Sunday, July 21, 2013

King David's Palace Found? - Two Different Reports

This morning I read an article posted to Yahoo News by Live Science journalist Megan Gannon, reporting how Israeli archaeologists believe they have found "two royal buildings from Israel's biblical past, including a palace suspected to have belonged to King David." The findings come from a site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, where archaeologists Yossi Garfinkel of Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israeli Antiquities Authority have been excavating. According to the article, radiocarbon analysis at the site has placed it around the time of 1020-980 BCE, "before being violently destroyed, likely in a battle against the Philistines." As someone who has read compelling arguments challenging the biblical narrative around King David, this made me sit up and take notice.

Biblical minimalism is a paradigm in archaeology that posits a low chronology for many biblical events, and also proposes mythicism or heavy redaction to biblical stories in a number of cases. Minimalists would include archaeologists like Philip Davies, Thomas L. Thompson, and Niels Peter Lemche. On the other end, there are so-called biblical maximalists like William Dever, Kenneth Kitchen, and Amihai Mazar. The major area of disagreement between maximalists and minimalists seems to revolve around the united monarchy, or the kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Saul and David, as told in the Bible. Minimalists go so far as to deny that there is any evidence of the united monarchy, while maximalists more or less hold to the portrait of it presented in scripture. 

The important work of Israel Finkelstein - particularly in The Bible Unearthed, with Neil Asher Silberman - has helped to establish somewhat of a middle ground between the two perspectives. Finkelstein assents to the historicity of David (on the basis of such evidence as the Mesha Stele and the Tel Dan inscription), but argues that the biblical portrait exaggerates the extent and influence of his kingdom. David was more like a chieftain than a king, as there is no evidence of a united monarchy in the region at the time. Although there have been some critics of Finkelstein's work, it has been largely praised within the archaeological and scholarly community.

So, what to say about the news article on Garfinkel's discovery? First of all, make note of the fact that Garfinkel is a maximalist - and a stalwart one at that - indicated by his publication of "The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism" in the May/June 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, as well as his subsequent heated exchanges with Philip Davies. One of the evidences Garfinkel proposes to signal the demise of minimalism is, of course, his findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Gannon quotes Garfinkel as saying, "This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom's existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points". Unequivocal evidence? I can't help but wonder if perhaps the professor has an ideological axe of his own to grind.

However, what really struck me was the difference between the Live Science report and another report written up by Associated Press journalist Max J. Rosenthal. Rosenthal also quotes Garfinkel as suggesting that his findings constitute "unequivocal evidence", and yet we are actually given examples, such as "cultic objects typically used by Judeans" and the absence of pig remains. A sort of disclaimer then promptly follows:
Critics said the site could have belonged to other kingdoms of the area. The consensus among most scholars is that no definitive physical proof of the existence of King David has been found.

Biblical archaeology itself is contentious. Israelis often use archaeological findings to back up their historic claims to sites that are also claimed by the Palestinians, like the Old City of Jerusalem. Despite extensive archaeological evidence, for example, Palestinians deny that the biblical Jewish Temples dominated the hilltop where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, stands today.

In general, researchers are divided over whether biblical stories can be validated by physical remains.

The current excavators are not the first to claim they found a King David palace. In 2005, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar said she found the remains of King David's palace in Jerusalem dating to the 10th century B.C., when King David would have ruled. Her claim also attracted skepticism, including from Garfinkel himself.
This is a prime example of good journalism. Rosenthal even manages to get commentary from Dr. Finkelstein as a skeptical take on Garfinkel's findings. Ms. Gannon includes no such counter-points in her article. In fact, she features no dissenting opinion at all, only what seems like credulous acceptance of Garfinkel's claims. Anyone reading her news report and not taking the time to read others might get the mistaken impression that this "discovery" is really more established than it is. 
This is why it pays to do additional research, whether you're a journalist or just a reader. I have no ideological bias driving me to deny Garfinkel's findings, but I do want to see a multiplicity of interpretations, because there always is more than one. If further excavation turns up more compelling evidence that this is indeed the site of David's palace, I won't have any qualms about accepting that. The historicity of a united monarchy would not validate the supernatural claims of scripture. Ironically, in a particularly terrible reader review of The Bible Unearthed at the Tekton apologetics site, the author speculates that Finkelstein and Silberman not only deny the existence of David (quite the opposite, if you actually read the book) to deny the divinity of Christ, but that the authors "prefer" it because they "hate Him" so much they want to "destroy faith in Jesus". I don't know whether to mock the author or mock the site's admin, J.P. Holding, for publishing such unscholarly shlock.

