The Messianic Manic’s Razor is Not so Sharp

Recently, The Messianic Manic (TMM) attempted to debunk my 6 part  resurrection series with a lengthy two minute video (He made another short response video prior to this one, but I essentially debunked that during part 5 of my series).

Normally I don’t prefer to waste time in responding to him because the errors in his videos speak for themselves, but this one is too easy and I had a little extra time during a recent flight I was on.

*As an update, unfortunately someone who asked to read this an early draft of this reply mistakenly posted it to his page and TMM posted a response to an early draft I had. This is one instance where it is clear patience is always the best approach, since what he responded to was early notes and I was still working on the section he took the most issue with. The final draft (as you will read below) is something other than what TMM responded to. 

So moving on, despite only being two minutes there are numerous errors I want to highlight. First of all, being that in any of his responses there isn’t a moment devoted to the historical data, just philosophical beliefs about how one ought to view the idea of a resurrection. This tactic is not too different from what young earth creationists do. Instead of debating the scientific evidence for the age of the earth, they instead propose philosophical views about how one interprets data and evidence. This was seen in the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate. Ken Ham said very little about supposed evidence for his theory the earth is only 6000 years old, but instead insisted the only reason we disagree was that evolutionists are looking at data through evolutionary glasses and really it is just their philosophical presuppositions that allow them to accept evolution.

TMM’s tactics are not too different. He is not debating the historical evidence for the resurrection but simply imposing his philosophical belief about how we ought to view a potential resurrection, and that we should be skeptical before any evidence is given, instead of being neutral. It is fine if he wants to think that, but your philosophical presuppositions about resurrections only blind you from being as unbiased as possible in studying the evidence. As I pointed out in part 5, there is nothing in history, science, or logic that says we should begin by thinking resurrections should be seen as the most improbable hypothesis. Nor does TMM give good reason to think the resurrection of Jesus is less parsimonious, other than he just thinks it is improbable. More on this in a moment.

Secondly, TMM actually gets the definition of Occam’s Razor wrong when he defines it as,

“…the idea that explanations that make more assumptions are less likely to be correct than ones that make fewer assumptions.”

This is almost correct but there is a key word missing which completely changes the definition of Occam’s Razor. What TMM should have said was that Occam’s Razor is,

“the idea that explanations that make more unnecessary assumptions are less likely to be correct than ones that make fewer assumptions.”

Occam’s razor is about being sure you are not making additional unnecessary assumptions, not making addition assumptions. For example, if we went on a theory of the universe by only going on the theory that makes the least amount of assumptions we would have to go with the Aristotelian view of the universe, “It just exists.” But due to what we know in modern cosmology and physics we have to make more assumptions in order to explain all the data. The extra assumptions in modern theories of the universe are necessary, and therefore are not shaved off by Occam’s Razor. TMM’s misuse of Occam’s Razor becomes a straw man definition that no historian or philosopher holds to. From his misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor we can see where he makes an error in understanding the resurrection.

Basically, he thinks hypotheses that are naturalistic are superior to the resurrection hypothesis because the resurrection hypothesis involves (as he puts it), “elements we don’t know to exist” (more on this later). However, the problems I pointed out in part 2 and part 4 still remain. Namely naturalistic theories fail to explain all the data presented. If a naturalistic theory could explain all the data then I agree it would be preferred. But they cannot, and since we have an abundance of data that needs to be explained we necessarily have to posit more in order to account for the evidence. This is why the resurrection theory triumphs. It can explain all the data whilst making the least number of unnecessary assumptions in order to account for all the data. Naturalistic theories fall dead in the water because they cannot begin to account for all the data without piling unnecessary assumption after assumption. As Louis de Wohl stated, “That’s the trouble with miracles, Sebastianus — in order to explain them away you have to introduce theories so nonsensical that they are less believable than the miracle itself.(1)”

The hallucination theory, for example, essentially becomes a miracle in itself when it tries to account for all the data and starts to posit mass, multi-sensory group hallucinations happening multiple times over long periods of time.

This is also why TMM’s comparison, with trying to explain the wealth of a rich man, doesn’t work. He tries to compare explaining the data for the resurrection with an example of a rich man. He says, “If you meet a rich person, you would probably be making fewer assumptions if you infer that they got rich by winning the lottery than if you inferred their wealth comes from decades of many profitable investments, but is that really a more parsimonious inference?” The problem with this comparison and why it doesn’t compare to the resurrection is there is simply not enough data offered to make a conclusion on anything. How wealthy is this supposed man? What is his education level? What was he doing 5 years ago with his life? In reality if you met someone rich, you would probably investigate further before making any kind of general inference.

