Drew Peterson and the New Testament

Drew Peterson, a former Illinois police officer, has been convicted of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio.  While a man being convicted of murder isn’t normally noteworthy on a blog such as this, Peterson’s case is.  Peterson was convicted based nearly entirely on witness testimony, and much of that testimony was hearsay testimony.  Admission of hearsay testimony is not ordinary, but in Illinois a law was passed in 2008 allowing the often barred testimony.

(Fox News) — The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors  building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed “Drew’s Law,”  tailored to Peterson’s case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives “speak from their graves” through family and friends to convict Peterson.

Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness’ direct knowledge.

[…]

They had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio’s death and no witnesses placing him at the scene. They were forced to rely on typically barred hearsay  — statements Savio made to others before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished. Illinois passed the hearsay law in 2008, making the evidence admissible at trials in rare circumstances.

So why do I find this case relevant to the Bible?  Many skeptics lodge at least two charges against the Bible — specifically the New Testament — in order to justify dismissing it as unreliable.  1) The New Testament is composed primarily of testimony, and testimony isn’t evidence; and 2) at best, the testimony is hearsay which is inadmissible in a court of law and therefore unreliable.

First, in every court of law in the United States witness testimony is considered evidence, so any skeptic trying to dismiss the New Testament for this reason is simply admitting in public that they are uninformed about the fact that testimony is a form of evidence.  But more importantly to my point, this case was tried entirely on testimony evidence.  There was no physical evidence pointing toward Peterson as Savio’s killer.  So not only is testimony evidence, it carries enough weight to garner a conviction under what is considered the most strict of burdens: beyond a reasonable doubt.

Secondly, hearsay testimony as evidence may very well be inadmissible in most 21st century courts, although under special circumstances it is permitted.  But the Gospel accounts were not written with the intent to pass muster in a modern court of law.  As a genre, they are ancient biographies, not legal statements. To anachronistically impose modern standards of documentary protocol upon these records is holding them to a standard they were never intended to be examined under by the authors.  If we were to hold every piece of ancient documentation to the standard that it must pass modern legal protocol to be considered a reliable source of information, we would be forced to reject nearly everything we know about history.

The bottom line is this: Hearsay ≠ false.  Just because testimony is hearsay doesn’t mean it can’t be trusted.  In fact we rely on and trust hearsay in our daily lives regularly.  I bet you’d be surprised at how often you are offered hearsay without batting an eye.  Here’s the important thing to take away from this case: Even though hearsay was admitted as a special consideration in this case, it still had to meet a standard of reliability in order to surpass the burden of reasonable doubt.  Of course this doesn’t mean that hearsay testimony is by nature reliable.  Each piece must be considered on its own merit.  The New Testament is no different.

Will some skeptics still reject the New Testament because it is primarily testimony?  Sure they will, and they will still charge that hearsay is invalid on its face even though we trust it in other facets of our lives.  One may want to argue that the Gospels are not reliable accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but out-of-hand dismissal because they’re hearsay is premature and unsubstantiated.  But hey, at least they can’t say hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law!

(H/T: Tumeyn)

Comments

  1. Not entirely on topic, but just for general understanding, I’ve heard from (hearsay?) those monitoring the case that other evidence compelled the verdict, too. A forensic witness, one considered the top dude in the field, stated that, if Savio’s injuries were from a fall, she must have fallen repeatedly. Another person commenting, a legal “expert” stated that all things considered, the verdict was entirely just.

    On topic, the point you make regarding the character of the person providing the hearsay must be considered before simply dismissing the hearsay evidence. This is a point I’ve tried to make in recent discussions. Can we trust the Biblical authors or is there any reason to think they are unworthy of our trust? To simply dismiss them on the basis of their testimony being “hearsay” is in fact a negative reflection on the character of the person trying to negate all evidence for the existence of God.

    • Just to be clear, there was no physical evidence linking Peterson to the crime. The killer didn’t leave finger or foot prints, no hair left behind, etc. There was physical evidence of a murder, which prosecutor had to show: that there was in fact a murder.

      What convicted Peterson was hearsay testimony. But it wasn’t just to be taken at face value, it had to be deemed reliable.

  2. Indeed, and that point was one I meant to make, regarding no physical evidence. Time constraints, you know, force rushed and incomplete comments.

