bookmark_borderHow the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.

The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates. 

The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.

To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.

The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.

For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).

Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly  torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.

That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.

Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.

And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.

To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.

This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.

The Great Evasion 2.0

After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.

It’s the Animals Too

To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.

The Great Moral Challenge

The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.

Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.

If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.

The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.

So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.

As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.

On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.

That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.

It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?

And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 10: Evaluation of the Group-Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 9 of this series I began to examine the core argument of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

I pointed out that it is natural for skeptics to raise objections to the historical claim made in premise (3a), but that premise (B), a generalization about group hallucinations, is in need of further clarification, and that I suspected that when the meaning of (B) became clear, it too would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  So, I worked on clarifying the meaning of premise (B).  Probably the most important bit of clarification is that the term “hallucination” should be understood in a broad way, such that it includes DREAMS as being examples of hallucinations.  Here is the definition of “hallucination” that I proposed:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

Kreeft needs the term “hallucination” to be understood in this broad manner, otherwise, his case for the resurrection of Jesus immediately FAILS, because if “hallucination” is understood more narrowly, in a way the excluded DREAMS, then Kreeft would have no objection against, and thus no refutation of, the skeptical theory that one or more disciples had a DREAM about Jesus that they mistakenly believed to be experiences of a real and embodied risen Jesus, and that these dream experiences became the basis for their belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)
Here is the argument that was given in support of premise (B):

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

Neither Josh McDowell nor Peter Kreeft provides a clear argument in support of premise (2a).  However, McDowell mentions the “details” of hallucinations as being a key idea in support of premise (2a) and that suggests a line of reasoning that I will now spell out.
 
THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
Even just a few “details” about a dream or hallucination can imply a huge number of possible alternative DESCRIPTIONS of that experience.  For example, a person might describe a portion of a dream this way:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

Each element of this sentence describing the dream could be replaced by some alternative possibility.  Instead of a full-grown cat, one could have dreamed about a kitten.  Instead of an orange cat, one could have dreamed about a black cat.  Instead of a tabby cat, one could have dreamed about a hamster or a puppy dog.  Instead of the cat walking slowly, one could have dreamed that the cat ran quickly.  Instead of the cat walking across the foot of a bed, the dream could have been about a cat walking across the floor or across the top of a table.
For the simple description “a full-grown orange tabby cat slowly walking across the foot of my bed” we can abstract various general categories:

  • AGE (newborn, infant, young, full-grown, old)
  • COLOR (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, gray, black, brown)
  • TYPE/ANIMAL (tabby cat, Shetland pony, pointer dog, rattle snake, Angus cow, etc.)
  • LOCOMOTION (walking, skipping, hopping, running, tumbling, crawling, etc.)
  • SPEED (very slowly, slowly, moderately, quickly, very quickly, at full speed)
  • LOCATION (the foot of, the middle of, the top of, underneath, along the side)
  • OWNERSHIP (my X, your X, Our X, Sam’s X, Mary’s X, etc.)
  • FURNITURE (bed, couch, dresser, table, easy chair, nightstand, bench, shelf, desk, etc.)

The possible permutations exceed five possibilities for each of eight categories, so the possibilities exceed 5 to the 8th power or 25 to the 4th power or 390,625 different possibilities.  If we identify six different alternatives for each of the eight categories, then the number of different possible scenarios would be 6 to the 8th power or  36 to the 4th power, or 1,679,616 different scenarios.  Therefore, the description “a full-grown orange tabby cat walked slowly across the foot of my bed” suggests well over a million different alternative scenarios, with just a little bit of thought about different possibilities concerning each of the eight categories referenced in that brief description.
This thinking is what I believe is behind McDowell’s reference to “great detail” in the “descriptions of the appearances” in his presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory:

Christ appeared to many people, and descriptions of the appearances involve great detail… (TRF, p.84)

Detailed descriptions of experiences are significant because they suggest millions of possible alternative descriptions, and thus millions of alternative possible experiences/hallucinations/dreams.  Because there are millions of alternative possible dreams/hallucinations relative to a brief detailed description of one such experience, it seems highly unlikely that more than two people would experience the “same dream” or the “same hallucination” at the same time.
 
FACTUAL PROBLEMS WITH THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
It seems, at first thought, that because the following brief description suggests well over a million alternative scenarios, that it would be very unlikely for more than two people to have a hallucination or dream that fits this description:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

However,  as I have argued elsewhere, people in fact often do have similar dreams, and it is quite possible for two people to have the “same dream” at the same time:

The above example of two people dreaming about a full-grown orange tabby cat shows not only that it is possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, but that there is a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this happening.  There might be a full-grown orange tabby cat living in the house with this couple, and that cat may sometimes walk slowly across the foot of their bed.  In fact, the tabby cat might have slowly walked across the foot of their bed just before they went to sleep on the night in question, and thus it would not be a huge coincidence if both of them happen to dream that night about their cat slowly walking across the foot of their bed.  So, it is not merely possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, there is also a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this actually happening, from time to time.     (from my post on McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection)

Although more than two people having the same dream at about the same time is less likely than just two people having the same dream at about the same time, there is still a significant chance for this to happen (for example, if three people were in bed together and saw the tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of the bed, then it would be quite possible for all three people to dream of this happening that night).
Because dreams are based on our experiences, beliefs, and memories, and because the memories, beliefs, and experiences of groups of people can be similar, the contents of dreams by different people can be similar:

The subjects of the studies by Zadra and Nielsen were STUDENTS.  Note that some of their most common dreams involved common experiences and fears of students:  school, teachers, or studying,  and arriving too late, and failing an examination.  This is a strong indication that the contents of dreams are often related to the sorts of emotions and events that the dreamers have commonly experienced in their waking lives.
It is also important to note that according to one study of dream contents one of the more common types of dreams that people report is “A person now dead being alive”!!

 
Jesus was a religious preacher and teacher.  The word “disciple” basically means student.  So, people who devote their lives to following a particular religious teacher, are people who are likely to have dreams about that person and dreams about being taught by that person.  Furthermore, if their beloved teacher dies, then there is a good chance that some of the students or disciples of that religious teacher will experience dreams about that teacher who was then dead being alive.
So, the chance that some of the disciples of Jesus had dreams about Jesus being alive and about Jesus teaching people is quite good, and thus the possibility of two people having the “same dream” about Jesus at about the same time after Jesus died is much greater than one might initially think.  Although there are billions of different possible descriptions of different dream contents that we can imagine, the dreams people actually have are NOT random combinations of people and events; they are based largely on the past experiences and memories of the dreamers.  If a group of people share many common experiences, beliefs, and memories about a particular person (like Jesus), then the chances that two of these people will have a similar dream or even the “same dream” about that person are significant.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (2a) and PREMISE (B)
I have previously argued that the term “hallucination” must be interpreted broadly so that it includes DREAM experiences, otherwise the cases for the resurrection of Jesus presented by Josh McDowell and by Peter Kreeft will immediately FAIL.   Here is premise (2a):

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

This premise is TRUE only if the following claim is TRUE:

2b. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same DREAM at the same time.

But we have seen that premise (2b) is initially plausible because we are aware that there are billions of different possible alternative descriptions of dream experiences, and because we are tempted to assume that all of these billions of possible descriptions of the contents of a dream are equally likely to occur in a dream, and that each different dream description has only a very tiny probability of actually occurring in a particular dream.  But we have seen that people do in fact often have similar dreams because dreams are based largely on the experiences, beliefs, and memories of the dreamers and because groups of people can have very similar experiences, beliefs, and memories (e.g. college students or devoted followers of a religious teacher).  Therefore, claim (2b) is FALSE or at least DUBIOUS.
But if claim (2b) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (2a) is also FALSE or DUBIOUS.  But (2a) is the reason given in support of premise (B) in the argument for Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  So, the reason given in support of premise (B) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus we have good reason to doubt premise (B), and a good reason to reject the core argument for Objection #1 against the Hallucination Theory.

