Sunday, January 30, 2011

No Pity

A book I sometimes talk about but am hesitant to recommend is Richard Adams's The Girl in the Swing. I hesitate to recommend it because it is sexually explicit as well as being a thriller and quite haunting.

On the other hand, it has some important insights. I don't (for obvious reasons) own a copy of the book, so I will be speaking from memory here. At one point there is a conversation between an Anglican priest (perhaps the best character in the book) and a young couple. The bride, a pagan if there ever was one, presses the priest with some animation on what she sees as the unnecessary absence of sex in Christianity. Why, she wants to know, can't Christianity be more like pagan fertility cults? Wouldn't that make it a lot more attractive? Wouldn't that make it more affirming of the joy and beauty in the world?

The priest answers with care. He talks about the story of Kali, who comes up out of the river, suckles her child, and then kills it. He says that he believes that paganism, and pagan fertility religion specifically, without the taming influence of Christianity, is cruel. Speaking of a fertility goddess, any fertility goddess, he says, "She'd have no pity."

This is Adams's version of the insight I am always paraphrasing from C.S. Lewis, who in turn got it from Denis de Rougemont: When Eros is made a god, he becomes a devil.

There are those today (fortunately, not a very influential group, as yet) who want to promote paganism as an alternative to contemporary liberalism, and who miss no opportunity to attack Christianity as, supposedly, the cause of contemporary liberalism. We have at least one commentator in this camp at my group blog, What's Wrong With the World. When Christians lament the anti-natalism of our current culture and the crazy, postmodern attacks on the very meaning of marriage, the programmatic pagan thinks this is a great opportunity to suggest that the real origin of the redefinition of marriage lies 'way back in Christian asceticism. I will not trouble my readers here at Extra Thoughts with all the obvious responses that could be made to this agenda-driven historical silliness, reminiscent of all the trendy -isms that have left the university an intellectual wasteland.

But I will point out that one of the first supposed "advantages" of the supposedly "pro-natal" pagan view of marriage, pointed out by the advocate himself, is that if a pagan marriage was barren, divorce was possible on that basis alone. Right here we see the "no pity" principle in action--I guess Henry VIII was a good pagan when he ditched poor Catherine, though to be strictly accurate, Catherine was not barren, only unlucky enough to have baby boys who died and a baby girl who lived. Then again, considering the demographics-bending pagan preference for boys over girls and willingness to commit large-scale female infanticide, perhaps Henry was being a good pagan there, too.

The sexual revolution has given us an inkling of what a fertility cult is all about, and it isn't a pretty picture. Children are the first casualties. It is indeed true that when Eros is made a god, he becomes a devil. All the magic of sexuality and of the differences between the sexes needs, desperately requires, the Christian virtues of love, restraint, lifelong commitment, care for the weak, and denial of self. Man is fallen, and so, too, is man's sexual nature. Without the restoration of human nature in Jesus Christ, the worship of that nature leads to barbarism, cruelty, oppression of women, and the sacrificing of the weakest among us.

Adams was a good novelist, and a man of insight, and he understood this truth. (He was not really a good Christian, so he wasn't quite sure what to do with it.) Without committing too much of a plot spoiler, I will say that the saddest and most telling line in the book, in German, is this: "Ich hatte kein Mitleid"--"I had no pity."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Thanksgivings

My readers know that one purpose of this blog is making unexpected parallels between Anglican liturgy and Baptist or other low-Protestant songs, prayer, etc.

Here is one. From the Book of Common Prayer, the General Thanksgiving:

Almighty God, father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks, for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to thy service and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end, Amen.

The other, from "Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You" by the Cathedrals--the prayer in the middle spoken by the late George Younce.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for music and singing, and for giving us so much to sing about. Thank you for simple things: the sun coming up in the morning, rain when the ground is dry, for sleep when our bodies are tired, and a good meal when we’re hungry. Thank you we can feel things—that we can laugh and cry. Thank you for the good times, but thanks for the hard times too, that keep us depending on you. Thank you for homes and children, and for giving us the chance to know what it’s like to be loved. But most of all, thanks for giving us your Son. Help us to love like that. Lord, we just want to thank you. Thank you for being so good.

