Intelligent Design

Off Topic: Why We Can Be Confident Bin Laden is Dead

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Last night the media erupted with news that Osama Bin Laden has been tracked down and killed by American forces. President Obama went on national television and proclaimed that Bin Laden is dead. I believe him. Why should I believe Obama? Because no one in their right mind would declare to be true that which can easily be proven false. Think about it. Radical islamists have an obvious interest in disproving the president’s claims, both to make Obama look like a fool and to encourage their followers. They have no interest in allowing the world to believe the Americans have won a major victory in the war on terror. Therefore, simple logic dictates that Obama would not make the claim unless he were absolutely sure it is true.

Now consider the case for Christ. In the months and years following the crucifixion Jesus’ disciples proclaimed that he was alive. I believe them, because, again, no one in their right mind would declare to be true that which can easily be proven false. The religious leaders of the time had a keen interest in stamping out the Christ cult. They hated Christ and his followers with a burning passion. All they had to do to bring Christianity to a screeching halt was to produce Jesus’ body. Having every interest and motivation to produce the body, they did not, which leads inexorably to the conclusion that they could not.

Now there appears to be two possible explanations for their failure to produce Jesus’ body: (1) A group of discouraged and frightened fishermen untrained in war overpowered a well armed Roman guard, rolled away the stone, took the body, and hid it. And to top off their feat every one of them (save one) died a martyr’s death for refusing to renounce a known lie. Or (2) there was no body to produce. Can anyone doubt that (2) is more plausible than (1) by several orders of magnitude?

I am unable to deny the resurrection. To do so requires a leap of blind credulous faith that I simply cannot manage.

20 Replies to “Off Topic: Why We Can Be Confident Bin Laden is Dead

  1. 1
    O'Leary says:

    Interesting .. .

    Recently, a commenter was asking me how I could know that the oral tradition of the Torah was not greatly changed over time.

    I pointed out that in an oral culture, oral memory must be exact. Consider genealogy, for example. It was hardly just a matter of vanity; it conferred rights and obligations, but like land titles today, it had to be exact in order to do so.

    I can’t prove that the Scriptures as handed down to us orally are authentic, except to say that the reciter was usually reciting to a crowd, many other members of which knew the text by heart themselves.

    I don’t know how many readers watch British cozies but there is one “Inspector Morse” mystery called “The Wolverton Tongue”, in which an Oxford prof is made to look a fool by an intensely irritating American woman who knows enough to correct his slips and errors during a talk.

    That sort of experience would, one supposes, be rather unwelcome to a Hebrew scribe.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    Not so off-topic.

    Here is Greenleaf in vol 1 of his treatise on evidence. (Those familiar with his Testimony of the Evangelists will find some very familiar statements, starting with Ch 1. Cf here.)

    Our evaluation of evidence, its best explanation, and of testimony or record relative to claimed facts, is very much a part of the ongoing debate on ID.

    I draw attention to how, after spending weeks loudly announcing how the CSI concept is meaningless, MathGrrl has been conspicuously absent on mathematically answering to the log reduction and examples of utility in a biological context discussed in the News Flash thread.

    She did return some days ago to make the usual dismissive talking points, but it is most interesting that now that specific math is on the table, and specific points for her to explain herself as to why she called a log reduction a probability calculation, we have seen only silence.

    Similarly, she has been conspicuously absent on the discussion of the facts regarding ev, as Mung has been bringing out.

    GEM of TKI

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    What if the story was invented 40 years or later after the events allegedly took place?

  4. 4
    mike1962 says:

    Denise: I can’t prove that the Scriptures as handed down to us orally are authentic, except to say that the reciter was usually reciting to a crowd, many other members of which knew the text by heart themselves.

    One problem with this line of thinking is that, if you assume the historicity of Ezra, the Torah was lost and nobody had any memory of it until Ezra produces a copy of it. Maybe it was cobbled together right then out of various source? This is what the Higher Critics allege.

