Knowledge and Faith Can Be the Same Thing

 

F-K VennIt is commonly assumed that an item of knowledge and an article article of faith can never be the same thing. This assumption is mistaken. In this post, I will explain only one point: trust in authority can be a source of knowledge. That’s what faith is: trust. It’s still the first definition of “faith” in the dictionary. Also see the Latin fides and the Greek pistis.

So don’t believe the hype that categorically separates faith from knowledge. This separation ranges from the view William James attributes to a schoolboy (“Faith is when you believe something that you know ain’t true”) to Kant’s more sophisticated idea that “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith” (in beliefs that might well be true).

We should also reject the hype that says that an argument from authority is necessarily fallacious. The best logic textbook in print will tell you otherwise. It will even tell you that there is such a thing as a valid argument appealing to an infallible authority! (“Valid” is a technical term in logic; be sure to look it up first if you’re inclined to complain that there are no infallible authorities.)

Arguments from authority are good or bad depending on what their content is: and primarily on what sort of knowledge the authority is supposed to have, and whether it is reasonable to suppose that the authority really has it.

So an argument from a reliable authority is a good argument, and an argument from an unreliable or untrustworthy authority is a bad argument.

Electrons

Protons and electrons: an article of faith

We must also dispense with the idea that science is the epistemological opposite of faith: one relying entirely on reason, one not at all. In actuality, religious faith usually relies on reason to varying degrees, up to and including this summary of Christian theology by Thomas Aquinas–quite possibly the most impressive bit of systematic reasoning in human history. And, if Thomas Kuhn is even one-quarter correct, science is not a matter of objective reason alone.

But the bigger point to be made here is that science depends on faith as much as your average religion. That is to say, it depends on trust.

Yes, of course scientific experiments can be replicated. But chances are pretty good that you didn’t replicate them, and that someone else did it for you. And if you yourself did replicate some experiments, did you repeat the replication in order altogether to avoid having to take someone else’s word for it?

To skip over various levels of this exercise, here’s the end-point it leads to, using chemistry as an example. If you want to know something in chemistry without relying on trust, you will have to begin from the very beginning and repeat all of the experiments that led to the current state of chemical knowledge: all of them, multiple times each. You would die of old age before you caught up with the present state of chemical knowledge. And all of your hard work would be useless unless others had the good sense you lacked and were willing to take your word for it at least some of the time when you said that your experiments had turned out the way they had.

Even for scientists, scientific knowledge relies heavily on trust in testimony: the testimony of other scientists. As for the scientific knowledge of those of us who aren’t scientists, we are left where Scott Adams puts us in the Introduction to this book: depending on the word of people (most of whom we’ve never met) who simply tell us how things are.

Augustine (the real Augustine, the Church Father and founder of medieval philosophy) both here (chapter 5) and here (cartoon version here) is even more helpful than Adams. These are the sort of examples he uses:

  • Do you know that Caesar became emperor of Rome about 50 BC? Yes; you know it by faith–by pistis, by fides, by trust–in the testimony of historians.
  • Do you know that Harare, Zimbabwe, exists? Yes. But if you haven’t been there, then you know it by faith–by pistis, by fides, by trust–in the testimony of geographers or of people who have been there.
  • Do you know who your parents are? You know that also by faith–by pistis, by fides, by trust in what they told you.

(On this last point my students instinctively think of DNA tests, at which point I explain to them that they would need not only to perform the test themselves, but to start from the very beginning of genetic science and reinvent it singlehandedly if the goal is to know who their parents are without taking someone’s word for something.)

Resurrection

The Resurrection of the Messiah: an article of faith

No doubt some readers will suspect that I am attacking the legitimacy of science. Not at all. To the contrary, I presume the legitimacy of science.

I am only pointing out that faith, being trust, is something on which science depends; and, since I am in fact assuming that science is a source of knowledge, other beliefs that rely on reliable testimony can also be knowledge.