There must be something natural about that progression--"Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life, but most of all, for your inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ." Christians from very different traditions naturally gravitate to it, for obvious reasons. On the one hand, we don't want to be ungrateful for the earthly blessings. "All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee." "We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into His gates with singing, and into His courts with praise." On the other hand, we want to tell Our Lord that His death was the most important blessing, the blessing above all blessings.

HT: Eldest Daughter

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The end of chastity

This post is for my fellow conservatives. It's something for you to know, and possibly to say (though without any hope of convincing) when you're asked the stupid, tired, tedious question by homosexual activists, "How does it hurt you if two men can legally marry each other?"

There are so many answers to this that it's difficult to know where to begin or stop. It can make one speechless just being confronted by such a crazy question. We could start with, "You're going to try to make businessmen refer to two men or two women as married in multiple discrimination-type situations, and that's coercion of conscience." Or how about, "I don't want my children taught that two women or two men can be married, and this is going to make that more prevalent in society and harder to avoid." Or, "If anyone and/or his children have any connection with popular culture, this will lead to more public homosexual expressions of affection and to confronting us and our kids with the normalization of sodomy in our faces more, and I consider that highly undesirable."

One could, as I say, go on and on.

But here's something for Christians and conservatives to know, to have said for you, and to have in your own mind even if it will be loudly denied by homosexual activists: The very notions of chastity and purity, and the condemnation of fornication, which are so central to Christian sexual ethics, become meaningless once homosexuality is treated as normal.

Homosexual activists who deny this are lying to you. I suppose it's just barely possible that some Christian pro-homosexual activist who denies it is lying to himself first, but it would have to be a really determined lie.

Think about the throat-choking sick joke of talking seriously to, say, a church high-school youth group about sexual purity and saving yourself for marriage if the church in question blesses same-sex unions and has active homosexuals among its leadership. We are then supposed to pretend that homosexuals have the same notions of purity, chastity, and "waiting until marriage" that we are trying to teach to these young people, but that they just apply them to same-sex couples and unions. Rrrright. Imagine trying to teach a group of church boys at some sort of boys' retreat that pornography is wrong while some of the boys are openly pairing up in male homosexual "boyfriend" couples and while this is smiled upon by the youth group leadership. Oh, homosexual and lesbian sodomy, no problem, just "wait until marriage" (or, as we should say, "marriage"). But pornography--that's bad. Don't get involved with that. Because sins of the flesh are bad. Lust is bad. Fornication is bad. We want to keep ourselves, our minds and our bodies, pure in order to honor God. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Rrrrright.

Homosexuals do not have the same notions of faithfulness, even to one another, that heterosexuals do. Here (a link I've put up before) is just one bit of evidence for this--homosexuals helping us to define down "monogamy."

But beyond that, all those quaint, Biblical ideas about purity, the evils of lasciviousness and fornication, and keeping oneself for one's spouse, are part of a total worldview--a worldview that is, in the jargon, intrinsically "heteronormative." Let's not fool ourselves: The homosexual agenda, the push for approval of homosexual relationships, is part of the sexual revolution. It is part of the attack on the entire set of ideas, as a set, that includes all that stuff about saving yourself for marriage, not looking at pornography, keeping pure, and being faithful to your spouse. It is part of sexual liberation for omnisexual behavior. (That's why "Gay Pride" parades are what they are--namely, something you don't want to know more about and wish you didn't know about if you do.) Those Biblical and Christian concepts of sexual purity cannot be ported over to a pro-homosexual context. The sweet and glorious notions of the complementarity of the sexes and of God's plan for marriage, taught throughout Scripture and engraved in our hearts in the natural law, are woven into their very warp and woof. That's why it should make you just a little bit sick to imagine the church youth group scenarios I referred to above in which youth leaders attempt to continue to teach Christian sexual mores with the "adjustment" of applying them to same-sex couples. It's a no-can-do thing.

Remember this the next time someone asks you how homosexual "marriage" hurts you: It makes a joke of all the crucial, Biblical ideas of sexual purity that are so important to marriage itself and to preparing our young people for marriage. In this sense, every verse in the Bible about the evils of sexual sin and lust, every injunction to purity and chastity, is a verse against homosexuality, even if it isn't mentioned in that location.

