Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Pluralism about Antecedent Probabilities and Miracles
Reading Earman, I think I prefer to set the whole personalist-anti-personalist debate aside by introducing the idea of pluralism about prior probabilities. If you start talking like a personalist people start getting the idea that you are just starting from wherever your personal biases have taken you, while for most of us who have reflected about religion and the philosophy of religion, our prior for miracle claims is going to be fed into by such things as the credibility of theism, the moral credibility of Jesus and Christianity, our sense of whether Christians are right about what humans most profoundly need, etc. Indeed, another part of it would be whether the miracles attributed to Jesus are ones that appropriate fit with the concept of God. All of this stuff is tough to quantify, and as a result you have to just deal with the fact that people will be looking at evidence for and against Christian miracles informed by very different perspectives. Even though Hume didn't prove that we should look at the evidence essentially epistemically closed to the miraculous, his opponents have not proved that everyone has to come to this discussion with priors that will allow them to be genuinely open-minded about being persuaded to accept these miracle reports. So what I like to do is to "bracket" the left side of the equals sign in Bayes' theorem, on the assumption that of course people with lots of different priors are going to be looking at this, and just concentrate on the right side of the equals sign. Is there anything in the evidence that ought to surprise a skeptic who is paying attention? If there is, and it makes sense from a Christian standpoint, then I figure I've got something that will pull the skeptic in the direction of Christianity, even though his priors may be such that it won't come anywhere near to convincing him that Christianity is true.