Christian: My Christian belief is based on faith, experience and reason.
Gary: So what strength of empirical evidence would you require to believe a very unusual claim? Let’s use a 0-10 scale. Could we agree that for most unusual claims, you, I and most other educated people would require the strength of the evidence to be “very good”, so at least an 8 or 9 on our scale?
Christian: No I disagree that one scales evidence say out of 10 in order to arrive at a belief. There is a lot more going on than that. For example, what is the claim, who makes the claim, background experience etc. So for example, a fantastic claim, such as you have won the lottery, made by the right person is plausible right? Yet an equally fantastic claim, such as AMH arose by chance, is not plausible, to at least 40% of Americans. Belief I feel is a gut feeling. For example, how often do you apportion scales i.e 1 out of 10 to what you believe. Most of the stuff you believe, you just do! No only that, if evidence changed you would still find it difficult to change your belief. Imagine, a copy of the Jerusalem Times, from the first century saying Jesus was resurrected, how would you explain that away? Which is to say belief is a complex beast.
Gary: Yes, people believe things for all kinds of odd reasons. Many of us do have “gut feelings” about certain things. But I am talking about universal truth claims, not gut feelings. Gut feelings are subjective. Universal truths are objective. Universal truths are true for everyone, everywhere, at all times. If your friend claims that he saw a Martian spaceship abduct a herd of cows yesterday, that is a universal truth claim. If your friend tells you he has a gut feeling that Martians exist, that is not a universal truth claim, that is a gut feeling. Do you believe the claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the ruler and savior of the universe based on your subjective (gut) feelings and perceptions or as a universal truth claim? In the industrialized western world, universal truth claims require empirical and/or historical evidence if you expect anyone else to believe your claim is true. Do you have such evidence for your claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the ruler and savior of the universe? If you do, how strong is it, 0-10?
Christian: Gut feelings are only wrong when they are wrong, otherwise they are correct. It is not the case that gut feelings are subjective and that empirical truth claims objective. If I told you that having weighed up the evidence my friend has a gut feeling that atheism is plausible would you say he is wrong? Further, universal truth claims can be arrived at by an accumulation of truth claims, and they may be gut feelings. Take for example the evolution of AMH? Universal truth claims do not require empirical evidence, so that is incorrect. Universal truth claims can be gut feeling or more properly intuitions. As for the probabilistic calculus it’s not how I arrive at belief. All one needs is to hold are views that are more plausible than contraries or negations, and in the case of Christianity and say atheism, that is clearly the case.
Gary: When you answer my question, which only requires a one word answer, then I will be happy to answer any question of your choosing: Is the data (empirical evidence and/or historical evidence) for the universal truth claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator, Lord of the universe, weak, strong, or very strong?
Christian: I’ll play your game then, on the understanding that you will begin answering my questions as dialogue requires. It’s not the case that the evidence is weak, strong or very strong. Rather like a number of Christians I subscribe to a cumulative conjunctive case for Christian theism.
Gary: (Oh brother!)
End of post.