bookmark_borderProfessor Craig on Theistic Hypotheses

In 2018 I posted on SO a review of Tim Crane’s book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/22/atheists-get-wrong-according-tim-crane/
Crane argues that atheists have largely misunderstood religion by regarding it as a sort of cosmological hypothesis, one that makes insupportable claims about the creation of the universe via the supernatural acts of a divine agent. By thus construing religion as a sort of spurious proto-scientific cosmology, atheists justify relegating it to the bin of irrelevance and irrationality. However, says Crane, religion should not be seen as any sort of hypothesis, but rather as consisting of the “religious impulse” and “identification.” The religious impulse is the drive to recognize a transcendent order that is both factual and normative. God is posited as real and his will is taken as defining right and wrong. “Identification” is the desire to belong to a community that defines itself in terms of a set of beliefs and practices and which understands the world in terms of those beliefs and practices. What unites these two elements is a shared experience of the sacred, which promotes a strong sense of identity. Atheists miss these points by dismissing religion as a crackpot cosmology and religious believers as superstitious.
In my comments on Crane’s claims, I note that if atheists are mistaken in regarding theism as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, this is not a gratuitous error, but is due to the fact that leading religious apologists defend theism as such a hypothesis. Defenders of “intelligent design” theory such as William Dembski and Michael Behe present their concepts of “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” as scientifically legitimate concepts. In The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne employs Bayesian confirmation theory in defense of his theistic hypothesis and appeals largely to the criterion of simplicity, which, of course, is a standard of theory choice in the natural sciences. William Lane Craig’s Kalaam cosmological argument is developed and defended in the context of physical cosmology. These considerations seem to justify the characterization of the theistic hypothesis as “proto” or “quasi” scientific.
However, such a designation is not really important. The important point is that theism is defended as a hypothesis. Whether that hypothesis is classified as “scientific,” “quasi-scientific,” or “metaphysical” is not of primary importance. In my review I make the point that, as John Hick argues in An Interpretation of Religion, the reasoning underlying religious  belief is primarily interpretive and not hypothetical. Hick says that the universe is religiously ambiguous in the sense that there are no facts that compel a religious or a naturalistic interpretation. The arguments for and against the existence of God are not compelling, and their conclusions may be reasonably rejected. Perfectly reasonable people may therefore disagree about the existence of God.
If Hick is right, what follows? Perhaps both atheists and religious apologists should cease their efforts to devise polemical weapons to bludgeon the other side into submission since we should know by now that this will not work. We should instead seek a more nuanced and informed view of belief and unbelief. We might actually learn something from each other!
In a 2018 podcast of “Reasonable Faith,” Kevin Harris interviews Professor Craig about Crane’s book and my review of it:
https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/how-atheists-get-it-wrong-part-one/
Jeff Lowder drew my attention to this just recently, and I would like to respond to it here.
Professor Craig argues that, while theistic hypotheses are explanatory, it is “tendentious and inaccurate” to characterize them in general as “semi-scientific” or “proto-scientific.” Craig does admit that the ID theorists regard their hypothesis as scientific. However, they claim that their arguments for intelligent design are religiously neutral, so I err in identifying this hypothesis as a specifically religious or theistic hypothesis.
ID theory is religiously neutral? How can that be when it was developed and promoted explicitly as part of an aggressive apologetic program? Well, to avoid church/state entanglements, ID theorists note that the designer could be something other than the God of Christian theism–something like Plato’s Demiurge, or the “Q” Continuum from Star Trek, maybe. This lawyerly ruse has no bearing on the philosophical issue, however. Could the designer be God? Of course. The most charitable reading of ID is therefore that it is an argument for a disjunction of mutually exclusive and exhaustive designer hypotheses, including the theistic hypothesis as one disjunct.
As for Swinburne’s and his own hypothesis, Craig says that they are not scientific or quasi-scientific because they posit a personal cause rather than a naturalistic one. Scientific explanations are in terms of natural laws and initial conditions, but theistic hypotheses posit a personal agent who creates by acts of volition. However, it certainly seems that, in principle, there could be scientific confirmation of a personal cause. Suppose, for instance, that the famous Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula—the “pillars of creation”—were accompanied by glowing gas in the form of Hebrew letters, light years wide, proclaiming “I, Yahweh, did this.” In this case, we would have outstanding scientific evidence of a personal cause. So, as a general demarcation criterion, the personal/impersonal distinction does not work.
Craig and Harris then have this exchange:
KEVIN HARRIS: Just to be more specific, when he [me] mentions you here, again, he says, “Craig’s Kalaam argument is specifically and explicitly a cosmological claim presented within the context of physical cosmology.”
CRAIG:Right. And it doesn’t appeal to a theistic cosmology or an alternative to contemporary cosmology. It appeals to the normal cosmological model that is affirmed by secular scientists. So it is not in any way positing God as a scientific or quasi-scientific hypothesis.
Craig’s statement here is a non sequitur. A scientific theory need not be an alternative to another theory, but could subsume it. Theory T2 subsumes theory T1 when T2 provides a deeper and more inclusive explanatory framework that accounts for T1’s empirical success within its domain while locating that domain within a larger one that T2 covers. Advances in science often occur when a new theory does not just replace an old one, but places the old theory in a broader and deeper explanatory context. Thus, Carnot’s theories were subsumed by the thermodynamics of Kelvin and Clausius. Craig’s theistic hypothesis appears intended to provide a deeper and more inclusive explanation than physical cosmology. Physical cosmology is not falsified by Craig’s theistic hypothesis, but rather is subsumed by it. Craig’s theistic cosmology aims to go beyond physical cosmology and tell us why there is a universe at all. So, the fact that Craig does not present his hypothesis as an alternative to physical cosmology, but intends to provide a deeper context for it, does not disqualify it as “quasi-scientific.”
However, since nothing much really turns on it, let’s concede the point for the sake of argument and say that Craig’s hypothesis is a “metaphysical” hypothesis rather than a “scientific” or “quasi-scientific” one. The real problem identified by Crane is that religious belief is identified as any kind of hypothesis. Crane implies and Hick argues that the reasoning underlying religious belief is interpretive rather than hypothetical. That is, the reasoning supporting a religious worldview is more like understanding a text than confirming a hypothesis. We do not understand a text by confirming piecemeal hypotheses about its meaning. Rather, we seek a reading that will give us the most coherent understanding of the text as a whole. Likewise, for religious people, their faith is what, for them, makes the most coherent and comprehensive sense of their total experience. Nothing compels such a judgment; it is inevitably personal and subjective, but not unreasonable. Similarly for atheists. Nothing compelled me to become an atheist. Rather, a naturalistic worldview is the honest and authentic articulation of my total experience and knowledge.
Craig objects that if Crane is right, then he, Swinburne, Steve Meyer, William Dembski and other defenders of religious hypotheses must misunderstand religion, which he regards as implausible.
Craig does not reply to Hick’s view directly, but chiefly expresses surprise that I have supposedly so softened my view of theism that I am now willing to endorse Hick’s view that religious belief can be as rational as naturalism. (n.b., Actually, I have always regarded some religious belief as rational and some definitely not.) What, then, do I have against the apologetic enterprise that he represents? Why do I harshly characterize it as an attempt to “bludgeon” opponents into submission? After all, he is only trying to show that his belief is rational and not to show that atheists are irrational. Why do I persist in seeing the apologetic enterprise as coercive, i.e. as an effort to show not just that their belief is justified, but that mine is not? That is not his aim at all.
I honestly do not know what to make of Craig’s claim here. Does he regard his Kalaam argument as a refutation of atheism? I cannot read his presentation and defense of that argument in any other way. In this case, the argument is not a modest claim about what he is justified in believing, but the much stronger and more aggressive claim that atheism is demonstrably false and groundless. In other words, he seems to be arguing that he is right and that atheists are dead wrong. Atheists, of course, have often argued that they are right and that Craig is wrong. The debate between apologists and atheists therefore does appear to have an oppositional and aggressive character; it is not about what one may believe but what others must believe. However, if I have been misreading Craig all these years, and his aim all along has only been to affirm the rationality of his view and not to debunk mine, then I would suggest that Hick’s position provides a much better basis for such a softer and gentler apologetic.
Finally, Craig invites listeners to look at my debate with him on the existence of God to see if I did indeed effectively criticize his theistic arguments. I also would like to extend that invitation. (I think that Craig is referring to our debate at Indiana University in February 2002, not the earlier one at Prestonwood Baptist Church.).

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 13: False Claims and Assumptions in Leviticus

WHERE WE ARE
One important reason for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is that this book contains several FALSE claims and assumptions.  I have already argued that Leviticus contains FALSE historical claims and assumptions and that it also contains logical contradictions, so I have already shown that Leviticus contains FALSE claims and assumptions:

  • In Part 8 of this series, I presented some general points in support of my fourth reason for doubting the inspiration and authority of the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

  • In Part 9 of this series, I presented a number of examples of contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to provide additional evidence in support of this fourth reason.  There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah.  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.  If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for the moral condemnation of homosexual sex.
  • In Part 10 of this series, I gave examples of internal contradictions in the book of Leviticus, which shows that half of those claims or assumptions are FALSE.

 
SCIENTIFIC ERRORS IN GENESIS AND LEVITICUS
The book of Genesis contains several scientific errors.  It is a book that discusses the origins of the universe, the sun and the moon, the planet Earth, plant and animal life on Earth, human life, and the origin of human languages, the origin of death, and the origin of rainbows.  This is all bullshit invented by ignorant pre-scientific goat herders a few thousand years ago.  But Leviticus does not discuss the origins of anything (except the origin of the nation of Israel, and what it says about that are FALSE historical claims).
Leviticus is primarily a book of laws, rules, commands, and instructions for the performance of various religious rituals.  So, there is not much in the way of scientific claims or assumptions in the book of Leviticus. Nevertheless, in addition to making FALSE historical claims and assumptions, and in addition to asserting some logical contradictions, the book of Leviticus does contain a few scientific errors in Chapter 11, and these scientific errors provide further evidence that Leviticus was NOT inspired by an all-knowing and perfectly truthful deity:
1. Rock Badgers Chew The Cud (FALSE).

5 The rock badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:5, NRSV)

2. Hares Chew The Cud (FALSE).

6 The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:6, NRSV)

“chews the cud” means that the animal regurgitates food from its stomach back into its mouth and then chews on that food some more before swallowing it again. See this post: “On Rabbits and Rumination – A Response to Christian Interpretations of Leviticus 11:5-6“. Rock badgers and hares do NOT regurgitate food from their stomachs and then chew on that food some more before swallowing it again.

Young Hare, a watercolour, 1502, by Albrecht Dürer

3. Bats are Birds (FALSE).

13 These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey,  14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind;  15 every raven of any kind;  16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind;  17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  18 the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture,  19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:13-19, NRSV)

An all-knowing deity would know that bats are mammals and that birds are NOT mammals, and thus would know that bats are NOT birds.
4. Some Insects have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

20 All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:20 & 23, NRSV)

5. Locusts, Crickets, and Grasshoppers have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

21 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.  (Leviticus 11:21-23, NRSV)

Insects, including locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers have three pairs of legs.

 
CONCLUSION
My Reason #7 for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is this:

7. Leviticus contains false information.

I have shown that Leviticus makes FALSE historical claims or assumptions and that it contains some logical contradictions (implying that half of those claims are FALSE), and that it also contains a few scientific errors or FALSE scientific claims or assumptions.  Therefore, we have good reason to believe that Reason #7 is TRUE and that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 10: Looking at Luke 24

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”).  McDowell presents this objection in three short paragraphs (TRF p. 93-94).
I found some serious problems in the first paragraph on Objection TRF2.  I pointed out that McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, because the phrase “the same hallucination” (and “the same dream”) is AMBIGUOUS, 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.
In Part 9 of this series, I began to examine the second paragraph in McDowell’s presentation of  Objection TRF2.  
I pointed out that, contrary to McDowell, common experience, scientific studies, and a number of passages in the Bible all agree that it is possible for us to dream about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the dream, and thus it is possible to have an hallucination about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the hallucination.
I pointed out that McDowell also commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in the second paragraph, because the following sentence is UNCLEAR:

An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you. (TRF, p. 94. I am using the Authentic Media version published in 2005)

This statement is AMBIGUOUS and has 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.