  3. Thanks for thinking about me, John

    So, I guess we should consider all witness testimony as true and reliable – good to know.
    Hearsay is just as good as any other evidence, so there’s no limit to what crap folks will believe.

    That helps explain the foundation of most religious faith. Well done.

    • Z

      No surprise you jumped to that conclusion and that you are so dismissive. No its not that we accept every bit of hearsay or that hearsay is always reliable. Like I said (which might be missed if you only skim) is that even though hearsay was admitted as evidence, its credibility still needed to be determined. Each bit of testimony is evidence and needs to be judged on its own and not dismissed out of hand, like you do in order to avoid certain conclusions.

  4. Z, let me ask you this. Do you believe that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15th 44BC on the steps of the theater in Pompey?

    As far as I can tell, the assassination of Julius Caesar is described by ~4 ancient historians. We have no body. We have no “evidence” of the assassination. We have no eyewitness writings. We mainly have historical records that were written 100-200 years after the event:
    Suetonius: Historian that lived 69-122AD
    Plutarch: Lived 46-120AD
    Cassius Dio: Historian that lived 150 – 235AD
    Virgil: Lived 70BC-19BC – He was the only writer who was a contemporary of the event. Interestingly, he (and not the others) records that there were numerous supernatural events that followed the assassination, including talking animals, earthquakes, ghosts, etc.

    Now, compare this to the life of Jesus. We numerous independent authors (~6-7 of them) that write books included in the New Testament. The vast majority of scholars date these books to ~45AD-100AD. (that’s within 15-75 years of the event) We have further writings confirming the authenticity of these books that date to ~100AD (the writings of Clement and others). And we have non-Christian sources that confirm the existence of Jesus, his death, and the basic belief of his followers that date to ~80-120AD (50-80 years after Jesus).

    You can claim that this evidence wouldn’t stand up in court. Fine. I’ll also assert that the death of Julius Caesar would not stand up in court. But anyone with half a brain believes it anyway.

  5. As an attorney and a former prosecutor, I’d like to add to this discussion. Hearsay is not simply “any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness’ direct knowledge.” Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

    For example, the witness statement “I heard Stacy Peterson say ‘My husband wants to kill me'” is offered to prove that Stacy Peterson’s husband wanted to kill her. That is inadmissible hearsay.

    The hearsay rule is a device BY COURTS to weed out “unreliable” evidence, not to rule out “untrue” evidence. Hearsay testimony, as mentioned by John, does not mean false testimony. The hearsay rules (there are more than one rule) only apply to courts, not to investigations. “Hearsay” evidence often leads to more reliable evidence. In trying to recreate what happened, I often used hearsay evidence to find other admissible evidence.

    There are exceptions to the hearsay rules.

    1. Excited utterances- Martha testifies “Mary Magdalene came to my house, out of breath and said ‘Jesus is alive! I’ve seen him'” to prove that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus alive.
    2. Present sense impression- Emmaus disciple 1 testifies “Emmaus disciple 2 said ‘Did not our hearts burn within us, while Jesus talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?’ And I felt the same way” to prove that Emmaus disciple 2 felt a strong reaction to Jesus’ presence after the resurrection.

    The hearsay rule is for the dynamic of a court, not for historical investigation. Hearsay is not always unreliable and is not always false. Hearsay often leads to other evidence. Those who ignore the NT as unreliable hearsay evidence are simply too lazy to do any investigation. (They probably have no qualms about relying on hearsay to believe what happened in the Peloponnesian war, or that Julius Caesar said “Et tu, Brute.”)

    One final thing, the New Testament is not all “information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness’ direct knowledge.” In fact, the people speaking in the Gospels and the other sections of the NT are speaking with direct evidence. Peter and John saw the empty tomb. Matthew and James saw the risen Christ. Paul encountered Jesus himself. Their testimony is direct evidence.

  6. Nathan,

    Here’s the rub – I don’t think anyone is making any extraordinary claim about the life or death of Julius Caesar, are they? Was he resurrected as well? Was he really an alien? Did anyone really follow up on any supernatural events that Virgil may have credited to Caesar? Is it just a coincidence that Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ have the same initials? Is there a deeper conspiracy at play here?

    Ultimately, it all comes down to what you are willing to believe. There are plenty of accounts of supernatural events throughout history – including resurrection stories and alien sightings. None of them can ever be falsified.