Really, how would it work, that denying David would deny the divinity of Christ? Because if there is no line of David from which the messiah comes, there must be no messiah? I'm sure clever Christians would find a way to reinterpret those passages, just like modern apologists reinterpret the genealogy passages in light of their belief that Joseph wasn't Jesus' biological father. Through whom do those genealogies trace Jesus' history? Why, if it wasn't Joseph, it must have been Mary, despite the instruction in Numbers 1:18 that ancestry was to be recorded "by their fathers' households" (NAS; once again, the NIV has omitted words from the text that are present in the original, for a seemingly apologetic reason - the Hebrew word avotam means "of their fathers", and is translated as such in all other 83 occurrences as noted in Englishman's Concordance).

More importantly, though, there are much better reasons to reject the divinity of Christ than to suppose that a historical David never existed. But, as thrice stated now, Finkelstein and Silberman do not deny that David existed ("...the house of David was known throughout the region; this clearly validates the biblical description of a figure named David becoming the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem", Bible Unearthed, p. 129). All this author's speculation shows, all that Ms. Gannon's sloppy journalism shows, and all that Dr. Garfinkel's insistence on his conclusion shows, is that the longstanding and long-engrained paradigm of biblical maximalism dies hard indeed, despite lack of evidence for its claims, and despite evidence against its claims.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Not to Defend the Moral Argument for God (Part 2)

In my previous post, I discussed a few problems I see in the second premise of the moral argument for god's existence, as popularly formulated by William Lane Craig. I'll rehash the argument here again, for the sake of clarity:
1. If god does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, god exists.
I chose to begin my critique with the second premise because I wished to point out that even if one does believe in objective moral values, Craig and Koukl fail to adequately justify 2. Of course, if one accepts the second premise, as I do, it doesn't matter much how it is justified by apologists. In a debate, however, it is incumbent upon the speaker to support their premises. Were I engaged in a formal debate on this subject, I would grant the second premise while drawing attention to its poor justification, if only to show that the non-theist can better account for the reality of objective moral values. Thus, in this second part, I will focus on the first premise. In my opinion, this is the best way to deal with the moral argument for god.

Let's say, hypothetically, that we are ethical intuitionists, like Dr. Craig. Remember that the moral argument deals with moral ontology, not moral epistemology. In our hypothetical scenario, we believe that we can apprehend moral truths, and we believe that these truths are intrinsic in nature. The atrocities of Nazism are intrinsically wrong, we would claim, and by definition, intrinsic values are objective, not being reliant on any relations to other things. They would be wrong even if the Nazis had won the war and brainwashed or killed everyone. This is practically the spitting image of the kind of morality Craig professes to have when he talks of the Holocaust being wrong "even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them." [1]

What objections could be raised against this stance? Craig could argue that objective values have to be grounded in something external to human beings - god, in his view. Yet this response would seem to ignore the meaning of intrinsic value. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines intrinsic as
belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing. [2]
If we say that human life is an intrinsic good, normally we mean that human life is good in and of itself. It is good independently of any opinion or belief to the contrary. Dr. Craig asserts that human beings do have intrinsic value, [3] but also claims that moral values are grounded in the character of god. [4] This appears to be a contradiction in terms, because if values come from god, then they cannot, by definition, be intrinsic, since they are determined by something outside of the thing itself. Rape is wrong not in-and-of itself, but because it is not in accordance with god's character. In a response to Luke Muehlhauser, Craig explains that he sees intrinsic value in a bit of a different way:
...persons have intrinsic value in that they are not merely means to be used for some end but are to be treated as ends in themselves. So we might well ask, "But why are human persons intrinsically valuable?" and the answer will be because God is personal. [5]
Craig's understanding of intrinsic value is arguably weaker in contrast to my own, supported by dictionaries and countless philosophers and ethicists. It is particularly weaker in how it addresses the view of objective values as ensuring that "something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so." [6] In that "anybody", Dr. Craig makes an unstated exception for his personal god, and what guarantee do we have that god would never change his mind about moral issues? According to most strains of Christian theology, god's moral prescriptions on unclean foods and circumcision were altered - overturned in every practical sense of the word - by the time of Jesus. As a divine command theorist, Craig believes that god's moral commands flow from his character. But what does it mean to suggest that the circumcision and food laws were effectively neutered once Jesus came around? If god's commands loosened up, does that mean his character changed too?