If your church, God forbid, embraces the homosexual agenda and approves of homosexuality as not sinful, that is the end of chastity as a serious concept in your church. If you don't want your child taught in Sunday School and church youth group a crazed, warped notion of "chastity" that applies to Bill and Jimmy (high school "sweethearts" who ought to wait for sex until they get "married"), and if you also don't want these ideas simply to fall off the radar altogether while still bringing your child up in that church (which seems to me, actually, more likely) get out fast at the first indication that your church leadership approves of homosexuality.

The life you save may be one more precious to you than your own.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog housekeeping

To commentators:

I've noticed recently that a number of you have been reposting your comments by breaking them up into two or more parts.

This is to let you know that the "requested URL too large" message you sometimes get from Google when you write a long comment is misleading. I am getting these longer comments and could simply moderate them as they are. Give it a try and see whether your long comments come through without your having to go to the trouble to break them up and re-post. As it stands, I'm simply deleting the duplicates, but it does worry me sometimes that I might accidentally delete some part of what you have to say.

I've learned to ignore that "too large" message. The comment is always there anyway. Of course, that's easy for me to do, because my comments are unmoderated, since I'm the blog administrator. So I can simply go and look to see whether it posted. I'm sorry that this isn't as easy for you, my valued readers, to do. Unfortunately I have reason to believe that it's still a good idea to keep comments moderation turned on.

The only message I've ever gotten that really meant that my comment didn't post was something like, "We were unable to fulfill your request" or words to that effect. In that case, the comment was really simply lost, and I could not even use the back button to recover the content and break it up.

But the white screen with the "requested URL too large" message appears, so far, to be functionally meaningless. So you can save yourselves some time by just waiting to see if your long comment appears before trying again. Thanks!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Undesigned coincidences

Here is an exceedingly interesting talk by Esteemed Husband, given in New Orleans last Sunday, on undesigned coincidences in the Gospels. This is an argument that was well-known in the nineteenth century but has, for no really clear reason, simply been forgotten as time has gone on. It is a cumulative case argument that the Gospels reflect, to an important extent, independent knowledge of actual events. Please note that this argument is quite independent of one's preferred answer to the synoptic question. That is to say, even if, e.g., Mark was the first Gospel and others had access to Mark and show signs of literary dependence on Mark, the argument from undesigned coincidences provides evidence for independent knowledge of real events among the Gospel writers. There are many more of such coincidences beyond those given in the talk.

Hopefully there will eventually be links to two talks given at New Orleans Baptist Seminary on Sunday night and Monday morning, including some of the same material and a good deal of additional material. My understanding is that there may be a small fee for those downloads when they become available.

Cross-posted to W4

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God's limitations

Recently my attention has been drawn to the controversy over whether or not God is in time. Always having been a convinced Boethian on this topic, I've been interested to see what the arguments on the other side are. Some of them appear to stem from what are known as "A-series time" intuitions which I simply do not share--for example, that there is a "real now" that is objective, not relative to any individual or any particular object, and that really does "move," so that in some sense independent of my location in time or the location in time of any other finite being or entity it really is "after Christmas now" but really was "before Christmas three weeks ago." This just seems incorrect to me, so any argument that God must be in time that starts with this as a premise is not going to move me.

Another argument is that, if God is not in time, God cannot enjoy the experience of listening to music, and this would be a lack of some kind in God. (The music argument is given in one of these two interview parts, though at the moment I don't have time to listen to them again and figure out which one it's in.) The idea is that listening to music is irreducibly a temporally ordered experience. I'm willing to grant that that is true, though I would hesitate to define "listening to music" as being identical with "knowing music" or "understanding music." It seems to me entirely plausible that there could be some sort of "all at once" comprehension of music that would not require listening to it temporally. But I'll grant that the experience of listening to a song or a sonata is a temporal experience.

It seems to me that this argument proves too much. There are many pleasant and joyful experiences that we have as human beings that depend crucially on our limitations. The experience, for example, of not knowing what happens at the end of a story and of gradually figuring it out depends upon our not being omniscient. The experience of being surprised depends on a lack of omniscience. The experience of traveling along a road and seeing a gorgeous vista open gradually before one's eyes depends on the ability to travel in space, or at least to experience as-if traveling in space. (But those who believe that God is in time typically, as I understand it, agree that God is not in space.) The experience of normal sexual love between man and woman depends upon the limitation of being just one of these--either a man or a woman--and being limited to that unique set of feelings and experiences.

