# What evidence is

While I disagree with almost everything Professor Larry Moran wrote in reply to my post, Is Larry Moran a conspiracy theorist?, he did at least ask a good question: what counts as evidence? In his latest post, he forthrightly declares:

I don’t know how to define “valid evidence” and I doubt very much if there’s anyone else who can offer a rigorous definition.

This post of mine is an attempt at such a definition.

Let’s begin with “valid evidence,” and defer for the time being the question of what constitutes good evidence. The question of what counts as valid evidence for a hypothesis was answered nearly 300 years ago, by the English statistician and clergyman Thomas Bayes (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia). Broadly speaking, we can define something as valid evidence (E) for a hypothesis (H) if renders H more probable. That is, E is valid evidence for H if the probability of H given E is higher than the prior probability of H before E is observed. The formula below expresses this very neatly:

where P(H|E) represents the probability of H given E, the quotient

expresses the impact of E on the probability of H, and P(H) stands for the prior probability of H, before E is observed. The quotient can be regarded as the level of support which E provides for H. So we can say that if the level of support is greater than 1 – or in other words, if the probability of the hypothesis increases in the light of evidence E – then E is valid evidence for H. It may not be good evidence, but it is at least valid evidence.

All right. But how do we define good evidence? That’s a trickier question. Before putting forward my answer, I’d like to make a few points.

First, evidence isn’t the same thing as proof. This should be so obvious that I shouldn’t have to point it out. However, one often hears skeptics asking believers in the supernatural or paranormal: “How can you be sure you’re not mistaken?” The short answer is that we can’t be absolutely sure. So what? In real life, very few things are absolutely sure, but we still make decisions on the basis of where the totality of the evidence points.

Second, good evidence for a hypothesis must render that hypothesis reasonably probable, in absolute terms. I won’t attempt to provide a precise definition for “reasonably probable, in absolute terms” (10%? 30%? 50%?), but I think we would all agree that 1% is not “reasonably probable.” To illustrate my poiint, let’s suppose that the prior probability of a hypothesis H is very low: 0.0001%, or 1 in 1,000,000. However, after new evidence E becomes available, the probability of H given E shoots up to 0.01%, or 1 in 10,000. In other words, the new evidence renders the hypothesis 100 times more likely to be true than it was previously judged to be. That’s a very high level of support, but even after we take the new evidence into consideration, the probability of the hypothesis is still very low in absolute terms: only 1 in 10,000. I certainly wouldn’t call that good evidence. The moral of the story is that a high degree of support for a hypothesis does not necessarily constitute good evidence for that hypothesis.

Third, good evidence for a hypothesis must provide a high level of support for that hypothesis, in addition to making it reasonably probable in absolute terms. To see why, let’s consider two pieces of evidence for a hypothesis. Before either piece of evidence becomes available, the prior probability of the hypothesis is rated at just 10%. The first piece of evidence raises the probability of that hypothesis from 10% to 50% – a 40% increase in absolute terms. The second piece of evidence raises the probability of the hypothesis from 50% to 90% – which is also a 40% increase. Which piece of evidence is better? I’d say the first, because it renders the hypothesis five times more probable than it was previously, whereas the second piece of evidence doesn’t even double the probability of the hypothesis.

Fourth, whenever we evaluate evidence, we need two or more competing hypotheses to evaluate it against. Thus when assessing evidence for a hypothesis, we need to not only ask how much it strengthens that hypothesis, but also to what degree it strengthens (or weakens) other, rival hypotheses. This is important, because a piece of evidence might be compatible with two different hypotheses, and might therefore strengthen both. The point I’m making here is that when deciding whether we need to revise our views about a hypothesis in the light of new evidence, we also need to look at the level of support it provides for other hypotheses. In statistical jargon, the likelihood ratio is what determines the effect of new evidence on the odds of one hypothesis, relative to another.

Fifth, when evaluating a hypothesis, we need to compare it with its most plausible rivals. It would be grossly unfair if I were to argue that because evidence E provides strong confirmational support for hypothesis A over rival hypothesis B, we should therefore adopt hypothesis A, without even considering the much more plausible hypothesis C. That would be intellectually dishonest. What this principle also entails, however, is that we can safely ignore rival hypotheses which are wildly implausible and which recieve little or no confirmational support from the new evidence. Skeptics who insist that we can never have enough evidence for the supernatural because there might always be some, unknown naturalistic hypothesis out there somewhere that can account for the same evidence, are therefore being unreasonably stubborn. As a general rule of thumb, I would suggest that when evaluating the likelihood of paranormal or supernatural claims, we should confine our attention to the top half-dozen or so naturalistic rival hypotheses. If these all turn out to be duds, then it’s prudent to conclude (provisionally) that a naturalistic explanation isn’t available.

Sixth, when considering outlandish hypotheses (be they UFO abductions or miracles), we need to be able to quantify their improbability in advance, before we start looking at the evidence for these hypotheses. To do otherwise is intellectually dishonest. For instance, let’s suppose that John Smith says he’d believe in UFO abductions if he could actually film one on videocamera, and then lo and behold, one takes place in front of him while his videocamera is rolling. For a moment, Smith considers revising his belief that UFO abductions never happen, but then he recalls Sagan’s dictum that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and decides that his video evidence isn’t extraordinary enough: after all, he might have been under hypnosis while witnessing the alleged abduction, and some prankster might have mischievously slipped a fake video into his videocamera. Smith’s fatal error here was that he didn’t attempt to quantify the prior probability of a UFO abduction before recording the event. If he had, he would have been able to resolve his epistemic dilemma: should he revise his beliefs after recording the abduction on video, or shouldn’t he?

Finally, no general hypothesis positing the existence of occult or supernatural agents should be assigned a prior probability of less than 1 in 10^120 (that’s one followed by 120 zeroes). This fraction can be considered as the “floor probability” for bizarre hypotheses of a general nature. Why? Because 10^120 has been calculated by Seth Lloyd as the number of base-level events (or elementary bit-operations) that have taken place in the history of the observable universe. Each non-bizarre (or “normal”) event can be considered as prima facie evidence against any general hypothesis appealing to occult or supernatural agents, and since the number of “normal” events occurring during the history of the observable universe is limited, the cumulative weight of the prima facie evidence against paranormal or supernatural phenomena is also limited. Using Laplace’s sunrise rule, we can say that given a very large number N of normal events and no abnormal events, the prior probability we should assign to the proposition that the next event we observe will be an abnormal one is 1/N, or in this case, 1 divided by 10^120. (Please note that I’m talking only about general hypotheses here: a more specific hypothesis, such as a madcap alien abduction scheme launched by water-people from the planet Woo-woo, will of course have a much lower antecedent probability than the general hypothesis that there are aliens of some sort, out there somewhere, who occasionally abduct humans; consequently evidence for the former hypothesis will have to be more stringent than evidence for the latter.)

Summing up: we can define good evidence for a hypothesis as evidence which provides strong confirmational support for that hypothesis, and which renders that hypothesis reasonably probable (but not certain), when evaluated against its most plausible rivals. And when evaluating bizarre (paranormal or supernatural) hypotheses of a general nature against their naturalistic rivals, the prior probability we should assign to the former is no lower than 1 in 10^120. (Indeed, some people might want to assign a higher floor of 1 in 10^20 for bizarre hypotheses, on the grounds that the number of events that could have been witnessed by the 100 billion-odd people who have ever lived over the course of their billion-second lives is only about 10^20, but we’ll waive that point here.)

We can now address the arguments in Professor Moran’s latest post. Let’s begin with vaccines.

Is the HPV vaccine Gardasil dangerous?

Professor Moran writes:

A few weeks ago the Toronto Star (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) published a front page article on the dangers of Gardasil, a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) that’s recommended for adolescent girls. The article highlighted a number of anecdotal stories about girls who had developed various illnesses and disabilities that they attributed to the vaccine. The reporters thought this was evidence that the vaccine had serious side effects that were being covered up by the pharmaceutical industry…

It’s not hard to see where [reporters] David Bruser and Jesse McLean went wrong. They assumed that anecdotal evidence, or personal testimony, was evidence that Gardasil had serious side effects. They assumed this in spite of the fact that scientists and philosophers have been warning against this form of reasoning for 100 years. They assumed it in spite of the fact that there was abundant scientific evidence showing that Gardasil was safe. And they assumed it without bothering to investigate the stories.

Professor Moran is right, but for the wrong reason. To see why, let’s suppose that there were a number of stories in the press about girls living near a nuclear power plant, who had developed various mysterious illnesses. We would not be in the least reassured by government officials appearing on television and declaring that there was abundant scientific evidence showing that nuclear power plants were safe (even though in fact there is). Nor would we be impressed if these politicians pooh-poohed the press stories as anecdotal. If the illnesses were odd enough, and numerous enough, we’d tell the officials, “The incidence of rare illnesses among girls living near nuclear reactors constitutes striking evidence, which is not easily explained except by the hypothesis that the nuclear power plants are making the girls sick. Get up off your lazy backsides, and go and have a look!” (That’s how people talk to politicians in Australia, which is where I’m from.)