What you need to get knowledge by trust is a reliable testimony. And we have plenty of reliable testimony: science, history, geography, and (for most of us) our parents. We live our lives by this testimony.

Thus, the crucial question for religious knowledge is this: Do we have any reliable testimony supporting any religious beliefs?

For example:

  • Are there any prophets of Jehovah?
  • Are there any holy books? Any books that are God-breathed and inspired?
  • Is there a real Messiah who can tell us about God and about how we can know God?
  • Are there several predictions about the Messiah made centuries before his birth which all converge on the same person?
  • Are there accounts of the Resurrection of the Messiah coming from eyewitnesses of sound mind?
  • Is there a Roman Catholic Church with infallible authority, or at least a universal church with reliable authority?

Well, yes. We do have some of these things.

And why should you believe me when I say that? That’s a good question. And, more generally, how do you recognize a reliable testimony in religion?

To ask this question at this point is to observe that I have only showed that knowledge and (religious) faith can be the same thing–not that they ever are. It is a possibility, but that doesn’t mean it is a realized possibility.

But that’s enough ground covered for one opening post. Maybe we can talk about whether this possibility is ever realized, and about how we can know whether it is, in comments, or in a new thread.

Note from the author: We did indeed talk about it comments. See comments #s 156-161 for a handy overview of my thoughts on that subject (and an addendum showed up in comments #s 182-183, and another one in comments #s 262-263).

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  1. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    – Christopher Hitchens

    Implied here is “To convince Christopher Hitchens.”

    • #61
  2. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I guess then that claims regarding bigfoot, aliens and the loch ness monster are good enough for you at face value then?

    What is your threshold for credibility?

    Your argument is playing the man, not the ball, Casey.

    @Bob W: Testimony is not evidence. Evidence is evidence. Testimony backed up with evidence which makes a coherent narrative can be powerful, but it requires context.

    • #62
  3. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    Your argument is playing the man, not the ball, Casey.

    I’m not playing man or ball.  I’m just stating what is implied in that statement.  And that is important.

    Evidence might be required to convince but it isn’t required for a claim to be correct.

    • #63
  4. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Majestyk:I guess then that claims regarding bigfoot, aliens and the loch ness monster are good enough for you at face value then?

    What is your threshold for credibility?

    Your argument is playing the man, not the ball, Casey.

    @Bob W: Testimony is not evidence.Evidence is evidence.Testimony backed up with evidence which makes a coherent narrative can be powerful, but it requires context.

    Gee. If testimony isn’t evidenced we might as well shut down the legal system.

    • #64
  5. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike Rapkoch:

    Gee. If testimony isn’t evidenced we might as well shut down the legal system.

    I’m not a lawyer, (that’s Cato’s department) but it seems to me that unsupported oral testimony may argue for or against a particular narrative, but that it has limited use outside of backing up independent facts which the parties are trying to fit into a narrative.

    If testimony is evidence, why do we have rules like Habeas Corpus?  Why is oral testimony alone not enough to convict somebody?  The answer?  Law courts are engaged in serious business which includes deciding people’s fates with the power to deny them their natural rights, so with that sort of power there is a strong presumption that they will have equally strong evidence of a person’s guilt.

    Otherwise, somebody could accuse Mike Rapkoch of murder on unsupported testimony, buzzing right past the who, what, where, why and how of whether or not you did this thing.  “I Mike kill a man – and he was instantly vaporized!”

    That would be incredible, and nobody would believe it.  Bodies are hard to do away with, which is why the standard of habeas corpus exists.  You might still be convicted of murder in the absence of a body, but other factors come in, such as you having means, motive and opportunity to do the crime.

    It’s not a bad measuring stick for history either.  Means, motive and opportunity lend credibility to historical narratives.

    • #65
  6. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    Your argument is playing the man, not the ball, Casey.

    I’m not playing man or ball. I’m just stating what is implied in that statement. And that is important.

    Evidence might be required to convince but it isn’t required for a claim to be correct.

