Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.
Alex is starting from the position of being a Believer in a God. I presume that is why you say that nothing can be thought of as random when concerning the life of Jesus.
I am starting from the position (until I have proof) that there is no God. Therefore life itself is a Random event. So from the point of view of a person who does not believe or does not yet know, do you agree that the birth of Jesus then becomes a random event as does the birth of everybody else?
So how would an "open minded" person assess the chances of a virgin birth occurring in anybody? Please feel free to use just words if mathematics cannot be used.
Life is not random; it is greatly influenced by our choices. For example, when I get in my truck to drive to work, that is not a random event; I decided long ago when I first took the job that I would go to work when I'm supposed to, the manager decided my schedule, and I decided when to leave and what route to take to get there. None of those are random events, but are consciously chosen.
If Jesus was just an ordinary person (vast amounts of evidence suggest that He was not), then His birth would've been just a random event, like everybody else. However, if you're going to accept that He was the Son of God and born of a virgin (as your original calculation stated), then it is no longer random. As I said before, it is then a matter of God's conscious choice to come into the world in this manner.
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"Life is not random.."
I didn't say that our daily choices were random. By Life being random, I am talking about the origins of Life on this planet.
"If Jesus was just an ordinary person (vast amounts of evidence suggest that He was not), then His birth would've been just a random event.."
So you do agree that every body else's birth can be observed as being a random event? If I therefore pose the probability question differently and ask you -What are the chances of any other human (other than Jesus) being born of a virgin- what would your response be? I have often been posed questions such as "what are the chances of me producing a Mongol child?" Well I don't try and duck the answer by pretending that it wouldn't be a random event.
What are the chances of an ordinary human becoming alive again 3 days after death?
I worked in the real world where people rightly expected to get real answers. I presume that in your work place that you do the same. Why is it so impossible to do it when talking about beliefs? Might your genes be trying to inhibit logical thought, as I have already suggested? Are you being used as a mere carrier of genetic information? Are you applying temporary self-delusion so as to fudge free thinking?
What do the origins of life have to do with whether or not Jesus was the Son of God?
If God does not exist, then a virgin birth or a resurrection is probably impossible. However, evidence suggests that He does, and that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. In fact, there is a lot of historical evidence that the Resurrection of Christ did in fact occur:
Your mistake is that you rely so much on probability that you're forgetting about history. What are the odds of the US declaring independence in 1776? Does it matter? No, because it happened anyway.
Is it possible that you have so much faith in probability that you fail to acknowledge some very important evidence simply because it isn't "probable"?
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I appreciate your time taken in answering my many questions.
The only reason that we are here talking about probabilities, is that someone asked me what made me think up this idea that perhaps Belief could be encoded into our genes. Although I have always accepted the historical Jesus, the supernatural dimensions given to him by the early Christian movement I found to be just too exagerated. His good works were evidence enough without adding those extra bits which I found unnecessary. His message was more than enough for those who wanted to follow his example.
I am very often making decisions based on what is probable and not probable. I take your point that very improbable things do happen, like winning the Jackpot, but that doesn't mean that I would waste my money on betting on very high odds. Ok someone is going to win but by looking at the odds, I can tell whether it is worth my time to even consider it.
So when Christianity uses Virgin birth, resurrection, and other very improbable things, it makes me turn away rather than be attracted. Interestingly, I recently read the Judas Gospel, which was much more historical and less magical. I was pleased to read that he regarded Jesus as the eldest natural son of the union between Mary and Joseph. Every Christian should read "all the heretical gospels" and make up their own minds on the subject. Judas has been tried without even being given a hearing.
Like I said, we should first look at whether or not any of these things happened, because if they did then probability doesn't matter. The vast majority of evidence, for example, shows that Christ was the Messiah, that He was born of a virgin, and that He rose from the dead. Why were these "extra bits" (as you call them) "added"? Because that's what happened!
As for the gospel of Judas, it is a work of complete fiction. Any competent historian can tell you that. It was written a few hundred years after Christ's death, and completely contradicts not only the canonical gospels (all of which were written within a few decades of Christ's death, and are thus more historically reliable for being closer to the fact) as well as contradicting vast amounts of non-Christian evidence. I suggest you look at the link I provided; even the Romans and Jews (the enemies of early Christianity) accepted the fact of Christ's Resurrection. If there was any evidence at all that it did not happen, or any lack of evidence that it did, why did they not seize upon it and destroy Christianity right at its beginning? But they did not; indeed they admitted that it was true.
As for probability, once again I believe you are in error to use that alone a a line of proof or disproof. While it no doubt has value in certain situations, simply being probable or improbable is not enough to constitute proof or disproof. Once it is established upon evidence that all of the details of Christ's life recorded in the Gospels are historical facts, I think you'll agree that probability no longer matters.
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"Once it is established upon evidence that all of the details of Christ's life recorded in the Gospels are historical facts, I think you'll agree that probability no longer matters."