It would be entirely possible to respond to the argument that a Boethian God cannot know what it is like to listen to music by pointing out that the Christian God also, presumably, does not know what it is like to hate God, to sin, and the like. I would guess that the anti-Boethian would reply that these would be bad things to experience, but that the experience of listening to music is a good experience.

So I think the set of examples above provide an even better argument. One of the things about being human is that we have not only the sorrows but also the joys and pleasures we have because God has given us a unique human nature, and that unique nature depends upon our being limited. To say that God (not incarnate--I'll say something about the incarnation in a moment) must be missing some perfection because he does not share those experiences of ours that depend upon our being limited seems perverse. It seems that we will then have to insist upon lowering the divine nature to the level of our own in order to allow God to experience our distinctly human pleasures. If we can insist on this for temporal limitation and listening to music temporally, why not for any of the other things named? Would we not also have to insist that God must be able to suspend his omniscience in order to have the great pleasure of some wonderful surprise? (And some surprises are truly great and truly wonderful.) Or that God would have to be able to avoid "reading the end of the book" in order to have the pleasure of finding out what happens "for the first time" when he gets to the end of a book?

The pleasure of listening to music temporally involves, crucially, the limitation of not hearing some parts of the music while one is hearing others. Even if one has heard the piece before, so that the rest of the piece is not exactly a surprise, when one listens again the pleasure requires that one set aside, to some degree, the previous memory of what comes next, that one experience only part of the music at a time and see it unfold in order. This is obviously a pleasure of limitation. Interestingly, those who disagree with the Boethian view apparently do affirm divine omniscience, which makes it extremely difficult to know what it would be like for God, even on their view, to listen to music sequentially. It would seem that God as they conceive him cannot be simultaneously knowing what it is like to hear the second movement (or the second measure) while he is knowing what it is like to hear the first movement (or the first measure). How is this compatible with omniscience?

To a very large degree we who believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God must accept that we do not know what it is like to be God. This is true of Boethians and non-Boethians alike. Since it is true, and since there seems to be no principled reason to stop at requiring God to have some, but not all, of our limitations (such as being in time) in order to share our innocent and valuable pleasures, I do not see a good reason to start making such requirements in the first place, even for the sake of music.

It also seems to me that the music argument for placing God in time tends to downplay the importance of the incarnation. One of the points of the incarnation is that in it God took upon himself our human nature. By that means, it came to pass that God had our experiences of limitation and also many of our uniquely human experiences of enjoyment. (Though not all the particular ones, of course; Jesus never was married, never listened to Mozart, and so forth.) It seems to me that to a very great extent we are supposed to defer questions of "does God know exactly what it's like to feel x" (the wind on his face, the pleasure of sleep after fatigue, the experience of listening to music) to the incarnation and to say that sharing our nature in those ways was one of the reasons cur deus homo. Why anticipate that by making the divine nature temporal apart from the incarnation?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Gospel Music--The Cathedrals

If you hang around this site, you'll soon learn that it's an odd and varied place. Probability theory and gospel music, lions and tigers and bears.

I've been recently enjoying a CD version of an old (I think over fifteen years old) concert by an immortal gospel group, the Cathedrals. The album is "The Cathedrals Alive: Deep in the Heart of Texas." As it happens, all the tracks are available on Youtube. Here's one--"Ride That Glory Train." Listen for the late, great gospel pianist Roger Bennett accompanying. This isn't as fancy a video as some, so you don't get to see Roger, but he's a real presence in the song. As I've mentioned on other posts, George Younce and Glen Payne, two of the greats of gospel music, have both gone home to heaven, as has Roger (a much younger man who died of leukemia). Ernie Haase, the tenor, and Scott Fowler, the baritone, both have groups of their own.

Here is "We Shall See Jesus," from the same concert.

In June of 2010, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound recorded their new Cathedrals Tribute project, and here is the video of "We Shall See Jesus" from that project, with Ernie's wonderful introduction:

Great decision on Ernie's part not to let the song die. It would be a terrible thing if good songs were allowed to become museum pieces because people regard them as "belonging" to a singer who is now dead. Songs should live on. (I feel the same way about reprinting books, by the way, not to mention the deplorable habit publishers have of making books so incredibly expensive that publishing on paper now is like burying an article. The author writes, as the songwriter writes, for an audience, for the work to be known and, in the case of a song, performed and heard.)