    Nobody disputes that testimony can reliably relate an accurate retelling of an event.  Your argument was that the nature of the evidence wouldn’t matter to a skeptic like Hitchens because he had a bias.  I would confess that I think that is true.  However, that doesn’t mean that what he said isn’t also accurate: In no other arena of life would we accept the sort of cock-and-bull stories that we get out of religious books at face value – but people do precisely because they are shibboleths that they are expected to embrace because they are brought up with them.

    To hear Mike Rapkoch or Bob W tell it, the sort of testimony that we get from the UFO believers that I’ve mentioned is critically important and credible.  They are making admissions against interest (they run the risk of being ridiculed for their beliefs) and are fervent in the belief that aliens are visiting and probing them.  If their testimony is evidence, it must be true.  It doesn’t matter that it’s fundamentally unbelievable – they have to be telling the truth, because who would make up something that cracked?

    • #66
  7. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

     Your argument was that the nature of the evidence wouldn’t matter to a skeptic like Hitchens because he had a bias.

    It was?  I thought I meant what I said.

    • #67
  8. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    – Christopher Hitchens

    Implied here is “To convince Christopher Hitchens.”

    Here is what you said.

    I’m drawing from it the inference that you think Hitchens would be unfair.  I would agree with you that he might have been biased.

    I also think that what he said is eminently defensible and accurate.  Fair-minded people would likely concede certain sorts of evidence as being dispositive.

    I mean, apparently a personal visit from Jesus was enough for Kirsten Powers, (and her testimony might be enough for you) but I imagine her testimony would be severely degraded in your mind if Jesus had told her that Gay Marriage was great.

    I think it’s all balderdash.  Powers wasn’t visited by Jesus, (he didn’t leave a toothpick or a business card) she had a vivid dream.  People can have these sorts of experiences when under stress or even when not so under stress.  The point is that it is entirely subjective.  It might have been real to her but she couldn’t make it real to anybody else.

    • #68
  9. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    Majestyk, Testimony certainly is evidence.  You said that there is no evidence for the resurrection or alien abduction.  That’s just not factually true.  And no, I didn’t say the evidence was good enough for me. But it is evidence, and of the type that is allowed to carry weight in a court.

    • #69
  10. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    – Christopher Hitchens

    Implied here is “To convince Christopher Hitchens.”

    I’m drawing from it the inference that you think Hitchens would be unfair.

    You draw incorrectly.

    Claims require evidence.

    To do what?

    To convince.

    To convince who?

    Me.

    And what if that claim is extraordinary?

    Then I would require the evidence to be extraordinary as well.

    That is what that quote says.

    It does not say that evidence is required for the claim to be true.  It does not say evidence is required for Augustine to believe it is true.

    That quote tells us about Hitchens (and probably you) but not much about anything else.

    So my “argument” was only that the chosen quote provided weak support.

    • #70
  11. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Bob W:Majestyk, Testimony certainly is evidence. You said that there is no evidence for the resurrection or alien abduction. That’s just not factually true. And no, I didn’t say the evidence was good enough for me. But it is evidence, and of the type that is allowed to carry weight in a court.

    I saw Bob W kill a man just to watch him die.

    I have no evidence for this statement – but according to you, it is “evidence.”  It is nothing of the sort.  It is a claim.  An unfounded claim which has no evidence backing it up.  It is a claim which wouldn’t have weight in a court of law because of that reason.

    Where is this “Evidence” for the resurrection or alien abduction beyond “Taking their word for it”?

    • #71
  12. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Claims require evidence.

    To do what?

    To convince.

    To convince who?

    Me.

    And what if that claim is extraordinary?

    Then I would require the evidence to be extraordinary as well.

    That is what that quote says.

    It does not say that evidence is required for the claim to be true. It does not say evidence is required for Augustine to believe it is true.

    That quote tells us about Hitchens (and probably you) but not much about anything else.

    So my “argument” was only that the chosen quote provided weak support.

