Science and the Resurrection Belief are Not Incompatible

A common talking point in the New Atheist community is the assertion that the resurrection of Jesus contradicts science and thus must be wrong. Yet this argument is seriously misguided, as it depends on a faulty understanding of both science and Christianity.

If you want science to have a say on the resurrection, then you need to a) consider what Christians actually believe and b) show how science can address it through experimentation.

As for a), Christians believe Jesus was God incarnate and that his death/resurrection were a miraculous confirmation of the salvation work that took place on the cross. In other words, the theology clearly makes sense of the resurrection as a one-time event that is a promise for our resurrection at the end of history. Nothing in Christian theology would have us predict God would continually incarnate and resurrect throughout human history.

Once we recognize the theological dimension of the resurrection, it becomes clear that science cannot address the actual Christian belief. For how could you possibly test this one-time divine intervention with an experiment?

If science is going to address a claim, science must be able to formulate that claim as a testable hypothesis. If you want science to pass judgment on the Resurrection, you need some type of scientific analysis to determine whether or not this miracle occurred. You need to formulate the resurrection belief as a testable hypothesis. So what is it? If Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, what do you predict that we should be able to find in the lab or in the field?

Or fill in the blank. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we should be able to detect ___________.

Unless someone can answer this question and fill in that blank, any attempt to argue that science contradicts the Resurrection fails.

No testable hypothesis – no science. No science – no scientific judgment.Perhaps that explains why there are no peer reviewed scientific studies that attempt to determine whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead. That judgment call is not part of Science.

Since Christians have always believed the resurrection a miracle, there is no need for them to formulate a testable hypothesis. They do not claim science has shown the resurrection to be true. It is those who insist science has shown the resurrection to be false who must shoulder the burden of laying out their hypotheses and research results on the table. If they cannot do this, their claim is nothing more than vacuous rhetoric.

At this point, the New Atheist may attempt to sidestep the need to lay out hypotheses and research results and argue something like this:

“Look, the resurrection beleif about Jesus is incompatible with everything we know about biology. Biology teaches us that once an organism dies, it stays dead. The body has systems for maintainence, repair, adaptation, and reproduction, but not for resurrection. If it had such a mechanism, science would know this by now and the resurrection belief would be scientifically plausible. But it does not.”

Okay, but how would science know about this? Science could only have such knowledge if resurrections were repeatable events, common enough to be studied through experiment. That is, afterall, how science knows about the other systems. In other words, in order for science to have evidence of the resurrection, resurrections would need to be a common event.

Yet the resurrection, as a common event, would be incompatible with Christian theology. For Christians do not believe the Resurrection was some divine magic trick designed to impress, but instead was part of a transformative reality – Christians believe Jesus was God incarnate and that his death/resurrection were a miraculous confirmation of the salvation work that took place on the cross. From the point of Christian theology, the Resurrection is not just some historical fact. It is an event that is tied to massive theological and existential implications. So if one is to pass judgment on the Resurrection (a Christian belief), they must make an effort to come to terms with its Christian theology. And Christian theology fully embraces the common experience of people staying dead after they died. It is precisely that which makes the Resurrection stand out.

Yes, it would be easier to believe the Resurrection occurred if we had such scientific evidence. Surely, if Aunt Ethel and Cousin Steve had risen from the dead, it would not be hard to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, right? All true. But it would also mean the Resurrection becomes another piece of historical trivia. The atheist would argue, “Yes, I think Jesus rose from the dead. So what? Aunt Ethel and Cousin Steve also rose from the dead.”

Thus, the atheist position with regard to science and the Resurrection is a game of “heads I win, tails you lose.” We are given two choices: either there is no scientific evidence for resurrections, thus the Christian belief is false, or, there is scientific evidence for resurrections, thus the Christian belief is insignificant. “Not true” or “Trivia” is “heads I win, tails you lose.” And that is the very strategy the closed-minded would design to maintain their denial of the resurrection.

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33 Responses to Science and the Resurrection Belief are Not Incompatible

  1. stcordova says:

    This is the same conclusion I came to over the last few years.

    This encapsulates why we can embrace faith, the very theme of this blog, from Shadow to Light. If we only believed in things we can repeat and control and understand like a light switch, of necessity, if there is something immensely greater than ourselves like God and the Resurrection, we can never believe in these things if we restrict our faith to that which we can only understand in detail and control upon our own whims like a light switch. Also a God that is under control of our whims is no God at all. And if atheists could control nature at their whim they would be God, so they won’t believe in God unless they are God themselves. Far be it from them to be subservient to something they cannot control and understand.