Here is a great paragraph from a blog review of the DVD Cathedrals Tribute project:

Glen stays with them through the remainder of the song, and it’s hard to describe just how powerful that is. When people lose a loved one today, too many of them turn to empty means of comfort like letter-writing, or worse, to the occult, to give themselves a feeling of communication with the person. Yet Glen’s presence through video with the group as they sing provides a powerful reminder of the communion of saints without any such desperate measures. We as Christians do not need to convince ourselves that Glen is alive—we know that he is alive. He was with the group that night in more ways than one. Yes, we will see him again one day, but in the meanwhile, we have the assurance that he is living still.

That connection between gospel music and a concept like "the communion of saints" sounds like the kind of thing I might talk about here.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The odds form of Bayes's Theorem [Updated]

It's been brought to my attention that an atheist styling himself some sort of probability expert has been going about implying that Tim and I are deceptive or slippery in our presentation of our argument for the resurrection, that I was misleading in my interview with Luke Muehlhauser on Common Sense Atheism, that our argument for the resurrection in our Blackwell anthology paper is worthless, and heaven knows what else.

The problem seems to stem from the fact that our article focuses on the likelihood ratio (known as the Bayes factor) for the evidence we adduce rather than on the prior probability of the resurrection.

First of all, for the record: No, we were not remotely deceptive or misleading about this in the article. We were painfully explicit about it. (The entire preprint text of the article is available on-line here.) Viz.:

Even as we focus on the resurrection of Jesus, our aim is limited. To show that the probability of R given all evidence relevant to it is high would require us to examine other evidence bearing on the existence of God, since such other evidence – both positive and negative – is indirectly relevant to the occurrence of the resurrection. Examining every piece of data relevant to R more directly – including, for example, the many issues in textual scholarship and archeology which we shall discuss only briefly – would require many volumes. Our intent, rather, is to examine a small set of salient public facts that strongly support R. The historical facts in question are, we believe, those most pertinent to the argument. Our aim is to show that this evidence, taken cumulatively, provides a strong argument of the sort Richard Swinburne calls “C-inductive” – that is, whether or not P(R) is greater than some specified value such as 0.5 or 0.9 given all evidence, this evidence itself heavily favors R over ~R.


But our estimated Bayes factors for these pieces of evidence were, respectively, 10^2, 10^39, and 10^3. Sheer multiplication through gives a Bayes factor of 10^44, a weight of evidence that would be sufficient to overcome a prior probability (or rather improbability) of 10^–40 for R and leave us with a posterior probability in excess of 0.9999.

In my interview with Luke M., I said this (transcribed from the podcast, available here, at approximately 16:10 to 19:30):

In Bayesian terms, what we do in the article is that we try to separate might call...the indirect evidence, which would be relevant to that prior probability, from the direct evidence. So the things that would be relevant to the prior probability would be things like evidence for and against theism, for example, evidence for and against the existence specifically of the God of Israel, the God of the Jews, or other evidence prior to Jesus' purported resurrection regarding who Jesus was, and so forth. That would all be relevant to the prior. And what we focus on in the article instead is what we might call the direct evidence, the evidence that supposedly tells you what happened, what you might call reports...You might call it evidence after the fact. So what we focus on are the testimony of the disciples and of certain women that said that they saw and spoke with Jesus, the evidence of the disciples' willingness to die for that testimony, and the evidence of the conversion of the Apostle Paul. And what we try to do is we use a modeling device known as a Bayes factor. Roughly speaking, a Bayes factor tries to model, number one, which way the evidence is pointing and, number two, how strongly the evidence is pointing that way. And what you're trying to do at that point is you're trying to look at explanatory resources of the hypothesis, in this case, the resurrection, and the negation of the hypothesis. How well does each of these explain the evidence, and is there a big difference between how well each of these explains the evidence? I should clarify that when I say a difference, too, it's actually a's very important that you measure it by the ratio, not by the difference. But you need to look at those two hypotheses and see which one gives you a better expectation of that evidence and how much better is that expectation. So we estimate Bayes factors for these various separate pieces of evidence, then we argue for the legitimacy of multiplying these Bayes factors, because that gives you a lot of kick, and you have to discuss that issue, and we do, of independence, and whether it's legitimate to multiply them in order to combine those Bayes factors, and that ends up with this very high, high combined Bayes factor in our estimate...And so what we estimate is that you could have this overwhelmingly low prior probability (and I don't actually think that the prior probability is this low. I think it's low, but I don't think it's this low) of 10^-40 and still give a probability to the resurrection in excess of .9999. And we don't get to that by saying in fact the evidence gives us a posterior probability in excess of .9999. We just say, well this is the power of the...combined Bayes factor, and a combined power that great could overcome this great of a prior improbability and would give you this high of a posterior probability. So that's the basic method.