    I find it to be a matter of perspective. Do you accept supernatural stories to be true until proven false or do you think of supernatural stories to be false until proven true? Are you just as accepting of supernatural stories that involve other faiths?

    Let me as you this. Could there be anything ever presented to you that would convince you that those stories just aren’t true? (This is not to be confused with the possibility that they could be false.)

    • Z

      Let me summarize what seems to be your view.

      “Show me evidence that an extraordinary thing happened (resurrection, miracles, it all)’ I’m willing and open to be convinced”

      But also: “anything you offer as evidence is unreliable because miracles don’t happen”

    • Z,

      My view of miracles is this, they are neither true or false because of the source. They are true or false based on the reported circumstances surrounding the person giving the account. I don’t dismiss miracle claims from other religions because they are other religions. They very well could have happened. There is a supernatural realm. Whether they were by the power of God or the power of demons is another question.

      Now what could make me consider the miracle claims of Jesus are false? How about any contrary claims by anyone else. There aren’t any. Remember, the new testament wasnt written as a theological holy book. It was written to record what happened and later did people adopt it as a holy book. If I got the inclination that the authors wrote with the intention of their works being something with religious authority, I might be more skeptical. But I don’t get that. Notice in the new testament there isn’t any “Jesus told me to tell you…” sure there are the red letters. But its not as though the red letters has Jesus handing out authority to the authors be in charge and make rules to rule over others (Joseph Smith, Mohammed).

  7. Z,
    You see, I start with the assumption that the supernatural is real. I think that there are many valid philosophical arguments that help me arrive at this position. The most persuasive to me are the combination of the cosmological argument, teleological argument, moral law argument. Now, if all we had were those philosophical arguments for God, then I think that belief in a deity would have died out long ago. Rather, we have two interesting observations: 1) Throughout recorded human history, people have somehow found a need and desire to pursue a relationship with “God” or “the gods”. 2) Throughout recorded human history, people have reportedly observed “supernatural” events. I don’t claim that all of these events are true. But I think it is foolishness to believe that NONE of them are true.
    Having arrived at a belief that the supernatural is real, the miracles of the Bible really aren’t that difficult to believe. (with one or two exceptions in the Old Testament) There are countless stories of healing miracles that happen today. Interestingly, you would think that those closest to the event (the doctors) would be least likely to believe in miracles. But that just isn’t true. I saw a survey recently that 73% of physicians in the US believe in miracles. About 70% believe in the power of prayer. That’s rather odd, don’t you think?
    Now what about the supernatural claims of Virgil and others? I’ll use terminology that you are very familiar with: I don’t DISBELIEVE in other supernatural events – I *lack belief* in other supernatural events. I haven’t seen the evidence clearly enough or haven’t had the time to examine them in detail.
    Ok, so if miracles are POSSIBLE, then the events of the New Testament are at least plausible to me. But if God were simply a “philosophical probability” and the miracle accounts of the New Testament were simple “plausible”, then I think that the Christian faith would have died out long ago. Likewise, if my wife claimed that she loved me, but then never demonstrated that love with her actions, our marriage would be in shambles and probably non-existent. Most Christians claim to have experienced God in very personal ways. This gets into the “touchy feely” aspect of faith that you don’t seem to like too much. But, again, I’ll use the analogy of a marriage. A marriage is NOT merely an intellectual agreement between two parties. (although that is PART of a marriage) It is an EMOTIONAL connection to another person. It is a firm commitment to stick with them through thick and thin. The Christian faith is very similar. Like my relationship with my wife, it STARTS on the basis of an intellectual assent (I believe she is real; I believe she is who she says that she is; I believe that she is a good person). But it doesn’t stop there. There must be continual demonstrations of our love and commitment in order for the marriage to thrive.

    The Christian faith is thriving in the world today. I assert that it is thriving not because it makes intellectual sense (although it does). It is thriving because God is communicating and revealing himself to people today – just as He has done throughout history.

  8. Thanks for the reply, John

    ” anything you offer as evidence is unreliable because miracles don’t happen”

    I don’t hold this opinion. It may be said, however, that I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that these miracles have happened. It just so happens that all the evidence presented so far does not qualify as reliable.