It’s true that correlation does not imply causation, and in the case described above, there might be some other cause at work: perhaps, by sheer coincidence, the nuclear power plants in the areas where the outbreaks have occurred are all located near toxic coal-fired power plants, which are really causing the illnesses. But a sufficiently strong correlation usually does imply the presence of a causal link. The question we then need to answer is: what kind of causal link?

Professor Moran evidently appreciates this point, for he continues:

Now, it’s possible that accumulating stories like those will eventually lead to further investigation and the discovery that there are, indeed, some rare side-effects that went undetected in the initial studies. When that happens, we will have evidence. But as long as there are better explanations for those stories they are not evidence of a serious problem with the vaccine.

Exactly. The critical question here is not: can we trust anecdotal evidence? Rather, the question we need to answer is: is there a hypothesis which better explains the evidence?

Did a man levitate in the seventeenth century?

Professor Moran then attempts to discredit the evidence I brought forward of a man known as St. Joseph of Cupertino, who levitated in the seventeenth century:

Torley says that there’s evidence of miracle and this is evidence of god(s). His “evidence” consists of reports by eighteenth century theologians that thousands of people witnessed St. Joseph of Cupertino flying through the air.

I reject the notion that this constitutes evidence that St. Cupertino could actually fly. There are far better explanations for the reported observations; namely, that they aren’t true. One of the characteristics of valid evidence has to be whether the purported explanation is a logical conclusion from the observation. In this case, is it more reasonable to assume that thousands of people saw St. Cupertio fly or is it more reasonable to assume that they all just imagined it, or that the second-hand reports are untrue? …

I don’t believe that St. Cupertino actually flew around parts of Italy in the 1600s because there are much more reasonable explanations for the reports that have been written.

Let’s begin with Moran’s statement: “There are far better explanations for the reported observations; namely, that they aren’t true.” Sorry, but that’s not an explanation of anything. At the very least, an explanation of an alleged supernatural event would have to acccount for why the witnesses thought they had seen something supernatural.

Moran then proceeds to disparage the miracle reports by referring to them as “second-hand” and by alleging a time-lag of 100 years between the events described and the earliest reports of them. But it turns out that a biography of St. Joseph of Cupertino was written as early as 1678, a mere 15 years after his death in 1663. In my last post, I also mentioned that there were thirteen volumes in the Vatican Archives, containing “numerous testimonies of witnesses (including princes, cardinals, bishops and doctors) who knew St Joseph personally and in many cases were eyewitnesses to the wonderful events of his life.” By definition, eyewitness testimony is first-hand, not second-hand.

I then quoted from an article by a modern biographer, Michael Grosso, who summarized the evidence for the levitations as follows;

The records show at least 150 sworn depositions of witnesses of high credentials: cardinals, bishops, surgeons, craftsmen, princes and princesses who personally lived by his word, popes, inquisitors, and countless variety of ordinary citizens and pilgrims. There are letters, diaries and biographies written by his superiors while living with him. Arcangelo di Rosmi recorded 70 incidents of levitation; and then decided it was enough…

…[T]he Church progressively tried to make him retreat to the most obscure corners of the Adriatic coast, ending finally under virtual house arrest in a small monastic community at Osimo. There was no decline effect in Joseph’s strange aerial behaviors; during his last six years in Osimo he was left alone to plunge into his interior life; the records are unanimous in saying that the ratti (raptures) were in abundance right up until his dying days. The cleric in charge of the community swore that he witnessed Joseph levitate to the ceiling of his cell thousands of times.

To repudiate the evidence for Joseph’s levitations would be to repudiate thirty-five years of history because the records of his life are quite detailed and entangled with other lives and documented historical events. We would have to assume colossal mendacity and unbelievable stupidity on the part of thousands of people, if we chose to reject this evidence.

In order to maintain that there are no first-hand reports of St. Joseph of Cupertino’s levitatiosn, Professor Moran would have to maintain that there was a conspiracy on a colossal scale, involving hundreds or even thousands of eminent people who were prepared to perjure themselves by giving sworn testimony of a miracle they knew never happened. And in order to maintain that “they all just imagined it,” as Moran supposes, one would have to maintain that thousands of hallucinations took place, involving thousands of people at many different locations. The problem with both hypotheses is that their antecedent (or prior) probability is even lower than the prior probability of a miracle occurring, which (as I argued above) can be no lower than 1 in 10^120. For instance, let’s suppose that the prior probability of a large crowd of people all imagining that they saw a person levitate in the air for several hours (as St. Joseph is alleged to have often done) is 1 in 1,000, or 1 in 10^3. That’s a very generous estimate, as there are no similar reports of mass hallucinations ever having occurred, anywhere in the world, over a period of hours and under normal viewing conditions. Since the sightings took place on many different occasions at different locations, and involved different people, we can treat them as independent events – which means we can multiply their probabilities. Thus we can calculate that the probability of 40 such independent sightings is 1 in (10^3)^40, or 1 in 10^120. Since there were in fact thousands of sightings, the combined probability of these hallucinations having occurred is far, far lower than the threshold probability of 1 in 10^120, that we assigned to a miracle.

To be sure, one might hypothesize the existence of some unknown common cause for all of these independent sightings – for instance, high levels of cosmic radiation hitting the Earth (and especially Italy) in the seventeenth century. But as we saw above, the appeal to unknown causes is intellectually obstinate. We have to make up our minds, based on the evidence available to us. That means we might be wrong, of course. But that’s an epistemic risk we have to take. The alternative is intellectual paralysis.

Professor Moran also asks why “only Roman Catholic priests … can fly and why haven’t there been any sightings in modern times.” But I nowhere claimed that this miracle constituted evidence for the truth of any particular religion; I merely cited it as evidence for the supernatural. As for levitation sightings occurring in modern times, Professor Moran should be aware that there have been reports of more recent sightings, although the quality of the evidence for these levitations is nowhere near as good as the evidence relating to St. Joseph of Cupertino. I focused on him, simply because he was my best case. (There have also been reports of levitations associated with other Catholic mystics, as well as spiritualists and Indian yogis.)

The origin of life

In response to evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin’s peer-reviewed estimate of the probability of life originating anywhere in the observable universe as 1 in 10^1,018, Professor Moran comments:

Eugene Koonin’s calculations are silly. I have no idea how to discuss them.

I don’t know how life originated. That statement gets me in trouble with many defenders of evolution because they think it concedes too much to the creationists. Frankly, I don’t care. It’s the truth and we need to be up front about it. Just because we don’t know doesn’t mean that a naturalistic origin of life is impossible. On the contrary, everything we do know is consistent with a spontaneous, natural, origin of life. It looks to me like it was a very rare event but it’s a big universe…

Life on Earth began about 3.5 billion years ago. It is not evidence of god(s)

The fact that a qualified biochemist has “no idea how to discuss” Dr. Koonin’s calculations, which passed a panel of four peer-reviewers, speaks volumes. It means that Moran has no alternative naturalistic hypothesis. Moran might respond that we had no naturalistic hypothesis for magnetism either, until the late nineteenth century. But even people in ancient times knew the cause of magnetism: they knew, for instance, that pieces of a rock called magnetite attracted shepherds’ iron staffs. Moreover, magnetism was an everyday occurrence. By contrast, we know of no adequate cause for the origin of life, and as far as we know, it occurred only once in the history of the universe: 3.5 billion years ago. In this case, it is not rational to infer that life had a natural origin; it is an article of faith.

The fine-tuning argument

Professor Moran writes:

The universe may not be as “fine-tuned” as most creationist believe. Anyone who has read Victor Stenger will know that it’s not an open-and-shut case [Fine-tuned Universe]. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the universe is “moderately-tuned for life as we know it.” We don’t know how many other kinds of universe are possible and we don’t know how many different kinds of life are possible…

It seems to be extraordinarily difficult for believers to grasp the essence of the “puddle argument” described by Douglas Adams [Here’s the relevant quote from Adams: “…Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'” – VJT.]

As I stated in my last post in response to Professor Moran, cosmologist Luke Barnes’ online essay, The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life amply refutes Victor Stenger’s arguments. It is thus reasonably certain that our universe would be incapable of supporting life if its fundamental parameters were even slightly different. This inference would remain valid, even if it turned out that there were other, unknown values of the constants of Nature which would allow universes very different from our own to support life. All that the fine-tuning argument claims is that a lifeless universe would have resulted from fairly minor changes in the forces etc. with which we are familiar. That in itself is a highly remarkable fact, as the philosopher John Leslie explained, using his now-famous “fly-on-the-wall” analogy: “If a tiny group of flies is surrounded by a largish fly-free wall area then whether a bullet hits a fly in the group will be very sensitive to the direction in which the firer’s rifle points, even if other very different areas of the wall are thick with flies.”

Adams’ puddle analogy completely misses the point, because the puddle of water would still be a puddle, even if its shape were slightly different. It just wouldn’t be the same puddle, that’s all.

I will stop here, and let Professor Moran have the last word in this exchange, if he wishes.

