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Discussing extraordinary claims

It looks like we will be seeing some new bus ads in the coming year sporting the phrase popularized by Carl Sagan: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Overall, I like the direction these new ads are going in. While I think there are some issues with the argument it is presenting, I think it is a much better campaign than the last one1.

Regarding these proposed ads, I think they will provide us with an excellent opportunity to open up the discussion about the evidence for God and, most importantly, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

From my initial reading, it looks like there are 2 main claims (or at least inferences) that this campaign will make:

  1. To support a historical claim which involves the supernatural (like Jesus’ resurrection) you require a higher standard of evidence than a “regular” historical event (like the assassination of Julius Caesar).
  2. There is as much (or, rather, as little) evidence for the claims of Christianity as there are for Bigfoot.

Based on this, I see good discussions to be had and sound arguments to put forth.

First, we can discuss what evidence would be necessary for someone to accept that the resurrection did occur (and I do favour focusing on the resurrection). This is an important discussion to have because for many it will reveal that no evidence would be sufficient for them to accept this claim. In the end, it can help highlight when the issue really has nothing to do with evidence, but rather it’s something either more personal or foundational.

Secondly, it provides us the opportunity to discuss the evidence that does exist; that there is strong and compelling evidence which leads us to believe that the resurrection of Jesus was a real, historic event. We can show people why many intelligent, rational men and women have and do believe this extraordinary claim is true based on the evidence we have and why they make claims like this:

According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history. – Simon Greenleaf

I look forward to seeing what happens when this campaign comes to our city.

1. As a side note, I found the slogan There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. was a bit silly since Jesus’ message to us was that we need not worry (Mat 6:34) and most of us are living pretty joyful lives (Gal 5:22-23) … not perfect, or painless (John 16:33), but joyful none the less.

  • Anonymous

    Denis,
    I hope you will join the discussion that is already under way at extraordinary-claims.com. Although I disagree with your conclusions, I respect your willingness to conduct the debate where it should be: in the reasoned analysis of evidence.

  • Thanks for the comment … I’ll try to drop by and see what’s happening over there.