    Claims ought to be backed up with evidence in order to convince anybody of anything.

    Otherwise, we ought to raise marginal tax rates to 100% in order to improve tax revenues.  That would constitute an extraordinary claim; it is also a claim that is easily refuted by various types of logic and experience.

    • #72
  13. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    Claims ought to be backed up with evidence in order to convince anybody of anything.

    The coffee on my desk tastes terrible.  What evidence would convince you this is true?

    • #73
  14. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    Majestyk, we’re dealing here with the definition of the word evidence.  Evidence does not mean “proof”.   You seem to think that I’m saying  it does.  I’m not saying that someone’s testimony necessarily proves something.  But it is evidence, and courts convict people of things based on eyewitness testimony alone all the time.

    • #74
  15. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Majestyk:

    Mike Rapkoch:

    Gee. If testimony isn’t evidenced we might as well shut down the legal system.

    I’m not a lawyer, (that’s Cato’s department) but it seems to me that unsupported oral testimony may argue for or against a particular narrative, but that it has limited use outside of backing up independent facts which the parties are trying to fit into a narrative.

    If testimony is evidence, why do we have rules like Habeas Corpus? Why is oral testimony alone not enough to convict somebody? The answer? Law courts are engaged in serious business which includes deciding people’s fates with the power to deny them their natural rights, so with that sort of power there is a strong presumption that they will have equally strong evidence of a person’s guilt.

    Otherwise, somebody could accuse Mike Rapkoch of murder on unsupported testimony, buzzing right past the who, what, where, why and how of whether or not you did this thing. “I Mike kill a man – and he was instantly vaporized!”

    That would be incredible, and nobody would believe it. Bodies are hard to do away with, which is why the standard of habeas corpus exists. You might still be convicted of murder in the absence of a body, but other factors come in, such as you having means, motive and opportunity to do the crime.

    It’s not a bad measuring stick for history either. Means, motive and opportunity lend credibility to historical narratives.

    But that is not correct. The standard jury instruction is “the testimony of a single witness, who is believed, is sufficient to prove any fact.” The overwhelming majority of cases are decided on circumstantial evidence–including witness testimony. One example is car crashes at intersections. You can’t generally prove which driver had the green and which had the red. Witness testimony can prove it. Even if it is the only proof. Nowadays accident reconstructionists are often called to establish the facts, but, like all witnesses, their testimony is subject to cross examination and, if the expert is discredited, his testimony can be disregarded by the jury. This happens all the time.

    In murder cases the rule on which you rely is the corpus delicti rule. That requires a body, or evidence of a body like DNA, because proof of a killing is a necessary precondition in such cases. Testimony is, however, enough to convict. Let’s say there is no eye witness testinony, which is usually the case in any murder case. The prosecution offers testimony from witnesses that the accused had it in for the dead guy, that he had the means, e.g., he owned a gun (but which is disposed of by dropping it in a river), that he was in town on the day of the killing, etc. Witness testimony supports the prosecution despite the fact that no one saw the accused kill the decedent. The jury convicts. That’s enough.

    • #75
  16. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    Claims ought to be backed up with evidence in order to convince anybody of anything.

    The coffee on my desk tastes terrible. What evidence would convince you this is true?

    It doesn’t require evidence because there are no powerful metaphysical consequences hinging upon your perception of the coffee’s bad taste.  It’s also just “your opinion” that it tastes bad.  Taste is subjective.  I might taste it and think that it’s a party in my mouth.

    A more interesting claim would be assessing whether or not you actually have coffee, but again: it’s not as if it has any import.  You could be flimflamming me or you could be representing your coffee’s existence honestly.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.

    If your coffee tastes bad to you, then that’s your business.  If you tell me that the alien overlords informed you that I have to wear my underwear on my head because it will protect me from their brain-disruption ray… then I might want some evidence of that.