## 68 Replies to “What evidence is”

1. 1
kairosfocus says:

VJT,

yet another well thought through discussion. Though, I fear it is going to fall on some deaf ears; a pity.

I draw attention again to the following from Simon Greenleaf’s Treatise on Evidence, Vol I ch 1:

Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.

Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.

The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.

The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.

The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

If the sort of selective hyperskepticism you are seeing were applied across the board science, law, courts, management and general common sense guided conduct would collapse.

That is already a sign that something has gone deeply wrong.

Of course, we now too often see the notion that an aphorism popularised by Sagan allows us to take hyperskeptical liberties with evidence that is inconvenient for the now so boldly presented a priory evolutionary materialist scientism you are challenging. That is little more than willfully obtuse question-begging. So, instead a sounder approach would be to acknowledge that prejudice and hyperskepticism should be set to one side and that reasonable and adequate evidence should be shown some respect.

At least, by the reasonable.

And of course, on levitation, I must point out that there are enough witnesses around and there is enough record that there should be no doubt that it is real. Of course, in my own experience, I have reason to acknowledge that the source of such can be suspect, and I am acquainted with a case where the greater miracle being witnessed was in suppressing the degree of levitation and then breaking the hold of destructive forces.

Last but not least, your discussion has direct bearing on hyperskepticism in response to the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth; underscoring to me the sheer unreasonableness of far too many who indulge in such dismissiveness.

Those indulging such should take sober pause as they ponder the implications of the elevatorgate scandal.

These speak inadvertent volumes, and of course have bearing on attitudes to evidence supportive of the design inference relative to the world of life and the fine tuned cosmos.

In short, simple terms: ah shekkin’ mah head, mon!

KF

2. 2
Mark Frank says:

VJ

Do you really believe that St. Joseph of Cupertino flew through the air? When I am told of anecdotes like this my reaction is to giggle. The fact that professional magicians such as Derren Brown can create repeatable mass illusions shows that there are explanations for people thinking they saw him fly which are within our everyday experience and therefore far more plausible.

3. 3
kairosfocus says:

MF, are you prepared to infer that thousands of eyewitnesses had collective hallucinations and/or that people on both sides of major controversies of that time joined together in a conspiracy that has not fallen apart? If so, why? KF

PS: From my perspective of direct knowledge that levitation happens (and the direct knowledge was a big surprise to me –> and there was no question of an illusionist being at work so that talking point falls apart), including in fairly public situations [cf. 1 above and note Greenleaf in so doing], I find the hyperskeptical dismissive reactions to evidence and reasoning illuminating of a familiar mindset and illustrative of how it can easily end in error . . . potentially including very costly error.

4. 4
Mark Frank says:

KF

are you prepared to infer that thousands of eyewitnesses had collective hallucinations

Actually it was about 150 people who reported seeing him fly at different times in his life. This kind of series of hallucinations is quite possible (certainly more plausible than him defying the laws of physics). However, I am more inclined to think it was people embellishing a good story, telling what others wanted to hear, or a combination.

5. 5
RodW says:

VJT,

A worthy effort*. But I’m inclined to think we shouldn’t split hairs when it comes to defining ‘evidence’. I think any information we get is evidence for something.
For example, suppose a coworker comes to you having just been outside and casually tells you that a Tyrannosaur is outside the building eating people. The evidence you now have that a T Rex is outside is not zero, its slightly higher than zero. You dismiss it immediatly of course because its inconsistent with everything you know about that world. The possibility that your coworker is lying, joking or hallucinating is consistent with that you know about the world so you immediately conclude that.
One could say that something isn’t evidence at all when its completely causally disconnected from the thing its supposed to support. So if a 3rd coworker said the statement about the TRex was evidence that the US should build the Keystone pipeline one could say that isn’t evidence at all.

I think when people object to the evidences given for God it think its because those evidences fall into either of those 2 categories. They aren’t evidence at all, or, there is a far better explanation that doesn’t involved God.

*I’m at work and only had time to skim it. I’ll read the whole lunch during my lunch hour!

6. 6
Starbuck says:

There’s a difference between scientific evidence and evidence, anecdotes are pretty weak as far as evidence goes.

7. 7

Vincent,
Nice post. A few quibbles. Seth Lloyd’s calculation of information assumes every photon and every proton is independent of everyone else. He calculates the number of combinations of particles. If on the other hand, all the particles are correlated, if the number of relationships between particles matter, then he should have calculated the permutations of particles, which is not 10^120, but 10^(10^120), as Roger Penrose specifies.

If this is the case, then you should use a different argument for your upper bound of “natural vs supernatural”. And in fact, I find the distinction far too parochial. All those “supernatural” events can be explained if objects are not locally defined and determined. That is, if there are “spooky-action-at-a-distance” forces, forces which act globally rather than locally, then supernatural is indistinguishable from “tractor-beams” and other staples of SciFi. Democritus and Epicurus, when putting together their anti-supernatural screed, carefully argued that all forces had to be transmitted by collision with particles. And following their footsteps, we have 2500 years of “only local forces permitted” in materialist circles.

THis is why magnetism (discussed by Titus Lucretius Carus in 50BC) and gravity have been two of the favorite counter-examples to materialist anti-supernaturalism. Faraday (a theist) received great contempt for introducing magnetic fields (B-fields) as an invisible, action-at-a-distance mechanism. Maxwell made them fashionable to materialists, just as Einstein made gravity fashionable too. Today we are working out the quantum entanglement “spooky-action-at-a-distance” effects too. But we should not forget that all three of these well-accepted scientific concepts violate the materialist anti-supernatural axiom, and are candidates for “supernatural”.

So St Joseph could have been using gravity waves, magnetic effects, or QM entanglement to achieve his levitation, and it would not be supernatural–except by Moran’s materialist measures.

In conclusion, both the 10^120 number and the definition of “supernatural” reject coherence, reject global forces, reject teleology and purpose. So when using them in an argument, one must be very aware of who defined them and why.

-yours
Rob

8. 8
Mark Frank says:

Actually the Seth Lloyd argument for a minimum probablity is patently wrong. There are an infinite number of mutually exclusive conceivable supernatural hypotheses (if nothing else take the n hypotheses: There are n Gods responsible for the event) so they can’t all have p > e however small e may be.

9. 9
bFast says:

Wow your analysis is complicated. For starters, I fundamentally disagree with point 4, “Fourth, whenever we evaluate evidence, we need two or more competing hypotheses to evaluate it against.” We absolutely do not, though this is the claim I hear so often from evolutionists. They begin by philosophically dismissing the ID hypothesis, then charge that our evidence against evolution doesn’t count because it doesn’t have an alternative.

If I am in court, charged with murder, all I must do to have the charges dismissed is to prove that I could not possibly have done it (I was in Cleveland at the time.) I do not have to provide any hypothesis of who did do it.

I think the whole thing can be simplified drastically.

First is the veracity of the the evidence. Does the evidence stand up to scrutiny?

Second is the class of evidence — does this evidence support an hypothesis (positive evidence) or does it challenge an hypothesis (negative evidence). Admittedly, most pro-ID evidence actually primarily challenges the neo-Darwinian view rather than directly supporting the ID view.

Please understand that both positive and negative evidence is very valuable. A lot is made of “falsification”, which references negative evidence. Falsification, however, has (should have) no need for an alternative hypothesis. If an hypothesis is falsified, it is false. If that leaves us in the state of “I don’t know”, well, so be it.

The third factor is simply “how strongly does this evidence support or damn the hypothesis?” If a piece of evidence is clearly valid, and if the evidence is positive, it doesn’t go very far in the direction of supporting an hypothesis if it in ancillary. Alas, in my view much of the supposed evidence supporting neo-Darwinism is rather ancillary, such as the famous finches.

As far as your “Finally, no general hypothesis positing the existence of occult or supernatural agents should be assigned a prior probability of less than 1 in 10^120” assertion, I just don’t get it. I understand that a major problem with the “supernatural agents” assertion is the challenge of trickery. If I understand Chris Angel correctly, he exclusively uses trickery. However, if he wanted to convince people of that he uses supernatural powers, his trickery is plenty good enough that he could do so.

However, consider the “big foot” claim. We see grainy footage of “big foot”. We gather footprints. Some are very much convinced of big foot’s existence. Most of us are not. We somehow believe that there are no huge ape-like creatures roaming our forests undiscovered.

That said, the Gorilla was first described in the 5th century. Yet is was not until 1847 when bones (including a skull) were found that Gorilla lost its mythical status. (http://listverse.com/2010/04/1.....-mythical/). Seems that “big foot” is very real in Africa.

Certainly we each have different believability thresholds — especially when it comes to a “supernatural” explanation. It is clear to me that many have their threshold of believability set far beyond 1 in 10^120. Many are very good at dismissing supernatural evidence on philosophical grounds alone. They simply never examine the evidence.

That said, most importantly, we must realize that negative evidence must carry heavy weight. If our hypothesis cannot be valid, it is not, even if there is no other hypothesis to explain it.

10. 10
Evolve says:

Vincent is at it again!
Modern day magicians can trick thousands of people into believing what they’re seeing. It is entirely possible St. Joseph did the same in the 17th century. Eyewitness accounts are simply not enough to deem his levitation a miracle.