When it comes to resurrection this analogy doesn’t compare, because Christians are not saying “Jesus’ body went missing, therefore resurrection.” Through parts 2 and 3 I listed eight different facts that allow us to infer a resurrection. This is a far larger field of data that allows us to make a reasonable inference. TMM’s analogy simply just doesn’t compare to what we have for the resurrection and therefore is an invalid comparison.

The third point I wish to make is that TMM’s epistemology disallows scientific hypotheses. TMM says, “I pointed out that explanations involving elements that have been established to exist can be more parsimonious than explanations involving elements we don’t know to exist, even if those explanations are more complex.” First I am glad TMM at least admits competing theories to resurrection theory are far more elaborate and complex. It seems we are making progress if he can admit it is the simplest explanation of the data. However this reasoning fails when compared to what happens in science and history.

There are many things we have that have not been established to exist, yet we infer they exist because it best explains the data. Quarks, for example have not been established to exist. They most likely exist because they best explain the effects we see in modern experiments. We essentially see certain effects happening and infer the best way to explain these effects is with inferring the existence of an unobserved sub-atomic particle called a quark. In history, technically speaking, no famous person from the past has been established to exist. We infer that their existence is probable from data and written accounts of them in manuscripts we may find. So we often infer the existence of entities of which we cannot empirically verify because they are necessary in order to account for points of data we encounter.

When it comes to resurrection this one is quite simple because we are doing the same. We have a wealth of data that can only be explained by inferring the existence of an entity that can raise Jesus from the dead. This is the same as when a scientist infers the existence of a quark in order to explain the data.

As philosopher Michael Beaty says,

The confident belief that many practicing scientists have in the reality of electrons (which are not visible) seems inappropriate if evidentialism is true. Thus it seems that this version of evidentialism does not intellectually measure up. It’s too restrictive. Moreover, we might discover that what scientists assume to be adequate evidence for their assumptions are compatible with what counts as good reasons in religious matters. For example, belief in God can be treated as an explanatory hypothesis, like belief in electrons. In both cases, the evidence may be persuasive if not determinant. In both science and religion, tenacity of belief is common and often a good thing. A scientist’s tenacity in a belief, despite paucity of evidence and doubt from peers, may lead her to develop a radically different conception of some aspect of our world, but one that is nonetheless true and significant. (2)

Once one realizes this, one can see that the necessary addition of the entity to raise Jesus from the dead (in order to explain the data other theories fail to) is not an extreme or an unparsimonious assumption. It is quite normal to do this in practices of science and history.

However, TMM is aware of this response and tried to respond to my example of quarks. He says, “Yes, but we still infer that quarks consist of matter. God however, is described by apologists as being “wholly other”.” Okay, there are so many errors in this one statement it is hard to know where to start. First, you can’t say quarks consist of matter… Quarks are sub-atomic particles and therefore they are matter (as he even says in his response to my early draft). Likewise, you can’t say quarks consist of matter, because that would be circular reasoning to say quarks consist of matter. That would just be saying quarks consist of quarks.

Second, just because they are bits of matter that doesn’t mean they are different as a postulate. I can postulate quarks are made of tinier particles called blougoens. Does that mean they are likely, just because they would also be matter? Of course not, and scientists have postulated many things that were presumed to be matter throughout the past 200 years from ethers to super strings, and unless they can explain the data we do not assume they likely exist just because they would be material substance. Is TMM really suggesting something is more likely to exist just because it is theorized to be material? If this reasoning was valid we would have to assume Phlogiston most likely exists just because it was postulated to be material. In reality something likely exists because the evidence infers so, not because of its hypothetical composition.

TMM is just presupposing naturalism to be already true. On his view, therefore, postulating a material substance is fine, but nonmaterial substances are unlikely; and he knows this because naturalism is already true in his mind (so nonmaterial substance are unlikely). So this is just circular reasoning.

In reality a postulate is most likely true (material or nonmaterial) if it can account for the data, not just because of a presupposition that something is more likely to exist if it is material. Quarks, as they stand are totally an unobserved extra postulations. They cannot be observed and we are not entirely sure if they exist. They most likely exist because they account for the data. Likewise God is a necessary postulate invoked in order to explain events (like the events that happened after Jesus’ body went missing) and effects we observe and cannot account for without an extra necessary postulate. So theism is not hard to arrive at or absurd to postulate. It is the simplest explanation that can account for all the data without unnecessary assumptions.