    I find it interesting that you weigh the circumstances around the claim. You seem to consider motive, and it’s purely subjective when you try to determine why a claim is made. You seem to consider the writings in the bible not to be motivated by authority where you see it in other religious texts. Again, that’s purely subjective interpretation. You’re entitled to think that, but it doesn’t make it necessarily true.

    Some people cite experiences with aliens and there’s no economic or authoritarian motivation behind their claim. Based on those circumstances, do you believe them as well?

    I also find it interesting that you keep insisting for the evidence that others write books making claims contrary to the miracle claims of Jesus. Would this really be evidence for you? I would suspect you would find some way to discredit, marginalize or dismiss it.

    Lastly, you made a definitive statement about the existence of the realm of the supernatural. Is this merely a feeling? Will this always fall outside the scope of being testable? Is there any way to back that statement without pointing to other people’s stories?

    Hopefully, at this point, you understand that people often make claims that cannot ever be disproven.

  9. Nathan,

    Throughout history, many occurrences that people once thought of as “miraculous” have been demonstrated to be natural. People used to believe that rain could be conjured and lightning was a result of an angry deity. People used to believe a lot of silly things, and to use those beliefs to reinforce any belief held today is just not a strong argument. Because of those ancient beliefs, people have long felt that their fate was determined by a deity with whom they wanted to appease.

    As for statistics, why do you continue to use the argument from popularity? Remember, only a few hundred years ago, the majority of people believed in the firmament and a flat earth.

    You continuously refer to the man-made construct of marriage. Two problems there: The bonding of couples is not unique to humans in the animal kingdom and the large failure rate of the commitment you speak so highly of. It doesn’t seem like people are instinctively programmed the way you think they are.

    What I do find fascinating, though, is that you assume things to be true until proven false. You are not alone in thinking this way and this offers some insight into trying to understand the human psyche.

  10. John,

    I can’t think of any.

    Just like I said to Nathan – throughout history, many occurrences that people once thought of as “miraculous” have been demonstrated to be natural.

    I suppose it comes down to what you think of as “miraculous”.

    Is a beautiful sunset a miracle?
    Is someone surviving a plane crash where everyone else dies a miracle?
    Is someone recovering from a disease against the odds a miracle?

    I think all of these can be explained naturally, even if it’s a rare event.
    Is it supernatural? No

    • Z

      OK then, it sounds like you’re saying that though you’re open to miracles, every report thus far in history to present can be attributed to ignorance of nature or lies.

      Tell me again how you aren’t biased against super naturalism?

  11. Why would you say that I’m biased against the supernatural?
    That’s just as nonsensical as saying that you are biased against unicorns.

  12. Z writes: “you assume things to be true until proven false.”

    Yes, that is true in certain contexts. I suspect that you believe what you read in the scientific literature (until it is proved false). You probably believe what you read in the New York Times (until it is proved false). And on and on. Each of us (EVEN YOU!) have many sources of information that we don’t verify – we believe them until shown otherwise.

    I believe what my wife tells me until she is proved false. I believe what my professors tell me until they are proved false. I believe what the Bible tells me until it is proved false. Why? Because in each of these cases, the source has proven its trust-worthiness to me.

    How has the Bible proven itself to me? I’ve written to you about the reliability of the biblical manuscripts, my personal experiences with God, the philosophical logic of Christianity, my observation of the lives of Christians around me, and on and on. I’m happy to go through all this again with you, but I’m beginning to feel like a broken record.

  13. @John

    If it makes you feel better to call me a liar, that’s your choice.

    “Admitting” that I require evidence before belief is the way I evaluate a claim. It seems clear that you simply require other people’s stories to accept something as true.

    @Nathan

    Yep, I believe many things on the word of others without going through the rigors of evaluation. However, the main difference is the nature of the claim. Claims of eternal damnation and the supernatural are a bit more than what you read in the newspaper and what your wife may tell you, aren’t they? Are you really trying to treat them all equally?

  14. Z, going back a bit, you write: “Here’s the rub – I don’t think anyone is making any extraordinary claim about the life or death of Julius Caesar, are they?…Ultimately, it all comes down to what you are willing to believe. ”

    Exactly! You believe that Julius Caesar was assasinated because there is sufficient evidence. We have even MORE evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, but you are unwilling to believe it. Why? I propose that it is NOT because of the magnitude of the claim – it is because of the impact on your life. Whether or not Julius Caesar was assasinated (or whether or not talking animals appeared afterwards) makes no difference to the way you live your life. On the other hand, if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then it has a HUGE impact on the way that you live your life. You, therefore, have a very good psychological REASON for resisting the “evidence” that we present to you. As you constantly remind me, you also should be very careful not to let your feelings get in the way of how you determine reality.