And you’re totally wrong on the fine-tuning argument, Vincent. You’re assuming teleology – that life is such a remarkable event that the universe had to be tuned to produce it. No, as per theory there could have been equally remarkable or even more remarkable events had the physical constants been different. There’s no reason to assume that this current universe and life are special.

It is just like your birth. Countless other humans – all unique in their own right – could have come into existence from your ancestors’ unions. But by sheer chance only Vincent Torley emerged, all other possible humans never materialized. Now it would be fallacious to claim Vincent Torley is so special that somebody fine-tuned his ancestors’ gametes to produce him. That’s what you’re doing with the universe too. This is just one among countless possible universes, and life is a mere fallout, a mere consequence of the way the universe ended up being. Life is fine-tuned to the universe and not vice-versa.

Koonin’s origin of life odds are meaningless too.
If there are 1 million lottery tickets in a draw, what’s the probability of each ticket winning? 1 in 1 million. Pretty steep. But when one ticket eventually wins, will you claim that the probability is so steep that it couldn’t have happened by chance? It’s rubbish. Improbable events will happen all the time.

11. 11

Evolve,

naturalistic origin of life is not an improbable event, it is an impossible event. Chance and necessity cannot create in principle the organization of life. Randomness and laws are unable to produce function/task hierarchies, control/regulation, symbolic processing, signal communication between sub-systems, all things pertaining to real organization.

You should open your eyes and finally understand that organization can be created only by intelligence. In a single word, you should… evolve. 🙂

12. 12
bFast says:

Evolve, ” No, as per theory there could have been equally remarkable or even more remarkable events had the physical constants been different.”

I had a major chat with a theoretical physicist on this topic. He seemed to disagree with you. It appeared to his Ph.Dness that slight changes in the constants would have produced what you might call a non-environment. Either matter itself would not coalesce at all, or it would all lump together into a big cold blob, or in some other radical way it wouldn’t just turn into a nice little environment with different chemical characteristics.

His view seems totally consistent with everything I have read on the topic so far.

Please provide me with data that suggests that my Ph.D. friend is full of it.

13. 13
jw777 says:

What an exceptionally well drawn out terms of engagement.

There does always seem to be some level of hypocrisy in arguments over valid evidence and good evidence.

I’d like if you could perhaps give a short discussion on how a “flying miracle” is actually much more likely given the rules of evidence and that it abrogates no repeatedly established a priori demands, than, say, abiogenesis, which is not only never reported, but runs counter to physical laws and has been consistently refuted with every attempt to make it so, even attempts directed by scientists’ minds.

14. 14
Graham2 says:

So, Vincent: Do you believe man can fly ?

15. 15
16. 16
Graham2 says:

VJT: I take it all back. Its on youtube: all you need are magnetic shoes. Im converted.

17. 17
kairosfocus says:

MF, 150 people who reported (presumably in writing or otherwise on record) is not equal to the number who — per the same records in aggregate — witnessed the events, which were a national and continent-wide sensation. Further to this, such was about as close to Hume as WWI has been to us in recent decades, i.e. it puts a fresh and unflattering light on Hume’s assertions and confidently dismissive manner. Far more appropriate is Babbage coming on a century yet later in the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, who uses cumulative likelihood of collective but independent testimony to decisively undermine Hume’s dismissive suggestion that the most implausible naturalistic alternative is always superior to the straightforward conclusion that a miracle was witnessed. Which of course VJT has outlined. KF

PS: As one who has seen the comparable personally under circumstances that rule out illusion [and in the presence of other witnesses in a semi-public situation comparable to what VJT describes], I find it illuminating to see how determined objectors fall into error once miracles including answers to prayer are on the table. (Onlookers, absent a miracle of guidance in answer to prayer of surrender, I would not be here.)

18. 18
kairosfocus says:

Starbuck: I find an interesting tendency to take the statistical concept of “anecdotes” out of context, by inappropriately using this term to dismissively relabel testimony of eyewitnesses or record of such. Again, this easily becomes selective hyperskepticism, as I noted on in 1 above; e.g. are you prepared to dismiss the testimony of the women in the “elevatorgate” scandal as mere anecdotes, and if so why, if not why not and how does that relate to other cases of relevance. I point out, the testimony of just one reliable, credibly truthful witness can be utterly decisive. The cumulative testimony of multiple credible witnesses can be all but absolutely certain, and absolutely, here, is reserved for something like undeniably true self evident truths of the order of “error exists.” KF

PS: I think we need to bring back on the table the concept of moral certainty.

19. 19
kairosfocus says:

F/N: A few thoughts on cosmic-scale blind needle in haystack search.

Our observed cosmos has in it some 10^80 atoms, and a good atomic-level clock-tick is a fast chem rxn rate of perhaps 10^-14 s. 13.7 bn y ~10^17 s. The number of atom-scale events in that span in the observed cosmos is thus of order 10^111.

The number of configs for 1,000 coins (or, bits) is 2^1,000 ~ 1.07*10^301.

That is, if we were to give each atom of the observed cosmos a tray of 1,000 coins, and toss and observe then process 10^14 times per second, the resources of the observed cosmos would sample up to 1 in 10^190 of the set of possibilities.

It is reasonable to deem such a blind search, whether contiguous or a dust, as far too sparse to have any reasonable likelihood of finding any reasonably isolated “needles” in the haystack of possibilities. A rough calc suggests that the ratio is comparable to a single straw drawn from a cubical haystack ~ 2 * 10^45 LY across. (Our observed cosmos may be ~ 10^11 LY across, i.e. the imaginary haystack would swallow up our observed cosmos.)

Of course, as posts in this thread amply demonstrate the “miracle” of intelligently directed configuration allows us to routinely produce cases of functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information well beyond such a threshold. For an ASCII text string 1,000 bits is about 143 characters, the length of a Twitter post.

So, I find myself comfortable with the conclusion that if likelihood of a collective error is significantly worse than 1 in 10^120 or 150 or the like, it is far more plausible to accept the testimonies as accurate than the opposite. Actually, that kicks in long before that, I would generally accept good lottery odds. That is, I would not bet a significant sum — one that, if lost, would hurt — on a million to one long shot, unless the clear alternative was worse.

But then, for years I have refused to go south of the Nantes River line into Salem village on the banks of the Belham here (a radial valley running back to the dome that has grown outside the crater wall of SH Volcano) unless I have VERY good reason; as the valley is the first one without significant deposits from the last major eruption generally held to be 10 – 20+ kya. But, hundreds of people live there.

I think we need to ask a few Pascal’s Wager, least regrets when it all comes out in the wash type questions.

As in, what are the serious alternatives on the table, what are the potential outcomes if we are right/wrong, and what options would be prudent given reasonable likelihoods, impacts of favourable/unfavourable outcomes, rapidity of onset, warning signs etc.

More or less, the sorts of things Jesus of Nazareth was getting at when he said, what is a man profited in the end if he has gained the whole world but lost his soul.

Some thoughts . . .

KF

20. 20
Mark Frank says:

There seems a lot of confusion about the Seth Lloyd figure. I think it almost meaningless but for what is worth:

1) It is only about the observable universe. It makes no claims about the number of possible events in the entire universe.

2) As Robert Sheldon points out in #7

if the number of relationships between particles matter, then he should have calculated the permutations of particles, which is not 10^120, but 10^(10^120)

3) It has no relationship to the number of conceivable explanations for an event which is infinite.

21. 21
kairosfocus says:

MF (& RS et al),

I would argue that once we go beyond the observable cosmos, we are beyond empirically anchored science and in the realm of metaphysical speculation; e.g. multiverse speculations. Even, if one wears a lab coat while doing that.

Second, while one may argue about Lloyd’s approach of a thought exercise of converting the cosmos into a computational entity and coming up with was it 10^90 elements doing 10^120 bit-wise computational steps, I think Abel’s approach of looking at observed atomic resources and developing plausibility limits for blind search processes on the gamut of earth, sol system and observed cosmos is much more accessible, more plausible and direct:

http://www.tbiomed.com/content/6/1/27

The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP)

David L Abel

Correspondence: David L Abel

Author Affiliations

Department of ProtoBioCybernetics/ProtoBioSemiotics, The Gene Emergence Project of The Origin of Life Science Foundation, Inc, 113-120 Hedgewood Dr Greenbelt, MD 20770-1610, USA

Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2009, 6:27 doi:10.1186/1742-4682-6-27

Accepted: 3 December 2009
Published: 3 December 2009

Abstract
Background

Mere possibility is not an adequate basis for asserting scientific plausibility. A precisely defined universal bound is needed beyond which the assertion of plausibility, particularly in life-origin models, can be considered operationally falsified. But can something so seemingly relative and subjective as plausibility ever be quantified? Amazingly, the answer is, “Yes.” A method of objectively measuring the plausibility of any chance hypothesis (The Universal Plausibility Metric [UPM]) is presented. A numerical inequality is also provided whereby any chance hypothesis can be definitively falsified when its UPM metric of ? is < 1 (The Universal Plausibility Principle [UPP]). Both UPM and UPP pre-exist and are independent of any experimental design and data set.
Conclusion

No low-probability hypothetical plausibility assertion should survive peer-review without subjection to the UPP inequality standard of formal falsification (? < 1) . . . .

