Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (Part 45)

Is anyone still skeptical of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? Well then, here is one more test, straight from a hallmark of the scientific method:

If you think that the evidence for Christ's resurrection was naturalistically produced, then replicate the result.

We have seen thus far that history, in its natural course, has utterly failed to reproduce a Jesus-level of evidence for a resurrection. It has not even come remotely close. And this has not been for a lack of trying, either - we've cited multiple cases where someone tried to produce a resurrection story, only to fall pathetically short of the level of evidence for Christ's resurrection.

But perhaps you might succeed! And really, there isn't any fundamental reason why you can't, if Christianity started naturalistically. In fact, if you are not convinced by the previous arguments, a scientific mindset demands that you give it a try.

So, do you think that there was a massive conspiracy among the disciples to steal Jesus's body and start a new religion? Well, try to start a similar conspiracy of your own! See how well it holds up over the years when people rightly accuse you of being liars, and rightly threaten your reputation and wealth - perhaps even your life and limb!

You think that the Christian resurrection stories started through a mass hallucination, caused by eating a psychoactive plant native to Jerusalem? Well, go find that plant, feed it to a bunch of people, and see if they have the exact same hallucinations about the resurrection of one person!

You think that some gullible religious people couldn't learn to cope with the death of their charismatic leader, and therefore made up the resurrection story? Well, start such a religion yourself, pretend to die, and see what happens!

Don't complain about the scope of the problem, or the amount of people, time, or money you need. Christianity started with Jesus and a handful of his disciples. You and your circle of friends could easily out-scope this group. This is not an experiment that's too big to be attempted. In fact, real-world, large-scale studies on health or sociology regularly out-scope the humble beginning of Christianity.

Don't complain about the right combination of social circumstances needed for Christianity to take off. If you can read this, you probably have access to world-wide travel and possible exposure to an enormous variety of the world's cultures - an advantage that Jesus's disciples did not have. You think that the right set of circumstances only exist in one particular tribal group in Papua New Guinea, or in a specific small town near the outskirt suburbs of Kyoto? You can actually travel to these places, and access the right social and cultural circumstances.

I am being serious here. This is not some cheap taunts against skeptics. If you've read my other posts - if you've even just read the other posts in this series - you know that I welcome the testing of my ideas, and that I'm ready to change my beliefs as a result. If you really do come up with a plausible, naturalistic, reproducible way for Jesus's resurrection reports to have been generated, I will change my mind.

But remember that this works the other way too. We've already seen that the failures of the non-Christian resurrection stories have only made Jesus's resurrection more certain. In the same way, failure in an attempt to replicate Jesus's resurrection reports must, of logical necessity, change your mind. You must become more certain of Christ's resurrection.

Of course, abject failure is in fact the most likely outcome of such an experiment. The experiment will produce something - but that something is not likely to be any better than the many other examples in world history, where a "resurrection" was said to have occurred. It will fall pathetically short of the level of evidence established by Christ's resurrection.

And that is why I, personally, won't conduct this experiment: I think the result will be negative - that it will not really add anything new to the data we already have. Furthermore, I have already done my due diligence, and am already well convinced that Jesus rose from the dead. This only cements my expectation of a negative result. I therefore have little reason to conduct this experiment, no more than I have a reason to reproduce the Michelson-Morley experiment to search for the luminiferous aether - I would rather believe in special relativity.

But the situation is exactly the opposite for a skeptic: they should expect a positive result, that there actually is a way to naturalistically reproduce Jesus's resurrection reports. This would, furthermore, be a new result with high impact, which overturns all the historical accounts thus far. Furthermore, they may be well convinced that Jesus did not really rise from the dead, which would only increase their expectation of success. They therefore have every reason to conduct this experiment - just as Michelson and Morley did for their famous experiment.

So, that is the challenge: if you are a skeptic, you have every reason - including scientific obligation - to try to replicate Jesus's resurrection reports, to achieve the same level of evidence. Refusing the challenge will have its own consequences, concerning your rationality or your actual beliefs.

The next post will outline the specifics of this challenge.

You may next want to read:
How to think about the future
Questions from seekers - short answers to common questions (Part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

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