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, McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in both the first paragraph and the second paragraph of his presentation of Objection TRF2.
 
WHERE IS THE BEEF?
On the front cover of my copy of The Resurrection Factor, just below the title, I find these words:

COMPELLING EVIDENCE WHICH PROVES THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

This strong claim is not repeated by McDowell inside the book, so one might suspect that this is just HYPE that was slapped onto the cover by the publisher in order to sell more copies of the book.  However, when McDowell has finished presenting his case at the end of Chapter 8, he does make a similarly strong claim:

…the evidence forced me to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead… (TRF, p.132)

So, the strong claim on the cover of the book does seem like a claim that McDowell would endorse.
McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory is, in general, based upon “principles” stating “essential conditions” for hallucinations to occur:

… conditions which most psychiatrists and  psychologists agree must be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.93)

  • Does McDowell provide “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” showing these psychological principles to be true?  Nope.
  • Does McDowell provide “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” showing that “most psychiatrists and psychologists” agree with these psychological principles?  Nope.
  • Does McDowell provide ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL supporting these principles or supporting the claim that these principles are widely accepted by psychological experts? Nope.

Because NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER is presented in support of these key psychological principles, McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, for that reason alone.
A second general problem with McDowell’s attempt to disprove the Hallucination Theory, is the LACK OF EVIDENCE AND REASONING supporting McDowell’s historical claims and assumptions.  McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS not only because he provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the key psychological principles upon which his case is based, but also because he does a horrible job of providing historical evidence and reasoning in support of the key historical claims and assumptions in his case against the Hallucination Theory.
This general problem applies specifically to his presentation of Objection TRF2 (Very Personal).  In the three short paragraphs where McDowell presents this objection, there is NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE presented for the relevant historical claims and assumptions.  This is not surprising, since one can hardly present and explain historical evidence in support of historical claims about Jesus and his disciples in the span of just three short paragraphs.  The extreme brevity of his presentation of Objection TRF2 makes it impossible for McDowell to present and explain historical evidence supporting historical claims about Jesus in any sort of clear and intelligent manner.  McDowell shot himself in both feet by attempting to disprove the Hallucination Theory in less than five pages.  This was an exercise doomed to failure from the start.
Of course, McDowell is writing for a general audience, and an audience that is NOT particularly intellectually inclined.  He is writing for Evangelical Christians, who are, in general, unable to think their way out of a wet paper sack.  The fact that they read anything that even pretends to be intellectual is a small miracle.  So, if McDowell were to present actual historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus, and present that evidence in a clear and intelligent manner, he would lose most of his readers.  So, he is stuck in a bind having to choose between either writing something that is clear and intelligent on the one hand, and writing something that his target audience will actually purchase and read on the other hand.
 
END NOTES FOR HISTORICAL CLAIMS
There is a potential solution to McDowell’s dilemma, however.  He could provide clear and intelligent presentations of historical evidence supporting the relevant historical claims in END NOTES.  That way his anti-intellectual readers won’t have to be bothered with something as silly as the clear and intelligent presentation of evidence to support key historical claims that are required for McDowell’s case.  In fact, McDowell has some end notes in the second paragraph of his presentation of Objection TRF2, so we should carefully examine what he has to say in those END NOTES.  Perhaps his end notes make up for the absence of any significant intellectual content in the body of the text.
Here is the second paragraph, including the numeric references to his end notes:

Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared. [190]  And He not only exhibited His wounds, [191] 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)

Here is the entire contents of the two endnotes for the above paragraph:

190. Luke 24:41, 42; John 21:13.
191. Luke 24:39, 40; John 20:27. 

(TRF, p.207)

McDowell doesn’t even bother to quote the gospel passages!  He doesn’t even give us one single complete sentence!  There is no explication or clarification or explanation or any reasoning at all here.  This is about as horrible and pathetic a job of presenting historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus as one can imagine.  Citing chapter and verse from one or two gospels (without even quoting the passages) is NOT presenting historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus in a clear and intelligent manner.  These endnotes constitute “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” as much as does a pile of stinking dog crap.
But, this is not nothing.  This is something.  McDowell at least points us in the direction of some relevant historical data.  Passages from the gospels are historical data, but we cannot simply assume, like the ignorant Bible-thumpers for whom McDowell writes his books, that whatever some gospel passage appears to say happened was an actual historical event that happened precisely as that passage seems to describe.
The first thing that occurs to me, apart from disgust at this horrible job of presenting historical evidence, is that only two gospels are referenced here.  But there are four gospels in the NT, so why doesn’t McDowell reference passages from the other two gospels? Why doesn’t McDowell also cite passages from  Mark and Matthew?
I am familiar with the four gospels, so I already know the answer to this question: Mark and Matthew CONTRADICT Luke and John on the very point at issue!  McDowell has CHERRY PICKED the evidence, focusing on the two gospels that support his historical claim, and ignoring the two gospels that CONTRADICT his historical claim.  Another way of looking at this is that McDowell’s thinking here is infected with CONFIRMATION BIAS. He was looking only for evidence that supports his historical claim, and had no interest in any evidence that goes against his historical claim.
The most important gospel for attempting to get at the truth about the historical Jesus (if there was an historical Jesus) is the Gospel of Mark, because this was the earliest gospel to be written, of the four gospels found in the New Testament.  Also, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information for their gospels, so if Mark is historically unreliable, then so are Matthew and Luke.  Mark was written around 70 CE, but Matthew and Luke were written around 85 CE, and the 4th Gospel (John) was written around 95 CE.
The Gospel of Mark is the earliest account we have of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, and so the “information” about Jesus’ life, ministry, and death in Mark are to be viewed as more reliable and more likely to be historical than the “information” about Jesus found in Matthew, Luke, and John, other things being equal.
 
THE 4TH GOSPEL (JOHN) ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
For over a century, scholars who were interested in getting at the truth about the historical Jesus did not even bother studying the 4th Gospel (John), because that gospel was written several decades after the crucifixion of Jesus, and because it was so clearly shaped by theological agendas.
These days, scholars recognize that all four gospels were shaped by theological agendas, and that NO GOSPEL provides a reliable historical account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, and, on the other hand, that there are at least bits and pieces of historical data that can be found in each of the four gospels, through careful critical study, even in the dubious 4th gospel.*  McDowell leans heavily on the 4th Gospel, but as I have argued elsewhere ( Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 6: Objections Based on the 4th Gospel ), that gospel is clearly historically unreliable, so it is reasonable to set aside the two passages from the 4th Gospel (John) provided in the above two end notes, particularly since McDowell gives us no reason to take these particular passages from the generally dubious 4th Gospel seriously as providing reliable historical data.
That leaves us with the two passages from the Gospel of Luke to consider.  But before we examine those passages from Luke, we should study the evidence that McDowell FAILED TO MENTION: the evidence about the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, and from the Gospel of Matthew.
 
MARK ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
First of all, there are no stories at all about a risen Jesus appearing to any of his followers in the Gospel of Mark (the mention of some such appearances in the second half of Chapter 16 of Mark were not part of the original text of this gospel).  This does not mean, however, that the author of Mark doubted the resurrection or doubted that some of Jesus’ disciples had experiences of a risen Jesus.  The author of Mark clearly implies that a risen Jesus did appear to some of his disciples at some point after Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb.
However, what is crucial about Mark’s account concerning the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples, is that the first appearances to his disciples took place in GALILEE, and NOT in Jerusalem:

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 
3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 
4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 
8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV, emphasis added)

There is no appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene (or to any of the women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning) in the Gospel of Mark.  There is no appearance of the risen Jesus to any of Jesus’ male disciples on Easter Sunday in the Gospel of Mark.
The young man in the tomb dressed in a white robe (an angel?) indicates that the risen Jesus is heading back to GALILEE, and that his disciples will see the risen Jesus in GALILEE.  If Jesus began walking back to GALILEE on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, then Jesus did NOT visit his gathered disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of Easter Sunday.  Furthermore, the author of Mark clearly implies in this passage that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in GALILEE, and did NOT take place in Jerusalem.
Since it takes several days to walk from Jerusalem to GALILEE, the author of Mark also implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place about a week or two AFTER Jesus was crucified, and did NOT take place on the first Easter Sunday.  Therefore, the Gospel of Mark clearly CONTRADICTS both the Gospel of Luke and the 4th Gospel, which claim that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place on the first Easter Sunday, about 48 hours after Jesus was removed from the cross.
Mark places the first appearances of Jesus in GALILEE about a week or two after the crucifixion, while Luke and the 4th Gospel place the first appearances of Jesus in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday, about 48 hours after Jesus was removed from the cross.  The historical information in the 4th Gospel is highly unreliable, so we should clearly prefer the Gospel of Mark’s account of this over the account in the 4th Gospel.  And Gospel of Mark is earlier than the Gospel of Luke, so we should prefer Mark’s account to Luke’s account of what happened after the burial of Jesus, other things being equal.
But if Mark’s account is correct, then Luke’s story about Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday is fictional.  It is either entirely fictional or else it is based on a traditional story that had an historical basis but was seriously corrupted and altered either by the author of Luke or by the process that transmitted the story from its original source to Luke.  The time and location of the first appearances to Jesus’ male disciples in Luke are completely wrong, if we accept Mark’s account as correct.  That means that Luke’s account has little or no connection with eyewitness testimony about the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples, because it is highly unlikely that Jesus’ disciples would fail to remember the time and location of the first appearance of the risen Jesus that they experienced together.  In any case, the stories of Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus in Jerusalem found in Luke  are highly dubious.
The RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that McDowell neglected to mention destroys the credibility of the stories about a risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday.  Perhaps that is WHY he forgot to mention Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Mark.
 
