94; note that I am now using the edition published by Authentic Media in 2005).
Let’s begin with the most obvious intellectual blunder by McDowell in this short paragraph:
Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared.
This claim clearly and blatantly BEGS THE QUESTION at issue. The question is whether Jesus himself actually met up with some of his disciples after he died and was buried. If Jesus did NOT actually do this, then it is FALSE that “Christ also ate with” some of his disciples after he died and was buried. We have to FIRST determine whether Jesus was alive after he died and was buried, and THEN we can determine whether Jesus ate with some of his disciples after Jesus died and was buried. The claim that “Christ…ate with” some of his disciples after he died and was buried cannot be used as a premise in a rational argument for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Duh!
Let’s now consider the next most obvious intellectual blunder by McDowell in this short paragraph. We know by common experience that we can dream of seeing a person sit down. We can dream of seeing another person eat something. We can dream of eating something with someone else present. So, OBVIOUSLY we can dream of all three of these things happening: we can dream of a person sitting down, and then that person eating something, and at the same time dream of eating something ourselves. We can dream of someone we know doing things, so if someone living in the first century knew Jesus, that person could dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something, and dream of eating something himself/herself along with Jesus. In short, it is OBVIOUS that a person who knew Jesus could dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something along with that person.
If one can dream this, then one can also hallucinate this. Hallucinations like dreams, are produced by our minds and imaginations and are drawn from our experiences and memories. There is no good reason to believe that an experience that could happen in a dream could never happen in an hallucination. Since a person can dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something with that person, a person can also hallucinate that Jesus sits down and eats something with that person. (Also, given the way that McDowell broadly defines the term “hallucination”, a dream of someone sitting down and eating something would itself count as an “hallucination”.)
SCIENCE ON DREAMS
Perhaps McDowell is an odd duck, and he never remembers his dreams, and he never talks with others about what they have dreamed. In that case, he might doubt my claim based on common experience that we can dream about people sitting down, and that we can dream about other people eating, and that we can dream about eating something ourselves. Nevertheless, there are scientific studies about dreams that support my claims. One study, for example, showed that one of the most common dreams that people have is “eating delicious food”:
Note that one of the most common dreams of students (who were the subjects of this study about dreams) include dreams about “School, teachers, studying”. When students are at school listening to a teacher, they are normally sitting down in a chair at a desk or table. Another very common dream is about “Being chased or pursued”, and such dreams would often involve walking or running. Another very common dream is about “Swimming”. If we can dream about swimming, walking, and running, it seems obvious that we could also dream about sitting down. So, scientific studies about dreams support my claim that we can dream about someone sitting down, and dream about someone eating something, and dream about eating something ourselves.
THE BIBLE ON DREAMS
McDowell rejects the scientific view that humans evolved from non-human primates because he believes that evolution “contradicts the Bible” (Answers to Tough Questions, p.107), so perhaps he would also reject scientific findings about dreams. McDowell is a big believer in the divine inspiration of the Bible, so he cannot ignore and reject what the Bible has to say about dreams and visions. But what the Bible tells us about dreams and visions supports my claim that we can dream about someone sitting down, and dream about someone eating something, and dream about eating something ourselves.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah has something to say on this subject:
8 Just as when a hungry person dreams of eating
and wakes up still hungry,
or a thirsty person dreams of drinking
and wakes up faint, still thirsty,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
that fight against Mount Zion.
Isaiah 29:8 NRSV
Isaiah clearly implies that we can dream about eating something and about drinking something. Does McDowell think that Isaiah was LYING? Does McDowell think that Isaiah was MISTAKEN? If McDowell believes that the book of Isaiah was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about eating something.
According to the prophet Ezekiel, he had a vision in which he ate a scroll:
1 He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.
Ezekiel 3:1-3 NRSV
A vision is not necessarily a dream, but it is like a dream or hallucination in that it is a subjective phenomenon that occurs inside of one’s mind. Ezekiel did NOT believe that he had actually eaten a scroll, nor did he believe that other people near to him during the vision could see him physically eat a scroll. Ezekiel understood that this vision was happening inside of his own mind. Since a vision is much like a dream in this respect, this claim by Ezekiel supports my claim that we can dream about eating something. Does McDowell think that Ezekiel was LYING about his vision? Does McDowell think that Ezekiel was MISTAKEN about his vision? If McDowell believes that the book of Ezekiel was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about eating something.
According to the book of Genesis (which McDowell prefers to believe over the scientific view that human beings evolved from non-human primates), a king of Egypt had a dream about standing by the Nile river and seeing some cows grazing on grass:
1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,
2 and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.
3 Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.
4 The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke.
Genesis 41:1-4 NRSV
If Pharaoh dreamed about standing by the Nile river, then he also could dream about sitting down by the Nile river. If Pharaoh dreamed about cows eating some grass, then he could also dream about a person eating some fish. If Pharaoh could dream about a person eating some fish, then we can dream about a person eating some fish. Does McDowell think that the author of Genesis was LYING about Pharaoh’s dream? Does McDowell think that the author of Genesis was MISTAKEN about Pharaoh’s dream? If McDowell believes that the book of Genesis was inspired by God, then he ought to accept the claim that we can dream about a person sitting down and eating something.
The NT prophet and seer named John talks about his vision and what he “saw” in that vision:
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 17:3 NRSV
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.
13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.
