Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Spiderman Problem

Of course the problem here is blindingly obvious to anyone who thinks about it a bit, but at the risk of ruining a good joke with too much philosophical analysis, let me over work it.  The number of people who are willing to uncritically and unreflectively quote the Bible as if doing so answers real questions continues to be disappointingly high.  

The Spiderman Problem:  If someone justifies a belief in part or in whole upon a religious document,  then we must have some independent grounds for thinking that what the document says is true.

The fact that Issue 122 says that the Green Goblin dies while fighting Spiderman, is not sufficient to prove that there is such a being as Green Goblin or that he is, in fact, dead.  

That the document says X is true, by itself, is not enough to justify it.  

The Spiderman Problem is why Christian believers must provide some other grounds for the resurrection than merely pointing out that the Gospels report that Jesus was resurrected. We need some independent grounds for thinking that what the Gospels say are true.  So, many Christians will turn to a historical argument.  The central problem here, as I have argued at length in my book is that people, particularly illiterate Bronze age peasants, sheepherders, and fisherman, are notoriously unreliable sources of accurate information about supernatural, paranormal, or spiritual matters.  Their error rate regarding things like resurrections, ghosts, magic, mental action at a distance, miracles, and so on is very, very high.  Couple that psychological fact about people with the tenuous, fragmented, and tiny body of third hand, hearsay reports we have about Jesus from religious zealots, and the foundations of Christianity--the resurrection--are undermined by the Spiderman Problem.

1 comment:

Jon Hanson said...

Of course then Christians will start citing things in the Bible that are corroborated by secular History but then we get back to the Spiderman problem. Just because Spiderman is set in New York city, and New York city does exist, it doesn't follow that there was a Spiderman or that anyone has ever had the powers described in it.

Of course the obvious rebuttal is that Spiderman is obviously a work of fiction while the Bible seems to be historical, so better examples would be things like UFO sightings, stories of the paranormal and other ancient religious tales filled with magic. Still, I think the Spiderman example could be good if you're looking to turn the table on apologists who demand we hold the Bible to the lowest burden of proof possible right as they turn around and shoot down other extraordinary claims without paying them any real respect.