    God, of course could intrude on our lives, and every time a Christ-hater like Hemant Mehta says something to offend Christians, a voice could come from heaven and send some fire his way. But it appears God has chosen to be more subtle and make it easy for such people to reject Him if they want to. Ironically it’s the very hatred of Christianity that is one evidence that Christianity is true. They hated Jesus on Good Friday many years ago and they hate his followers on this Good Friday too.

  2. Jonathan Blair says:

    Last week I caused a truck to levitate with telekinesis (using only the power of my mind). There is video footage of it. There is eyewitness testimony. I have written volumes of theology about it. This was a one-time, non-repeatable miracle.

    If science is going to address a claim, science must be able to formulate that claim as a testable hypothesis. If you want science to pass judgment on this telekinesis miracle, you need some type of scientific analysis to determine whether or not this miracle occurred. You need to formulate a testable hypothesis. So what is it? If I did indeed levitate a truck with my mind, what do you predict that we should be able to find in the lab or in the field?

    Or fill in the blank. If I levitated a truck with telekinesis, then we should be able to detect ___________.

    Unless someone can answer this question and fill in that blank, any attempt to argue that science contradicts this telekinesis miracle fails.

    No testable hypothesis — no science. No science — no scientific judgment.

    Etc. According to the framework you have provided, there are no grounds for challenging my claim. Yet which is more likely: that I levitated a truck using only my mind, or that I did not? Why?

  3. Michael says:

    Etc. According to the framework you have provided, there are no grounds for challenging my claim.

    What I have outlined is how it is that science is not incompatible with the resurrection belief, not that there are no grounds for challenging it.

    Yet which is more likely: that I levitated a truck using only my mind, or that I did not? Why?

    I find it more likely that you made it up, ad hoc, as a reponse to this posting. It’s a way of sidestepping the fact that science it not going to function as the authority when it comes to denying the resurrection.

  4. Jonathan Blair says:

    What you have outlined is how it is that science is not incompatible with any claimed miracle about anything, as long as it is asserted to be a one-time event.

  5. Michael says:

    What you have outlined is how it is that science is not incompatible with any claimed miracle about anything, as long as it is asserted to be a one-time event.

    Sure. But that doesn’t mean the miracle claim cannot be challenged. Look, you claim to have levitated a truck last week and also claim it was a one-time thing that you cannot repeat. Since it was a one-time thing you cannot repeat, you have taken your claim outside of science – it cannot be tested.

    Again, this does not mean I am now unable to challenge your claim. For example, you also claim there is video footage of it and that you have written volumes of theology about it. Okay, provide the links to the video and the volumes.

  6. Kevin says:

    For two things to be incompatible, they cannot coexist together. Young-earth creationism is incompatible with science, as the scientific explanation involves evolution within a universe and planet billions of years old. Both cannot be true, so they are incompatible.

    So, unless you can explain how God raising the dead cannot be true because SCIENCE, then I’m not sure what your objection is.

  7. Ilíon says:

    Not only is the Resurrection not incompatible with “science”, whatever that word means, but no miracle recorded in the Bible is even incompatible with the ‘Science!-fetishism of these God-deniers.

    Recall this purest statement of ‘Science!-fetishism from Carl Sagan, in ‘The Demon-Haunted World‘ —

    Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It’s easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here’s another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here’s a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They’re all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they’re called). Like it or not, that’s the way the world is. If you insist it’s ridiculous, you’ll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

    *The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow.

  8. Ilíon says:

    Jonathan Blair: you should take it up with Carl Sagan … or with God.

  9. Ilíon says:

    The only thing God-haters hate about alleged miracles is the ‘miracle’ part, not the “that’s contrary to everything we think we know about how the world works” part.

  10. Jonathan Blair says:

    Placing the Christian resurrection in the same category as all the Hindu miracles, all the Islamic miracles, all the Buddhist miracles, all the television psychics, and all the levitating trucks is not an impressive feat. Indeed it seems to step a bit into the anti-apologetics territory.

    In the spectrum of plausibility, your analysis amounts to targeting the very end of that spectrum, the “well there are no grounds for asserting it’s impossible!” end. Nearly everything falls into that category, which makes it uninteresting.

    Let’s take your analysis as a given: that nearly anything is, in principle, possible. The interesting part of the spectrum lies not at the endpoints but in between. What makes the Christian miracles more or less plausible than the Hindu miracles? Why are levitating trucks more or less plausible than either?

  11. FZM says:

    Placing the Christian resurrection in the same category as all the Hindu miracles, all the Islamic miracles, all the Buddhist miracles, all the television psychics, and all the levitating trucks is not an impressive feat. Indeed it seems to step a bit into the anti-apologetics territory.

    Not sure that the television psychics belong here (or the levitating trucks, you are making that claim and it isn’t clear that even you really believe it), they seem to be claiming to do something that is predictable and repeatable and are doing it on camera.

    There are Hindu claims of miracles, Islamic miracle claims, Buddhist miracle claims but how does this show that what is being claimed is scientifically impossible or that they are incompatible with the natural sciences?

    In the spectrum of plausibility, your analysis amounts to targeting the very end of that spectrum, the “well there are no grounds for asserting it’s impossible!” end. Nearly everything falls into that category, which makes it uninteresting.

    Nearly everything doesn’t fall into the possible category. There seem to be quite a lot of things that are impossible because they are conceptually incoherent or self-contradictory; no possible world could contain them.

    Let’s take your analysis as a given: that nearly anything is, in principle, possible. The interesting part of the spectrum lies not at the endpoints but in between. What makes the Christian miracles more or less plausible than the Hindu miracles? Why are levitating trucks more or less plausible than either?

    Is the plausibility of Christian miracles significant when it comes to the truth of Hinduism or Buddhism or their miracles? Does the possibility of Hindu miracles cast doubt on Christian claims?

    Apart from doubt about whether you actually believe your own claim about the levitating truck, what would be the significance of it? Did you predict it some time in advance and make clear that it was a one time only event?

  12. Kevin says:

    Jonathan,

    You still have not explained how God performing the resurrection is incompatible with science. Your “spectrum of plausibility” is not science and is thus irrelevant to the point raised in the OP.

    Can you explain how the resurrection as described by Christianity is incompatible with science?

  13. Ilíon says:

    No only has Jonathan not explained why/how the Resurrection is incompatible with “science” (whatever that term means), but he also hasn’t even attempted to grapple with the fact that the Resurrection is not incompatible with his own fetishism of ‘Science!‘ as exemplified in the Sagan quote I posted earlier.

  14. Ilíon says:

    Off-topic comment for Sal —

    You may recall that I’m “agnostic” about the age of the world (*). One of the alleged arguments for an Old Universe, which seems to me to be based on some unacknowledged assumptions, and even some dodgy assumptions, is the “Old/Distant Starlight Proves the Universe Is BBBBIllions of Years Old” argument.

    I’ve tried before to articulate why I am unimpressed and unpersuaded by this particular argument, seeing it at best as little more than an “argument from authority”, but those who claim more knowledge than I of things cosmological seemed uninterested in understanding what I was trying to get at.

    I think I’ve thought of a way to express what I was getting at that folks in your line may at least find worth a raised eyebrow —

    It seems to me that the “Distant Starlight” argument ignores Einstein. That is, it seems to me that the argument critically assumes a Newtonian conception of space and time, rather than a relativistic conception.

    To put my qualm into a bumper-sticker truism: “If there is no privileged frame of reference, then there is no privileged frame of reference!

    (*) And I think both that the Young-Worlders and the Old-Worlders (whether theistic or anti-theistic) base their arguments (such as they are) upon sketchy, easily-rejected assumptions.

  15. Michael says:

    Placing the Christian resurrection in the same category as all the Hindu miracles, all the Islamic miracles, all the Buddhist miracles, all the television psychics, and all the levitating trucks is not an impressive feat. Indeed it seems to step a bit into the anti-apologetics territory.
    In the spectrum of plausibility, your analysis amounts to targeting the very end of that spectrum, the “well there are no grounds for asserting it’s impossible!” end. Nearly everything falls into that category, which makes it uninteresting.

    You keep missing the point of this blog entry. What I have shown is that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible. In other words, when atheists argue that science has shown there was no resurrection, they are wrong. Science has shown no such thing. When atheists argue that if you value and embrace science, you must reject the resurrection of Jesus, they are wrong. The former does not entail the latter.

    It’s simple – science cannot tell us whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, it is intellectually dishonest to posture as if a) science has made such a judgment and b) science tells us to reject the resurrection claim. If you don’t agree, then by all means, show me where science has discredited the resurrection.

    As for your analogy with the resurrection of Jesus and your levitating trucks, that’s a seperate topic. That’s something that can be explored once it’s clear to all that science is not going to decide what’s true for us regarding these matters.

  16. Jonathan Blair says:

    We have (if it wasn’t clear) already agreed that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible. Again, this is not saying much because by the same reasoning, science and the miraculous events believed by Hindus are not incompatible, for instance.

    Again, I think you’re arguing against an extreme position on the continuum, and I think it’s a position that few actually take. If someone were to say to me, “If you value and embrace science, you must reject the resurrection of Jesus,” then I would regard him to be staking out an ideological position while being uninformed about how to hold philosophically appropriate positions generally. I would encourage him to think critically, the same for anyone asserting an ideological position, religious or not.

    It seems that you are targeting ideologists, but they can’t be reached in any case. For the non-ideological, the issue is not “you must reject ___”, but “what reason is there to accept ___”?

    Atheism can be an ideology, and for many it surely is, yet nowadays many actual agnostics are, confusingly, calling themselves atheists. They are anti-Wittgensteinians who, rejecting the common-sense notion that meaning is usage, have redefined a word for themselves while everyone else either takes no notice or rolls their eyes.

  17. FZM says:

    Again, I think you’re arguing against an extreme position on the continuum, and I think it’s a position that few actually take.

    I have been getting the impression that the idea that science and miracles are incompatible and that science shows that miracles are impossible is getting more common, even if it is not always expressed directly, but more assumed to be true.

    A Hindu miracle, an Islamic miracle, a Christian miracle, the occurrence of any of them would pose a problem for someone arguing for Naturalism, Atheism or scientism. New Atheist types seem to argue for all three of these things.

  18. Michael says:

    We have (if it wasn’t clear) already agreed that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible.

    We have? I can’t find any place in any of your 3 previous replies where you agreed that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible.

    Again, I think you’re arguing against an extreme position on the continuum, and I think it’s a position that few actually take.

    I am arguing (and successfully defeating) a position that is common among the New Atheist types.

    Ever hear of physicist Sean Carroll?

    The reason why science and religion are actually incompatible is that, in the real world, they reach incompatible conclusions. It’s worth noting that this incompatibility is perfectly evident to any fair-minded person who cares to look. Different religions make very different claims, but they typically end up saying things like “God made the universe in six days” or “Jesus died and was resurrected” or “Moses parted the red sea” or “dead souls are reincarnated in accordance with their karmic burden.” And science says: none of that is true. So there you go, incompatibility.

  19. pennywit says:

    I think one can hold the belief that Jesus was not resurrected without shitting on the beliefs and practices who those who do believe Jesus was resurrected.

  20. Jonathan Blair says:

    See my comment which culminates to “Let’s take your analysis as a given: that nearly anything is, in principle, possible.” That’s essentially the core of agnosticism, and to that extent many (likely most) self-professed atheists are more accurately labeled agnostics. We aren’t professing knowledge about what is or isn’t impossible. If that is yet not clear enough then I will say: the resurrection is, in principle, possible.

    I don’t follow Sean Carroll, but I would suggest that he’s not the pope of atheism. Like other anti-philosophical (e.g. Krauss) scientists, he is inclined to make uncareful epistemological statements. If you wish to quibble about what is or isn’t New Atheism then you’d have to go to root, which is, of course, Sam Harris. He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.

    One can see this in his recent debate with Peterson in which Harris says, “Anything’s possible; I’ll tell you that it’s possible that he was physically resurrected.” The answer Harris gives — “almost certainly not” — is epistemically appropriate. Note this is not anything special; it is mundanely epistemically appropriate. And note that while philosophical training does help in making careful statements, it is by no means necessary. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1oaSt60b0o#t=1h51m55s

  21. FZM says:

    He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.

    Usually Sean Carroll seems ahead of Sam Harris in the clarity and coherence of his views, and more aware of some of the philosophical issues. Sam’s positions always seem pretty obscure to me, those debates with Jordan Peterson didn’t change my view.

    One can see this in his recent debate with Peterson in which Harris says, “Anything’s possible; I’ll tell you that it’s possible that he was physically resurrected.” The answer Harris gives — “almost certainly not” — is epistemically appropriate. Note this is not anything special; it is mundanely epistemically appropriate.

    If Harris believes that it is almost certainly not the case that Jesus resurrected from the dead… because of what science tells us, that would be very close to (if not basically the same as) the point Michael has already been addressing. From watching that clip with Jordan Peterson I’m not sure that this isn’t what Sam would do if pressed (the reference to quantum physics he seems to make, for example).

