Reply to “Why Evolution Is Not True”
Jerry Coyne, on his popular blog: “Why Evolution Is True” (WEIT) posted about Kenneth Miller’s theistic evolution position—”Catholic biologist Ken Miller talks about God and evolution.” In it, he commented:
Miller adds that he sees Jesus as divine and as “saviour of the world.” That being the case, Varg should immediately have asked him if he thought Jesus was resurrected from the dead. I don’t think Miller would have been on as firm a ground if he had said that that, too, might just have been just a story to underscore Jesus’s “teachings”. For if Miller really thought that, he would be flying in the face of very important Church dogma, and in fact could hardly call himself a Catholic. (If Jesus wasn’t crucified and resurrected, on what grounds do we consider him saviour of the world? And isn’t a denial of the Resurrection a heresy?)
In response to that quote, I sent in a comment that stated “Jesus did rise from the dead; there were over 500 witnesses.” Dr. Coyne then generated a new blog post “Jesus Delusion” featuring my comment. Later that day he posted my reply to “Jesus Delusion” in a new blog post entitled “McLeroy replies about the crucifixion.”
This blog post is my response to Dr. Coyne and the WEIT readers who made almost 400 comments to these two blog posts.
First, I would like to thank and complement the many who took the time to thoughtfully reply to my two comments on the 500 eyewitnesses. Daniel Dennett touts “Sturgeon’s Law” which says that 90% of all comments are rubbish, but here, this is clearly not the case. Most were very serious reflections and reasonable statements and questions.
Biblical scholars differ on the resurrection. I admit that I am only well-read among the conservative scholars and my familiarity with the liberal scholars is limited to the critiques of them by the conservatives. Definitely not the best policy. The only skeptical book I have read is Russell Shorto’s Gospel Truth: On the Trail of the Historical Jesus as he had interviewed me for a major essay in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Just as the scholars differ so do I and the readers. I accept a scholarship that dates the Gospels as written between 40 and 65 A.D. whereas most readers believe they were written 65 to 100 A.D. or later. These later dates allow for conspiracy theories and myths to be more easily developed. I don’t think any reader held the early dating gospel view.
But no matter which scholars are correct, we still have to account for the phenomenon of Christianity and its powerful influence over the last 2000 years and today. And, we have to account for the fact as to why my simple comment about “500 eyewitnesses” could stir up so much interest? Christianity seems to draw a lot more interest than it should. Of course, atheism and evolution do the same for me. I admit that I enjoy following many of Dr. Coyne’s blog posts. I like keeping up with the evolutionists and atheists; I want to understand how the atheist mind thinks and reasons. I believe that Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are much clearer thinkers about the implications of evolution than Kenneth Miller and other theistic evolutionists.
Overall, I found the objections raised to the resurrection to be focused on plain skeptical thinking about miracles in general, the accuracy and reliability of the scriptures, contradictions in the gospel story, and especially, the lack of corroborating evidence of biblical accounts concerning the resurrection—especially the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem.
Specific to the resurrection, no one advocated the swoon theory, and only a few commented that they thought the disciples hallucinated. Most focused on the idea of a conspiracy of early Christians or the gradual development of Christianity as myth. Also, no one was impressed with the experts I cited—Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw, Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, and David Brog.
I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem in non-biblical accounts. But, it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.
While we do not know their names or have the testimonies of the 500 in question, we do for Paul and James and Peter and John and Mark and Matthew. I am not too bothered about the actual number of eyewitnesses. As noted in my comment to McLeroy replies about the crucifixion the testimony of just two eyewitnesses is very powerful. Even so, if Jesus did actually rise from the dead and spent around a month among the people, it seems logical the claim of the 500 witnesses could have happened. And, Paul is issuing a challenge to those skeptics reading his words to go and ask these folks—many who are still alive. This is not something you would do if making up a myth or a conspiracy.
Another good point the readers made are why some disciples did not recognize Jesus immediately. I don’t know. Again, it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened. I can only speculate as to why he was not recognized; my speculations are not very important.
I am not in a position to debate the strength and weaknesses of Bart Ehrman’s scholarship. As noted in my first reply in Jesus Delusion I have my own set of experts I trust. I will let them have that debate.
As for Paul’s claims he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, it certainly was more than a vision. There was light and all present heard Jesus speaking.
One reader stated that Christianity “attained its current heights due to” purely naturalistic causes. I hold the view that Christianity reached its lofty status because it is based on truth—truth about the nature of God, the nature of man and the nature of the world.
One reader asked if I would still believe if there were no eyewitnesses. A good question. I can only speculate because the account says they were eyewitnesses. With no witnesses, the biblical accounts would have been totally different and history would have been completely different. I don’t know what I would believe today if that were the case.
Biblical Trustworthiness in General
It seems to me that the starting point for many of the readers in rejecting the resurrection are an anti-supernatural bias and assumption that the Bible is not reliable or authoritative. I believe the supernatural exists and miracles happen. Miracles can happen; the greatest miracle was the creation of the world. For me, I have found the Bible to be extremely reliable; this is not the case for many of the readers; I see no way of resolving these differences here.
A very good question raised by Dr. Coyne and others is why I believe I am right when I have not studied other religions for 29 years. Could I be wrong? Yes, I could be wrong. I try to understand what others believe or don’t believe. This is one reason I listen to the podcast “Point of Inquiry.” They have fascinating discussions about issues such as these. Again, my testimony of “How I became a Christian” can be found on my website.
The timing of events during the “Passion Week” is difficult. I do not know for sure. A lot had to happen if the “Last Supper” was Thursday night and the crucifixion was Friday. For me, this is not insurmountable.
One reader asked “What would it take to change my mind?” This is a good question. Since my whole life is wrapped up in my faith—my friends, my church, my sense of who I am, it would be very difficult to give it all up. I believe I am honest enough to do so if I was presented evidence of a viable alternative.
This works both ways. For those of you who are atheists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? You have to have something from “Nothing.” If “Nothing” is defined as “what a sleeping rock dreams of;” I would think you have a serious problem.
For those of you who are evolutionists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? To explain all the diversity of life on this planet by unguided natural processes requires a titanic amount of evidence. I think the best evidence you have is the fossil record. You say the present is the key to the past. Yet, present animal life consists of life so discontinuous that it is unimaginable how the gaps could have been bridged , and the fossil record shows the same gaps—with some transitional fossils. This is not enough! There should be “zillions” of them. And, when it comes to explaining the evolution of biochemical processes in the cell, you have nothing.
Therefore, I find my biblical beliefs to be much more reasonable. For any other alternative, the evidence doesn’t support it.
In conclusion, all of us reasoning creatures hold some irrational beliefs. I find mine to be less of a problem than the way I understand yours; this is why I read your blogs—to better understand your beliefs. However, I must admit that after reading your responses to these two WEIT blog posts by Dr. Coyne, I find your reasoning much more coherent and evidence based.