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What Type of Evidence is Required to Believe Extraordinary Claims?

How many of us have said,  “I’ve been meaning to do [something], but [this] got in the way.”  I’ve been guilty of that many times, especially around the house.  I keep “meaning to,” but something else happens.

Wives are pretty forgiving here–or at least mine is.  Provided that [this] is reasonable, and not, “I just had to beat my high score at Yahtzee, and after 10 hours of rolling those dice, I finally did it!”

Supervisors at work are much less forgiving, even if [this] is extremely reasonable.  “I meant to get that paperwork faxed over, but four people called off for lunch rush and of the people that showed up, no one knew how to run the drive-thru register except for me!”  Those who have worked in fast food know that what I just said is a very legitimate reason for missing office work, but they also know that no district manager would actually accept that excuse.

In the world of blogging, “I’ve been meaning to write a post on [something], but [this] got in the way” has far less severe consequences than it does in the corporate world.  Usually, another blogger ends up writing the post, generally making the exact points that you would have raised.  Then comes the inevitable internal groan, “Why didn’t I just write the post sooner?”

Today, as I read over the usual blogs, I discover that the post I’ve been meaning to write on the so-stupid-it-burns talking point that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” has already been written by Dr. Randal Rauser.  Although I’ve disagreed with Dr. Rauser in the past, in this particular post he is 110% spot on.  This paragraph sums up my own points to people about this claim:

The problem starts with this: who decides what is “extraordinary”? Without an absolute, objective standard this principle collapses into “Anything that appears really implausible to me requires extraordinary evidence” and that in turn collapses into “No evidence will be good enough to convince me of something I find really implausible”. In other words, this is a recipe for an irrational dismissal of any evidence counter to what one already accepts.

Literally, all the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” talking point ever does is allow the atheist to dismiss with a simple hand wave anything that he doesn’t want to believe–the existence of God, the Resurrection, any miracle in the Bible, or whatever else they don’t want in their worldview.  All they need to do is class whatever their opponent says as “extraordinary,” and whatever evidence or argument offered in support as “not extraordinary.”  BAM!  Case dismissed faster than a pothead’s lawsuit on Judge Judy.

All that is required to believe any claim, extraordinary or not, is sufficient evidence.  Period.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on March 31, 2011, in Apologetics, God and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I use Bayes’ theorem to update my evel of acceptance of claims. With this background, and the phrase: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”:

    “extraordinary claims” are claims with a low priot probability
    “extraordinary evidence” = Pr(Data|Hypothesis)/Pr(Data) = the Bayes Factor

  1. Pingback: Talking Without Communicating « Josiah Concept Ministries

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