  22. TFBW says:

    @Jonathan Blair:
    There’s nothing philosophically sophisticated about Sam’s “almost certainly not” position. He doesn’t show any working (a cardinal sin in philosophy), so one can only assume that it’s “almost certainly not” in the same sense that one’s car will almost certainly not spontaneously leap through the garage wall. That being so, he’s implicitly attaching the condition, “given that God does not exist (or at least does not act), Jesus almost certainly did not rise.” I actually agree with this statement, but one man’s Modus Ponens is another man’s Modus Tollens. Sam affirms that God doesn’t exist and concludes that Jesus almost certainly did not rise. I affirm that Jesus rose (as testimony tells us), and therefore God almost certainly must exist and act.

    As far as I’m concerned, all this was covered in the OP. All I’ve done is briefly re-state the same argument from a slightly different angle. If you think Sam Harris knocks it out of the park, you’ll have to explain in more detail what’s so great about his argument, because it looks entirely pedestrian to me.

  23. Jonathan Blair says:

    FZM: “almost certainly not” is a world apart from “you must reject the resurrection”. The latter is an ideological statement with authoritarian connotations. The former is not.

  24. FZM says:

    “almost certainly not” is a world apart from “you must reject the resurrection”. The latter is an ideological statement with authoritarian connotations. The former is not.

    Taking into account the fact that the resurrection is not something that is logically or metaphysically impossible these two statements are not worlds apart:

    The resurrection did not happen (it is something that is impossible)

    The resurrection almost certainly did not happen (it is almost certainly something that is impossible)

    One expresses a small (possibly tiny or vanishing small) amount of doubt, but unless somehow people are justified in believing in things that are almost certainly false, the idea that you must reject the resurrection is in both of them.

    For the argument that Michael was making this is not relevant, neither of the statements are the result of the findings of the natural sciences, instead both are dependent on philosophical arguments.

  25. Michael says:

    I don’t follow Sean Carroll, but I would suggest that he’s not the pope of atheism.

    I never claimed he is the pope of atheism, now did I? I quoted him simply because his views are representativeof New Atheism. Contrary to what Carroll, and many other atheists have claimed, I have shown that science and the resurrection belief of Christians are not incompatible. In other words, when atheists argue that science has shown there was no resurrection, they are wrong. Science has shown no such thing. When atheists argue that if you value and embrace science, you must reject the resurrection of Jesus, they are wrong. The former does not entail the latter.

    It’s simple – science cannot tell us whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, it is intellectually dishonest to posture as if a) science has made such a judgment and b) science tells us to reject the resurrection claim.

    If you wish to quibble about what is or isn’t New Atheism then you’d have to go to root, which is, of course, Sam Harris. He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.

    Did that: https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/defeating-sam-harriss-argument-about-science-and-religion-2/

    Do you agree with Harris that “science must destroy religion?”

  26. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > … Sam Harris. He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately. One can see this in his recent debate with Peterson in which Harris says, “Anything’s possible; I’ll tell you that it’s possible that he was physically resurrected.” The [second – Dhay] answer Harris gives — “almost certainly not” — is epistemically appropriate.

    I am very dubious about your assertion that Harris is very careful about couching statements appropriately, having many times attacked Harris here (explicity or sometimes just implicitly) for Gish Gallops. Here’s a link to just one such, a response which criticises one of Harris’ memes then looks at the The End of Faith passage it was extracted from and concludes:

    Harris fans tend to think Harris writes wonderfully fluent intelligent prose expressing his ideas clearly: I find instead a Gish Gallop written by that ‘scattered all over the place’ monkey-mind Harris sometimes talks about.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/sam-harris-promotes-sam-harris-memes/#comment-26848

    Please do read the whole response; and if you think that you can provide reasoned answers to my several ‘This makes no sense, what ever can Harris mean?’ type questions please do so – either in this thread or (so as not to derail this thread) in that ‘Memes’ thread.

    *

    If there isn’t a good defence to the charge that Harris engages there – and it’s just a sample – in a ‘Gish Gallop’, so much for the idea that Harris supplies the ‘Reason’ part of ‘Science and Reason’.

    As regards the ‘Science’ part of ‘Science and Reason’, I have many times and in many ways criticised Harris’ “The Neural Correlates …” papers for being crap science:

    https://www.google.com/search?&q=site%3Ashadowtolight.wordpress.com+neural+correlates

    Reasoned critiques of my critiques are welcome.

