Friday, July 11, 2014

Bart Ehrman's Circular Reasoning on Miracles

Circular logic: that's what happens when you arrive at a conclusion only because you assumed it was true from the start.  Last time, I highlighted a particular claim by Richard Dawkins that showed his faulty reasoning through circular logic.  This time, we'll look at a quote from Bart Ehrman.


"[M]iracles, by their very nature, are always the least probable explanation for what happened." -- Bart Ehrman from Misquoting Jesus.

Ehrman has made this particular claim in his book Misquoting Jesus, and also in other places, including debates with William Lane Craig and with Mike Licona.  This is a modern paraphrase of David Hume (more on him in a later post).  The problem with this claim is, if you start out with the assumption that something is the least probable explanation, then that means its probability is identically zero.  That is the only probability that can be the least, because if it's not zero, then there could be something with a smaller probability.

Do you see the circular reasoning here?  If you start with the assumption that the probability of a miracle is zero, then of course you will conclude there can be no evidence for a miracle.  This is like sticking your fingers in your ears and making nonsensical noises so you don't hear evidence.  This is like shielding yourself from taking a hard look at the evidence, no matter where it leads.  It's assuming miracles can't happen before even entertaining the evidence. This is blind faith.

But it gets worse for Dr Ehrman.  He traps himself in an incredibly ironic situation in which his presuppositions about God color his historical inquiries.  See here for details.