Jesus – historical evidence: another quick response to Sam
Sam, you say:
“My point here is to say that it is illegitimate to expect certain forms of high-quality evidence to be available. That doesn’t make the lower-quality evidence that is available more true, it just means that it isn’t a criticism of that evidence to say ‘it’s not higher quality than it is’.”
If I understand you correctly, I am amazed and shocked by this – genuinely.
Crap evidence – i.e. evidence no where near good enough to rationally support a belief – is crap evidence. Pointing out that, were the belief true, better evidence couldn’t necessarily be expected, is simply irrelevant to the question of whether or not it’s crap evidence.
If my toddler says a fairy came in the night and did magic tricks in her bedroom, that’s crap evidence it’s true. Saying “Ah, but Stephen, you forget that, if there were such a fairy visitor, well, she’d be very unlikely to leave much better evidence of her visit – so it’s no criticism of this evidence for a fairy visitation that it’s not higher quality than it is!” would, I suggest, be a patently bullshit thing to say.
It’s certainly a very good criticism of this evidence for fairy visitation that it’s crap, whether or not higher quality evidence could be expected.
If significant numbers of biblical scholars think otherwise – and indeed think this a credible move to make in defence of the rationality of various Christian claims about Jesus made on the basis of the NT documents – well, then, wow! I’m genuinely gobsmacked.
This shows an astonishing – I am tempted to say almost wilfull – misunderstanding of how evidence actually works.
The suggestion seems to be that, if we should expect little evidence for the truth of certain claims (if they’re true), we should then lower our standards and deem those claims fairly reasonable on the basis of weak evidence.
This would make belief in widespread alien abductions come out as fairly reasonable!