Christopher Hitchens: The Standard of Evidence for a Miracle and a Rare, One-Time, Natural Event are Very Different

17 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens: The Standard of Evidence for a Miracle and a Rare, One-Time, Natural Event are Very Different

  1. Hitchens, in this debate, has two things on his side:

    a supportive audience for his dry wit
    an ability to skirt an issue as long as his audience thinks he’s cute.

    But, he’ll quote Hume on one hand, then turn around and say “there is a difference between a singularity and a miracle, and…” (something like) “it would be embarrassing, patronizing, to try to explain it”.

    And, this statement, of course, got chuckles from his receptive audience.

    But, it was a massive “punt”. A total dodge of the argument. He relied solely on mannerisms and a sympathetic audience to totally ignore the argument before him – one which Hume, in fact, takes a most round-about way of dodging himself with his ideas on “uniformity of nature”.

    In short, this is a great video for the “Beavis and Butthead” bunch that like to see an atheist put on a good show (and, which Christians also equally enjoy when they’re the “Beavis and Butthead” crowd at the time).

    But, beyond that, there’s not much here….

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    1. The debate appears to have taken place in a church. If you watch the entire debate, Hitchins gets some very hostile questions from the conservative Christians in the audience, whom I will bet are the majority of the crowd.

      Frank Turek, the Christian whom Hitchens is debating, makes the statement that it is appropriate to demand the same quality of evidence for any singular event, regardless whether that event is natural or supernatural. Turek gives an example: “This debate tonight is a singular event. It will never happen again, and all of you are witnesses to this singular event.” I believe that Turek is attempting to equate the eyewitness testimony regarding the debate in the hall/church that night with the (alleged) eyewitness testimony of over 500 people in first century Palestine who (allegedly) witnessed another singular event, an appearance by a previously brain-dead human being who had just been resurrected.

      Hitchens (like most non-theists) believes this comparison to be preposterous. It doesn’t deserve a response. If one insists that a response is required, then it is obvious that whatever response is given will not be satisfactory, for in Hitchens view and my view, the standard of evidence for an event which defies the laws of the universe is much different than the standard of evidence required to believe in a singular (unique) natural event. This is just common sense to non-theists, but unfortunately it is nonsense to theists. That is why a response to Turek’s statement would have been superfluous.

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      1. Being in a church hardly excludes the possibility that Hitchens had a favorable audience.

        re: ” I believe that Turek is attempting to equate the eyewitness testimony regarding the debate in the hall/church that night with the (alleged) eyewitness testimony of over 500 people in first century Palestine who (allegedly) witnessed another singular event, an appearance by a previously brain-dead human being who had just been resurrected.”

        I didn’t get that impression at all. Turek was rightly pointing out that one-time events, such as a persons birth, or even that the particular group of people that were gathered there is unique in history, does not at all demonstrate that just because of the rarity, such events should be less believable. “Singular events happen all the time; this debate will never happen again”, Turek said.

        Basically, Turek was supporting his assertion that Hume was wrong in his belief that “the evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare”.

        I really don’t know how you go from that to something about 500 people that saw Jesus. But, then, the connections your mind makes have always baffled me a bit.

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        1. “Basically, Turek was supporting his assertion that Hume was wrong in his belief that β€œthe evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare”.”

          The fact that you agree with Turek that Hume’s statement is wrong demonstrates why it is a waste of time to debate this issue with theists. If you believe that the same level of evidence is sufficient to believe a rare but natural event and a never heard of before or since supernatural event then our worldviews are so vastly different that it is a waste of time to discuss the issue.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I never once said I agree with Turek.

            Can you ever stop “reading into” stuff, Gary? Is that simply not possible for you? Are you utterly incapable of reading something without interjecting your own bias into everything that is said?

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      2. “Hitchens (like most non-theists)”

        Gary, Gary, Gary! πŸ™‚ You keep using the phrase “non-theist” but Hitchens (and you) is definitely not a plain old boring non-theist. He (like you) is a vehement anti-theist or miso-theist! A non-theist wouldn’t care enough to write a book with the provocative title God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, or to start a weblog called “Escaping Christian Fundamentalism” or “Luther Was Not Born Again”! These are fighting words, not neutral words! πŸ™‚

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  2. Gary,
    I just read a blog entry that suggests the possibility that many, many blogs have been swamped with Russian bots. I’m wondering about ftbond myself. . πŸ™‚ Possibility?

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    1. I doubt that ftbond is a Russian bot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he is a bot for the Mormons. He describes himself as a “non-Trinitarian evangelical”. That sounds like “Mormon” to me.

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      1. Russian bots? Mormon bots? Seriously? What about atheist bots? Or Muslim bots? Or Buddhist bots? Hell, I’m a bot! You guys are bots too! Everyone is a bot! I, bot! Ro, bot! We all bot!

        You guys are getting carried away.

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