*As you can see TMM, in his video response to an early draft of this, took what I said out of context. That is not entirely his fault since it was an early draft, but his video response to this is useless since it doesn’t address what I actually said. We should always remember patience is a virtue for a reason.

Third, is he really citing a presuppositional apologists on his definition of God? Why not just go to the experts, philosophers of religion? There are entire books written on the attributes and ontology of God. To name a few:

“The Coherence of Theism” by Richard Swinburne

“The Nature of Necessity” by Alvin Plantinga

“Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview” by William Lane Craig and JP Moreland

None of these extensive works describe God as complete unknown or “wholly other.” In fact they note over and over again, there are things we can know about God, like that He is conscious, an entity, benevolent, omniscient, etc. Why doesn’t TMM actually read what real experts have to say on this topic instead of finding a one paragraph article on CARM, written by someone who is not a philosopher of religion. The author, Matt Slick, is a Calvinist and presuppositional apologist, who I disagree with on plenty, especially if he says God is “wholly other” meaning unknowable in any way.

But if you read his tiny one paragraph on CARM we can also see TMM has taken him out of context. Slick is not saying God is completely unknowable but that he believes God is wholly other in relation to physical things; like how we are finite, whereas God is eternal. God is immutable while we change. Slick even says, “It means that we must relate to Him by His self-revelation in the person of Christ Jesus and through the Bible. (3)” This should be obvious to anyone who reads it. Slick is just saying mankind can only know about God from what He reveals about Himself, not that we know nothing at all about God. God is not like a natural object we can study on our own. Slick is suggesting we can only learn anything about Him because of revelation.

Now I disagree with Slick due to my commitment to natural theology. However, the point is TMM only read one paragraph on CARM and didn’t even get it right. If he was really interested in the philosophical work on the nature and ontology of God he could pick up a book by an academic philosopher instead of doing a short internet search, cite a non-expert, take him out of context, and call it a day. This just shows poor research and ignorance on theism, especially for one who creates videos on the topic in order to teach others.

Most importantly, I never advocated this definition. This is important because TMM claims to be responding to my videos, not Matt Slick’s article. So he should go after what I believe and argue for, not what someone else says who I do not entirely agree with. This is a bait and switch at best and a poor attempt to dodge the real issue. TMM should know better.

In conclusion TMM has not offered a better explanation of the data to overtake the resurrection argument. He has only peddled the same atheistic presuppositions about resurrection while combining it with some poor commentary on philosophical concepts. As you can see, this is why I normally do not waste time with TMM’s videos. Errors like this throughout his videos speak for themselves. But simply telling us he doesn’t think resurrections are likely doesn’t mean he was able to overturn all the evidence which inferred what happened to Jesus. He needs to try a bit harder, rather than thinking he can rush through a two minute response that doesn’t even address the historical evidence.

Furthermore, if TMM would like to discuss more on this topic I would be glad to engage him and talk with him more for a public discussion online, we can post to our channels. I think it would be good to get more of what he thinks of this topic since he has barely scratched the surface, yet has already done two short responses to by series on the resurrection, so the invitation is open.
1. Louis de Wohl,  Citadel of God (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1959), p. 90.

2. Michael D. Beaty, God Among the Philosophers (Christian Century, June 12-19, 1991)



6 thoughts on “The Messianic Manic’s Razor is Not so Sharp

  1. Their common practice of poor research is probably of the reasons many atheists can just keep doing videos like if they were selling hotcakes

  2. That was interesting. I think i was also wrong on the definition of the Occam’s Razor. Thanks for correcting me. after research, i found out you were correct. As wikipedia says :
    “Occam’s razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there may be an extremely large, perhaps even incomprehensible, number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypotheses to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.”

    So i think i made the same mistake as TMM.

    Anyway, I would lod to see a debate with him or any ther debates with anyone. I love hearing your voice IP and there is not enough debates on youtube with you :p

    God bless brother.
    Thank you for your article.

  3. “Is TMM really suggesting something is more likely to exist just because it is theorized to be material? If this reasoning was valid we would have to assume Phlogiston most likely exists just because it was postulated to be material.”

    Totally, since more likely means the same as most likely. But you forgot the best part about it: The materialistic Phlogiston theory has been replaced by a theistic model.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s