    • #76
  17. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike Rapkoch:

    Let’s say there is no eye witness testinony, which is usually the case in any murder case. The prosecution offers testimony from witnesses that the accused had it in for the dead guy, that he had the means, e.g., he owned a gun (but which is disposed of by dropping it in a river), that he was in town on the day of the killing, etc. Witness testimony supports the prosecution despite the fact that no one saw the accused kill the decedent. The jury convicts. That’s enough.

    So, what you’re saying is exactly what I’m saying: that the words of a person alone are not sufficient if there is no corroborating evidence, such as the confluence of events surrounding a person’s presence in a town, their motive in possibly killing a person and the existence of a DEAD BODY.

    The testimony must generally line up with the FACTS of the larger narrative or the testimony is irrelevant.  Another possibility is that a person might get a conclusion correct but have every other detail wrong.  Clearly, if you saw somebody commit a murder it may be true that you saw such a thing, but if you preface all of that by saying that you saw the perp jump out of his spaceship after his vacation on Mars in order to commit the murder, it’s going to cast doubt upon your testimony!

    • #77
  18. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    Claims ought to be backed up with evidence in order to convince anybody of anything.

    The coffee on my desk tastes terrible. What evidence would convince you this is true?

    It doesn’t require evidence because there are no powerful metaphysical consequences hinging upon your perception of the coffee’s bad taste. It’s also just “your opinion” that it tastes bad. Taste is subjective. I might taste it and think that it’s a party in my mouth.

    So when you said “anybody of anything”,  you meant “anybody of anything that has powerful metaphysical consequences?”

    • #78
  19. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    continued

    In civil cases testimony may be the only evidence. I tried many commercial cases, most involving questions of breach of contract. If the contract is clear these cases usually end on summary judgment. But many contracts are ambiguous and the meaning and the breach must be proven by witness testimony. In such cases there is no direct evidence. There is no body, as it were. who can offer physical evidence of a breach. Witness testimonmy is all that there is.

    Another example: sexual harassment cases very often turn solely on the alleged harasser and the alleged victim. She says he pressured her for sex and he says he didn’t. The lawyers will try to find witnesses to back their clients up, e.g., other women who claim to have been harassed by the guy. That is circumstantial; proof proven by nothing other than witness testimony. And, as I noted, even without other testimony, if the fact finder believes the victim over the alleged harasser she will prevail.

    It’s soley a question of credibility.

    As for the witnesses to the resurrection, that can certainly be doubted, but they can also be believed. You might find their testimony unpersuasive, but others may believe them.  You seem to believe that a resurrection  is impossible. That’s fine. But that is what the law would call an assumption. Such assumptions are often the grounds for disqualifying a potential juror.  Let’s say a feminist believed that all sex with men is rape (there are such feminists). In a rape case she isn’t going to survive a challenge because her assumption would shut her off from objectively analyzing the evidence–especially the testimony of the accused. Again, witnesses will or will not prove a case. Scientific evidence can prove that she and the assued had sex. But that won’t prove rape. Only witness testimony will prove rape.

    • #79
  20. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    Majestyk:

    It doesn’t require evidence because there are no powerful metaphysical consequences hinging upon your perception of the coffee’s bad taste. It’s also just “your opinion” that it tastes bad. Taste is subjective. I might taste it and think that it’s a party in my mouth.

    So when you said “anybody of anything”, you meant “anybody of anything that has powerful metaphysical consequences?”

    How far down the rhetorical rabbit hole do you want to go?  First we’re talking about commands from undead Jews about eternal life, and then we’re talking about whether your Starbucks tastes rotten.  There’s no consistency between the import these things.

    I mean, I can take your word for it that your coffee tastes terrible to you.  That only goes so far; after all it’s just an opinion, not a statement of fact.  Even if you assert that you do (or do not) have coffee – it’s a statement of fact about which you could be lying, but again it has no import.  It is different in kind than the sort of claims that we’re discussing in relation to Augustine’s post which have to do with commands that are made in the name of events which are purported to have happened which have eternal consequences for us.