  5. 5
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mike, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one is entitled to their own facts. There is not a shred of historical evidence for the “the disciples made it up in an effort to get themselves martyred for a lie” theory. It is, frankly, absurd on its face.

  6. 6
    Jonathan M says:

    Barry, I have inclined to be careful with this claim in my own argumentation relating to this topic.

    For the vast majority of the disciples, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly how they met their deaths. Most of the pertinent accounts come centuries later, are clearly legendarily embellished, and sometimes even conflict with one another on key points.

    I do, however, think one can make a very strong case for the martyr’s deaths of Peter, James the brother of Jesus, and Paul. So the argument does carry some merit, but my case does not primarily rest there.

    Mike is mistaken, I’m afraid. We have very good documentary evidence which strongly points to the claim that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead going back extremely early indeed.

    Please see my lengthy discussion of this topic here: http://jonathanmclatchie.wordp.....urrection/

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Though I think the scriptures more than stand up historically, archeology, even ‘legally’, I believe the best witness to the fact that Christ rose from the dead is from having a personal ‘spiritual experience’ from Christ. I know quit a few people have had life changing spiritual experiences. Myself my spiritual experience was not so dramatic as to ‘flood me with love’ as my brother experience was, but my experience was that Christ was there for me when I was at a very low point in my life. And even though I know many powerful evidences can be brought to bear on the validity of scriptures testifying to Christ rising from the dead, I find myself always finding a much surer comfort in the fact that Christ touched my life in a personal way than any ‘external’ evidence for Christ I may choose to defend.

  8. 8
    mike1962 says:

    Barry: There is not a shred of historical evidence for the “the disciples made it up in an effort to get themselves martyred for a lie” theory.

    I agree, but that’s not what I meant. I meant what if the whole thing is fictional story with fictional characters?

  9. 9
    Jonathan M says:

    Mike, this doesn’t work. See my article for a few of many reasons why.

    J

  10. 10
    Steno says:

    Is bin Laden’s death photo faked?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....CMP=twt_fd

    And now we don’t have a body can we ever be sure he died only recently?

    ‘Bornagain77’ is right, we are reliant upon spiritual revelation as well as evidence to confirm faith – all ‘facts’ are interpreted even photos can be doctored so well we can’t even be sure of their authenticity.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    Steno

    Look at the match between a common UBL photo and the bottom half of the face in the “death” photo.

    That photo is of dubious provenance, so it is not to be trusted.

    The deeply embarrassed Govt of Pakistan is supporting the report of the death of what now looks like a former guest (of certain factions in their security forces) in their country, living 1/2 mile from a major Military Academy in a large fortified compound that must have stuck out like a sore thumb. (Cf my clips here, esp the F/Ns.)

    In the mouth of two or three witnesses . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Also, for those wishing to spin dismissive tales on the NT accounts, I suggest a read of my online note on selective hyperskepticism [which is inevitably self-referentially incoherent], starting here, with a particular focus here — and noting here. (Go follow up the links to Greenleaf’s treatise; the PDF makes the best read of a heavily footnoted document, but is a fat download.)

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    relevant to my post at 7

    Extreme – Hole Hearted – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-h4A7bF8wQ

  13. 13
    tragic mishap says:

    I cried when I decided to be baptized.

    I guess that proves God is real.

    lol

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    tragic, like this;

    Born Again Third Day Christian Music
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aley9_d8vrE

  15. 15
    markf says:

    Imagine that instead of burying Bin Laden at sea the US military kept in the body in a secure compound for a few days (never mind why). To their surprise when the authorities go back 48 hours later the body has vanished. Al Qaeda claim that he is risen again. Would you believe Al Qaeda or would you be more inclined to suppose someone has removed the body in a manner not yet understood?

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    I’d be inclined to believe them.

    But what does that have to do with anything?

