Probability of the Resurrection of Jesus - William Lane Craig

In debate on Jesus Dr. Craig gave the following formula for the probability of the resurrection:

Pr(R/ B&E) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (E/B&R) / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (E/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (E/B &not-R)]}

B= Background knowledge
E= Specific evidence (empty tomb, postmortem appereance, etc.)
R- Resurrectionof Jesus

Now assuming that we can in some way get numbers for the variables, is this formula valid? Would this be a valid formula to test the probablity of the resurrection of Jesus?

Craig’s decription can be read by going here:

Just open the PDF on the link and go to page 14.

The formula should be:

Pr(R/ B&E) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (E/B&R)] / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (E/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (E/B &not-R)]}

Sorry, I thought I hit preview.

I don’t have the patience to wade through that formula but Craig’s argument (I’ve come across it several times) is rife with fallacious assumptions. Whether his formula would work theoretically or not, his “evidence” is largely circular, exaggerated or baseless. His single most glaring problem, in my opinion, is that he assumes as fact that the disciples ever claimed to have witnessed an empty tomb or a physical resurrection. After that, he typically knocks down a list of strawman explanations for what he has not proven the disciples ever claimed (“they were liars,” “swoon theory,” "hallucinations, etc.). These are not actually arguments which are commonly made by critics and his attacks on them are meaningless. His refutations of these imaginary objections are not particularly strong but if he gets his opponent to engage them at all, he’s already won a victory of sorts simply by getting them to stipulate that the disciples ever made these claims in the first place. The fact is, there is absolutely no direct evidence that any human being ever claimed to have personally witnessed an empty tomb or a physically resurrected Jesus. What we have in the gospels is the claims about the disciples made by others – none of them witnesses – made decades after the fact. None of the disciples left any writings of their own. We don’t know what they thought or believed. What we do know is that the Empty Tomb story does not turn up in Christian literature until c. 70 CE in the Gospel of Mark (it’s not mentioned by Paul, it’s not in Q, it’s not in Thomas). There is no claim of a specifically physical resurrection until Matthew c. 80 CE (as distinguished from Paul’s vague claims of “appearances” – information he claims to have received by personal revelation from Jesus three years before he met any disciples and which he explicitly denies he learned “from any man”).

Since Craig can’t prove the disciples ever actually made the claims he credits them with, his case is dead in the water right there and his refutations of natural explanations for their claims are moot and misdirecting.

Another thing Craig tries to do is stretch one source into five by counting all four Gospels plus Acts as independent sources. Since the authors of Matthew, Luke and Acts are all demonstrably dependent on Mark (indeed Luke and Acts were written by the same author, so trying to count them as two sources is especially disingenuous) and John is widely regarded as having at least some knowledge of Mark, this is a transparent bit of sophistry and obfuscation.

There is more but those are two of Craig’s worst offenses. For more thorough dissections of Craig’s Resurrection arguments see Robert Price’s refutation [here/url and Richard Carrier’s [url=]here.

Sorry, I bolloxed the links. Here they are again.

Robert Price

Richard Carrier.

This reminds me of Drake’s equation. A meaningless equation with absolutely no data to plug into those variables.

Exactly. It’s the height of pretension and sophistry. What it actually boils down to is a statement that if you could prove the Resurrection you could prove the Resurrection.

No. Drake’s equation did not deal with probabilities. It was an attempt to list the factors we must quantify to understand how many ETs there might be, and none of them are impossible to find out in principle. We’re learning a lot more about the number of stars that have planets factor now. No reputable person ever claimed that any numbers that get filled into the equation are accurate - yet.

As for Craig’s equation, my guess (and I haven’t looked it up) that the equation is just a standard expansion of one for conditional probability. The utter stupidity of it is the claim that you can assign probabilities to any of these factors. What is the probability of a piece of evidence? What’s the probability of background knowledge? You might as well ask what is the probability of a cow.

There would seem to be two explanations. First, Craig came across the equation in a book, and filled in his variables, without any understanding at all of what it meant. The second is that he’s deliberately propagating nonsense. Maybe anyone who thinks this makes sense can tell us the relative probabilities of these.

I don’t recognize the equation, but it looks like it’s basically a really long and complicated way of expressing the conditional probability of R given BE. I checked it and it does work out, so it’s true in general for any events B, E, and R, regardless of whether or not they relate to the resurrection. I’m not sure why anyone would want to express conditional probability in this way, but it’s certainly nothing new or profound. I also have no idea what the probability of “background knowledge” could mean.

The failing here is quantification of being. You can’t really prove anyone’s existence. There is only ever a representation of being in a {q} metaphysical way. Reflections and ideas.