[universe] 10^140

[galaxy] 10^127

[sol system] 10^117

[earth] 10^102

What I did just above is in the spirit of Abel’s calc.

It shows why a blind needle in haystack search of the config space of just 1,000 bits’ worth of possibilities is not a feasible proposition on the gamut of the observed cosmos. For the sol system, 500 bits comes down to a one straw to cubical haystack comparably thick to our galaxy’s disc search. Thus the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold.

Now, what this boils down to is a practical measure for when no plausible benefit can justify committing to hoping for a successful blind needle in haystack search under the gamut of resources in our sol system [10^57 atoms, 10^17 s, 10^14 steps/s each] or observed cosmos [10^80 atoms, 10^17 s, 10^14 steps each/s]. That is a practical, quite conservative threshold for effectively zero odds of success. In fact, long before such odds were on the table, any prudent person would not hazard something that would be painful to lose on a low likelihood of success venture.

In short, a red flag threshold.

So, the question on these origins science, design inference or is this credibly a reliable account of a miracle cases is first: what do we hope to gain on the venture we are undertaking? Second, what are we putting at stake on the venture? Third, if we are under a contingency that we are likely to lose, what warning signs and lead time do we have to cut losses? And, the like.

For me, the design inference on signs is not a high risk venture; my worldview or confidence that God is Creator and Just Lord do not pivot on it — after all, my life was saved by a miracle of guidance and I have come to know and be transformed personally by God as have many others of my direct acquaintance with millions by indirect knowledge. What is, is that I am looking at evidence on the merits and am committing myself to stand by the truth as I can see and warrant it, without regard to what is fashionable.

If I am wrong, I have little to lose other than needing to acknowledge error on finding that to be so. And, the trajectory of evidence and logic points the other way.

I find that others, committed to an evolutionary materialist view, are staking all on there being only a matter-energy, space-time reality with nothing beyond a physical cosmos in some form. Often . . . obviously not all, but often cf YouTube etc, with an angry and militant stridency in the face of any idea that we may live in a world created by God, a necessary and maximally great being, ground of morality and root of being.

Such a person — judging by the sort of intensity that is so often evident at say YouTube etc — may well be in the trap of escalating commitment in the teeth of any and all evidence to the contrary; perhaps, as the possibility of accounting for one’s life before such a Deity is daunting, and as such a one wishes to live by his or her own wishes.

I doubt that that is a mindset conducive to reasonable, objective, fair-minded evaluation.

To such a person, I would suggest that the God who is maximally great would be marked by redemptive, forgiving and transforming love — as I and many others have experienced well beyond our just desserts.

So, perhaps, one should set to one side the militant a priori materialist scientism and selective hyperskepticism and reconsider.

First, take FSCO/I, which is certainly a common characteristic of designed entities. Indeed it is much of what creates the intuitive appearance of design. Can you identify per reliable here and now observation, that the sort of blind chance and mechanical F = m*a necessity, needle in haystack search against such odds as were outlined, credibly has actually created FSCO/I?

A fair answer is, no; with quite literally [US sense] trillions of cases of FSCO/I as a sign or result of design.

On that strength, if one sees FSCO/I, one knows just one empirically reliable, known adequate cause, design. So, it is reasonable to apply vera causa and infer that cell based life and body plans — chock full of FSCO/I — are designed.

Now, that in itself — as design theorists have openly acknowledged for 30 years — does not locate such a designer as within or beyond the cosmos. A molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter et al could in principle account for what we see.

Beyond, I reflect on the evident fine tuning of the observed cosmos, which points to design of a world that sits at a locally deeply isolated operating point that facilitates C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life on terrestrial planets. Cf:

http://www.uncommondescent.com.....inference/

http://commonsenseatheism.com/.....gument.pdf

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxi.....4647v1.pdf

That does, to my mind, point to design by a designer beyond the cosmos, even through a multiverse speculation, as say the Leslie isolated fly on the wall swatted by a bullet analogy highlights. Likewise, that a Boltzmann brain world or the like is not what we are seeing.

Further to all of this, I find myself to be under the moral government of ought and that this is more reasonable to accept than the alternative that that sense is delusional, as that would let loose grand delusion in a mind without firewalls, undermining the whole world of rational thought and knowledge, including science. I observe that others are like that too. That points strongly to the reality of OUGHT thence a world-root IS that grounds OUGHT. For that here is just one serious candidate, the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, the root of reality.

Thus, on evidence and reason tied to it, I find ethical theism a satisfying and credible worldview.

And, I find that dismissiveness towards such evidence in aggregate is symptomatic of something that I find is not intellectually healthy, selective hyperskepticism.

So, that brings me full circle, to the issue, what are we betting, hoping to gain what, and what happens if we are wrong?

KF

PS: Those curious as to why I am specifically a Christian theist, may find here on in context helpful.

22. 22
kairosfocus says:

PPS: The number of reasonable, factually anchored and logically constrained, coherent and explanatorily balanced explanations conceivable by us will be much less than infinite, i.e. the search in the space of explanations is constrained by our finitude, fallibility and scope of resources accessible in our sol system. In fact, on major issues of the gamut of a scientific theory of origins or a worldview or a serious strategic decision on risking resources or the like, it is easy to see that the number of serious candidate explanations is quite limited, often a handful or less.

23. 23
Graham2 says:

So, KF: Do you think man can fly ?

24. 24
kairosfocus says:

G2, your problem is that sight unseen, you already have made your mind up to dismiss the possibility that someone — or actually, a group of witnesses in a semi-public situation — can see a genuine miracle. From my view, knowing what I saw [including things I have not disclosed and will not disclose] and the circumstances (which rule out illusionist tricks), I am able to evaluate the flaws in your thinking which lock out what you wish to disbelieve. I suggest you would be well advised to ponder the challenges and fallacies of selective hyperskepticism. KF

PS: Post Dec 17, 1903, men do fly, normally with the aid of machines. A supernatural event, however, will have nothing to do with normal human capacities and technology.

25. 25
RD Miksa says:

Just two quick comment, because I am writing from my cell-phone.

First, the ironic thing to note in terms of comments from the anti-super-naturalist side is how they fail to realize that their very own arguments undermine their own naturalistic position. Indeed, note their use of the poorly-formulated but often used mantra “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Note how this mantra is used to claim–in the context of this discussion–how it is apparently more rational to believe that hundreds of witnesses hallucinated or colluded or lied rather than believe that a man levitated. But the problem is, such an argument can be turned right back on the naturalistic. For example, consider that the biological realm reeks of the appearance of intentional design, as many naturalists themselves admit. But naturalists deny this and claim that neo-Darwinian evolution is reasonable. But this is an extraordinary claim. After all, just like with levitation, I have never seen one type of organism change into another type. I have never seen molecules change into animals than conscious men. But then the naturalists will say that scientists have looked at the evidence and have inferred that neo-Darwinian theory is the best explanation of the evidence at hand. But suddenly, I retort: What’s more likely, that molecules evolved into men without design, something that no one has ever seen, or that 1) the scientists are lying due to a naturalistic prejudice and/or that 2) scientists are mistaken about their inference, and/or 3) that the scientists are biased in favor of naturalism and this unconsciously skews their interpretation of the evidence, and/or that 4) all the scientists are colluded together to promote evolution to keep their jobs, and/or that 5) people are sometimes honestly mistaken in their inferential efforts and that is probably the case with these scientists, and so on and so forth. So, it is clearly more likely that their is a problem on the part of the scientists rather than that our uniform and repeated empirical evidence that species do not evolve into other species is wrong. And since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, I am perfectly rational to not believe in the extraordinary claim that is neo-Darwinian evolution.

Now, if a naturalist thinks that the above argument is ridculous, then he needs to explain why his argument against believing in levitate on the basis of hundreds of eye witnesses is not equally ridculous. Till then, the selective double standard that the naturalist is obviously using will remain glaringly obvious.

And my second point is just this: ideal eye-witness testimony is more powerful than scientific evidence and thus something may be scientifically inexplicable with current scientific knowledge, and yet perfectly rational to believe on the basis of sufficient eye witness testimony.

26. 26
Graham2 says:

KF: Im always amused to watch you (and others of the same mind) twist & squirm, but evade the question. You are just too embarrassed to give a straight answer, you cant say YES and you cant say NO.

27. 27
Me_Think says:

RD Miksa @ 25

Note how this mantra is used to claim–in the context of this discussion–how it is apparently more rational to believe that hundreds of witnesses hallucinated or colluded or lied rather than believe that a man levitated…
And my second point is just this: ideal eye-witness testimony is more powerful than scientific evidence and thus something may be scientifically inexplicable with current scientific knowledge, and yet perfectly rational to believe on the basis of sufficient eye witness testimony.

Thousands have witnessed Criss Angel levitate and walk on water. Do you think he has supernatural power?