MATTHEW ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
The Gospel of Matthew largely follows Mark’s account, again clearly implying that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in GALILEE and NOT in Jerusalem:

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Matthew 28:1-8 (NRSV)

The author of Matthew clearly implies that the risen Jesus is leaving Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday morning and heading back to GALILEE, and also clearly implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place in GALILEE about a week or two after Jesus had been crucified and buried. Furthermore, Matthew not only says nothing about an appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem, but he describes an appearance of the risen Jesus that took place in GALILEE:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV, emphasis added)

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Jesus left Jerusalem heading back to Galilee on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, and an angel gave the women visiting Jesus’ tomb a message to tell Jesus’ male disciples: “Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”  After the disciples were given this message, they too headed back to Galilee, to a particular mountain, where they “saw him”, where they (allegedly) saw the risen Jesus for the first time.
Note that even upon seeing the risen Jesus in Galilee “some doubted”.  How could some of Jesus’ disciples still doubt that Jesus was alive again IF they had already seen him, and eaten with him in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday?  If the stories in Luke and John of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter were true, then the disciples would not still doubt his resurrection a week or two later upon seeing the risen Jesus in Galilee.  Matthew’s account CONTRADICTS these Jerusalem appearance stories found in Luke and John.
So, if Chapter 28 of Matthew is correct, then Luke’s story about Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday is fictional.  It is either entirely fictional or else it is based on a traditional story that had an historical basis but was seriously corrupted and altered either by the author of Luke or by the process that transmitted the story from its original source to Luke.  In any case, the stories of Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus in Jerusalem found in Luke and John are highly dubious.
The RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that McDowell neglected to mention destroys the credibility of the stories about a risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday.  Perhaps that is WHY he forgot to mention Chapter 28 of the Gospel of Matthew.
 
LUKE ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
Here is the passage from Luke that McDowell references in the footnotes for the second paragraph on Objection TRF2:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
(Luke 24:36-43, NRSV, emphasis added)

The LOCATION of this appearance of the risen Jesus is specified in verse 33:

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.            (Luke 24:33, NRSV, emphasis added)

The phrase “the eleven” refers to Jesus’ inner circle of twelve male disciples minus Judas, who had supposedly betrayed Jesus.

Christ at Emmaus by Rembrandt, 1648, Louvre

The DAY and TIME of this appearance of the risen Jesus is specified in verses 1, 3, 29, and 33:

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [i.e. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

13 Now on that same day two of them [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem…

29 But they [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] urged him [i.e. the risen Jesus] strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he [Jesus] went in to stay with them.

33 That same hour they [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.   

(Luke 24:1, 13, 29, 33, NRSV, emphasis added)

Luke clearly implies that the first appearance of the risen Jesus to his gathered male disciples (“the eleven”) took place in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday.  This CONTRADICTS the accounts of the first appearances of Jesus to his male disciples found in Mark and in Matthew.
Not only does Luke’s account of the Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus CONTRADICT the Gospel of Mark, but Luke makes it clear that he is consciously and deliberately CONTRADICTING the Gospel of Mark on this point.  The Gospel of Mark was a primary source of information used by Luke to construct his gospel, so Luke generally relies on Mark.  Mark’s gospel has the young man in white robes (an angel?) at the tomb tell the women this:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”  (Mark 16: 6-7, NRSV)

Luke consciously and deliberately alters what is said to the women at the tomb to this:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galileethat the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”                                     (Luke 24:5-7, NRSV, emphasis added)

Luke intentionally discards the message that Jesus was going to Galilee, and that his disciples would see him in Galilee.   Furthermore, Luke doubles down on his rejection of Mark’s placing the first appearances in Galilee by having Jesus tell his disciples to NOT go to Galilee, but rather to STAY IN JERUSALEM:

46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:46-49, NRSV, emphasis added)

What Jesus sent, what his Father promised, was the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, which according to the book of Acts, also written by Luke, was sent by Jesus from heaven 50 days after Passover (see Acts 2:1-4), when Jesus was crucified.  So, according to Luke the risen Jesus commanded that his disciples STAY IN JERUSALEM until the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus, which did not occur until about seven weeks after Jesus was crucified.  This clearly contradicts Mark’s implication that Jesus headed for Galilee on the morning of the first Easter Sunday and that his disciples also headed back to Galilee and met up with him there about a week or two after the crucifixion.  Luke thus not only CONTRADICTS the Gospel of Mark, but does so consciously and deliberately, openly rejecting Mark’s implication that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place in GALILEE about a week or two after the crucifixion of Jesus.
 
CONCLUSION
One must take sides in this open CONFLICT between Luke on the one hand, and Mark and Matthew on the other hand.  Matthew and Luke were both written around 85 CE, and they both depend heavily on Mark’s gospel as a primary source of information about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.  So, the contradiction between Matthew and Luke means that Matthew cancels out Luke, in that they both have about the same level of credibility and reliability.
That leaves us with Mark versus John.  Mark being the first gospel written (about 70 CE), and John being the last gospel written (about 95 CE), Mark is clearly to be preferred over John in terms of historical reliability, especially in view of the longstanding scholarly view that the 4th Gospel (John) is highly unreliable and strongly shaped by theological agendas.  Thus, Mark’s implication that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Galilee is more likely to be correct than the account of John that has the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples take place in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, and therefore John and Luke’s accounts of appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday are probably fictional.
The biblical evidence that McDowell neglected to mention shows that the passages from Luke and John that he references in end notes #190 and #191 are probably fictional stories.  Therefore, Objection TRF2 FAILS, because (a) McDowell does not provide ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of the psychological principle that is the basis for this objection, and (b) the bits of evidence that he provides in support of his historical claims are shown to be highly dubious in view of clear contradictions between the gospel passages (in Luke and John) that he references in end notes and related passages from other gospels (Mark and Matthew) that he neglects to mention.
=========================
* NOTE:  Because of wishful thinking, the recent shift in historical Jesus scholarship towards making use of the contents of the 4th Gospel has led some Christian believers to embrace the mistaken belief that many NT scholars have recently arrived at the conclusion that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.  But this is NOT the case.
In a series of posts I have argued that the Jesus scholars who now take the 4th Gospel into consideration in their studies, still hold the traditional scholarly view that the 4th Gospel does NOT provide an historically reliable account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/11/13/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-about-nt-scholarship/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/11/23/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-by-kermit-zarley/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/01/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-by-joe-hinman/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/04/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-scholars-do-not-believe-4th-gospel-is-reliable/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/11/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-seven-key-nt-scholars/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/25/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-what-joe-knows-for-sure-just-aint-so/
 
 

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 9: Dining with Jesus

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…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 6: The NO FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES Objection (TRF4)

WHERE WE ARE
In the previous five posts of this series, I have shown that the best case scenario (for Christian apologetics) is that MOST of Josh McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) are WORTHLESS CRAP:

One problem that I pointed out with Objection TRF5 (No Expectancy) is that the word “usually” in the revised and improved version of that objection is VAGUE.  My use of the word “MOST” is similarly vague, but I can quantify my point in a fairly precise way.  At least four out of seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP, which means that at least 57% of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP.
Furthermore, (***SPOILER ALERT***) after taking a few minutes to read and think about Objection TRF4 (No Favorable Circumstances), I realized that this objection was also a stinking pile of WORTHLESS CRAP.  So, now I am confident that at least five out of seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP.  That means that at least 71% of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP!
It is tempting to conclude that ALL of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP.  However, I intentionally saved his best objections for last.  The final two objections raised by McDowell are not as clearly and obviously mistaken as the previous objections, at least in my view.  So, it is still possible that McDowell has one or two solid objections against the Hallucination Theory.  But neither of the remaining two objections strike me as strong or solid objections, so I won’t be surprised if, on closer examination, they also turn out to be WORTHLESS CRAP.
In any case, if I am correct at least 71% of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are WORTHLESS CRAP,  it appears that he is about as bad at identifying good arguments as are the apologists Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler.  These three Christian apologists have almost NO ABILITY to distinguish between a good argument and a bad one (or else they simply don’t care about the quality of their arguments).
I suspect that their inability to distinguish between a good argument and a bad one is largely the result of decades of experience preaching to the choir.  White Evangelical Christians are, in general, dumber than a sack of hammers, and have little intellectual ability or objectivity.  The audience that these apologists write for, and speak to, will gladly accept ANY arguments for Christian beliefs, no matter how crappy and pathetic those arguments might be.  Because their audience is without intellectual ability or integrity, these apologists never needed to learn how to distinguish between a good argument and a bad one.  The Evangelicals that they preach to are just as happy with crappy and defective arguments for their beliefs as they are with solid and logical arguments for those beliefs.
 
PROBLEM #1 WITH TRF4 (NO FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES): VAGUENESS & UNCLARITY
McDowell’s general approach in his attempt to refute the Hallucination Theory is to make use of a psychological principle or an empirical generalization concerning hallucinations and then argue that the circumstances of the “appearances” of the risen Jesus don’t fit the conditions/requirements described by one of those psychological principles:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

Objection TRF4 fits this general strategy adopted by McDowell.  Here is how he describes the psychological principle used in this “No Favorable Circumstances” objection:

Another principle of hallucinations is that they usually are restricted as to when and where they can happen. In the New Testament situations, favorable circumstances are missing. …

…Indeed, the variety of times and places of Christ’s appearances defies the hypothesis that they were mere visions.                                    (TRF, p.85)

This alleged “psychological principle” is so VAGUE and UNCLEAR that McDowell’s claim that it represents “conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must be present to have a hallucination” is clearly and obviously pure BULLSHIT.
I doubt that any psychological expert on hallucinations would ever publish a scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal or book that contained such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR “psychological principle”, but I’m absolutely certain that such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR statement would never in a million years be accepted by “most psychiatrists and psychologists”.  This alleged “psychological principle” is an idea that only an audience of brain-dead White Evangelical Christians would find reasonable.
There are actually two VAGUE principles asserted by McDowell above:

Restricted Times Principle:  Hallucinations usually are restricted as to when they can happen.

