Understanding the Mind of a Deluded Intellectual: Lessons from Victor Reppert

Dr. Victor Reppert responded to my post On Priors, Biases and Probabilities. It's just a comment but there are lessons to be learned from it that help us get inside the mind of a deluded intellectual like him.

Does someone have an algorithm for deciding what the correct prior probabilities are? Is anyone familiar with the problems that arise when people base probabilities on frequencies?
Notice you're doing definitional apologetics, standard fare for apologists. You need an algorithm for prioritizing your priors before you can admit they are unjustified, and even if true, they don't lead to the conclusion you desire, since even with them you cannot conclude Jesus arose bodily from the dead using the tools of the historian, which are the only tools we have (see below).

It's just that you need to think about where you get your priors from and how they are related. The main source of your priors comes from your upbringing in a Christianized culture, just like Hindus, Muslims and others do in their cultures. You have several additional problems with your faith. As Keith Parsons says, the arguments to the existence of God fail so badly he's not devoting any more teaching time to them. He cannot take them seriously anymore.

But let's say you believe in God anyway. Which one? How do you define him/her/it? Coming up with a consistent set of divine attributes is a quagmire, while any attempt at understanding any single one of them is problematic at best, including the trinity. You should know this. See Michael Martin's anthologies on it, The Improbability of God,and The Impossibility of God.

But let's say you want to affirm a type of theism anyway. The Jews and Muslims are theists too. Yet they reject the evidence for your resurrected savior. You cannot tell me some of their top scholars haven't considered this so-called evidence either. They demand the same thing I do even though they are theists, sufficient evidence. It's simply not there. So just getting to a theistic God does not grant your resurrection story any higher prior probabilities than I grant, since I grant miracles are possible too.

I had also mentioned a really good book you should read on the topic of probabilities, written by David J. Hand, an emeritus professor of mathematics and former president of the Royal Statistical Society, The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day. The authentic thing to do, per Peter Boghossian, would have been to say, "That book looks interesting. I'll take a look at it someday." But you didn't say that, asking these questions instead.

John, have YOU read Hume's Abject Failure by Pittsburgh philosopher of science Earman, or am I the only one who is supposed to respond to book recommendations (I've read some on your list, by the way).
Yes I have read Earman's book, at least most of the non-mathematical stuff. I wrote about it in my magnum opus WIBA (2nd edition) on miracles, where I also answered your essay on miracles, although I didn't refer to your essay. So you respond to my book recommendation with one I have already read and responded to. Will you read David Hand's book since it speaks directly to the questions you ask?

How do we get "outside" to do the outsider test for faith? Which outsider and why? People who were outsiders, such as Lewis, become Christian. But then he wasn't your kind of outsider. Is someone really an outsider who is part of Christian culture but responds negatively to it?
You're asking questions about my outsider test for faith that I have already sufficiently answered in my book on the topic. If you had read it you would know my answers. This reveals you aren't really interested in my answers. You're throwing up smokescreens so you don't need to see clearly through the fog of faith. Even David Marshall embraces it with some inconsistent caveats of his. Matthew Flannagan has criticized this test for faith and still refuses to answer some simple questions, the ones right here. Will you answer them Vic? You should, or are you just as insincere as Flannagan? Insincerity is the mark of a deluded person. You are not being intellectually honest.

What does it mean to say we should think exclusively in terms of probabilities?
I've explained this in my OTF book. It means not pretending to know what we don't know. It's in accepting a conclusion based exclusively on the probabilities and not going farther than what we assess them to be. It's in knowing what the true probabilities are for events that take place in our lives, something David Hand helps us understand in his book. We could be wrong in how we assess them but we should never go beyond them when it comes to matters of fact, like the nature and workings of the universe, and history.

Your probabilities are low for the Resurrection. I'd be shocked if they weren't. But is your conclusion that we can't determine whether Jesus was resurrected or not since our tools are inadequate? If our tools are inadequate, what do we use?
The tools of the historian cannot detect such a miracle because miracles litter the ancient highway. Historians operate like scientists in that they are critical of the evidence before them. They use methodological naturalism when looking at it. If the tools of the historian cannot detect miracles like the resurrection, and if there is no other way to reasonably detect them, there is no reason why anyone should believe it happened. You need to read what Bart Ehrman said as a historian and deal with it, a conclusion that Christian theist James McGrath agrees with. The tools of the historian are not adequate for detecting miracles in the ancient superstitious past, and they are the only reasonable ones we having living in the present..

So, how do you know Jesus arose if you cannot use the tried and tested reasonable tools of the historian? What is the alternative? Faith *cough* Subjective experiences? *cough* The inner witness of the spirit *cough* Answered prayers? *cough* William James's will to believe? *cough* Your faith is wrongheaded because of the nature of faith itself. If you had sufficient evidence you don't need faith.

None of this precludes science from detecting evidence for answers to prayer or in confirming the Bible though, as I wrote about here regarding methodological naturalism. I'm beginning to wonder if you even read these links, Vic. You should.

Even if someone can come in with a high prior for the Resurrection to begin with, it is still possible to conclude that it didn't happen based on evidence. Prior probabilities are starting points, not straitjackets.
Okay, agreed. So why do other theists reject this supposed evidence despite having priors that allow for it as you do? You might say the same things I do against other religionists, that they aren't interested in assessing the faith they were raised in because they might not be interested in reading your Christian propaganda. All you seem interested in doing is having a discussion for discussion's sake, or poking holes in arguments because you're looking for loopholes--escapes for faith. And they can always be found by someone as intelligent and educated as you are since there is no airtight case against your religion. Your intelligence and education hinders an honest investigation of your faith since it reigns over you like a virus. You end up being anti-intellectual and don't realize it. A true intellectual would honestly search for the truth. You say that's what you're doing but it's clear to me you are not. That's a cognitive bias/illness you have and don't know you have it, exactly as other believers in other faiths. For you, prior probabilities are starting points AND straitjackets (with some wiggle-room within the Christian tradition, but I've never seen you consider Hinduism or Islam). You'll say other religionists are doing the same things I say you're doing. You just won't admit you do them too. It's really a shame from my perspective, it really is, but it is as I say, having been like you at one time.

Now Vic, contained in what I wrote here and the link you responded to, complete with additional links and book recommendations, are everything you need to know to reject faith. But you won't read them even though I have read more Christian propaganda than you have (or at least as much, after all, I've been reading on these topics as long as you have as a former Christian apologist). You won't read them because of your priors and interests. But as I said, your priors are unjustified (and even if true don't lead to the conclusion you desire) while your interests don't include reasonably assessing the faith you were raised to believe. It consists of defending at every opportunity what you were raised to believe and hiding behind the coat tails of Lewis. He may have had good reasons to believe but that doesn't mean you do. The earliest Christians may have had good reasons to believe too, but that doesn't mean you do 2000 years later.