  15. Nathan,

    How about this –
    Your wife tells you a story this weekend how she was abducted by aliens and transported away to another world. The aliens were able to manipulate time where she was gone from earth for only a minute, but she lived an entire lifetime on their planet. She accounts the story in full and vivid detail and is convinced beyond any doubt that it really happened. She was there. She experienced it.

    Now I’m sure you love your wife and you would consider her a trustworthy source. Would you still believe what your wife says until she is proved false? How would anyone ever go about proving her false?

    • Perhaps intellectually dishonest then. You claim to be open but reject every bit of evidence with some technicality because it doesn’t meet a modern judicial standard. Or you dismiss it based on outright skepticism. The truth is no matter how much you claim to be open to evidence, how open can you be if you won’t consider any.

  16. Nathan,

    Why would I accept a claim because of the impact of my life? I can’t think of a better example of confirmation bias for a claim. You are essentially saying “Wow – Just look at the consequences for believing this to be true! Hooray!”

    Don’t you think I would happily accept the claim if I were so easily motivated by my feelings towards the claim?

    You are mistaken if you think that accepting this claim makes an impact on human behavior. If that were the case, we might see some different statistics on crime in this nation, but that’s a whole other discussion.

  17. That’s an interesting story, but it is completely irrelevant to our discussion of the New Testament. The people involved in the stories of the New Testament weren’t wisked off to heaven in a completely unverifiable and unfalsifiable way. Rather, they claim to have lived with this man (Jesus) and traveled from town to town (towns that still exist today). They claim to have seen him be killed and rise again. But it wasn’t just one person making these claims. At least 4 eyewitnesses to the events authored books of the New Testament and the other eyewitnesses are described throughout the New Testament.

    Therefore, the better analogy would be if my wife came home and told me a story about being kidnapped by a gang in New York (a REAL gang, a REAL city) and while she was there she met numerous other people who had also been kidnapped. Upon her return, she told me about the events and provided me with a description of the kidnapper, the places they took her, the names of the other people who were there with her. Moreover, I have written accounts from the other people who were also kidnapped that also corroborate the event. I would have no reason to doubt her story, even though it is quite an incredible and highly unlikely story.

  18. John,

    Ok, then – please present something to support your claim of the supernatural that isn’t anecdotal and let’s discuss it.

  19. No, Nathan, you’re missing the whole point of the scenario. You’re not allowed to change the story to include places and people that can be verified.

    But if you want to take it further, her story has now been written into a narrative. Others have shared similar events and given accounts of their experiences. It has been passed down from generation to generation and translated into other languages. As time goes on, no one ever writes anything to say that these events never occurred. There is no motivation to gain power or money by telling these stories, just a message of peace and purpose. Soon, millions of people around the world believe her story.

    Now, go on… tell me again how this could never happen.

    Kind of strange, isn’t it? You believe her because you feel she’s trustworthy. You can’t prove the aliens don’t exist. You can’t prove the other world exists. Look at the benefit for you by believing her. Do you believe her because it makes you feel better?

  20. Interesting idea Z. Are you suggesting that the people and places of the Bible are mystical places that can’t be verified? Maybe you are reading a different Bible than mine. My Bible describes stories that take place in cities like Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth, and Bethlehem. And are you suggesting that the people of the Bible can’t be verified? The stories of the Bible include people such as Pontius Pilot, Governor Felix, Jesus, Paul, Gamaliel, John the Baptist, Peter, and on and on – people who are widely described OUTSIDE of the New Testament.

    So I really don’t see what point you are trying to make by my wife traveling to some alien land.

  21. The places where the stories are told can be real. The people telling and re-telling the stories can be real. The people telling the stories can be upstanding citizens who are held in high regard. All of this does not prove the stories themselves to be factual. The example of stories of your wife’s experience is just like those told in the bible. They can never be proven false. I’m sorry you’re not able to see that.

  22. So the places are real. The people are real. The persons telling the stories are upstanding. But the stories are a complete lie? Hmm. That’s not the way I function in everyday life.