Revelation 20:11-13 NRSV
In a vision, John “saw” a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, and he “saw” someone (Jesus?) sitting on a great white throne, and he saw many people “standing before the throne”. Since he saw many people standing, and one person (Jesus?) sitting on a throne, and a woman sitting on a beast, he could obviously have also seen someone go from a standing position to a sitting position in a vision. John did NOT believe he was actually seeing a throne, or actually seeing a woman sitting on a beast, or that anyone near him at the time of his vision could physically see someone sitting on a great white throne, or physically see a woman sitting on a beast. John understood that his vision, like a dream, was occurring inside of his mind.
So, John’s claims about his vision imply that one can dream of people standing up, and dream of people sitting down, and dream of people going from standing up to sitting down. Does McDowell think that the prophet John was LYING about his vision? Does McDowell think that John was MISTAKEN about his vision? If McDowell believes that the book of Revelation was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about people standing up, sitting down, or dream about some person going from a standing position to a sitting position.
In conclusion, McDowell ought to read what the Bible has to say about dreams and visions. If he does this, then he will have to admit the obvious; he will have to admit that we can dream about a person sitting down and eating something along with us eating something ourselves. If he admits that we can have such a dream, then he will also have to admit that we can have an hallucination about a person sitting down and eating something along with us eating something ourselves.
ANOTHER AMBIGUOUS CLAIM
Now we can consider a less obvious blunder in this short paragraph by McDowell:
An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you.
McDowell misuses the word “illusion” here (this is not the “less obvious blunder” we are going to consider). Illusions are public objects that multiple people can observe at the same time. For example, a stick placed in a clear vase of water so that part of the stick extends above the water and part of it is below the water, it can appear to be bent, even though the stick is actually straight. This is an illusion, and anyone with good eyesight in the room can see the stick in the vase, and can see that the stick appears to be bent, even though it is not actually bent. So if you hallucinate that Jesus eats something, then Jesus is NOT an “illusion” because this hallucination happens only inside of your mind. Nobody else can see the Jesus that you are hallucinating (although someone could have an hallucination of Jesus that is very similar to your hallucination of Jesus).
Let’s re-state McDowell’s point without using the word “illusion”:
When you hallucinate about a person, that person does NOT sit down and have dinner with you.
Now we will consider the less obvious blunder by McDowell. The sentence above appears to be AMBIGUOUS between at least two different meanings:
Claim A: When you hallucinate about a person, your hallucination will NOT involve that person appearing to sit down and have dinner with you.
Claim B: When you hallucinate about a person sitting down and having dinner with you, that person is NOT actually having dinner with you at that time.
Claim A is clearly FALSE. As I have argued above, one can OBVIOUSLY dream about another person sitting down and eating something with oneself, so one can also hallucinate about another person sitting down and eating something with oneself.
Claim B is clearly TRUE. If this experience of eating with this person is an hallucination, then this is happening only inside one’s mind, and thus it is not actually happening.
Only Claim A is RELEVANT to the question at hand, but Claim A is clearly FALSE. Claim B is clearly true, but it is IRRELEVANT to the question at issue. So, once again McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION. When he asserts that “An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you.” he is either making a relevant claim that is FALSE or he is making a true claim that is IRRELEVANT.
SCRUTINIZED BY VARIOUS INDIVIDUALS
McDowell makes one final claim at the end of the second paragraph in the section of TRF on Objection TRF2:
An illusion…cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will. (TRF, p.94)
This may be the best point McDowell makes in relation to Objection TRF2, but he does not explain or attempt to clarify this point, and he misuses the word “illusion” here (as I have previously pointed out).
Clearly, a person CAN dream about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone. This implies that a person CAN hallucinate about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone. Thus, the following claim is FALSE:
An hallucination cannot be about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone.
So, a person who knew Jesus could have hallucinated an event in which various individuals scrutinized Jesus (e.g. examined wounds on Jesus’ body). There is nothing that precludes such an hallucination from happening.
However, in adding the qualification “at will”, McDowell implies that he believes something else related to hallucinations about Jesus is precluded. I think what he has in mind here is various individuals all hallucinating at the same time that they are scrutinizing Jesus, and their hallucinations all match up with each other.
For example, Peter hallucinates that a risen Jesus shows wounds in his hands to John, and then shows a wound in his side to Thomas, and then shows wounds in his feet to Peter. There is nothing that precludes Peter from having such an hallucination. But suppose that John has an hallucination at the same time as Peter, and John’s hallucination corresponds precisely with Peter’s hallucination: John “sees” a risen Jesus show wounds in his hands to himself (John), and then Jesus shows a wound in his side to Thomas, and then shows wounds in his feet to Peter. That would be an amazing coincidence, which McDowell would argue was very unlikely to actually happen. Suppose further that Thomas also has an hallucination at the same time as Peter and John have their hallucinations, and the events in his hallucination line up exactly with the events in the hallucinations of Peter and John: Thomas “sees” a risen Jesus show wounds in his hands to John, and then show a wound in his side to Thomas, and then show wounds in his feet to Peter.
McDowell would argue that these three men having hallucinations at the same time and with precisely the same events being “seen” in all three hallucinations is so extremely improbable that the hypothesis of such an extraordinary event is absurd. It does seem, at least initially, as though such an hypothesis would be extremely improbable. McDowell might have a good point here, in spite of his frequent confusion and many intellectual blunders.
McDowell failed to clearly spell out this objection, but he hints at it by use of the qualification “at will” at the end of the final sentence in the second paragraph about Objection TRF2.
To Be Continued…