28. 28
RD Miksa says:

Me_Think,

No, but not primarily because of scientific evidence, but rather because of eye-witness testimony…namely, the eye-witness testimony of Criss Angel who has specifically said that these are all magic tricks and that he has no such powers. Also, the eye witness testimony of numerous other people who testify that Criss Angel is a gifted magician, and thus he would be expected to perform such feats as an illusion. So it is testimony–namely, the testimony of the person that would know best, meaning Criss Angel–that is the evidence that demonstrates that these things are not occurring.

Furthermore, it is indisputable that the testimony of all those people makes it rational to believe that they observed Criss Angel levitate or walk on water. But then, when that testimony is combined with Criss Angel’s own testimony and past history, that factor than makes it more rational to believe that the best explanation of the event, when all the relevant testimony is considered, is that the people in question witnessed an illusion rather than the real thing.

But, as a counterpoint, if hundreds and thousands of people on a random beach suddenly witnessed a three year old (thus meaning he could not be a magician or used by one) walk out on the water, stand there for a few minutes and then levitate, and that many people saw it and testified to it…would I believe it? Absolutely (barring any indicators of fraud, etc.). That would be the only rational and common sense course of action.

29. 29
Graham2 says:

RD_M: Same question to you: Do you believe people can levitate ?

30. 30
Me_Think says:

RD Miksa @ 28

But, as a counterpoint, if hundreds and thousands of people on a random beach suddenly witnessed a three year old (thus meaning he could not be a magician or used by one) walk out on the water, stand there for a few minutes and then levitate..

St. Joseph of Cupertino was not a 3 years old child.
If Criss Angel hadn’t claimed he is a magician, would you believe he has supernatural power?

31. 31
Mung says:

What is the evidence for ID?

I don’t know how to define “valid evidence” and I doubt very much if there’s anyone else who can offer a rigorous definition.

Indeed.

Anyone who claims to doubt intelligent design on some supposed lack of evidence for intelligent design likely has no basis in either evidence or reason for their “skepticism.”

32. 32
RD Miksa says:

Provisionally, yes. Reason: The testimonial evidence is overpowering from numerous diverse, disconnected, and credible sources, thus making it rational to believe in. Furthermore, if I did not believe such evidence then I would be forced to equally reject numerous other beliefs which are absolutely extraordinary but which I am perfectly rational to believe and which I believe only on the basis of testimony (such as the extraordinary belief that the solid desk in front of me is really mostly empty space, which goes against all my experience and yet which I only believe on the basis of some scientists who have testified that this is so…and I can never go beyond their testimony into this, due to lack of time, resources, and skill, and yet, based on their testimony alone, I am quite rational to hold such a belief).

Now, a question for you: Would testimonial evidence ever be enough to make you believe in levitation? If so, how much? If not, why not?

33. 33
RD Miksa says:

Me Think,

Expand your thinking a bit. My point was that today, many adults are magicians and illusionists with devices and machines to make illusions seem real. But a three year could not fit such criteria. By the same token, at the time Joseph of Cupertino lived, the devices used to make illusions of such a nature occur were not available either. Hence why in both cases there is the similarity that a wide scale illusion could not be manufactured as it could be by an aduot magician today. Furthermore, there are other cases for levitation than just that one.

34. 34
RD Miksa says:

Me Think,

I have answered some of your questions, so now a questions for you: if thousands of people of diverse backgrounds and educations–atheists, naturalists, religious people, etc,– did see a three year old walk on water for a few minutes, then levitate, then walk on water again and there were no indications of fraud, what would you believe about that? Why?

35. 35
Graham2 says:

RD_M: I tend to lend a little more weight to a few hundred years of science and thousands, (millions?) of scientists who have never, never, observed, or had the slightest reason to suppose that walking on water, levitating, etc etc etc are possible. This sort of nonsense violates extremely basic assumptions such as conservation of energy, etc, that Im afraid the ‘eye witness’ accounts from long ago don’t sound very convincing. Its not that science must be obeyed, just where I would bet my money.

36. 36
Me_Think says:

RD Miksa @ 33

Expand your thinking a bit. My point was that today, many adults are magicians and illusionists with devices and machines to make illusions seem real. But a three year could not fit such criteria. By the same token, at the time Joseph of Cupertino lived, the devices used to make illusions of such a nature occur were not available either.

If you see a 3 year old levitate, you can be absolutely sure that there is an adult beyond the trick.
Street magic was more popular in ancient times. There were many magicians who used simple wire and dummies to do extraordinary tricks. There are a lot of cases of levitation in ancient times because people were more gullible. I can’t believe you are so naive.
The only levitation I believe in is Superconductor levitation.

37. 37
Graham2 says:

RDM: I didn’t actually answer your question. You are proposing a current event, which is completely different to an event observed many years in the past. Not the same thing. If its a current event, I would still be very sceptical. It could easily be a magic trick … how could I be sure its not the great Randi (in his heyday) ?

38. 38
Me_Think says:

RD Miksa @ 34

I have answered some of your questions, so now a questions for you: if thousands of people of diverse backgrounds and educations–atheists, naturalists, religious people, etc,– did see a three year old walk on water for a few minutes, then levitate, then walk on water again and there were no indications of fraud, what would you believe about that? Why?

I would ensure that the adult who put the child as an exhibit is arrested. Show me one such case.

39. 39
RD Miksa says:

Graham at 09:36,

Reference your comment: Perfect. And by argumentative parity, when it comes to neo-Darwinian evolution, I place more weight in the testimony of every single human being who have ever lived (including all scientists) and who have never seen one type of species evolve into another (nor have ever seen molecules evolve into man without guidance) rather than believe a comparatively few scientists who are biased and prejudiced in favour of naturlaistic explanations and, at best, simply making an inference about the evidence at hand, and could be lying, could be colluding, etc.

So.once again, as I said, the naturalists argument can be used against him to good effect. And in most cases, his only objection is essentially special pleading. As they say, what is sause for the goose is sauce for the gander.

40. 40
RD Miksa says:

Me Think at 09:38,

Hahahahaha…I am gullible? Lol! You are the one who is “absolutely sure” that any evidence of a three year old levitated would have an adult behind it. This is naturalistic gulliblity at its finest. An a priori dismissal of any possibility that the event could be genuine. This is hyper slective skepticism. It is a clear indication that you would not follow the evidence where it leads. It is literally laughable in.

Tell you what Me Think, answer this: a three year old is levitating. A thousand people,.including yourself walk up to him. You put your arms all around him. No cables. No pulleys. You check all around the area. No magicians. No cranes. No tricks. No magnets. Now, what do you believe?

41. 41
RD Miksa says:

Just FYI: I’m done for the night.

Thank you.

42. 42
vjtorley says:

Me_Think,

You write: “Thousands have witnessed Criss Angel levitate and walk on water. Do you think he has supernatural power?”

Here’s my answer: show me how a seventeenth century magician could have duped thousands into thinking that he was levitating in the air, several meters above ground, for hours on end and without any support such as a stick, and I’ll start taking your objection seriously.

43. 43
vjtorley says:

Robert Sheldon,

“Seth Lloyd’s calculation of information assumes every photon and every proton is independent of everyone else. He calculates the number of combinations of particles. If on the other hand, all the particles are correlated, if the number of relationships between particles matter, then he should have calculated the permutations of particles, which is not 10^120, but 10^(10^120), as Roger Penrose specifies.”

The number of permutations is actually 2^(10^120), but 10^(10^120) is close enough. The reason why I don’t use this number if that if we imagine embodied particle-sized intelligent beings scouring the cosmos from the moment of creation onwards, the maximum number of observations they could possibly make of naturalistic occurrences is 10^120, hence by Laplace’s sunrise argument, the prior probability they would rationally assign to a supernatural event would have to be 1 in 10^120.

I do agree, however, that God might have designed the universe with “occult laws” – e.g. if there’s an event E on Sirius A at time T then there will be another event F on Earth. Interesting thought.

44. 44
Me_Think says:

RD Miksa @ 40

Hahahahaha…I am gullible? Lol! You are the one who is “absolutely sure” that any evidence of a three year old levitated would have an adult behind it.

Yes, of course.

Tell you what Me Think, answer this: a three year old is levitating. A thousand people,.including yourself walk up to him. You put your arms all around him. No cables. No pulleys. You check all around the area. No magicians. No cranes. No tricks. No magnets. Now, what do you believe?

In such a case, I would definitely believe he was levitating. Where did you witness such a profound event, which led you to believe in levitation?

45. 45
Me_Think says:

vjtorley @ 42

Here’s my answer: show me how a seventeenth century magician could have duped thousands into thinking that he was levitating in the air, several meters above ground, for hours on end and without any support such as a stick, and I’ll start taking your objection seriously.

Here’s my answer: One way to ‘levitate’ would be contraption made of wood, hidden under cloth . See various levitation tricks here . You really believe that gravity can be counter balanced by an unknown supernatural upward force – for hours together? I am sure the levitating person can’t become superconductive, nor can the ground below become a Bitter solenoid. I wonder what other force would help in levitation – may be some 16th Century witchcraft book has the answer?