This is all exceedingly clear: We were arguing for a certain magnitude of confirmation of the resurrection by the evidence we adduce.

I understand that the current atheist meme on this, which shows a rather striking lack of understanding of probability, is to say that if one does not argue for a particular prior probability for some proposition, one literally can say nothing meaningful about the confirmation provided by evidence beyond the statement that there is some confirmation or other.

This is flatly false, as both the second of the quotations above from the paper and my rather detailed explanation to Luke M. show.

Let me try to lay this out, step by step, for those who are interested:

The odds form of Bayes's Theorem works like multiplying a fraction by a fraction--a fairly simple mathematical operation we all learned to do in grammar school (hopefully).

The first fraction is the ratio of the prior probabilities. So, let's take an example. Suppose that, to begin with (that is, before you get some specific evidence) some proposition H is ten times less probable than its negation. The odds are ten to one against it. Then the ratio of the prior probabilities is


Now, the second fraction we're going to multiply is the ratio of the likelihoods. So, for our simple example, suppose that the evidence is ten times more probable if H is true than if H is false. The evidence favors H by odds of 10/1. Then the ratio of the likelihoods (which is also called a Bayes factor) is


If you multiply

1/10 x 10/1

you get


The odds form of Bayes's Theorem says that the ratio of the posterior probabilities equals the ratio of the priors times the ratio of the likelihoods. What this means is that in this imaginary case, after taking that evidence into account, the probability that the event happened is equal to the probability that it didn't: what we would call colloquially 50/50. (You'll notice that the ratio 50/50 has the same value as the ratio 10/10. In this case, that's no accident.)

Okay, now, suppose, on the other hand, that the second fraction, the ratio of the likelihoods, is

1000/1. That is, the evidence is 1000 times more probable if H is true than if H is false. So the evidence favors H by odds of 1000 to 1.

Then, the ratio of the posteriors is

1/10 x 1000/1 = 1000/10 = 100/1,

which means that after taking that evidence into account (evidence that is a thousand times more probable if H is true than if it is false), we should think of the event itself as a hundred times more probable than its negation.

See how this works?

What this amounts to is that if we can argue for a high Bayes factor (that second fraction), even if we don't say what the prior odds are, we can say something very significant--namely, how low of a prior probability this evidence can overcome. That is exactly what we say in the second quotation from our paper that I gave above. It is exactly what I explain to Luke M. We say that we have argued for "a weight of evidence that would be sufficient to overcome a prior probability (or rather improbability) of 10^–40 for R and leave us with a posterior probability in excess of 0.9999."

In our paper, we concentrate on the Bayes factor. The Bayes factor shows the direction of the evidence and measures its force. We argue that it is staggeringly high in favor of R for the evidence we adduce. Naturally, the skeptics will not be likely to agree with us on that. My point here and now, however, is that neither in the paper nor in my interview was there a mistake about probability, any insignificance or triviality in our intended conclusion, nor any deception. We are clear that we are not specifying a prior probability (to do so and to argue for it in any detail would require us to evaluate all the other evidence for and against the existence of God, since that is highly relevant to the prior probability of the resurrection, which obviously would lie beyond the scope of a single paper). Nonetheless, what we do argue is, if we are successful, of great epistemic significance concerning the resurrection, because it means that this evidence is so good that it can overcome even an incredibly low prior probability.

I trust that this is now cleared up.

Update: See also this discussion of Bayesian probability and Richard Carrier at Victor Reppert's blog, here.

Update 2: See the comments thread. Luke and Richard have both apologized for their comments in the interview, and I do accept those apologies.