    • #80
  21. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Mike H:

    There’s a difference between individual research papers, of which most are false, and expert consensus opinion vs layman opinion. When they disagree, the experts are usually right….

    Now your’re qualifying, as your orginal claim was:

    “When experts agree on something they are usually right. This is a fact.”

    How do you know that?  I’ve spent enough time drilling down through “expert consensus” only to find it scientifically baseless that I’ve become immensely skeptical.

    It is a fact that consensus expert opinion is usually right when they disagree with laymen. It may not seem like it for cases like global warming, but even there the consensus opinion isn’t nearly as strong as various media reports like to pretend.

    Thanks for bringing that one up!  It’s an excellent example, but there are others.

    There are also vast differences between classes of experts.  You seem to be in a field where claims require serious proof, and face prompt confirmation if they push the boundaries of science.

    There are classes of experts operating in fields that are hard to qualify as scientific at all, and they vastly outnumber the number of physicists.

    So your initial statement, unqualified, has to be considered false.

    Additionally, the notion is the root of the whole Progressive enterprise.  I would suggest that if you really believe that, you cannot be a Conservative who believes that tradition has anything of value to offer. (Not that we’d burn you at the stake, or anything… We’re tolerant!)

    “The Progressives strongly supported scientific methods as applied to economics, government, industry, finance, medicine, schooling, theology, education, and even the family. They closely followed advances underway at the time in Western Europe[8] and adopted numerous policies, such as a major transformation of the banking system by creating the Federal Reserve System in 1913.[9] Reformers felt that old-fashioned ways meant waste and inefficiency, and eagerly sought out the “one best system”.”

    The problem being, of course, that science doesn’t scale well into the social “sciences”. Or even biology.

    P.S. You might find Hayek’s essay interesting:

    “…Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active coöperation. We need to remember only how much we have to learn in any occupation after we have completed our theoretical training…”

    The Use of Knowledge in Society

    • #81
  22. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike Rapkoch:continued

    In civil cases testimony may be the only evidence. I tried many commercial cases, most involving questions of breach of contract. If the contract is clear these cases usually end on summary judgment. But many contracts are ambiguous and the meaning and the breach must be proven by witness testimony. In such cases there is no direct evidence. There is no body, as it were. who can offer physical evidence of a breach. Witness testimony is all that there is.

    Which is why this would be Civil and not Criminal court, presumably.  The consequences are considerably lowered, even if there are large sums of money involved.

    Again, the witness testimony must fit into a larger narrative which goes along with the idea that one or the other party breached the contract.  What was their reason for breaching the contract?  How, when and where did they breach it?  If the reasons and circumstances cited for these are nonsensical then the testimony of that witness is probably discounted.  Nobody may have died, but the facts of the matter can be ferretted out by examining the wheres and whys – which form a body of sorts.

    But this is decidedly NOT the sort of thing that Augustine is talking about – things which are not vague breaches of poorly-written contracts but whether or not certain events came to pass, whether they are inherently believable and whether or not the people who are recounting these things actually had knowledge of them.

    • #82
  23. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    How far down the rhetorical rabbit hole do you want to go?

    Hey, the rabbit hole is on you.

    Mike wrote:

    Mike Rapkoch:As for the witnesses to the resurrection, that can certainly be doubted, but they can also be believed. You might find their testimony unpersuasive, but others may believe them.

    You offered the Hitchens quote as if to say it applied to “others” as it applied to Hitchens.   But it does not.  One can believe something before extraordinary evidence is presented.  That belief can also be correct.

    That you and Hitchens require extraordinary evidence before believing tells us about you and Hitchens.  It does not tell us anything about the truth of the claim or about the others.

    That’s all I said.

    • #83
  24. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I should point out as well that being as I’m an engineer, no defense attorney in their right mind would allow me to sit on their jury.