Restricted Places Principle:  Hallucinations usually are restricted as to where they can happen.

As we previously saw with the revised first premise of Objection TRF5 (No Expectancy), the term “usually” is very VAGUE.  Does this mean “more than 50% of hallucinations” or “more than 60% of hallucinations” or “more than 70% of hallucinations” or “more than 80% of hallucinations” or “more than 90% of hallucinations”?  There is  a huge difference between “more than 50% of hallucinations” being restricted to certain times, as compared with “more than 90% of hallucinations” being restricted to certain times.  Furthermore, even if we are talking about 70% or 80% of hallucinations being restricted to certain times, this objection would be weak, because that means that 2 or 3 out of 10 hallucinations could occur outside of those certain times, without there being ANY conflict with this supposed “principle”!
Next, the phrase “restricted as to when they can happen” is itself very VAGUE and UNCLEAR.  Is McDowell talking about time of day? (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening, nighttime) or time of the month? (e.g. early in the month, middle of the month, last week of the month) or time of the year? (e.g. winter, spring, summer, fall)?  Or is he talking about the cycle of daily events? (e.g. while eating breakfast, while taking a shower, while getting dressed,  while driving to work, while at work, while driving home, while eating supper, while getting ready for bed, while going to sleep, etc.)
Although McDowell does not specify this, it seems that he had in mind restrictions as to the time of day (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening, nighttime), because he mentions that there was one “early morning appearance” of the risen Jesus, and that there were a couple of appearances “in broad daylight” (TRF, p.85).  Assuming this is what he had in mind, McDowell doesn’t bother to tell us what the “proper” times are for hallucinations to occur.
Do hallucinations usually happen in the “early morning”?  If so, then why mention the examples of appearances of Jesus in the morning?  Do hallucinations usually happen in the afternoon?  If so, then why mention examples of appearances of Jesus “in broad daylight” (suggesting late morning or afternoon).  Because he FAILS to specify the time of day (or times of day) when hallucinations “usually” happen, his alleged “psychological principle” is WORTHLESS for use in evaluation of the Hallucination Theory.
McDowell’s Restricted Places Principle is also very VAGUE and UNCLEAR, and thus WORTHLESS for use in evaluating the Hallucination Theory:

Restricted Places Principle:  Hallucinations usually are restricted as to where they can happen.

What sort of restriction does McDowell have in mind here?  He does not say.  Does he think hallucinations usually occur in California but not in Florida or Texas?  That is absurd and obviously false. Does he think that hallucinations usually occur in grocery stores and restaurants but not in department stores or gas stations?  That is equally ridiculous.  Does he think hallucinations usually occur in dining rooms and living rooms but not in kitchens or bathrooms?  Does he think that hallucinations usually occur on land but not at sea and not on lakes or rivers?  Does he think that hallucinations usually occur in valleys but not on hills or mountains?  What the HELL are the “restrictions” on the location where hallucinations occur?  Why would hallucinations be impacted by location or geography anyway?  This “psychological principle” is so VAGUE and UNCLEAR that it is WORTHLESS for use in evaluating the Hallucination Theory. 
So, both of the “psychological principles” that are the foundation of Objection TRF4 are WORTHLESS for use in evaluating the Hallucination Theory, and therefore this objection FAILS.
 
PROBLEM #2 WITH TRF4 (NO FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES): ZERO EVIDENCE
The extreme VAGUENESS and UNCLARITY of McDowell’s two “psychological principles” upon which Objection TRF4 are based, strongly indicates that his claim that these principles describe “conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must be present to have a hallucination” is pure BULLSHIT.
In order to provide actual EVIDENCE that these two alleged “psychological principles” are widely accepted by psychological experts (or that these principles are true), McDowell would need to provide several quotations from peer-reviewed scientific articles and/or books written by various psychological experts who have specific knowledge about hallucinations and the causes of hallucinations.

  • How many psychological experts does McDowell quote in support of these two “psychological principles” in The Resurrection Factor ZERO! 
  • How many psychological experts does McDowell quote in support of these two “psychological principles” in Evidence that Demands a Verdict? ZERO!
  • How many psychological experts does McDowell quote in support of these two “psychological principles” in Evidence for the Resurrection? ZERO!
  • How many psychological experts does McDowell quote in support of these two “psychological principles” in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict? ZERO!

In short, McDowell makes no effort whatsoever to provide any actual EVIDENCE to support these two key factual claims upon which Objection TRF4 is based. Given that these claims are so VAGUE and UNCLEAR that it is practically certain that they do NOT describe “conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must be present to have a hallucination”, the complete and total lack of relevant EVIDENCE is more than enough reason to seriously doubt and reject the two alleged “psychological principles” behind Objection TRF4, and therefore this objection FAILS.
 
PROBLEM #3 WITH TRF4 (NO FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES):  CLARIFICATION RESULTS IN FAILURE
McDowell did not originate Objection TRF4.  He learned this objection from another Christian apologist named J.N.D. Anderson.  In Evidence that Demands a Verdict, when McDowell presents Objection TRF4, he cites a long essay written by Anderson called The Evidence for the Resurrection, which was first published in 1950, more than twenty years prior to publication of Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and more than thirty years prior to publication of The Resurrection Factor.
In fact, five out of the seven objections that McDowell raises against the Hallucination Theory came from Anderson’s long essay (TRF1, TRF2, TRF4, TRF5, and TRF6).  The contents of the objections by Anderson not only closely parallel the objections as stated by McDowell in TRF, but they occur in nearly same order in Anderson’s essay on the resurrection as in McDowell’s The Resurrection Factor. (NOTE: the same five objections are also found in Know Why You Believe by Paul Little and they also occur in nearly the same order as in Anderson’s essay, but Know Why You Believe was first published in 1967, so Anderson’s essay was probably the original source of these objections for both McDowell and Little.)
I read Anderson’s presentation of Objection TRF4 (No Favorable Circumstances) to see if it shed any light on the VAGUE and UNCLEAR “psychological principles” that this objection is based upon.  Anderson’s discussion and use of the Restricted Times Principle is quite revealing:

In this context, the phrase “psychic experiences” refers to hallucinations.  Unlike McDowell, Anderson actually SPECIFIES EXAMPLES of times when hallucinations “usually occur”: (a) evening, (b) night, and (c) early morning.  The problem here is that these periods of time account for a significant portion of the hours in a day.  What is left out is late morning and early afternoon.  But Anderson FAILS to explicitly state that it is unusual for hallucinations to occur in late morning or in the early afternoon.  He only provides us with some examples of periods of time when hallucinations (allegedly) “usually occur”.  But what we really need to know is the times of day when hallucinations usually DO NOT occur!
Furthermore, most of the examples of appearances of Jesus that Anderson provides as evidence against the Hallucination Theory are appearances that occurred during the very times of day that Anderson tells us are when hallucinations “usually occur”!  He mentions an appearance of the risen Jesus in “an upper room at evening”, but evening is one of the times of day when Anderson says hallucinations “usually occur”.  He mentions an appearance of the risen Jesus at “the tomb in the early morning”, but early morning is one of the times of day when he says hallucinations “usually occur”.  He mentions an appearance of the risen Jesus during “a morning’s fishing on the lake”, but he says that early morning is one of the times of day when hallucinations “usually occur”.  Anderson mentions only ONE appearance of the risen Jesus that does not occur during one of the times of day that he stated as being when hallucinations “usually occur”: an appearance that happened during “an afternoon’s walk in the country”.  Anderson does NOT state that it is unusual or uncommon for hallucinations to occur in the afternoon.
But even if Anderson intended to claim that MOST hallucinations occur in the evening, night, or early morning, and that it is uncommon for hallucinations to occur in the afternoon, the examples of appearances of the risen Jesus that are given by Anderson FIT THAT PROFILE!  Most of his examples are appearances that occurred in the evening, night, or early morning. Only one example that he gives is an appearance that took place in the afternoon.  So, the examples that Anderson provides UNDERMINE his own objection; the examples of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus conform to the Restricted Times Principle  that Anderson uses in his presentation of Objection TRF4.
So, we can either stick with McDowell’s version of the Restricted Times Principle and  conclude that  Objection TRF4 FAILS because it is so VAGUE and UNCLEAR that it is WORTHLESS for use in evaluating the Hallucination Theory, or else we can go back to the original presentation of Objection TRF4 in Anderson’s essay (The Evidence for the Resurrection), which presents a clearer and somewhat more useful version of the Restricted Times Principle, and then reasonably conclude that the Hallucination Theory is NOT contrary to this principle, and thus that Objection TRF4 FAILS.  Either way, the objection FAILS.
 