The Euthyphro dilemma asks, 'is something good because god commands it, or does god command something because it is good?' Apologists frequently retort that the answer is neither; something is good when it is in keeping with god's character or nature. However, we can rephrase the dilemma as follows: 'does god inform his character, or does his character inform him?' If the former is true, we fall back into the original dilemma, because by informing his character, god determines what is moral. If the latter is true, then there is something over which god has no authority, and this challenges the omnipotence and sovereignty of god. In addition, it simply will not suffice to define goodness as consistent with god's character, because we don't know god's character. Even if goodness is an essential property of his character, we still have no actual information about that property.

Not only does moral epistemology look troubling on the theistic side, but moral ontology seems unjustifiable, too. Even if we set aside the incoherency of claiming that good flows from god's character, useless as it is in defining actual goodness, there remains the problem of scripture and reason that argues against an unchanging character. As well, if intrinsic value exists, in the fullest, most objective definition, it will be accessible apart from the existence of any god, since it only has to do with the things in themselves, and not any relations to other things. 

Craig could also possibly object to the reliability of our intuitions, if there is no god. How can we trust our faculties, he might ask. This is just as much a problem for theists as for non-theists, though. See my previous blog entry on the problem of induction. There is no reason to assume that the existence of a god would make it any more likely that we would have uninhibited access to our sensory apparatuses, and there are good reasons to suspect that, at the very least, natural selection would favor reliable sense organs over unreliable ones that might lead to our deaths.

Even so, I must admit I do not subscribe either to intuitionism or to intrinsic value. These views are capable of countering the moral argument, though, I believe, and they are close enough to Craig's own standpoint that they would not be easily rebutted.

Alonzo Fyfe's theory of desire utilitarianism is the most persuasive, realistic, and meaningful moral theory I have yet run across. Moral statements describe behaviors as well as relationships, typically relationships between certain desires. When we think about why we act or behave in some way, desire is always the reason. You want to keep your job, so you choose to act appropriately at work. You want someone to like you, so you choose to behave positively around them. You want to be in the favor of the god you worship, so you choose to adhere to its will. According to desire utilitarianism, a behavior is "good" if it fulfills certain desires, and "bad" if it thwarts certain desires. Note, the focus is not on maximizing desire fulfillment, but on seeing that certain desires are met. I say certain desires because there are some desires that would be wrong to fulfill. These wrong desires are ones that, if carried into action, would thwart the desires of others for selfish reasons. To say that murder is wrong in desire utilitarianism means that it is wrong because it thwarts the desires of the victim, the victim’s family, and the larger society that wishes to live without the threat of murder.

Moral evaluations focus on malleable desires, those that can be changed by social forces like praise and condemnation. In the example above, the murderer commits the first thwarting of desire, for the purpose of fulfilling his own selfish interests. We can judge that the murderer's desire is harmful to others rather than fulfilling their desires, and so we can determine that it is morally good to condemn murder and appropriate for law enforcement to prevent murderers from killing. The desires of the murderer are thwarted because he has (or will) "cast the first stone", and because more, greater desires will be fulfilled by thwarting his.

Although desire utilitarianism rejects moral absolutism, it does provide for moral realism and moral universalism. The question of whether or not a desire will fulfill other desires has an objective answer, and these relationships between desires are part of the real world. Different persons may hold different desires, but this does not affect the objectivity of desire utilitarianism, since it takes these differences into account. We can say that a claim is universally moral when, after considering all desires involved, we see that it fulfills more, greater desires than would be thwarted. For example, a humanitarian desire can be called universally moral because it tends to fulfill more, greater desires than it thwarts.

Does this theory meet Craig's criterion for objective moral values as meaning that "something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so"? I would argue that it does. A desire is either fulfilled or thwarted, and that will remain true in spite of any beliefs to the contrary. But what about Craig's scenario - would the Holocaust be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and successfully brainwashed and/or killed all dissidents? Desire utilitarianism can look at the mountains of good desires thwarted by Nazism, as well as the oceans of bad desires it fulfilled and would continue to fulfill to reach such a hypothetical point, and can offer a resounding "yes". 