    Defense attorneys are far more likely to play fast and loose with the facts in order to try and construct narratives which would cast doubt on their clients’ doings – doings which are belied by verifiable facts and physical evidences which as an engineer I’m going to place a lot of stock in.

    • #84
  25. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Majestyk:

    Mike Rapkoch:

    Let’s say there is no eye witness testinony, which is usually the case in any murder case. The prosecution offers testimony from witnesses that the accused had it in for the dead guy, that he had the means, e.g., he owned a gun (but which is disposed of by dropping it in a river), that he was in town on the day of the killing, etc. Witness testimony supports the prosecution despite the fact that no one saw the accused kill the decedent. The jury convicts. That’s enough.

    So, what you’re saying is exactly what I’m saying: that the words of a person alone are not sufficient if there is no corroborating evidence, such as the confluence of events surrounding a person’s presence in a town, their motive in possibly killing a person and the existence of a DEAD BODY.

    The testimony must generally line up with the FACTS of the larger narrative or the testimony is irrelevant. Another possibility is that a person might get a conclusion correct but have every other detail wrong. Clearly, if you saw somebody commit a murder it may be true that you saw such a thing, but if you preface all of that by saying that you saw the perp jump out of his spaceship after his vacation on Mars in order to commit the murder, it’s going to cast doubt upon your testimony!

    I’m not now sure what you intend to establish. The narrative in most cases is established by witness testimony. Look, nobody has to believe the testimony, but that does NOT prove the evidence is false. This happens all the time and there is no need for a second witness to back up testimony.

    You are also assuming that the narrative of the resurrection is based only on the testimony of the apostles of the Gospel. But that is patently false. In most Christian theology the narrative begins in Genesis, works through Exodus, travels through Kings, David, and on and on. The Gospel is the biblical summary of the narrative, but for Catholic theology the narrative is developed through Sacred Tradition, the ongoing testimony of the Church Fathers, through the lives of the saints, through painstaking analysis of the evidence from creation, and on and on. One area of proof of the witnesses of the resurrection is that they believed so fervently that they went to their deaths rather than deny Christ.

    Many of the great minds of history believed in the resurrection. You could say they were deluded, I suppose, but it would be a difficult task to prove that Thomas Aquinas was delusional. There are few more disciplined thinkers in history than Aquinas. And it would be intellectually dishonest to attempt to discredit Aquinas by calling him a fool.

    • #85
  26. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Casey:

    You offered the Hitchens quote as if to say it applied to “others” as it applied to Hitchens. But it does not. One can believe something before extraordinary evidence is presented. That belief can also be correct.

    That you and Hitchens require extraordinary evidence before believing tells us about you and Hitchens. It does not tell us anything about the truth of the claim or about the others.

    That’s all I said.

    It’s the nature of the claims that are made in light of these purported facts which make me skeptical of them – and I’m sure the same could have been said of Christopher – on top of the fact that extraordinary demands are then made of us in their name.

    Do you believe that you will be given eternal life if you believe that Jesus is your lord and savior and that your sins will be forgiven you?  Do you believe that damnation awaits those who don’t?

    If for instance you’re a Catholic, there are a lot of arcane rules and regulations which you must live your life by on the basis of the claims regarding the Nazarene.  Don’t you think that some healthy skepticism regarding those claims might be in order before you go about living your life as if eternity depends upon it?

    If it says something about me and Hitchens that we demand some evidence it says something about the people who don’t demand it as well.

    • #86
  27. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Majestyk:

    Mike Rapkoch:continued

    In civil cases testimony may be the only evidence. I tried many commercial cases, most involving questions of breach of contract. If the contract is clear these cases usually end on summary judgment. But many contracts are ambiguous and the meaning and the breach must be proven by witness testimony. In such cases there is no direct evidence. There is no body, as it were. who can offer physical evidence of a breach. Witness testimony is all that there is.

    Which is why this would be Civil and not Criminal court, presumably. The consequences are considerably lowered, even if there are large sums of money involved.