CONCLUSION
Objection TRF4  (No Favorable Circumstances) is the fourth objection against the Hallucination Theory presented by Josh McDowell in The Resurrection Factor, and it is the fifth objection from McDowell that I have examined so far.  I have given three good reasons showing that this objection FAILS.
First, the alleged “psychological principles” upon which this objection is based are very VAGUE and UNCLEAR, making those principles WORTHLESS for an evaluation of the Hallucination Theory.  Second, McDowell provides ZERO evidence in support of his two key “psychological principles”.  Third, this objection originated (for McDowell) with the 1950 essay The Evidence for the Resurrection by J.N.D. Anderson, and that essay provides a somewhat clearer and more useful version of one of McDowell’s “psychological principles” (i.e. the Restricted Times Principle).  But Anderson’s application of that clarified principle reveals (contrary to what Anderson believed) that the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus are NOT contrary to, or in conflict with, that supposed psychological principle.  So, if we clarify that key psychological principle according to how this objection was originally presented by Anderson, then the objection still FAILS.
I conclude that Objection TRF4  (No Favorable Circumstances) FAILS.  In Part 1 through Part 6 of this series, I have now shown that five out of seven (or at least 71%) of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:

That leaves us with only Objection TRF2 and Objection TRF7.  Although there is still a chance that one or both of those objections is a good and solid objection to the Hallucination Theory, the fact that five out of seven of McDowell’s objections have FAILED is a clear indication that McDowell has little or no ability to distinguish between a good argument and a bad one (or else that he just doesn’t give a damn about the quality of his arguments).
Also, given that no other Christian apologists who present similar objections against the Hallucination Theory provide any relevant EVIDENCE to support the alleged “psychological principles” upon which these objections are based, we can also reasonably conclude that many (most?) Christian apologists either lack the ability to distinguish between a good argument and a bad one or else they just don’t give a damn about the quality of their arguments.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 4: More Problems with Objection TRF5

WHERE WE ARE
TRF5 is the fifth objection presented by Josh McDowell against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF).
The objection TRF5 can be stated in terms of a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

In Part 3 of this series, I argued that there were at least three problems with premise (1) of this argument:

PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.

Those problems are sufficient to show that TRF5 is a weak and defective objection against the Hallucination Theory, and that it FAILS to refute, or even to seriously damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
A MODIFICATION OF PREMISE (1)
It appears, however, that McDowell at some point realized that premise (1) of his argument was FALSE, because he modified that premise in the more recent presentation of this objection in his book Evidence for the Resurrection (hereafter: EFR).  McDowell revised the psychological generalization that he bases this objection upon so that it was no longer obviously FALSE:

A fourth principle is that hallucinations usually come to people with an anticipating spirit or hopeful expectancy that causes their wishes to become the stimulus of the hallucinatory illusion. (EFR, p.209, emphasis added)

Now instead of “hopeful expectancy” about a circumstance C being REQUIRED (i.e. being a necessary condition) for the production of an hallucination in which circumstance C occurs or is confirmed, the generalization is significantly weakened to the idea that this is USUALLY the case with hallucinations.  So, the fact that hallucinations are often unpleasant or frightening is no longer a clearcut counterexample to the psychological generalization.
We can modify premise (1) of the above argument to reflect this significant modification of the original psychological “principle” that was stated in TRF:

1a. It is USUALLY the case that when a person has an hallucination that seems to be of circumstance C (or that seems to confirm circumstance C), that person has previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, so that the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment of that wish (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

 
PROBLEMS WITH PREMISE (1a)
PROBLEM #1: The qualified version of this psychological generalization in EFR is VAGUE.
What does “usually” mean?  Because of this qualification, premise (1a) is VAGUE.  Does it mean that such hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 50%” of hallucinations?  or that such hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 60%” of hallucinations? or “more than 70% of hallucinations”? or “more than 80% of hallucinations”? or “more than 90%” of hallucinations?
If the claim is merely that hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 50%” of hallucinations, then this principle is too weak to be of any significance in this context.  If the claim is merely that hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 60%” of hallucinations, then this principle is still too weak to be of significance.
In order for objection TRF5 to be a strong objection against the Hallucination Theory, I would expect the psychological generalization or principle to be at least in the 90% range, so that hopeful expectancy of circumstance C precedes at least 90% of hallucinations in which circumstance C seems to occur in the hallucination (or in which circumstance C seems to be confirmed in the hallucination).  For example, if only about 80% of hallucinations have this character, then that means that about 20% of hallucinations (2 out of 10 hallucinations) LACK this character.  That would make this a fairly WEAK objection to the Hallucination Theory.
PROBLEM #2: Because ZERO EVIDENCE was provided to support this psychological generalization, we have no reasonable basis for clarifying the meaning of the VAGUE term “usually”.
Because McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists have provided ZERO EVIDENCE from psychological studies or experts in support of his psychological generalization, we have no clue how to interpret the VAGUE term “usually”.    Given that there are no facts provided in support of the claim, the term “usually” might well mean only that “more than 50%” of hallucinations have this character of being preceded by a hopeful expectancy of the circumstance that seems to occur (or be confirmed) in the hallucination.
Furthermore, since it is clear that McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists MADE NO EFFORT to study scientific articles and books about hallucinations authored by recognized psychological experts, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists had NO FACTUAL DATA in front of them to shape their own understanding of the strength of the term “usually” in the psychological generalization upon which TRF5 is based.  They basically just made this claim up without having any actual facts or data.  This psychological generalization is pure bullshit.  So, they themselves might well have no clue as to how to clarify the meaning of the term “usually” in this context.
Since they have NO FACTUAL DATA to support their psychological generalization, they have no justification for making even the very weak claim that “more than 50%” of hallucinations have the character that they claim.
PROBLEM #3: It is OBVIOUS that a significant portion of hallucinations are NOT based upon “hopeful expectancy” and “wishes”, so the qualifier “usually” cannot be stronger than something like “about 70 percent of hallucinations” are based upon hopeful expectancy and wishes.
Because we are all aware that hallucinations are often unpleasant or frightening, it is VERY UNLIKELY that the strong claim that “more than 90%” of hallucinations are the result of a hopeful expectation of circumstances that the hallucination appears to manifest or confirm.  At most, it might be the case that the term “usually” can be interpreted as meaning that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character.  But in that case objection TRF5 is a rather WEAK objection, since it allows that about 3 out of 10 hallucinations LACK this specified character.
Furthermore, since McDowell and his fellow apologists have no facts or data to support even the much weaker claim that “more than 50%” of hallucinations were the result of previous “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” in the mind of the person who has the hallucination, the claim that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character is very dubious.  So, if we clarify “usually” to mean that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character, then objection TRF5 has at least two different dubious aspects: (1) the assumption that this psychological generalization is true, and (2) even if it were true it is too weak to constitute a strong objection against the Hallucination Theory.
I have not been able to find data about what proportion of hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  But clearly even if most hallucinations are pleasant and NOT frightening, “bad trips” occur often when people use hallucinogenic drugs, so we can reasonably infer that a significant portion of drug-induced hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.
I have, however, found some data on the prevalence of bad dreams, which supports the view that a significant portion of hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  Dreams and hallucinations are different phenomena, but in both of these phenomena our minds and imaginations appear to draw upon our previous experiences and feelings to generate visual and emotional experiences that seem real but that are purely subjective.  If a significant portion of our dreams are unpleasant or frightening, then it is reasonable to infer that a significant portion of hallucinations are probably unpleasant or frightening, especially given that we already know that “bad trips” or unpleasant or frightening hallucinations often occur when people take hallucinogenic drugs.
NIGHTMARES ARE COMMON
Psychologists usually distinguish between “nightmares” and “bad dreams”.  Nightmares are basically bad dreams that result in the dreamer waking up. Nightmares are a fairly common experience, especially for children.  One out of four children have nightmares more than once a week:

Children ages 8 to 14 report having had 11 nightmares (on average) in the previous year:

 
But nightmares are also common for college students:

College students report having had 9 nightmares (on average) in the past year:

So, both children (ages 8 to 14) and college students report that they had roughly 10 nightmares in the past year.  However, when children (aged 8 to 14) kept daily journals of their dreams, they recorded an average of about 1 nightmare in two weeks, and when college students kept daily journals of their dreams, they too recorded an average of about 1 nightmare in two weeks.  That means that both children and college students seriously under report the number of nightmares they had for the past year.  Based on daily dream journals, both children and college students have about two dozen nightmares a year, on average:
Adults aged 40 and above report having far fewer nightmares a year than what children and college students report:

However, given that both children and college students seriously under report the number of nightmares they had in the past year, adults 40 and older probably also under report the number of nightmares they had in the past year.  In any case, up to 85% of adults report having had at least one nightmare in the past year, and between 8% and 29% report having monthly nightmares, and between 2% and 6% of adults report having weekly nightmares:

A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF DREAMS ARE BAD DREAMS
Nightmares are fairly common, but since all nightmares are bad dreams, but some bad dreams are NOT nightmares (because some bad dreams don’t result in the dreamer waking up), it follows that there are more bad dreams than nightmares, and thus that bad dreams are even more common than nightmares.
One scientific experiment about bad dreams involved waking several subjects up several times each night and then asking them if they remember dreaming and if so whether they experienced fear in the dream.  The results of this experiment showed that a significant portion of the remembered dreams were “bad dreams” in that the dreamer felt fear in the dream.  Here is an excerpt from the article describing some results of that experiment:

In this experiment there was a total of 66 dream reports where the subject remembered the content of his/her dream. In 26 of those dream reports the subject reports the experience of fear in the dream (in about 39% of dreams), and in 40 of the dream reports, the subject reports not having fear (in about 61% of dreams).  So, in this experiment about 4 out of 10 dreams involved the experience of fear, and about 6 out of 10 dreams did NOT involve the experience of fear.  Since the experience of fear in a dream generally correlates with having a “bad dream”, about 4 out of 10 dreams in this experiment were bad dreams.
Because this experiment only involved a small number of subjects, we cannot confidently infer that in general 4 out of 10 dreams that people have are bad dreams.  However, this scientific data does confirm what was already a plausible hypothesis based on ordinary experience: people often have bad dreams, and it is reasonable to infer that a significant portion of our dreams are bad dreams, are dreams that are unpleasant or frightening.
Given that people who take hallucinogenic drugs often have “bad trips”, we can reasonably infer that a significant portion of drug-induced hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  And given the additional assumption that a significant portion of dreams are “bad dreams” (i.e. involve unpleasant or frightening experiences), we have very good reason to suspect that a significant portion of hallucinations in general are of an unpleasant or frightening character.  Thus, we have very good reason to suspect that a significant portion of hallucinations in general are NOT the result of “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” on the part of the person who had the hallucination, even if it were true that MOST hallucinations (i.e. more than 50% of them) are the result of “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” on the part of the person who had the hallucination.
PROBLEM #4: Given that we should interpret “usually” as meaning something no stronger than “about 70% of hallucinations” are based upon hopeful expectancy or wishes, the conclusion of objection PF5 must be seriously revised to make a much weaker claim.
The psychological generalization that “about 70% of hallucinations” are based on hopeful expectancy or wishes, means that as much as 30% or three out of ten hallucinations are NOT based on hopeful expectancy or wishes.  But if three out of ten hallucinations are NOT based on hopeful expectancy or wishes, then  objection PF5 is very weak and not only FAILS to “refute” the Hallucination Theory, but also FAILS to show it to be highly improbable.
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH PREMISE (2)
Premise (2) is a general historical claim that must be shown to be TRUE in order for objection TRF5 to be a strong objection:

