Should you Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus based on the Testimony Five Hundred Alleged Witnesses?


Anecdotal (testimonial) Evidence


Testimonials and vivid anecdotes are one of the most popular and convincing forms of evidence presented for beliefs in the supernatural, paranormal, and pseudoscientific. Nevertheless, testimonials and anecdotes in such matters are of little value in establishing the probability of the claims they are put forth to support. Sincere and vivid accounts of one’s encounter with an angel or the Virgin Mary, an alien, a ghost, a Bigfoot, a child claiming to have lived before, purple auras around dying patients, a miraculous dowser, a levitating guru, or a psychic surgeon are of little value in establishing the reasonableness of believing in such matters.
Anecdotes are unreliable for various reasons. Stories are prone to contamination by beliefs, later experiences, feedback, selective attention to details, and so on. Most stories get distorted in the telling and the retelling. Events get exaggerated. Time sequences get confused. Details get muddled. Memories are imperfect and selective; they are often filled in after the fact. People misinterpret their experiences. Experiences are conditioned by biases, memories, and beliefs, so people’s perceptions might not be accurate. Most people aren’t expecting to be deceived, so they may not be aware of deceptions that others might engage in. Some people make up stories. Some stories are delusions. Sometimes events are inappropriately deemed psychic simply because they seem improbable when they might not be that improbable after all. In short, anecdotes are inherently problematic and are usually impossible to test for accuracy.
Thus, stories of personal experience with paranormal or supernatural events have little scientific value. If others cannot experience the same thing under the same conditions, then there will be no way to verify the experience. If there is no way to test the claim made, then there will be no way to tell if the experience was interpreted correctly. If others can experience the same thing, then it is possible to make a test of the testimonial and determine whether the claim based on it is worthy of belief. As parapsychologist Charles Tart once said after reporting an anecdote of a possibly paranormal event: “Let’s take this into the laboratory, where we can know exactly what conditions were. We don’t have to hear a story told years later and hope that it was accurate.” Dean Radin also noted that anecdotes aren’t good proof of the paranormal because memory “is much more fallible than most people think” and eyewitness testimony “is easily distorted”(Radin 1997: 32).
Testimonials regarding paranormal experiences are of little use to science because selective thinking and self-deception must be controlled for in scientific observations. Most psychics and dowsers, for example, do not even realize that they need to do controlled tests of their powers to rule out the possibility that they are deceiving themselves. They are satisfied that their experiences provide them with enough positive feedback to justify the belief in their paranormal abilities. Controlled tests of psychics and dowsers would prove once and for all that they are not being selective in their evidence gathering. It is common for such people to remember their apparent successes and ignore or underplay their failures. Controlled tests can also determine whether other factors such as cheating might be involved.
If such testimonials are scientifically worthless, why are they so popular and why are they so convincing? There are several reasons. Testimonials are often vivid and detailed, making them appear credible. They are often made by enthusiastic people who seem trustworthy and honest, and who lack any reason to deceive us. They are often made by people with some semblance of authority, such as those who hold a Ph.D. in psychology or physics. To some extent, testimonials are believable because people want to believe them. Often, one anticipates with hope some new treatment or instruction. One’s testimonial is given soon after the experience while one’s mood is still elevated from the desire for a positive outcome. The experience and the testimonial it elicits are given more significance than they deserve.

We saw a young man; no, an angel; no, two angels who was/were sitting inside the
tomb; no, outside the tomb, on top of the stone.  Then we saw Jesus who
let us touch his feet; no, he told us not to touch his feet because he had not
yet ascended to the Father.  We then, in great fear, ran away
and told no one…no, that’s not right because here I am telling you now!


Finally, it should be noted that testimonials are often used in many areas of life, including medical science, and that giving due consideration to such testimonials is considered wise, not foolish. A physician will use the testimonies of his or her patients to draw conclusions about certain medications or procedures. For example, a physician will take anecdotal evidence from a patient about a reaction to a new medication and use that information in deciding to adjust the prescribed dosage or to change the medication. This is quite reasonable. But the physician cannot be selective in listening to testimony, listening only to those claims that fit his or her own prejudices. To do so is to risk harming one’s patients. Nor should the average person be selective when listening to testimonials regarding some paranormal or occult experience.