    I’m sure there were plenty of sceptics to the message the early Christians were preaching. I mean heck, who had EVER heard of someone rising from the dead? Who would be inclined to believe such a thing, period?

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    You of course have decided to suggest the long since demolished stolen body hypothesis for the case of JESUS OF NAZARETH. (Cf here for the fate of the classic Deist-style objections that have long since fallen on rather hard times.)

    It is worth the while responding to you — even though you have long since decided on the flimsiest rhetorical excuses not to respond to the undersigned — as it reveals the underlying problem of Greenleaf’s error of the skeptic [which I have descriptively labelled selective hyperskepticism], cf here (and note here in his treatise on evidence vol I).

    You have conveniently dodged the issue posed by Morison in his Who Moved the Stone; i.e. you need to account for the best explanation of the cluster of well established facts surrounding the death and burial of Jesus of Nazareth:

    ______________

    >> [N]ow the peculiar thing . . . is that not only did [belief in Jesus’ resurrection as in part testified to by the empty tomb] spread to every member of the Party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual centre of Judaea . . . and in the face of every impediment which a brilliant and highly organised camarilla could devise. And they won. Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish Church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had began to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire . . . . Why did it win? . . . . We have to account not only for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever growing stream of new converts . . . When we remember what certain highly placed personages would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not – how one desperate expedient after another was adopted to silence the apostles, until that veritable bow of Ulysses, the Great Persecution, was tried and broke in pieces in their hands [the chief persecutor became the leading C1 Missionary/Apostle!] – we begin to realise that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have been a silent, unanswerable fact. [Who Moved the Stone, (Faber, 1971; nb. orig. pub. 1930), pp. 114 – 115.] >>
    _______________

    Anyone can suggest a what if, the problem is to operationalise it. Bin Laden has not and will not, the C1 evidence is, Jesus of Nazareth did.

    So, what are you going to do about this unanswerable fact of the guarded, but empty tomb of a man crucified and speared to ensure death. With the separated blood and serum to show that he was in fact dead, a sign that was not understood at the time but was solemnly recorded. (So much for those who are projecting ideas of fictional narratives that are out of step with the fiction of the times, but closely fit with the patterns of eyewitness-based accounts.)

    And, remember, the tomb in question was in a known site, and the notion that the disciples — the boldest of whom fled at the word of a servant-girl — mounted a raid to steal the body then went out boldly to face persecution and bitter death [and hell thereafter . . . recall the apostolic declaration that the lake of fire has a reservation for liars] for a known lie, falls of its own weight.

    Then, compare the AD 55 record, on AD 35 – 38 eyewitness official summary report [and on 700+ AD highly specific and fulfilled prophecy], as to what really happened.

    My thought is that this case is an excellent test of whether one is open to factual evidence that points where one may not wish to go, on worldview commitment grounds.

    One’s response to this case therefore tells me a lot about how one is likely to respond to the evidence that chance plus necessity cannot account for functionally specific complex information and associated organisation, but intelligence routinely does so.

    And, I hardly need to reiterate that the proper comparison is not the rhetorically convenient strawman, natural vs supernatural; but, the longstanding actual proposition since Plato’s The Laws Bk X, 2,350 years ago: nature vs art.

    GEM of TKI

  18. 18
  19. 19
    vjtorley says:

    Markf (#15)

    Thank you for your post. In answer to your query: if 12 members of Al Qaeda were willing to undergo three decades of persecution, ridicule and ostracism in their home countries from their co-religionists, who declared them to be false Muslims for claiming that Osama bin Laden had come back to life, and if some of them subsequently proved their sincerity by being put to death in a very brutal, painful way that would bring only shame to them and their families, and that would cause their fellow Muslims to shun them, then, yes, I would be inclined to think that something genuinely supernatural had taken place – except that I’d ascribe it to demonic forces, given the character of the man in question.

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    …if 12 members of Al Qaeda…

    Perhaps there’s a reason we don’t see members of al qaeda preaching on street corners in Manhattan!

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