    Again, the witness testimony must fit into a larger narrative which goes along with the idea that one or the other party breached the contract. What was their reason for breaching the contract? How, when and where did they breach it? If the reasons and circumstances cited for these are nonsensical then the testimony of that witness is probably discounted. Nobody may have died, but the facts of the matter can be ferretted out by examining the wheres and whys – which form a body of sorts.

    But this is decidedly NOT the sort of thing that Augustine is talking about – things which are not vague breaches of poorly-written contracts but whether or not certain events came to pass, whether they are inherently believable and whether or not the people who are recounting these things actually had knowledge of them.

    At this point I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. As I read your initial comment on this, you seemed to suggest that witness testimony alone cannot prove a fact. That’s just not true. As for the narrative, I’m not questioning what you are saying. Of course there must be context and that is established by witnesses. All I’m arguing is that there need not be physical or other direct evidence. I’m not sure how your argument applies in the context of the resurrection. Those stories are narratives established by witnesses. The witnesses can be unbelievable if one so decides. But that does not prove the testimony is false, only that some doubt it and others accept it. That’s pretty much the Christian message. “Repent and believe in the Good News,” is an admonition, but God does not force anyone to believe it.

    • #87
  28. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike Rapkoch:

    You are also assuming that the narrative of the resurrection is based only on the testimony of the apostles of the Gospel. But that is patently false. In most Christian theology the narrative begins in Genesis, works through Exodus, travels through Kings, David, and on and on. The Gospel is the biblical summary of the narrative, SNIP One area of proof of the witnesses of the resurrection is that they believed so fervently that they went to their deaths rather than deny Christ.

    To which I say: So what?  Great minds and poor ones have believed any number of noble and foolish things.  Their fervent belief says nothing of the veracity of those beliefs, does it?

    Does anybody in history who “died for their beliefs” lend similar credibility to their beliefs in your mind, or just the Apostles?

    Given that Genesis is gobbledygook which totally botches cosmology and there is no evidence for the Captivity or the Exodus, how am I to regard this statement?  Is the Bible simply gobbledygook throughout or merely shot through with occasional lies and/or truths?  Which parts are noble and which parts foul?  Which commands do you follow and which ones lay fallow?

    There are no extra-Biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about.  Where are these extra-Biblical accounts of Jesus Resurrection?

    • #88
  29. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Majestyk:

    It’s the nature of the claims that are made in light of these purported facts which make me skeptical of them

    A revealing admission.

    Majestyk:

    If for instance you’re a Catholic, there are a lot of arcane rules and regulations which you must live your life by on the basis of the claims regarding the Nazarene.

    And a revealing mischaracterization of Catholicism.  (And probably of religion generally.)

    Majestyk:

    If it says something about me and Hitchens that we demand some evidence it says something about the people who don’t demand it as well.

    Perhaps.  But perhaps not.  It may not tell us much of anything.

    • #89
  30. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike Rapkoch:

    At this point I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. As I read your initial comment on this, you seemed to suggest that witness testimony alone cannot prove a fact. That’s just not true. As for the narrative, I’m not questioning what you are saying. Of course there must be context and that is established by witnesses. All I’m arguing is that there need not be physical or other direct evidence. I’m not sure how your argument applies in the context of the resurrection.

    Of course it’s true.  There are artifacts which are left behind by human action which lend credence to the narratives that people craft.  Now, if a thousand people claim to have seen something, that means that a thousand people may have seen something, not that the something must be the thing that one or two of them say it was some fifty years after the purported events have taken place.

    The testimony does not establish the fact on its own – especially when you are making claims as big as those of the nature that the Gospel makes.

    Just as one man’s isolated testimony can’t convict Mike Rapkoch of vaporizing another man.  It’s too big of a stretch.  The testimony could be correct – but it would require powerful evidence to authenticate it.  Perhaps you have a ray gun which can disintegrate people.  Perhaps there are scorch marks and a missing person.

    • #90
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