Who is to say what is fact? No two accounts of something in history give the same opinion. Ask the French, who won Waterloo and they will say the Prussians. Ask the English, and they will say, Wellington. That was as recent as 1815. How are we supposed to judge Fact on something written 2000 years ago? I think that in this situation, probability does have a role to play. If something in the story sounds irrational or bizarre, why should anyone accept it as fact without weighing up the pros and cons?
You forget that the Prussians and English were allies at the Battle of Waterloo; they both won.
When studying historical records, historians separate fact from fiction using a variety of means. One of the most reliable means is to use records that are closer to the fact; written by first-hand witnesses, for example, or written only a short time after the actual events. Historians then look at records that match this criteria and look for any agreements or contradictions between them. If all the witnesses agree on a pattern of events (especially independently of each other), then it is only logical to assume that their descriptions are mostly true.
Applying this logic to Christ, we find a lot of interesting evidence. First let us consider the four canonical gospels. None of them were written by anyone who knew Christ directly; all were based on second-hand information from the apostles. However, they all at least enjoy the benefit of having been written within just a few decades of the events they describe. Looking for similarities among them, we find amazing results. All four agree on every major detail. This is especially remarkable as they were all written based on second-hand accounts; also, none of the gospel writers knew each other, and thus they could not have consorted together to produce such remarkable consistency. Given the situation, it can already be established that the four canonical gospels are remarkably reliable from a historical perspective.
However, one could claim a bias since the gospels were written by Christians. One would naturally expect Christ's supporters to write in His favor, and His enemies to write against Him. However, this is not the case. A good bit of contemporary records from the Jews, Greeks, and Romans all agree with the canonical gospels on every major detail about the life of Christ, even His resurrection! One wonders why, given the resurrection's vital importance in Christian theology, Christ's enemies did not move right away to disprove it or deny it. A successful disproof could've destroyed the early Church before it even got off the ground, but it never happened. The only possible explanation for this remarkable consistency between Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources is that the traditional account of Christ's life is solid historical fact.
I would like to briefly mention Waterloo again to reinforce my point about probability. It was extremely improbable for Napoleon to escape from Elba, be allowed to reclaim his throne in France, muster an army, fight a battle that by the conventional military standards of his day he should have one, nevertheless be defeated despite being the most brilliant military commander of his age, and all within about three month's time. Because of this enormous improbability, using your logic, it never happened.
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"You forget that the Prussians and English were allies at the Battle of Waterloo; they both won."
That illuminates my point about historical facts even better. Even though the allies won, they cannot agree on why they won. It is accepted that history is written and controlled by the victors. Here, even the victors are in disagreement.
As for Napoleon's escape from Elba and coming back to fight the allies - I do not think that something like that is as improbable as certain claims made for Christianity.
Anyway, I don't see a great disagreement between us on this Probability question. When you give your reasons as to why the facts are in favour of Christianity, you are using the tool of probability in your assessment of the facts. You may not be putting a mathematical figure on it, but on summing up the evidence, that surely is the same as summing up the probability that your conclusions are correct. On the other hand, a scientist producing a theory, which has a low probability of being correct, is not going to get his theory published in a reputable journal.
Life is all about comparing probabilities of events when making judgements. I fully accept that having a strong belief in something doesn't mean that you need to assess it critically to convince yourself. Lots of people are very happy to believe in things which you might disapprove of. They are happy in their beliefs because it comforts them. One of the great things about atheism is that you do not feel the need to hit other people on the head in an attempt to convert them to an atheist point of view.
A brief word about Waterloo - the allies might not have agreed on why they won, but it is obvious that they won. It's important to remember that we sometimes spend so much effort answering the how or why that we forget to first ask "Did it even happen in the first place?"
And one more thing:
Now I'm not trying to get belligerent here, but it seems to me that you have for some time here been trying to either disprove the existence of a deity or in some other way try to paint religious faith as illogical, so it appears that you actually have been trying to convert us to atheism.
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I agree that I am painting Faith in the supernatural as illogical and as you know by now I tried to explain that I thought that this might be explained by Faith being encoded into our genes.
But I have no ambition in trying to convert anyone to anything.
I am simply trying to see if people agree that Faith could be part of our genetic makeup and that logic would therefore not be needed to be able to believe in the supernatural.
I cannot envisage anybody wanting to follow me into battle, fighting for a God that I say doesn't exist! One normally goes out on a crusade for a positive idea, not for a negative idea. I cannot think of any wars that have been fought for the defense of Atheism.
You certainly have given an impression (at least from my point of view) of being a sort "atheist evangelist," although I'll take your word for it that that was not your intention.
Is belief encoded into our genes? Perhaps, or maybe not. It's difficult to be sure. As far as logic goes, I hope that I have been able to show that a truly objective and non-biased examination of the evidence will lead one to the conclusion that God does in fact exist. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Christianity is "the religion of logic and reason."
As for wars fought in the name of atheism, that would include very war the Soviet Union ever fought.
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