46. 46
kairosfocus says:

G2,

I find it sadly interesting and illuminating to see the underlying mentality surfacing.

Per track record, you presume a priori evolutionary materialism or the like, make Hume’s error, and now dismiss evidence regardless of adequacy.

Here is the point that undermines oh it’s extraordinary and can be dismissed: our eyes function to see what is in front of them, and under reasonable lighting will report with sufficient accuracy. As the illusionist cases and superman movies etc show, we are capable of seeing a human suspended in air. That is, we have adequate warrant to believe that our eyes are showing us such, and with a tutored eye can make reasonable visual distance estimates; for some with significant precision.

The question is the means of support.

Illusionists may be using strings not visible to the eye or the like.

But, there are other cases where illusionist tricks are not relevant.

I, who have actually and in the presence of others seen what you deem impossible [under circumstances where there were TWO miracles acting . . . the suppression and expulsion was the far more important (the wonder you stumble over was a manifestation of destructive oppression and the thus far and no further, of the hope of liberation . . . )], can see how the selective hyperskepticism leads you astray.

Likewise, and of far greater moment:

a: people routinely recognise their close friends at supper.

b: we can readily tell the difference between Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in succession.

c: betrayal, falling victim to cynically cruel judicial murder and death by execution are horrible realities that warn us of what can go wrong with political systems at the hands of the unjust.

d: victims of such political murders are often buried by family and friends.

e: we routinely recognise wounds when we see them.

f: ordinary people recognise implications, including of time sequences.

g: ordinary people are often at first skeptical, but will be responsive to adequate evidence, as in “old wives’ fables” reflecting an ancient prejudice . . . and the criterion of embarrassment which has a counter-intuitive impact).

h: witnessing the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (especially as it relates to the core 20+ witnesses) requires no extraordinary powers of observation or reasoning.

i: for, the substance lies in a timeline: supper I and betrayal Thursday, judicial murder Friday with burial, supper II Sunday following, supper III with the confrontation with Thomas the Sunday after that.

j: and, there is nothing to be deemed automatically wrong with the eyes of those who saw that same One rise from their midst and then vanish into the clouds of heaven, from whence He shall return “in like manner.”

k: And, Paul’s warning to the Areopagus c. 50 AD stands as true this day as ever in his time:

Ac 17:22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[d]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[e]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [recorded c. 62 AD]

Yes, the hyperskeptically mocking dismissal of Signs is of longstanding; here, in the teeth of 500 witnesses.

But from small, derided and scanty beginnings, the testimony of the gospel waxed strong and prevailed. The future did not belong to the mocking philosophers or cynical politicians, but to the apostle and his testimony backed up by power beyond what those philosophers or politicians dreamed of.

And BTW, just so G2, there are sufficient witnesses to what you think impossible that the gap between what is so breezily assumed and confidently declared impossible, and what people know by direct experience and reliable testimony or record, is one reason why evolutionary materialism cannot prevail no matter how much indoctrination and censorship are crammed into schools, museums and the media.

It is also why, the undermining of morality inherent in the want of an IS acceptable to evolutionary materialism capable of grounding OUGHT, will not ultimately prevail.

I only mention in passing, that the same evolutionary materialism is irretrievably self refuting and necessarily false, utterly undermining reason and knowing. The famous evolutionary theorist J B S Haldane had a sobering point when he went on record:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. ]

But of course, despite such grave defects, a priori evolutionary materialism dresses in the lab coat and demands our acquiescence, under false colours of “Science.”

Now, as I noted and as you sneered at, in literal answer humans fly through technology on a routine basis, esp. since Dec 17, 1903.

Humans do not naturally fly by themselves (as is such patent biological fact that the sneeringly smug question above is its own answer . . . we are not birds but men), but there are sufficient and sufficiently witnessed cases of supernatural levitation and translocation that a reasonable and unbiased person will not find the massively public and massively recorded case of Fr Joseph utterly unacceptable, whatever the level of evidence.

There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, dear Horatio.

Or, dear Hume.

Where, the White Rose martyrs of the 1940’s were right to highlight that there was a terrible metaphysical issue that lurked under Hitler’s charisma, a foul and sulphurous breath that lurked behind his words.

(Which BTW, is why the Roman Inquisition was properly concerned about Fr Joseph and made inquiries. Not everything the Inquisition did — or does (it continues to this day under another name) — was bad.)

So, again, there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, dear Horatio.

I suggest you reconsider.

KF

47. 47
kairosfocus says:

RDM

Excellent observation:

the ironic thing to note in terms of comments from the anti-super-naturalist side is how they fail to realize that their very own arguments undermine their own naturalistic position. Indeed, note their use of the poorly-formulated but often used mantra “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Note how this mantra is used to claim–in the context of this discussion–how it is apparently more rational to believe that hundreds of witnesses hallucinated or colluded or lied rather than believe that a man levitated. But the problem is, such an argument can be turned right back on the naturalistic. For example, consider that the biological realm reeks of the appearance of intentional design, as many naturalists themselves admit. But naturalists deny this and claim that neo-Darwinian evolution is reasonable. But this is an extraordinary claim. After all, just like with levitation, I have never seen one type of organism change into another type. I have never seen molecules change into animals than conscious men. But then the naturalists will say that scientists have looked at the evidence and have inferred that neo-Darwinian theory is the best explanation of the evidence at hand. But suddenly, I retort: What’s more likely, that molecules evolved into men without design, something that no one has ever seen, or that 1) the scientists are lying due to a naturalistic prejudice and/or that 2) scientists are mistaken about their inference, and/or 3) that the scientists are biased in favor of naturalism and this unconsciously skews their interpretation of the evidence, and/or that 4) all the scientists are colluded together to promote evolution to keep their jobs, and/or that 5) people are sometimes honestly mistaken in their inferential efforts and that is probably the case with these scientists, and so on and so forth. So, it is clearly more likely that [there] is a problem on the part of the scientists rather than that our uniform and repeated empirical evidence that species do not evolve into other species is wrong. And since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, I am perfectly rational to not believe in the extraordinary claim that is neo-Darwinian evolution.

Selective hyperskepticism is always self-servingly inconsistent in its standards of demanded warrant. And, it necessarily involves linked hyper-credulity elsewhere. As, if you disbelieve what per adequate evidence and warrant you should believe, there is by implication something else you accept that you ought to reject.

The challenge is to identify and highlight the gap.

Deserves to be headlined . . .

KF

48. 48
49. 49
kairosfocus says:

MT:

[RDM:] Tell you what Me Think, answer this: a three year old is levitating. A thousand people,.including yourself walk up to him. You put your arms all around him. No cables. No pulleys. You check all around the area. No magicians. No cranes. No tricks. No magnets. Now, what do you believe?

[MT:] In such a case, I would definitely believe he was levitating. Where did you witness such a profound event, which led you to believe in levitation?

Actually, I long believed that what you would call levitation was possible, per testimony of the 500 to Jesus and his ascension. Why should it seem impossible for God to act, for good reason, beyond the usual order of nature?

When I was a 6th former, others testified to me of cases of levitation connected to meditation. Knowing the parties, I had no reason to doubt the observation but was concerned about the quality of the power.

On the order of a year past, in a semi-public case and in the presence of others, I witnessed a clear case of demonic attempted full levitation suppressed by the Liberating power of God. The Gospel Minister in charge — for obvious reasons — did not draw attention to this repeated phenomenon across the course of maybe an hour. He refused to be intimidated and proceeded with the business in hand of setting the victim free by the power of the One who set the Gadarene free.

Successfully.

Nope, no pulleys, invisible strings, magnets, plates etc. There were no cameras there, strictly eyeball, mark I. At a range of about 20 ft under quite well-lighted conditions. With multiple trained observers present, myself included. (And, do I need to add that I have fiddled a bit with a mag lev control system apparatus?)

(I am tempted to give more details, but prudence and respect for people and their privacy lead me to refrain. That itself gives me an insight or two on accounts. This sort of thing is simply not a proper subject for experimental studies due to ethical issues involved. But the actual raw-data observations are NOT extraordinary. It is context and reasons to rule out typical alternatives that bring out the force of what is going on. Where, seemingly ironically, the superior miracle was the suppression of what would have been a terrifying spectacle and then the liberation of a victim to the praise of God was the greatest of all . . . welcome cessation of what triggered the spectacle. The — thank God now former — victim, BTW, I conversed with as recently as yesterday.)

What is truly illuminating in this case is the resistance to what I directly know to be true, and how it works.

KF

50. 50
Mark Frank says:

VJ

You can’t apply the rule of succession to events in the way you try to. The rule of succession requires a prior probability of 50% of an event being supernatural or natural – which is then modified by the observation of n natural events. There is no justification for this prior probability. Even Laplace recognised that this was invalid reasoning when applied to sunrises.

51. 51
Graham2 says:

So, KF: Do you think man can fly … ?

52. 52
Graham2 says:

Oh, but you saw someone that didn’t levitate.