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

Premise (2) summarizes many beliefs that Christians have about who among Jesus’ disciples had experiences that seemed to them to be of a living, physical, risen Jesus, and when and where those experiences occurred, and about the specific content of those alleged experiences.  I myself do not accept any of those beliefs as being FACTS.  Every one of those beliefs is a conclusion that is based on passages from the gospels or from some other NT writings.
I do NOT view the gospels or the writings of the NT to be historically reliable documents.  They are sketchy and unreliable documents.  So, all of these conclusions about the ALLEGED experiences of Jesus’ disciples that allegedly seemed to be of a living, physical, risen Jesus are based on sketchy and dubious evidence, in my view.  There are many such beliefs that Christians have, so carefully reviewing all of the relevant claims or beliefs and discussing the NT evidence and the reasoning upon which they are based would be a rather long and time-consuming task.
I will not attempt to perform that task here and now.  However, the burden of proof rests on Christian apologists here.  It is NOT sufficient to merely point to some Gospel passage, and conclude that the events described in that passage are actual historical events that are accurately described in that Gospel passage.  As the Christian apologist William Craig once said,

Far from being easy, historical apologetics, if done right, is every bit as difficult as philosophical apologetics.  The only reason most people think historical apologetics to be easier is because they do it superficially.  (Reasonable Faith, revised edition, p. 253)

Premise (2) requires a lot of clarification, in terms of the specific historical claims behind it, concerning specific people allegedly having specific experiences at specific times and places, and these various specific claims each needs to be carefully supported with extensive evidence and arguments.  Nothing like that is provided in any of the works of apologetics that make use of objection TRF5.  So, as far as I am concerned premise (2) remains both VAGUE and DUBIOUS.  There is no good reason to believe premise (2) is true, at least not in the works of apologetics that I have mentioned here as works that make use of TRF5.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 3: The “No Expectancy” Objection

WHERE WE ARE
I generally argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory, not in order to prove it to be TRUE, but in order to show that this skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus is still viable and that the objections raised against  it by Christian apologists FAIL to refute it.  However, I am now in the process of arguing in defense of the Hallucination Theory and am arguing that the objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor (1981; herafter: TRF) are weak and defective, and that McDowell FAILS to refute this skeptical theory.
Here are McDowell’s seven objections in TRF against the Hallucination Theory:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I argued that Objection 1 (Only Certain People) is clearly defective and FAILS.
In Part 2 of this series I argued that Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough) both FAIL miserably.
 
THE FOUR REMAINING OBJECTIONS
I have quickly eliminated three of McDowell’s seven objections to the Hallucination Theory.  That leaves us with four more objections to consider.  I have plucked the low hanging fruit first, eliminating the most obviously weak and defective objections.  My impression is that McDowell’s remaining four objections are also weak and defective, but they deserve a closer examination than Objection 1, Objection 3, and Objection 6, and I expect that it will require more work on my part to show that the remaining four objections also FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory.
I think the most important objections, and perhaps the objections that will require the most effort by me to show they FAIL, are Objection 2 (Very Personal), and Objection 7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts).  So, I will deal with those objections last.  I expect Objection 4 (No Favorable Circumstances) and Objection 5 ( No Expectancy) to require a medium level of effort to show that they FAIL, and I suspect that Objection 5 will be the easiest of the remaining objections for me to deal with.
So, the order that I plan to address the remaining four objections is this (I am labelling them “TRF” because I plan to refer to objections from other books as well):

TRF5: No Expectancy

TRF4: No Favorable Circumstances

TRF7: Doesn’t Match the Facts

TRF2: Very Personal

These objections are also presented by Josh McDowell (and his son Sean) in the more recently published book Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, see pages 206-211; hereafter: EFR).  You can see how the objections in EFR line up with the objections in TRF in the following chart:

TRF5: THE “NO EXPECTANCY” OBJECTION
McDowell summarizes a number of his objections against the Hallucination Theory this way:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

 If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence firmly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for an hallucination to occur.

In order to provide evidence firmly supporting claims of this form, McDowell should consult hundreds, or at least dozens, of peer-reviewed books and journal articles by people who are recognized experts in psychology, preferably by psychologists who have specialized in the scientific study of hallucinations, or in the scientific study of mental diseases or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  But we shall soon see that McDowell (and his fellow Christian apologists) clearly MADE NO EFFORT to investigate such articles and books on this subject.
Here is how McDowell presents the “No Expectancy” objection to the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

A fifth principle is that hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy which causes their wishes to become father of their thoughts and hallucinations.  As we look at the disciples, the last thing they expected was a resurrection.  They thought Christ had been crucified, buried. …That was the end of it.   (TRF, p.85-86, ellipses were in the original text)

This objection against the Hallucination Theory is also presented by McDowell in Evidence For the Resurrection (as objection #4  on page 209), as well as in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 252 of the Revised Edition), and in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 277).
This objection to the Hallucination Theory is used by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Handbook of Christian Apologetics (as objection #7 on page 187), by William Craig in The Son Rises (as objection #3 on pages 120 and 121), and by Gary Habermas in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories” (objection #1 on page 5).  Habermas also uses this objection in his interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ (see page 239).
This objection is also used by J.N.D. Anderson in A Lawyer Among the Theologians (see pages 92 and 93), by Murray Harris in Raised Immortal (see page 61), as well as by Winfried Corduan in No Doubt About It (on page 221), by Hank Hanegraaff in Resurrection (on page 46 he quotes Gary Habermas from the interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ), and by Paul Little in Know Why You Believe (objection #5 on page 56 of the 3rd edition).
McDowell’s reasoning here in TRF can be spelled out in a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

The logic of this argument is fine.  However, I would contend that each one of the premises of this argument is problematic, so TRF5 FAILS.  I will argue that premise (1) is clearly false, that an improved version of premise (1) is dubious, that premise (2) is dubious, and that premise (3) is  dubious.  Furthermore, I will argue that IF premise (3) were true, THEN this would give us a powerful reason to reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
 
PROBLEMS WITH  PREMISE (1)
PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.
Josh McDowell FAILS to provide ANY significant evidence in support of the psychological generalization that he asserts in objection TRF5:

  • In The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence for the Resurrection, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Revised edition), McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.

McDowell provides thirteen quotations in support of TRF5 in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and also in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, but NONE of the quotations is from an expert in psychology.  They are all quotes from ministers, evangelists, theologians, biblical scholars, and Christian apologists.
It is crystal clear that McDowell made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to read or study scientific articles or books about hallucinations written by psychological experts.  Therefore, his claim that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” that “hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy” has ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS in fact, as far as the intellectually lazy Josh McDowell is aware.*
Sadly, the same unmitigated ignorance of the scientific literature about hallucinations appears to be the case with McDowell’s fellow Christian apologists.
PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

  • Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
  • William Craig provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book The Son Rises.
  • J.N.D. Anderson provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book A Lawyer Among the Theologians.
  • Murray Harris provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Raised Immortal.
  • Winfried Corduan provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book No Doubt About It.
  • Hank Hanegraaff provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Resurrection.
  • Paul Little provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Know Why You Believe (3rd edition).
  • Gary Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories“.

It should be noted that Gary Habermas, alone among these Christian apologists, does quote from a bona fide psychologist, named Gary Collins, in his interview by Lee Strobel.  However, the quote is NOT from a peer-reviewed article or book, but from personal correspondence from Gary Collins. Furthermore, Gary Collins is a devout Evangelical Christian who was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where the Christian apologist Dr. William Craig also taught, so Collins is clearly a biased source of information on this subject.
Furthermore, Gary Collins specializes in Christian Counseling, and he appears to have no particular expertise in the study of hallucinations, nor in the study of mental illnesses or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  Finally, the quote is about the obvious point that hallucinations are subjective in nature (a point that requires no psychological expertise because this is a conceptual point that requires only a good understanding of the meaning of the word “hallucination” in the English language).  The quotation of Collins by Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the specific psychological generalization asserted as part of objection TRF5.
PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.
There is actually no need to consult the scientific literature on hallucinations (which NONE of the above apologists made any effort to do), because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE, it is extremely unlikely that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization.  In any case, even if “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization, that wouldn’t change the fact that the generalization is FALSE.
Frightening Hallucinations
I can only recall one time in my life when I experienced an hallucination.  I was a young child (a toddler?); I was sick and had a fever.  I remember looking around in my room, and being frightened because the whole room was filled with fish and sharks swimming around in it.  This was an hallucination presumably caused by my sickness and fever.  We all know that hallucinations can be frightening, like this hallucination that I experienced as a young child. So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.  As a young child I had no hopeful expectation or wish to spend the night underwater in the presence of large hungry sharks!
We all know that there are such things as “bad trips” that can occur when someone uses a mind-altering drug.  Evangelical Christians have been obsessed with opposition to “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” for decades.  Many of them have come to embrace rock-n-roll, but still froth at the mouth when talking about drugs and sex.  So, if anyone is aware that drugs can sometimes cause “bad trips”, it is Evangelical Christians.  But a “bad trip” often includes unpleasant or frightening hallucinations.  For example, the man who discovered LSD relates a “bad trip” experience he had:

One of the earliest documented bad trips was reported by Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD. He had started experiencing a bad trip, and in an attempt to soothe himself, requested some milk from his next-door neighbor, who appeared to have become “a malevolent, insidious witch.”  (“What is a Bad Trip?” by Elizabeth Hartney)

We all know that hallucinations can be unpleasant or frightening, because we all know that mind-altering drugs can sometimes result in a “bad trip”.  So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.
Evangelical Christians are very well aware of this fact about hallucinations.  So, if Josh McDowell, or any of the Christian apologists who follow him in his complete ignorance about the scientific literature on hallucinations had simply thought seriously about the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 for a few minutes, they probably would have come to the realization that it is CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY FALSE.  But in addition to being completely ignorant about the scientific literature on hallucinations, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists apparently were also uninterested in giving any serious thought to the question of whether the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 was true.  So, this objection is not only WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL BASIS, but it also reveals a complete lack of critical thought among Christian apologists, at least on this important issue.
 