Contrast this moral approach, based on the intentions and actions of the Nazis, with the approach advocated by proponents of the moral argument, who believe the Holocaust was wrong essentially because it was inconsistent with the vague, undefined nature of god. A god with a history of genocide (Joshua 6:21, 1 Samuel 15:2-3), slavery (Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46, Colossians 3:22), and the promise of eternal, unimaginable torment for those who don't see things his way (Matthew 3:12, 13:41-42, Mark 9:47-48).

The moral argument for god fails to justify its ontological claims, and actually seems to strengthen the case for secular morality with the messy and inadequate defense that typically accompanies it. Unless one is already predisposed to the views associated with the argument, it is unlikely to be appealing.

[For more on desire utilitarianism:
Alonzo Fyfe, What is Desire Utilitarianism?
Luke Muehlhauser, The Ultimate Desirism F.A.Q.
Luke Muehlhauser, CPBD 005: Alonzo Fyfe - Desire Utilitarianism]

1. W.L. Craig, The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality (1997).
2. Merriam-Webster, entry for intrinsic.
3. W.L. Craig, Q&A #61: Abortion and Presidential Politics.
4. W.L. Craig, Q&A #208: Sam Harris on Objective Moral Values and Duties.
5. Luke Muehlhauser, Craig on Intrinsic Value, Common Sense Atheism (2009).
6. See source #1.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How Not to Defend the Moral Argument for God (Part 1)

The moral argument for the existence of god has been around for quite some time, and has faced plenty of criticism since its inception. However, the form of it commonly used in debate by William Lane Craig and other apologists is often met with unfortunately weak responses, despite significantly lacking in support of its premises. The argument is usually stated as follows:
1. If god does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, god exists.
This argument carries a hefty burden of proof because of the second premise. If objective moral values don't exist, then the moral argument fails. Yet it isn't up to the atheist or skeptic to prove that these objective values are not real, it's up to the apologist to justify his second premise. Unless reason is given to think that 2 is correct, the opponent of the moral argument is well within rights to object that there is no grounds for assuming the existence of objective values. The only way 2 could be justified is if it is (i) such an observed fact of the natural world that it can be considered a given, or if (ii) the apologist endeavors to demonstrate it through another argument.

An example of a premise that could be accepted on (i) would be something like "Socrates was a man", from the famous Socrates syllogism (1. All men are mortal, 2. Socrates was a man, 3. Therefore, Socrates was mortal). Enough people are familiar with the story of Socrates, and there is enough evidence from history describing the figure as male, or human, that this premise can be accepted as a given. There is no need for the argument's proponent to demonstrate it, since its truth is readily discernible to anyone who might wish to check. Another example of (i) could be the premise "All men are mortal", as it has many centuries of observation, death records, and the like in support of it. One could say that premises of the type (i) variety might be called obvious.

Many non-theist opponents have objected to the moral argument on the basis of conflicting opinions on morality. Theodore Drange made this move in his debate with Craig, as did a caller named Bill on a recent Unbelievable podcast episode addressing questions to apologist Greg Koukl. In my view, this is a weak response for exactly the reason theists give: differences of perspective on moral matters do not rule out the possibility of objective values. As Koukl notes, we may each see different colors on an object, but it doesn't mean there is no color there. More importantly, though, the moral argument does not deal with moral epistemology, or how we know what moral values are, but only deals with moral ontology, or the perceived reality of moral values. It will not refute the argument to raise examples of immoral acts in scripture or in history, because the argument centers around the existence of objective values, not the content of them.

Still, the second premise of the moral argument is anything but obvious. All that we generally consider as obvious - the shape of the earth, human mortality, gravity, the identity of Socrates - has a wealth of evidence behind it. It isn't simply that we feel the earth is round, or we strongly suspect that humans die, or we have no reason to think that gravity isn't real. It's that time after time, we've observed these phenomena around us, going back a long, long, long while ago in history. It's that experiments have been conducted to help verify the truth of these ideas, and we have held them up against the backdrop of prior knowledge and existing theories to see what best fits the picture as we've ascertained it thus far. Can any of us honestly say that objective moral values are obvious in this sense? What observations have we made about them, what experiments have we done, how have they fared against additional information?

Funny enough, the obviousness of objective moral values can also be challenged by sort of reversing the moral opinions objection. A majority does not make an obvious truth. It could be contended that even if every man, woman, and child on Earth were to think morality is objective, this would do little on its own, apart from the kind of evidence just mentioned. After all, Dr. Craig makes a very similar point in practically all of his debates on the existence of god; he wants morality capable of saying that anti-Semitism is wrong "even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them." [1] While he may rest this on theistic assumptions, the principle behind it should still hold true, that the prevalence of an opinion does not tell us anything about whether or not the opinion is true. For that we need other means of evaluation.