53. 53
kairosfocus says:

G2, nope. There was levitation of several inches (in a level position as on a slab . . . probably symbolic, I suspect . . . and with the floor and carpet underneath clearly visible . . . ), but the hips down were pinned to the ground as though by a pressing hand, resulting in a truly abnormal bodily posture. Arms sometimes dangled limply to the floor, as did head, falling back . . . as would be expected of an unconscious, limp body. The victim at the time was indeed unconscious. KF

PS: The attempt to pretend that an answer to man and flight has not been given, is inadvertently revealing.

54. 54
kairosfocus says:

MF, inductive reasoning is about cogency not validity, and this holds double for inference to best current explanation which if interpreted as a deductive argument would run IF E then o1, o2,o3 . . . where o1 etc so E. This is affirming the consequent. The valid part of that is, it establishes the inherent provisionality of inductive inferences as say Newton highlighted in Opticks Query 31 and before him Locke hinted at in Intro Sect 5 of his essay on human understanding. The point is, we see a generally orderly world and seek to identify specific patterns of orderliness. Where, a general pattern must in principle leave room for exceptions. There is no contradiction between a generally orderly world and the possibility of exceptional events. Just, the order shows cosmos not chaos and the unusual and miraculous points out that it is open to a beyond the ordinary. Which, is not an unreasonable view to hold. KF

55. 55
Mark Frank says:

Who here would be prepared to jump off a cliff using levitation which KF “directly knows” to work?

56. 56
kairosfocus says:

MF,

With all due respect, that’s a case of a strawman caricature with intent to ridicule, rather than to reconsider previous views on evidence. (Remember, I am alive at all due to a miracle of guidance in answer to prayer, and here speak as one of a company of eyewitnesses.)

Almost by definition the miraculous — good or ill — will be the exception not the rule. When Jesus was tempted by Satan to go to the pinnacle of the temple and jump off, this is what happened per the record:

Matt 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. [ESV]

You err, not knowing Scripture.

And BTW, this is directly relevant to the issue of undue spectacle as a bad spiritual sign.

KF

57. 57
kairosfocus says:

a bit quiet here . . .

58. 58
Graham2 says:

Then you have time to answer the question: do you believe man can levitate ?

59. 59
vjtorley says:

Me_Think,

Thank you for your comment. You write:

Here’s my answer: One way to ‘levitate’ would be contraption made of wood, hidden under cloth . See various levitation tricks here . You really believe that gravity can be counter balanced by an unknown supernatural upward force – for hours together?

I had a look at the Web site you linked to and I was underwhelmed. In all of the cases shown, the person ‘levitating’ was attached to the ground by a stick or rod. In St. Joseph of Cupertino’s case, thousands of witnesses saw him floating several meters above the ground, for hours on end, which is completely different.

Do I believe a supernatural force can keep bodies up for hours on end? Of course I do – especially if it’s the same force that created the universe in the first place.

60. 60
vjtorley says:

Mark Frank,

Thank you for your comment. I’m sure you’re familiar with John Rawls’ veil of ignorance. At the beginning of the universe, a hypothetical observer would be under the ultimate veil: they wouldn’t know what to expect to happen next. So the only rational answer they could give to the question: “Will the next event be supernatural or natural?” is: “I don’t know.” Gradually, as natural events accumulated, the naturalistic bias in their expectations would steadily increase, but my point was that after a very large number N of events, it wouldn’t be rational for them to rate the likelihood of the next event being supernatural as less than 1/N. If you disagree, please explain why.

I’m aware that Laplace didn’t actually think the odds of the sun rising again tomorrow morning were 1/N, but that’s because he thought he had a whole host of other evidence for the laws of nature continuing to hold. My argument considers the totality of such evidence, so Laplace could not object to it in principle.

Again I ask: if you think 1 in 10^120 isn’t the right probability, then what do you think is?

61. 61
Mung says:

Mark Frank: Who here would be prepared to jump off a cliff using levitation which KF “directly knows” to work?

I would. I’ve done it before and I can do it again.

62. 62
Me_Think says:

vjtorley @ 59

I had a look at the Web site you linked to and I was underwhelmed. In all of the cases shown, the person ‘levitating’ was attached to the ground by a stick or rod. In St. Joseph of Cupertino’s case, thousands of witnesses saw him floating several meters above the ground, for hours on end, which is completely different.

No it isn’t different. All it means is he floated using trick with a body harness. The site I linked also shows a man levitating several foot near a building and a man floating near a bus without an apparent stick. sticks are just one way, the other is to use wires or ropes. What you fail to understand is the writings and painting about levitation are part of Baroque Movement. This Movement developed from 1600 and was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church as it sought to overcome the rising threat of Protestantism. At this time, the Catholic Church, the most important patron of the Arts, commissioned artists to paint biblical characters and stories that spoke to the illiterate rather than to the well-informed, so what is projected by paintings are most likely just exaggerations.

Do I believe a supernatural force can keep bodies up for hours on end? Of course I do – especially if it’s the same force that created the universe in the first place.

Well that’s a theological argument, not a scientific one. If your entire post is theological, then of course you are right on all counts. St Joseph could definitely have floated if God reduced the gravity locally without affecting the rotational and translational symmetry. I wonder what was so special about Giuseppe Maria Desa (St.Joseph) that God manipulated gravity for him ?

63. 63
Me_Think says:

Mung @ 61

Mark Frank: Who here would be prepared to jump off a cliff using levitation which KF “directly knows” to work?
Mung:I would. I’ve done it before and I can do it again.

Contact your local church. You should be called St. Mung.

64. 64
Mung says:

Did I forget to mention that I am a saint?

65. 65
Me_Think says:

Mung

66. 66
Mung says:

Videos can be faked. If I posted a video you would claim it was faked. It’s true.

67. 67
kairosfocus says:

G2,

why the onward pretence in the face of an answer in detail at 46, 49, 53 and 56?

VJT, re 59 & 60:

I think the Abel paper on a universal plausibility bound has significant force, cf 21 above.

Of course, I have an insider’s perspective on miracles, which I have noted on. Including . . . that absent a bona fide miracle of guidance in answer to prayer of surrender by my mom (which transformed her life and mine), I simply would not be here to be typing this.

On miracles of elevation, the actual sight is not extraordinary, the issue is the no credible natural means of support; as opposed to cases of illusionism. And that means a reasoned judgement on circumstances and on the character of those involved linked to track record.

It is utterly unreasonable to believe relevant circumstances in the case I am directly aware of were illusionism [and in fact the Gospel Minister was being OPPOSED by the attempt at elevation, duly suppressed by the Higher and liberating power of God . . . ]. That alters my estimation of the historical cases (it looks like several saints of the general era exhibited similar phenomena e.g. Teresa of Avila, and there are more recent reports, e.g. Padre Pio).

I note again, where I have inside knowledge, the superior action was to suppress the spectacle of foul power and to liberate the victim from oppression, and that is itself a sign against uninformed spectacle-ism as well as a rebuke to selective, closed-minded hyperskepticism.

As for debates and factions across Protestant-Catholic (and Orthodox!) lines, I have no problem with such as I see a direct parallel to the divided Kingdom of Israel. Despite serious problems and errors on both sides, God still acted through his remnant.

And I have respect for an Elijah or Elisha on one side as well as an Isaiah or a Jeremiah on the other.

Mung:

Yes, evidence can be faked, and so in the end we are left to the matter of moral certainty on balance of the circumstances of the evidence and who brings it to us.

Thus, as at 1 above, Greenleaf:

Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.

Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.

The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.

The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.

The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

This thread provides direct cases, and for me the point is that as one on the inside track, I can then look at what is happening and seek the roots of error and unjustified hyperskeptical dismissal.

It is almost amusing to see the strawman caricature that I am suggesting in effect a new technology of flight.

It would be, were it not in the end so sad.

MF:

I repeat, the miraculous (for good or ill) is extraordinary not ordinary. The case cited at 56 above should give us all due pause:

Matt 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. [ESV]

How often do we err for failure to know and duly respect authentic Scripture.

KF

68. 68
GaryGaulin says:

But it turns out that a biography of St. Joseph of Cupertino was written as early as 1678, a mere 15 years after his death in 1663. In my last post, I also mentioned that there were thirteen volumes in the Vatican Archives, containing “numerous testimonies of witnesses (including princes, cardinals, bishops and doctors) who knew St Joseph personally and in many cases were eyewitnesses to the wonderful events of his life.” By definition, eyewitness testimony is first-hand, not second-hand.

That is certainly at least an excellent way of competing with all the other religions who had levitating holy people flying around all the time, and with it looking like there are too many eye witnesses to not be true. The more volumes of testimony the better.

A possible support pole for his hours long near-ground levitations has long been a part of Christian clergical wardrobe. You need to to check for what was in fashion during that time period. I would like to know. It would not seem out of the ordinary for him to also carry one around during church functions. That would make it easy for a human brain to be distracted away from the part of his appearance that is making a connection to ground.

That’s my plausible theory. And you need to objectively test that possibility before concluding it was not just a still common illusion everyone else in religion seems to have been performing at the time. It is here no surprise to find Christians going along with crowd too.