    By the way, I agree that it doesn’t PROVE that the stories are factual. But it certainly lends the stories significant credibility. It means that they can’t be easily dismissed.

    As I’m sure you know, there are many different levels of proof. There is: Reasonable suspicion, Reasonable to believe, Substantial evidence, Preponderance of the evidence, Clear and convincing evidence, Beyond reasonable doubt, and Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    What level of proof would you require to believe that the New Testament stories were accurate? In my mind, I’m happy to be at “substantial evidence” or even “preponderance of the evidence”. That’s good enough for me. (It’s also good enough for most civil trials and even for some criminal trials) You seem to want “beyond reasonable doubt” or “beyond shadow of a doubt.”

    See this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_burden_of_proof

  23. Oh, and one more question: Where would YOU rank the New Testament on that list? And why?

  24. Nathan,

    Both you and John seem to love to jump to extremes during a conversation. Why must the story be a complete lie?

    While there may be elements of any story that may be credible, it only takes one ridiculous claim to make someone have a reasonable suspicion to accept it. Your wife may have details of what she was wearing that were true. Your wife may have details of real conversations with genuine people. But, if her story went on to explain her supernatural experience, where do you draw the line?

    Would you believe your wife if she told you she could speak with people no longer alive? Would you just believe it or would you ask for some kind of evidence?

    So far, here’s what I’ve heard as to why I should accept the bible stories on just this page of this blog:

    1. No one has written stories denying they happened.
    2. The people that wrote it were honest and had no reason to lie or motivation for power or money.
    3. There were so many references to real towns that still exist today.
    4. Look at the impact believing the story has made on my life!
    5. Look how fast the story spread and how many people believe it too!
    6. People throughout history have always believed in god.

    Can’t you see that nothing here presents actual evidence to support the belief?

    I can’t see the evidence that you do in order to accept virgin births and resurrections as plausible. I’m afraid I just can’t accept a claim just because other people say so. Apparently, it’s good enough for you.

  25. You write: “Why must the story be a complete lie?”

    Z, I want to be perfectly clear before we proceed: You are willing to believe that the accounts in the New Testament are historically accurate in the basic events that took place, but not in the “supernatural” events that took place. Is this an accurate depiction of your views? If so, how can you claim that you don’t have a bias against the supernatural? It certainly appears to me that you have started out with the opinion that the supernatural isn’t real and therefore the events described in the Bible cannot POSSIBLY be true. This doesn’t sound like “lack of belief” – it sounds like a faith conviction.

  26. Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

    There are elements of any story told that may be true. That does not make the whole story true.

    The only “evidence” that the reported supernatural events in the bible occurred is that it was written. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing more. Purely anecdotal.

    So you believe all the alien sightings too, I suppose, or do you have a bias against aliens?

    Don’t you see how ridiculous you sound? Is that your position? Anyone who doesn’t accept the premise has a bias against it?

  27. I don’t believe in all alien sightings. But I certainly don’t rule them out. Why would I? I have no philosophical or rational objection to aliens. Do you?

    If I had multiple attestation to an alien encounter by real people that happened in real places; If these people were otherwise known to be honest, upright, and trustworthy people; If I knew many people who believed that they themselves had personal encounters with aliens; If I had (what I believe) to be a personal encounter with an alien; and finally, if that encounter with an alien somehow changed my life – then YES, it would be PERFECTLY LOGICAL to believe in aliens! Why is that ridiculous?

    It seems to me that you are unable to recognize your own biases. We all have biases – even you. You claim to be standing on a pedestal and observing “real” reality of which the rest of the masses down below are pitifully ignorant. But you are completely blind to the fact that you are standing on the same level playing field with all the rest of us. You are completely blind to the fact that you have ruled out the supernatural right from the get-go. No amount of evidence would convince you. (you haven’t even articulated what sort of evidence you WOULD believe!) You, my friend, have a faith. Just like me. Stop giving me this “lack of belief” crap. You have a belief but are too blind to see it.

  28. Wow, Nathan, I sense a little hostility from you.

    I’m not making any such claims and I’m wondering why you must try to assign faith to my position of not accepting yours. I don’t think of myself on a pedestal because of it. It’s not about my beliefs – it’s about yours. You and John believe that supernatural exists and have plenty of anecdotal evidence. When the claim is rejected because of insufficient evidence, you both cry about bias against the very thing you assert exists.