So we have good reason to think that (i) cannot be used to justify the second premise of the moral argument. What about (ii)? In the Unbelievable episode referenced above, Greg Koukl asserts his belief that our agreement on certain moral issues is evidence that we share a moral sense or a moral intuition about right and wrong. Our deeply felt general repulsion to the idea of torturing young children is, in his view, reason to think that it isn't just wrong for us, but wrong for everyone at any time, any place, and in any circumstance. Justin Brierly, the host, explains that he can't imagine a situation in which it would be right for someone to torture a young child, insinuating that it therefore must never be right. Craig has echoed these sentiments in debates like the one he had with Professor John Shook. During the Q&A segment, Craig defended the moral argument by saying:
The moral argument is an appeal to our moral experience, and so it's not just a matter of liking the conclusion or not... I think that in our moral experience we do apprehend moral oughts, we ought to do this or we ought not to do that, we apprehend a distinction between good and evil... we ought to pay attention to our moral experience and take it seriously, and if we do, then I think we'll see that the moralist is wrong when he says that moral values are just relative to individuals, societies, or whatever... [2]
I don't know that any relativist would deny that most human beings form moral judgments. What non-objectivists seem to dispute is whether those moral judgments correspond to anything substantial or not. Thus, moral experience exists even to the relativist - it's only a question of what significance it should be given.

Craig agrees that the Nazis believed themselves to be on the side of right and goodness, [3] but he thinks that their moral experience misled them. He ventures into the territory of moral epistemology in his debates to emphasize the strength of objective as opposed to subjective values, but his moral argument can't tell us anything about what god would condemn or praise. What reason does Craig have for preferring the moral experience of modern Christians to that of the German Christians who participated in the Holocaust? What of the medieval Christians like Martin Luther, who wrote the infamous propaganda piece On the Jews and Their Lies, encouraging the demolition of Jewish businesses, synagogues, houses, and schools, as well as forbidding the Jews from preaching and having access to their religious texts?

Craig, Koukl, and Brierly all seem to belong to the ethical intuitionist camp. Ethical intuitionism is the view that moral truths can be known by intuition, without resort to inference. Presumably one's own intuitive sense is the one that matters most - we generally don't have access to others' intuitions - posing a problem of consideration for others. What exactly resolves conflicts between different intuitions under the ethical intuitionist view? It isn't altogether clear. The irony is that this looks an awful lot like subjectivism in denial of itself. We each have our own intuitions... but if yours conflict with mine, well you're just wrong. Why? Because I intuit it! This may be closer to the truth than you think, considering how Craig responded to Sam Harris during the Q&A segment of their debate, in the following exchange:
Harris: This is the kind of morality that you get out of divine command theory that, again, offers no retort to the Jihadist other than, "Sorry buster, you happen to have the wrong god."
Craig: But that’s exactly your retort, Sam, that God has not issued such a command, and therefore, you’re not morally obligated to do it.
Note that Craig doesn't correct Harris' description of his view or even offer any defense at all. He simply tries to turn the question back on Harris. 

Ethical intuitionism might also commit the is-ought fallacy. David Hume articulated the fallacy as a response to early intuitionists like Samuel Clarke, who thought that feelings, not reason, guide us to moral truths. Hume distinguished between the passions and reason, and argued that deriving an "ought" from an "is" must be accompanied by a line of argument connecting the two. In other words, it is fallacious to use a fact of the world to insist on how something should be, unless a rational explanation draws the two together. To Hume, Clarke's feelings were a fact of his experience that he adopted as moral truths without any legitimate reason.

