What would happen if two people out in space a few meters apart, abandoned by their spacecraft, decided to wait until gravity pulled them together? My initial thought was that …
In the Unbelievable podcast episode Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Jonathan McLatchie vs Jonathan Pearce I was struck by several claims and points, especially made by Jonathan McLatchie. I went back and listened to two other debates with him, one with Matt Dillahunty and one with myself and found some of the points Pearce made against McLatchie were things that both I and Matt had brought up -- mostly about McLatchie's apparent over-fondness for stories over real evidence.
McLatchie says that the frequency with which we experience something is not always a good guide to its probability. Although I'd suggest that it is usually a very good guide, let's look at his example.
McLatchie says proton decay has not been observed, but is predicted by most (if not all) grand unified theories of particle physics so frequency is not a good guide for prior probability. He comments that the difference between a rare event that has a low prior vs one with a high prior, like that for proton decay, is that proton decay has a theoretical underpinning.
it's not that this is just a random guess even though there's no precedent
In the same way, he feels, the resurrection has no precedent but also has a theoretical underpinning.
[...] frequency isn't the most helpful metric for assessing the prior probability you also want to look for whether there's a theoretical underpinning for this hypothesis and likewise with the case for christianity the case for the resurrection in particular i think that you can make a similar case from a theoretical underpinning a background information that stands independently of the extent to which there is precedence in our experience of the miraculous [...]
The comparison is laughable to me, given the differences in the "theoretical underpinning" of each, but let's see how the comparison plays out. The Standard Model predicts that proton decay will not happen -- that it violates a conservation law -- however many models that build off of the Standard Model do include proton decay. Given the state of affairs, I'm not sure if scientists put a large prior on proton decay anyway, but let's grant that -- say, we are reasonably confident that proton decay will occur. What theoretical underpinning would we have to give us this confidence?
There are many times that science has predicted rare and unprecedented events or effects.
Note that several of these were not confirmed, yet at the time there were good reasons to think they were true. Whenever science has predicted a rare, unprecedented event there have been common patterns.
We can be confident in the prediction of proton decay in as much as those theories that predict it have been confirmed to a great degree on other terms. For example, "the standard model predicts the electron magnetic moment to an astonishing accuracy of one part in a trillion." The Standard Model is also consistent with every other theory within its domain, and doesn't violate any outside of its domain (the role of gravity, for example, is outside the Standard Model). Grand unified theories all have to be as accurate as the Standard Model to be considered. It is these factors that make us confident in the prediction of novel phenomena.
How does the "theoretical underpinning" of the God-theory for the Resurrection stack up? The things that McLatchie brings up are
The episode dealt with these topics pretty well, and I've written a bit about some of them, including miracles, healings, and my conversation with Jonathan McLatchie. But simply compare the theories around proton decay and those of the Resurrection.
So I want to ask Jonathan McLatchie a few questions: