Loftus asked an open question on his blog a couple of days ago: "Question for Discussion: What evidence is there for Christianity?" (Link). Amid discussion about this or that in the Gospels or from the Epistles of Paul--which aren't exactly evidence, a point Loftus has been consistently and clearly able to defend for years--Reppert joined in to make a more sophisticated reply. Here it is, Reppert speaking in green:
Okay, it would be nice to "come up" with a concept of evidence, but I would expect that the philosophy of science (and scientists) have this pretty well hashed out already. Perhaps, from Reppert's perspective, we still need to "come up" with one because it doesn't work for establishing that religions like Christianity are true?
In any case, I offered this reply, my interest piqued by his mention of Bayes's Theorem, upon which I've blogged before (which reminds me... I really need to write that piece about how the method I presented before, which I employed following Richard Carrier's use of the theorem, is not the best way to use Bayes's theorem):
Perhaps I should elaborate briefly upon why Bayes's Theorem is not favorable to Reppert here. Essentially, the existence of other resurrection-type stories that would have been preceding or contemporary with the writing of the gospels indicates that such stories are a likely alternative hypothesis to "someone actually came back to life magically." With evidence of this kind--this many stories, some of which from the Jewish tradition itself and others sharing other similarities with the Jesus narrative--Bayes's Theorem should return a lower posterior probability for the resurrection than whatever prior is assumed. So, erm, go ahead, Reppert, plug it into Bayes's theorem, but don't cheat.
What captured my attention here, leading to this blog post, is how Reppert responded to the above rebuttal.
Why is my definition an odd one? What would you replace it with?That's all of it. I didn't cut that piece out particularly; it's the whole reply. Out of all of that, all he wants to focus upon is a comment made in passing about his definition? I have already responded and will close this post with my response to Reppert since it makes the major points that I would make from this observation:
Since the theme I want to convey in this post, aside from some notes about Bayes's theorem, is this diversionary tactic, the only thing I'll add to this response is that the usual trick of derailing the conversation would proceed this way if engaged in: Nitpick about the comment about the definition, get me to offer an alternative definition, and then waste time arguing over which definition is better. This allows the apologist to continue talking, continue avoiding his burden of proof, and appear knowledgeable (about words and perhaps scripture), all without adding the first bit of real substance to the conversation.
I consider this more evidence, by decent standards, that a (perhaps the) primary goal of religious apologetics is to distract from the apologist's burden of proof.