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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Presuppositions Don't Require Extraordinary Evidence!

I googled extraordinary claims and you'll never guess what popped up as a top result A Christian apologetics website:

CARM. Humor.

I was googling it for a t-shirt I'm designing. The link that made it to #2 is an article on CARM about it. The author starts off saying how much he agrees with it:
The statement is self explanatory; if someone makes an extraordinary claim, there better be extraordinary evidence to back it up. If, for example, someone made the claim that an alien race has made contact with earth, we would need sufficient evidence to verify the claim, such as an alien space craft, or an actual alien. The extraordinary claim would need extraordinary evidence.
My thoughts as I'm reading it were wondering why a Christian site would have this. It became clear in the next paragraph:
Personally, except for a few qualifications, I agree with the sentiment of the statement "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Those qualifications follow. (emphasis added)
Ah! He agrees with the statement, as long as there is an asterisk at the end. And the asterisk? For the special case of the extraordinary claims he believes without extraordinary evidence. His first argument (and the one after which I stopped reading) was trying to argue from presupposition:
In Jesus' resurrection, for example, Christians presuppose that God exists and that He could easily have raised Jesus from the dead. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy, eyewitness records, and changed lives of the disciples is enough to convince many people who believe in God that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.
Atheists, on the other hand, would negate the resurrection by default since their presupposition that there is no God1 would require that God involvement cannot occur. Therefore, for an atheist the extraordinary evidence would have to be "exceptionally" extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositions. (emphasis added)
Oh, I see now! I would accept the evidence for Jesus' resurrection without extraordinary evidence if I would first accept the existence of a personal God without extraordinary evidence. This is an amazing feat of rationalization the author is doing. Take his introductory example of aliens. Could you imagine who this author would argue against the maxim of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" if he believed in alien abductions?
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is an excellent maxim to live by. It introduces a healthy level of skepticism when assessing claims. I do have to make a note, though, that a qualification is needed for presupposition.

I presuppose that aliens are visiting Earth. Therefore, when I'm confronted with observations of lights in the sky, grainy photographs on the Internet, and much anecdotal evidence about being abducted by aliens, this is enough to convince those people who believe aliens are visiting Earth that aliens are also abducting people. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.

But you, you skeptics! You have a skeptic presupposition that aliens are not visiting Earth! So, you are negating this claim by default. Therefore, the skeptic requires "exceptionally" extraordinary evidence in order to overcome his skeptic presuppositions.
Is there any difference? I would accept the same evidence you do of Jesus if you would first introduce the extraordinary evidence of a personal God. you can't just presuppose the existence of a personal God to circumvent the requirement of extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claims you are making. You can't do it any more than alien conspiracy theorists can presuppose that aliens are visiting Earth to circumvent the extraordinary evidence needed for their claims.

1 comment:

FrodoSaves said...

Good find. Never underestimate the inherent power of the asterisk. In fact, I've heard it's Gods Own Punctuation Mark. It imbues logical discussions with a special kind of immunity. Quite something really.

Me? I'm a semi-colon guy myself.