Predictably, intuitionists think they avoid this problem. Brian Zamulinski, an evolutionary intuitionist (yes, you read that right), defends his beliefs in the excerpt below.
Inference is an intellectual movement from proposition to proposition. Apprehension is the acquisition of a belief in response to a state of affairs. Our ability to apprehend states of affairs is not fundamentally an ability to make inferences, no matter what sorts of inferences. It is an ability to see that such and such is the case. With evolutionary intuitionism, we intuitively apprehend the fact, say, that torture is wrong. We do not infer the belief that torture is wrong from other propositions. Since inference is not involved, the impossibility of inferring an "ought" from an "is" is not relevant. [4]
We draw an inference any time we form a conclusion based on what we know or what we assume to be true. To look at the fact that all men are mortal, that Socrates is a man, and then conclude that Socrates is mortal, is to draw an inference from existing knowledge and experience. Zamulinski's idea that we apprehend states of affairs without resorting to inferences is a bold and unsubstantiated claim. We make use of inference for knowledge acquisition in many other areas of life, so why assume that morality is an exception? Even if it seems like we apprehend moral truths with no consideration of known facts or existing beliefs, the long-term influences on our thinking from culture and other venues make it extremely unlikely that this impression is accurate. It all looks rather convenient, really. Intuition is just 'seeing things as they are', like Alvin Plantinga's faith is so properly basic that it needs no justification.

Methinks this is why Koukl and company argue so strongly about grounding moral values, because their intuitions are in need of grounding. If we intuitively apprehend moral truths, how are we able to do this aside from inference and reason? Where do these moral truths come from, if not from the natural world around us? The only way for these theists to convince themselves that their intuitions aren't just subjective is to attach them to a god who affirms what they feel. However, as we'll see in the next part, the first premise of the moral argument runs into plenty of problems of its own.

1. W.L. Craig, The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality (1997).
2. John Shook v. William Lane Craig Debate: "Does God Exist?"
3. See source 1.
4. B. Zamulinski, Evolutionary Intuitionism (2007), p. 112.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's the Probability of Resurrection?

Once a week I tune in to the UK Christian radio podcast Unbelievable to hear debates and discussions between believers and non-believers (sometimes between two or more believers). Generally speaking, it has quite a fair format and covers current trends in religion and atheism, from the release of popular new books to the publication of scholarly materials to subjects brought up in the news. The latest episode features Calum Miller and Chris Hallquist in dialogue on an issue that's particularly interesting to me: the probability of the resurrection.

Christian philosopher and apologist Richard Swinburne has attached a 97% probability to the resurrection. How did he arrive at such a high number? Though I have not read Swinburne's book where he makes this claim, the guests and host on Unbelievable dive into some discussion of it. Swinburne uses a mathematical formula from probability theory known as Bayes' theorem. The theorem is a way of calculating the likelihood of something given certain prior conditions. To use an example from a Scientific American article, suppose that 99% of sick people who take a medical test will test positive, and 99% of healthy people who take it will test negative. The doctor has informed you that only 1% of people in the country are sick. You take the test and receive a positive result, and you want to know what the chances are that you are actually sick. Bayes' theorem will give you the answer.

For the sake of space, I won't work out the problem here, but the important thing to understand is that Bayes' theorem depends on knowing certain prior conditions or probabilities. It's simple to ascertain and easy to verify the chances of getting a specific test result, finding out whether someone is sick or healthy, and determining how much of the population is afflicted with an illness. In many cases, these sorts of statistics and data are kept on record by physicians and health organizations, for example. If one miscalculates the odds of being sick after testing positive, it's not that difficult to weed out the mistake from the information provided. But what about when we're trying to determine the probability of something that isn't well known or documented, like a miracle?

One of the most frequent criticisms leveled at Swinburne is that he plays fast and loose with the prior probability of the resurrection. If there is a god, he argues, it's reasonable to assume that it would become incarnate to pass on its teachings to humanity. To validate the incarnation's authority, he continues, god would use a "super-miracle". [link] Someone like Jesus, Swinburne believes, is a prime candidate for god's stamp of approval in the form of resurrection.

On the podcast, Hallquist raises an excellent point that Miller never does address, to my recollection. The mere existence of a god should not lend much credibility to any miracle story, because in addition to competing miracle claims - like the miracles of Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. - which many Christians reject, there are Deists and many other stripes of believers who do not think their god works in the world to perform miracles. Even if a god exists, why think it acts in nature? Why single out the resurrection as being particularly likely out of all the miracles it could conceivably perform? With all the unnecessary suffering and evil in the world, perhaps the god that exists is an evil god and would have no motivation to raise Jesus from the dead. Why not take the theology of Muslims and Jews into account, who consider doctrines like the trinity and the incarnation to be blasphemous? There's a good argument to be made that, in many ways, Jesus does not resemble the Jewish messiah described in the Tanakh. If the Hebrew god exists, perhaps it sees the Jesus of the gospels as a false prophet rather than its son, and would be against resurrecting him. 