    Before trying to accuse me of never accepting your anecdotal evidence, please try to see that no amount of evidence could ever convince you of thinking otherwise.

    Take care.

  29. Let me ask it this way: What evidence do you have that 90% of the world’s population is wrong and you are right? When Galileo stood up and said that the world was not the center of the universe, he backed his statement up with facts. The vast majority of the world disagrees with you. So why do you put the total burden of proof on the majority? Note that I am NOT making an argument from popularity. Rather, I am questioning why you believe your mind is more rational that the minds of the vast majority of the world’s population. You are attacking my (and others) beliefs as irrational. You must have an rational basis for these attacks. Are you claiming some sort of intellectual superiority, evidenciary superiority, some other method of superiority?

    By the way, I’m not claiming that your beliefs are irrational. It is YOU that are claiming that my beliefs are irrational. The burden of proof is on you here.

  30. Nathan,

    I’m sorry you just don’t understand both the argument from popularity and the burden of proof.

    “90% of the population…” is an argument from popularity and the burden of proof lies with the one making the assertion. You and John have asserted that the supernatural exists.

    We seem to have not made much progress here.

    Maybe it would help if I said that I don’t believe there’s evidence to support the claim that astrology is true either. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t – let’s just say you don’t believe in astrology but your wife does.

    She asserts that astrology is true. What do you do?

    a. Reject her claim because of lack of evidence to support it and explain the lack of evidence, or
    b. Assert that astrology is false because…

    I’d like to hear you finish part b, because that’s what you’re trying to do here.

  31. Here’s my underlying assertion: Belief in the supernatural is sensible, obvious, and self-evident.
    You deny this assertion and claim that belief in the supernatural is not sensible, obvious and self-evident.

    Most people agree with my assertion. Now, on the one hand, you claim that I can’t use the argument from popularity – that the opinions of the majority don’t determine reality. I agree. But every example that I’m aware of, the “minority” demonstrates that they are correct by some sort of evidence. But you are saying that you (the minority) are correct, but that the burden of proof is on me (the majority). This works fine in some cases. The majority of people may think that antibiotics will cure a cold. But a doctor (in the minority) believes otherwise. What valid reason does he have for claiming his assertion (in the minority) is correct? Because he is claiming an intellectual superiority. And he has a valid claim for this superiority: He attended med school, and the majority of the population did not.

    Now, you are asserting that my logical faculties (and those of the majority of the world) are not quite up to snuff. In doing this, you are claiming some sort of intellectual superiority. You can’t be in the minority and then put the burden of proof on the majority unless you claim to somehow be an expert.

  32. “Underlying assertion”?

    Sensible – subjective statement of opinion.
    Obvious – subjective statement of opinion.
    Self-evident (evident without proof or reasoning) – obviously not.

    I do not “deny” anything. I reject the claim that you make that the supernatural exists because of lack of evidence.

    I am not asserting anything about your faculties. I am merely saying that your evidence for the supernatural does not support the claim. “Majorities” and “minorities” have nothing to do with the claim and do not support an argument either way.

    Seriously, dude, why are you having such a hard time with this?

  33. “I am not asserting anything about your faculties.”

    Oh, good. I’m glad we both agree that my beliefs are perfectly rational. (not provable – but RATIONAL.)
    I thought for a few minutes that you have been accusing me of incoherent thinking…

    My beliefs are rational. Your beliefs are rational. We have just came to different conclusions after looking at the same data. It happens all the time in science. Unfortunately, only one of us can be right.

  34. Z, I ran across an interesting quote from Charles Darwin. He writes: “I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine….”

    His quote is interesting to me because he clearly recognizes his bias. He lacks belief in Christianity IN SPITE of the knowledge that he has a real emotional REASON for his non-belief. You constantly claim that Christianity is mere “wish fulfillment”. I find Darwin’s comment to be refreshing because he (unlike you) is fully aware that this argument cuts both ways. We all have emotional reason for our belief – and for our lack of belief. We all form our worldviews by a mixture of rational thinking and emotional experiences.

    You CLAIM that your lack of belief is solely due to reason – that you have no emotional commitment to your lack of belief. But I find that assertion to be disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst. I find Darwin’s quote to be refreshingly honest in comparison.

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