Copied fromThe Skeptic’s Dictionary

8 thoughts on “Should you Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus based on the Testimony Five Hundred Alleged Witnesses?

  1. Let us all bow to Gary's great god – science.

    Hasn't been proven wrong . . . much. Heh!

    Dude – critique the scientific method if you wish – but your asinine attempts to disprove matters of faith are hilarious. You cannot prove it nor disprove it – but you dang sure keep trying.


  2. You are absolutely correct, my friend. I cannot disprove faith (superstition). I can only demonstrate just how very, very, very unlikely all superstitions are to be true, and therefore not worthy of our consideration (and definitely NOT our adoration).


  3. And I cannot disprove YOUR superstition – atheism, agnosticism – whatever you call it from day to day.

    Pejoratives really have no place in rational discussions. They are mere rhetoric – actually, they are equivocation – and as you use “superstition – become ad hominem.


  4. Superstition: a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.

    My beliefs are not based on perceived supernatural causation, therefore my beliefs are not superstitions. My beliefs may well be wrong, but not because they are based on the supernatural. Your beliefs are based on magic. Magic is not real.


  5. Says you. You keep up with the rhetoric – the only bullet in your gun, apparently.

    So – what are your beliefs based on? And you comment directly above makes it clear you cannot your contentions, either.

    Full Definition of SUPERSTITION (Merriam-Webster)

    1. a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation

    b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition

    2. : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary


    1a – hardly rules out Christianity – on the contrary, we are quite in agreement on 1a.

    1b – you ascribe that to Christianity, not in terms of proving your points, but only, using rhetoric and assumptions without proof to make your points.
    It could as well be said about your irrational fear of believing in Gos, and likewise, feeling you are somehow a prophet of your point of view as well.

    2 – again – by your own admission, you might well be wrong. Exactly. And “magic” is merely your term for something you have never understood, cnould not prove when you claimed to believe it, and cannot disprove it now that you no longer believe.


  6. Magic: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

    Your belief system is based on magic—the power of the supernatural. I do not believe that there is any good evidence to believe that the supernatural exists. I cannot prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead but neither can I prove that leprechauns and fairies do not exist. I choose not to believe in things that have a very, very, very low probability of being true.

    It is not my job to prove that your very extraordinary, supernatural claim of a resurrected dead man is false, it is your job—the person making the extraordinary claim—to prove that it is true. That is how it works in our culture, my friend. If I come back from a hunting trip and claim to have encountered three green, atennaed Martians, who beamed me up to their mother ship for three days to conduct Martian experiments on me—society would not demand that skeptics prove my story false, they would demand that I prove my tall tale true. The same with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and Sasquatch. The burden of proof is on the teller of the tall tale, not the skeptics.

    YOU are making the supernatural claim, bub. You provide the evidence—convincing evidence—to prove it.


  7. Gary –

    Are you capable of rational thought? Or do you continue to blabber on in the theme-line you have invented for yourself? What you just wrote has not connection to what I wrote – which began with your fundamentalism (well, I guess that much applies, since you continue your fundamentalism defending your current position).

    I wasn't talking about my belief system – you are jumping on that as a red herring to divert attention away from what I actually wrote to say. Maybe your groupies cheer you on, but any debate professor would ask you to sit down and go learn the most basic principles of the dialectic, and how rhetoric is never the sole basis for any qualified argument.

    In your case, it is your forte. So be it – I can see through easily.

    I didn't ask you to prove my claims of faith – NOT ONCE, NOT EVER!. That was simply BS. Then you go and try to disprove it anyway – my very point about your fundamentalism.

    I am making no claim, I was speaking to your travels and continued adherence to fundamentalism as your First Principle. You were incapable of getting my point, and are trying to turn the matter back in on me.

    No. That is silly, sophomoric argumentation on your part, and you have YET to address what I wrote about – that you have remained a fundamentalist despite your stated desire to escape, and that your present course of argumentation only reinforces your fundamentalism.

    That, sir, to refresh your memory, was what I addressed. In the fashion typical of a fundamentalist of any stripe, when you felt threatened, you merely doubled down on your faulty argumentation.

    P.S. I see I get a whole column today on the issue. Why do you keep loading my gun for me?


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