Even if we accept Swinburne's prior condition of  a god existing - for the sake of argument - there are many problems that seem to stop his argument dead in its tracks before ever getting to the resurrection. Remember, all of this must be taken into account to constitute a fair treatment of the prior probability of resurrection. Along with assessing what might count in favor of resurrection, we have to consider all that would count against it, and this is where things become mired in speculation, in my opinion. How do you derive statistical probabilities from things like religious doctrines and facts of the universe that have varying interpretations? If the prior probability of resurrection rests on theistic assumptions, then the entire argument seems to be an exercise in self-justification for Christians, and will be persuasive to no one else.

Like many believers, Calum Miller says he finds naturalistic explanations of the resurrection to be more incredible and outlandish than the idea that god raised Jesus from the dead. Yet some of these are attested in the historical record, like the accusation against the disciples of stealing the body of Jesus. It may be widely dismissed by biblical scholars today because of the guards at the tomb mentioned in one measly gospel, or because the theory doesn't explain the postmortem appearances (whoever decided there had to be one neat, over-arching thematic explanation for everything?), but there are objections to the resurrection hypothesis, too, of a far more devastating nature, in my view.

Several times throughout the podcast, Brierly and Miller bring up what apologists often call a 'naturalistic bias'. They ask Hallquist if he is ruling out miracles altogether from the git-go, on some atheistic commitment to the impossibility of divine intervention. What amuses me about this is how much the Christian explanation is emptied of what little thrust it might have when the assumption of a god is removed. Miller claims that, in his mind, the case for resurrection is strong enough to stand apart from assuming the existence of god, but I have to ask what in particular would compel one to conclude that Jesus was raised from the dead.

The postmortem appearances? Despite Paul mentioning 500 witnesses, we have testimony from exactly none of them, nor do we have their names or any way of verifying their integrity and their story. The gospels mention Jesus appearing to all of his disciples at various times after his death (John 20:26-28, Luke 24:13-16, Matthew 28:16-17), but again we have no written testimony from any of these figures. The only individual to personally report witnessing Jesus after his death is the apostle Paul, though his experience is depicted as a vision (Acts 9:1-9), not quite what the gospels depict for figures like Peter, John, and Mary. Hallucinations are not uncommon among human beings, and with the Book of Acts portraying Peter and Paul as being visited by Jesus upon falling into a trance (10:9-16, 22:17-21), there are alternate explanations to the extraordinary one of actually seeing a man risen from the dead.

The empty tomb narrative? According to the Two-Source Hypothesis, there may actually be just one empty tomb story, in the Gospel of Mark, which was used as source material by the authors of Matthew and Luke. However, the last few verses of Mark are widely recognized by biblical scholars as a late interpolation. [link] The original text of the gospel seems to end at 16:8, when the women flee from the tomb after being told that Jesus has risen, and they "said nothing to anyone." Mark's gospel has been dated to ~70 CE, approximately 37-40 years after the alleged death of Jesus. An empty tomb would also beg of many natural explanations, generally, such as relocation of the body, theft, or even a misidentification of the tomb - all arguably more plausible than resurrection, since history has no short supply of such experiences.

What about the disciples' willingness to die for their faith? Hallquist rightly remarks that the stories of martyrdom are on even shakier ground than the gospel accounts, and brings up Candida Moss' book The Myth of Persecution. The biggest counter-point to this argument all too often goes unstated, though. In short, there is no reason for the skeptic to presume that the disciples knew what they were dying for was false. Many devout religious believers have gone to the gallows for their faith before, including a lot of non-Christians. It could have been, for example, that Jesus' body was relocated or stolen by someone who didn't die a martyr's death, and perhaps wasn't even a disciple. The early martyrs (assuming they were in fact martyred at all) could have remained blissfully unaware of the trickery, going to their deaths no less sincere.

The probability of the resurrection, a priori or a posteriori, is quite low when one seriously considers all the objections to be made. But that's a generous way of putting it. I'm not about to be so bold as to attach any specific number to how unlikely it is, though, partly because I wouldn't know where to begin. There are certainly ways the evidence could be more convincing, like more independent corroboration, dates closer to the purported event, personal written/reported testimonies, a surviving empty tomb with a long history of veneration, and so on. Yet this isn't what we have, nor would it do much to offset the force of the naturalistic explanations, which still far outweigh resurrection in terms of real world experience.