CONCLUSION
I have more problems to discuss with objection TRF5, but the above problems are more than sufficient to show that objection TRF5 FAILS, and that this objection does NOT refute, or even significantly damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
To Be Continued…
 
*McDowell does include ONE reference to ONE book by a psychologist (Outline of Psychiatric Case-Study by Paul William Peru), but he does NOT provide any quotations from that book, and the book was published in 1939, so it does not represent the state of the art in the scientific study of hallucinations.
Furthermore, I have read the three pages of Peru’s book that McDowell references (pages 97 to 99), and in those pages Peru does NOT assert the psychological generalization that PF5 is based on, nor does Peru provide evidence in support of that generalization, and in fact those three pages are filled primarily with QUESTIONS that Peru thinks a psychologist should ask a patient who seems to be experiencing, or seems to have experienced, an hallucination.  Peru does NOT make any relevant psychological generalizations about the causes of hallucinations in those pages.  So, McDowell just made this generalization up (or perhaps he accepted this empirical claim on the basis of the pseudo authority of an evangelist, minister, theologian, bible scholar, or Christian apologist who lacks expertise in the field of psychology).
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Christian Apologetics books referenced in this post:
Norman Anderson, A Lawyer Among the Theologians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1973, first American edition published February 1974)
Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997)
William Craig, The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981)
Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 2000)
Murray Harris, Raised Immortal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1983, this American edition published in 1985)
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Paul Little, Know Why You Believe, expanded and updated by Marie Little (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 3rd edition 1988)
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Revised Edition (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1979)
Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1981)
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999)
Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998)

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 2: More Objections to the Hallucination Theory

In The Resurrection Factor (1981; hereafter: TRF), Josh McDowell raises seven objections against the Hallucination Theory, a skeptical theory that explains the origin of the early Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead in terms of one or more of his followers having an “hallucination” (or non-veridical sensory experience) of Jesus being alive sometime after Jesus was crucified.  The report or reports of this/these experience(s) became, according to the Hallucination Theory, the erroneous source of the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
Here are his seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 of this series I argue that McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, because his objection works, at best, against one particular version of the Hallucination Theory, but does NOT work against another important version of the Hallucination Theory (namely, the view that reports of dream experiences of a living Jesus after his crucifixion, resulted in the early Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead).
A second problem with McDowell’s first objection is that he gives NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER to support his psychological claim that

…only particular kinds of person have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals… (TRF, p.84)

He doesn’t quote any psychological expert or any authoritative psychology reference work, nor does he provide even a single footnote pointing to some book or article that supports this claim.  We are just supposed to take this assertion to be a fact because some dimwitted Christian apologist tells us that this is a “fact”. You would think that someone who went to law school would have a clue that psychological generalizations need to be backed up with empirical evidence, not just asserted by someone who has no established expertise in psychology.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by Eugen Bleuler.

So, McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS because (a) it is based on a questionable and baseless factual generalization, and (b) even if the generalization was completely true and accurate it has no relevance to at least one important version of the Hallucination Theory, namely the view that dream experiences of a living Jesus (after his crucifixion) led to the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
TWO MORE REALLY CRAPPY OBJECTIONS
The fact that McDowell’s very first objection FAILS is a sign of the complete FAILURE that is to come as his objections continue.
Two of the remaining objections are particularly crappy.  In fact, they are so crappy that even McDowell was able to eventually see that they were crappy, and toss them out.  In his much more recent book on the resurrection of Jesus, called Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, co-authored with Sean McDowell, Regal Books; hereafter: EFR), McDowell eliminates two of the seven objections from The Resurrection Factor: Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough).  These two objections stink like a steaming pile of dog shit, so I’m not surprised that McDowell tossed them out.
Most of the seven objections in TRF fall under the following general description:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

This seems questionable on its face.  I’m skeptical that most psychological experts agree that “various conditions…must be present” for hallucinations to occur.  If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory based on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence strongly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for a hallucination to occur.

Would it surprise you to find out that McDowell provides ZERO such evidence?  In other words, he NEVER provides ANY evidence in support of his various psychological generalizations that are the basis of most of his objections against the Hallucination Theory.  I hope that McDowell did not ever actually practice law, because he would have tried to prove the guilt (or innocence) of accused persons without ever bothering to provide factual evidence to support his case.
This problem alone means that McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, or at least that most of his objections against this theory FAIL.
Objection 3 (A False Response) is in even worse shape than his other psychological-generalization objections.  McDowell speaks of this objection as being based on such a psychological generalization:

Another principle is that an illusion is an erroneous perception or a false response to sense stimulation. (TRF, p.85)

McDowell is making a conceptual point here, but is confusing this point with being an empirical psychological generalization.  First of all, he fucks up by using the word “illusion”.  Like dreams, EVERYBODY can see illusions.  Illusions are not generally the result of mental illness.  So, he used the wrong word here. The issue is about “hallucinations” NOT about “illusions”.  So, if he did not have his head up his ass, McDowell would have said “an hallucination is an erroneous perception…”  and that would be a correct statement.
But this is merely an analysis of the meaning of the word “hallucination”; this is NOT a psychological generalization or fact that can help us evaluate the Hallucination Theory.  Clearly McDowell would agree that experiences of a living Jesus had by followers of Jesus after the crucifixion would have been “perceptions”, so he is not rejecting that aspect of the concept of an “hallucination”.  That means that he is rejecting the qualification “erroneous”.  But in doing so, McDowell blatantly BEGS THE QUESTION.
The whole point of the Hallucination Theory is to support the skeptical idea that the early Christian belief that Jesus was literally seen by his followers to be actually and physically alive was FALSE, that is to say “erroneous”.  But to object to the Hallucination Theory because it implies that this Christian belief is wrong is to obviously BEG THE QUESTION against this skeptical theory.
McDowell does not need to provide any factual or empirical evidence to support the “principle” behind Objection 3, because (contrary to his confused thinking) he is NOT asserting a useful psychological generalization in this objection; rather he is merely pointing to a reasonable analysis or definition of the term “hallucination”, and then objecting to applying this term to early Christian experiences, because that implies those experiences to be FALSE or “erroneous”.  We should toss Objection 3 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it clearly BEGS THE QUESTION, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
Objection 6 (Not Enough Time), unlike Objection 3, does rely on a psychological generalization or principle:

Hallucinations usually occur over a long period of time with noticeable regularity. (TRF, p.86)

First, this is an UNCLEAR generalization.  The term “usually” is VAGUE, and the phrase “a long period of time” is VAGUE, as is the phrase “noticeable regularity”.
Does “usually” mean “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time” or “more than 70% of the time” or…?
Is an hour a “long period of time”? Is a day a “long period of time”? a week? a month? a year? a decade?
What kind of “noticeable regularity” is McDowell talking about?

  • Time of day? (Does the experience always happen just after 5pm?)
  • Physical circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is hungry? or sleepy? or cold?)
  • Emotional circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is angry? or sad? or anxious? or joyous?)
  • Sensory content of the experience? (Does the experience always include a bright flash? a blue tint? a loud noise? the sound of a door creaking?)
  • Significance of the experience? (Does the experience always include seeing your mother smile? hearing your sister sing? seeing someone you love be injured or killed?).

This VAGUE and UNCLEAR principle is worthless for evaluating the Hallucination Theory.
A second problem here is that McDowell provides ZERO evidence in support of this psychological generalization.  There is no good reason to believe that this principle is a fact or that it is a generalization that is widely accepted by psychological experts.
A third problem, is that this psychological generalization seems dubious on its face.  It seems like similar hallucinations sometimes occur only once or twice to a person in one day or one week, sometimes similar hallucinations occur several times for a few weeks and then stop, and sometimes similar hallucinations occur over and over again for a period of months.  It is very questionable that similar hallucinations “usually occur over a long period of time”, particularly if “usually” means “more than 80% of the time”. (If “usually” here means only “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time”, then this objection would be extremely weak).
Finally, McDowell provides ZERO evidence that the experiences of early Christians of Jesus being alive (after the crucifixion) did NOT “occur over a long period of time”.  The NT might not report the occurrence of such experiences as happening several months after the crucifixion of Jesus, but that does NOT mean that no such experiences happened several months after the crucifixion of Jesus (duh!).
How would one provide strong evidence for this negative claim?  Suppose the author of Acts boldly asserts:  “There were no more appearances of the risen Jesus that occurred more than two months after the crucifixion.”  Why should we believe this assertion to be true?  Even if we take the author of Acts to be honest and to be aware of many events in the Jerusalem community of the first generation of Christians in the months following the crucifixion, how could one person have exhaustive knowledge of the personal experiences of hundreds or thousands of early Christian believers?
Objection 6 is about as crappy and as worthless as Objection 3.  We should toss Objection 6 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it is so weak and FAILS so clearly, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
To Be Continued…