    *

    I chose that particular ‘Memes’ thread response because this thread here is a entitled “Science and the Resurrection”, and because that ‘Memes’ response refers to Harris’ Buddhist equivalent belief to belief in The Resurrection, namely reincarnation; in his 2005 book, The End of Faith, Harris claims:

    There also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which has been ignored by mainstream science. [18]

    [Page 41]

    Which Footnote 18, when looked up, says:

    [18] See, e.g., D. Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), R. Sheldrake, The Sense of Being Stared At: And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (New York: Crown, 2003), and R. S. Bobrow, “Paranormal Phenomena in the Medical Literature Sufficient Smoke to Warrant a Search for Fire,” Medical Hypotheses 60 (2003): 864-68. There may even be some credible evidence for reincarnation. See I. Stevenson, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1974), Unlearned Language: New Studies in Xenoglossy (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1984), and Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997).

    [Page 202. My emphasis.]

    Clearly Harris is telling us – I’ll change your quote to match this context – that “Anything’s possible; I’ll tell you that it’s possible that [the Dalai Lama] was [reincarnated].”

    Clearly Harris is telling us – I’ll change your quote to match the parallel context – that “Anything’s possible; I’ll tell you that it’s possible that [the Dalai Lama] was [reincarnated].”

    What’s strangely missing is that “almost certainly not” which you seem to think would be epistemically appropriate.

    You are obviously someone so familiar with the chat show / chat theatre punditry of Sam Harris that you are able to identify where in his many discussions he discusses reincarnation, complete with start time. I’ll avail myself of your expertise to confirm or deny what I have long suspected, that Harris has never given up on reincarnation

    Would you please provide the link to which ever discussion he says “almost certainly not” (or equivalent) of reincarnation, complete with start time.

    *

    That ‘Memes’ thread response also links to Harris’ response to Lawrence Krauss in 2006: when asked directly about reincarnation he ducked and dived. See here for another blogger’s scathing comments on Harris’ reply, and my own comments underneath on how Harris is invested in reincarnation as an essential feature of the power/authority structure of the Tibetan Buddhism he is so entwined with and grateful to:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/sam-harris-is-a-religious-man/#comment-26840

  27. Isaac says:

    I suppose if I wanted to throw shade on the Resurrection, (and wasn’t curious about whether it happened) I would do both of the things that Jonathan is doing here.

    1. Try to preserve at least some credibility for the “it’s not scientific” argument which the OP has demonstrated to be dishonest.
    2. Invoke claims of miracles by other religions, psychics, etc. to set up a false equivalency. “If one group’s claims are rubbish, then anyone claiming similar things is lying, too!”

    Whether #2 IS in fact a false equivalency is not addressed by Jonathan, and the hope of the rhetorician is that such comparisons WON’T be addressed, either because the listener has never done a value comparison, or because the listener won’t go through the trouble. Or, perhaps, the listener assumes that the speaker knows what he’s talking about and trusts that the various claims of miracles are equivalent.

    But I myself HAVE done a thorough comparison of the Resurrection to claims of the miraculous by Hindus, Buddhists, psychics, Mormons, Muslims, and so on. I have done this because I AM curious about whether the Resurrection occurred. This is all very important to me, and vetting the claims of Christianity is an ongoing process. If another religion had claims equally credible to those of the Resurrection, I would not be here asserting that Jesus is who he said he was.

    You might consider that Christianity, the most commonly persecuted faith worldwide and probably the most maligned major faith in mainstream culture in the West, grows by adult conversions more than any other religion, in no small part because the Resurrection and other aspects of it are objectively credible.

  28. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair >

    Last week I caused a truck to levitate with telekinesis (using only the power of my mind). There is video footage of it. There is eyewitness testimony. I have written volumes of theology about it. This was a one-time, non-repeatable miracle. …

    Yours is not a mere single claim that “I levitated a truck with telekinesis”, that’s merely the tip of a metaphorical ‘iceberg’ of claims: –

    ** You claim that you, Jonathan Blair, levitated the truck by telekinesis (using only the power of your mind); you therefore claim that you can exclude and have excluded that you lifted it by magic, and that you did not make a conscious or unconscious prayer to some supernatural power to effect the lifting for you.

    ** You therefore also claim that you are certain that none of your eyewitnesses lifted the truck by telekinesis, by magic or by answered prayer.

    ** You also claim – using your more recent claim as a template – that gravity did not reverse for three seconds for the truck and for the truck only, and that the truck did not lift (as you phrase it) “on its own accord” – that is to say, did not lift all by itself without any external action of mind or of magic, or of technology sufficiently advanced that it looks like magic, of an alien abduction ray, of prayer, of electromagnets, of jacks or even by reversed gravity.

