Friday, September 03, 2010

ECREA and lotteries

This is from James Anderson, who was quoted in Triablogue's The Infidel Delusion.

One final remark: I don‘t think Carrier does himself any favors by casting his claims in terms of ‗extraordinariness‘. Perhaps he sees some rhetorical benefit in parroting Sagan. But suppose I call you up and tell you I‘ve just won the lottery (and on the first occasion I‘ve ever bought a ticket). Surely that‘s an extraordinary claim. Naturally you‘re skeptical, so I invite you over to my house, where you see with your own eyes both my ticket and the newspaper reporting the winning numbers. I‘d say that would be sufficient for you to rationally believe that I‘ve won the lottery. But did you have *extraordinary* evidence? Hardly. The evidence you had was of the most ordinary kind.

Lottery examples have frequently figured in discussions of Hume on miracles. But it does seem that they can be used in the discussion of the "weak Humeanism" of ECREA.


Jen H. said...

Unless I’m missing something, there appears to be a fatal flaw in this analogy.

The lottery example involves two assertions:
1) Someone won the lottery.
2) Bob was that someone.

The analogous assertions for the Resurrection are:
A) God resurrected someone
B) Jesus was that someone.

The problem with the analogy is that it incorrectly contrasts evidentiary standards for 2) with A); it should really be comparing 1) to A) and 2) to B).

Most people accept 2) on mundane evidence because they know that 1) is almost certainly true.

Most people would accept B) on mundane evidence if they knew A) as certainly as they know 1).

Blue Devil Knight said...

James' mistake is assuming that 'improbable' and 'extraordinary' are the same thing in skeptical arguments. It's a matter of understanding the difference between the improbable card hands that are dealt every day, and someone turning a deck of cards into a monkey.

Blue Devil Knight said...

On the evidence side, extraordinary just means really good. So, claims about flying monkeys have a higher evidentiary threshold to cross than claims about getting a really good poker hand (though even the latter, I'd like to see the hand if I'm playing against you).