    ** “Volumes of theology”? Surely you mean you have written scientific papers. Your getting science and theology mixed up tells me you are probably an ignorant and mindlessly prejudiced ‘village atheist’ jabbing a cheap jibe, or a fool, or both.

    ** Whatever your “volumes” are, whether theology or science, if you e-mail the documents to Michael (via E-Mail Shadow to Light in the Blogroll panel) he will forward them to me that I might critique them in this thread; and I’d also be interested in viewing the video and eyewitness testimony you claim you have.

    ** Of course, if you cannot provide the documents I am justified in treating you as a liar, and in discounting all of your claims in both threads.

    ** “This was a one-time, non-repeatable miracle.” If I understand Carl Sagan right it is possible according to the mainstream understanding of quantum physics for a car to quantum-tunnel out of a garage, right through the closed door (or presumably – don’t ask me where the extra energy might come from – for a truck or rock to quantum-tunnel 44.1 metres into the air above); it’s an extremely unlikely event, but according to quantum physics it’s possible; given time (a lot!) it’s probable; and it’s not only probable, a repetition is probable, it’s repeatable. But you claim you have somehow ruled this out.

    ** And don’t get me started on asking how you know you can reliably – indeed apparently with certainty – know all that you claim to know did and didn’t happen.

    If science is going to address a claim, science must be able to formulate that claim as a testable hypothesis. If you want science to pass judgment on this telekinesis miracle, you need some type of scientific analysis to determine whether or not this miracle occurred. You need to formulate a testable hypothesis. So what is it? If I did indeed levitate a truck with my mind, what do you predict that we should be able to find in the lab or in the field?

    Go on, put us out of our misery, tell us what your scientific analysis would be; tell us what your testable hypothesis would be; tell us what you would predict that we should be able to find in the lab or in the field.

    Or fill in the blank. If I levitated a truck with telekinesis, then we should be able to detect ___________.

    Unless someone can answer this question and fill in that blank, any attempt to argue that science contradicts this telekinesis miracle fails.

    No testable hypothesis — no science. No science — no scientific judgment. …

    Aren’t you repeating and agreeing with Michael’s argument in the OP, by saying that if your alleged miracle actually happened as you described science would have nothing to say. If not, what?

    But let me fill in the blank: if you levitated a truck with telekinesis, then we should be able to detect levitation, a truck, and telekinesis; that’s at the time, of course, and you’ll have to fill in the details of how to go about detecting levitation by the power of your mind (telekinesis); or if you want to fill in that same blank some time afterwards, you’ll have to do it yourself. (Perhaps you would fill in the blank with your witness statement – as you have done here – plus the eyewitness statements and video you are clear you do actually have; do use commonsense.)

    Etc. According to the framework you have provided, there are no grounds for challenging my claim. Yet which is more likely: that I levitated a truck using only my mind, or that I did not? Why?

    Ah, bait-and-switch: what started as no scientific grounds has become no possible grounds. That’s lousy thinking skills if an inadvertent switch, deception if consciously done.

    Grounds I would particularly take into account in deciding that it is far less likely that you levitated the truck than that you did include the strong appearance that you concocted your flying truck and – next thread – flying rock stories for no better reason than to be an attention-sucking troll.

    It’s possible that I missed something, and that I have misunderstood your message and your intentions – if so please clarify what they are – but (as with Sam Harris) if you are consistently being misunderstood by your readers it’s your own fault.

  29. Dhay says:

    Please un-blockquote “Go on, put us out of our misery, …” to restore the intended formatting thereafter.

    Also I realise that any rock falling upwards for three seconds at reverse g before restoration of normal gravity will overshoot to reach the doubled height of 88.3 metres.

  30. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > I levitated a truck … I found a note saying this rock [levitated]

    One suspects levity. But let’s consider your claims of wonders, and quote from a paper by Tim and Lydia McGrew:

    All of which brings us back to the attempt to back off from these details by reference to other claims of wonders. The modern version of Hume’s comment to Hugh Blair is the skeptic’s scornful challenge to the apologist, “So, are you going to examine the specific evidence for every UFO abduction claim?” And the answer is that even a cursory understanding of what is involved in such stories shows them to have no such claim on our investigative time as does the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is anyone stoned, crucified, or killed with the sword for claiming that he has been given a tour of a space ship? The explanatory power of fraud is, on the face of it, enormously higher for the sort of evidence we have in those cases than for the evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

    [P.53 “The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth”]

    If you want a positive case that the Resurrection is plausible and likely — the McGrews apply Bayes’ Theorem to the detail of the evidence to reach that conclusion — do read the whole paper.

    http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

  31. Dhay says:

    Jonathan Blair > Last week I caused a truck to levitate with telekinesis (using only the power of my mind). There is video footage of it. There is eyewitness testimony. I have written volumes of theology about it.

    I advise you not to puff and preen over how you can write volumes of theology, it makes you look very pretentious.

    Here’s a link to what probably amounts to no more than a short chapter of theology, William Lane Craig’s The bodily resurrection of Jesus, which starts …

    There are probably few events in the gospels for which the historical evidence is more compelling than for the resurrection of Jesus.

    https://epistleofdude.wordpress.com/2019/05/03/the-bodily-resurrection-of-jesus/

    … and then argues what kind of Resurrection it was, “that Jesus was raised from the dead physically.”

    I’m sure your ability to write volumes of theology is a fantasy; I just thought I’d let you know just how far out of your league real theology is.

  32. Dhay says:

    I see that on 11 July 2017 Sam Harris and Mingyur Rinpoche, will be having one of those on-stage armchair discussions in Los Angeles; the advert bears Harris’ explicitly Buddhist banner, “Waking Up.”

    I expect Mingyur is a nice guy, and one of the better Rinpoches (Tibetan Buddhist abbots), in 2011 he became a wandering beggar for four years, and he’s the son of Harris’ own Dzogchen teacher, the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Should be interesting.

    But a little bit of digging in Wiki reveals that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had four sons (or three, according to The Guardian), namely Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, as well as two grandsons, Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche. Golly gosh, all Rinpoches. I have read ** that Japanese Zen Buddhist monasteries are effectively family businesses, passed down father to son; it looks very like Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are also family businesses, passed down from father to millionaire son.

    ( ** See https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/mythers-vs-sam-harris/#comment-19592)

    The Guardian article reporting Mingyur’s disappearance on walkabout is entitled “Mingyur Rinpoche, the millionaire monk who renounced it all” and it tells us:

    Nor was [Mingyur] interested in becoming yet another celebrity guru, living in luxury and spoiled by the adulation accorded to important lamas.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/sep/22/mingyur-rinpoche-buddhist

    Er … [Nor…] yet another spoiled celebrity guru living in luxury. The point the author intends to make is that Mingyur is an exception, but another point made is that he is an exception to the general rule of “yet another spoiled celebrity guru living in luxury.”

    “Since the fall of the Tibetan monarchy in 842, incarnate lamas [reincarnated heads of teaching lineages] have served as a kind of aristocracy in Tibet, so a high-ranking tulku is not unlike a prince.

    That explains the “millionaire” bit. And yes, passing down the leadership and income of monasteries father to sons sounds very like a kind aristocracy.

    Mingyur Rinpoche’s disappearance was greeted by the Tibetan Buddhist establishment with a mixture of astonishment and awe, accustomed as they are to many young tulkus heading off to America in search of fame, fortune and an extravagant lifestyle. They follow precedents set by an older generation of lamas like the late Trungpa Rinpoche, who made no secret of his fondness for vodka and the pleasures of the flesh, and more recently by Sogyal Rinpoche, a notorious womaniser.

    Not a life of renunciation for many Tibetan Buddhist spiritual teachers, then. And those two named were serial abusers on an industrial scale.

    Cortland Dahl [the director of Mingyur Rinpoche’s organisation Tergar, an international organisation based in the US with branches worldwide] says Mingyur Rinpoche is not only uninterested in fame and money, he is also a “pure monk” who maintains vows that include celibacy. He has this in common with a small number of young tulkus – including Kalu Rinpoche and the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

    Only a small number of young tulkus are “pure monks”, celibate and uninterested in fame and money.

    It seems as if Tibetan Buddhism might be at a turning point – away from widespread allegations of corruption and towards a revival of the principles laid down by the historical Buddha.

    Widespread allegations of corruption!

    And all this condemnation of Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoches – think of Abbots – and of Tulkus – think of Archbishops – is from a journalist who is plainly sympathetic to Mingyur and sympathetic to the principles laid down by the historical Buddha.

    Looks like the Tibetan Buddhist leadership has been savaged by friendly fire.

    *

    I put this here because reincarnation is a Buddhist equivalent of the Resurrection, and it’s a subject which Sam Harris has famously fudged. Perhaps in Harris’ discussion with Mingyur Rinpoche one or the other will bring up reincarnation; I would very much like to know Harris’ current views on reincarnation – without fudging, this time.

  33. unclesporkums says:

    And since Sammy is the son of Susan Harris. Looks like a connection..

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