Several months ago I wrote a blog on the common claim against the resurrection which states “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (ECREE hereafter[1]). Since that time I’ve received both positive and negative feedback regarding the blog. Therefore, in taking the time to reconsider the objections to the blog, I’ve decided to expand the argument because it is deeply flawed but often passes as a good argumentation from “pop-atheists.”

If pressed along the line of the ECREE objection, the first thing the Christians should do is ask for a specific definition of extraordinary. It should be noted that the term extraordinary appears twice in the statement and should be investigated to see what the skeptic means. But how do we do that? One way to do this is to pick a likely meaning or even better use the meaning proposed by the skeptic and apply it to the sentence and see if it makes sense. Here are some examples:

Claims that are highly unlikely to be true requires evidence that is highly unlikely to be true.

  1. Claims that drive against the current scientific understanding require evidence that drives against the current scientific understanding.
  2. Leprechaun claims require leprechaun evidence. [2]

It doesn’t seem that these sentences are coherent. The same would be true if we plugged in “extraordinary” to the formula, it would simply be used as an equivocation. The fallacy of equivocation is when one term or phrased is used ambiguously in more than one way. In the ECREE both phrases “extraordinary claim” and “extraordinary evidence” lack a clear definition (as noted in the previous blog). The person using this phrase as an argument can simply make “extraordinary claim” and “extraordinary evidence” whatever they want. Therefore, by using an invalid statement, unbeknownst to the Christian, they are being handcuffed via logical fallacy.

There is another problem with the ECREE line of reasoning as well. ECREE is designed to imply that there is somehow a direct link between the nature of the claim and the nature or quality of the evidence needed to support it.[3] But this isn’t necessarily true. Skeptics say something like, “I have a pet unicorn” and then follow it up with “I also have a pet cat.” On the surface, it seems like the first one is wildly extraordinary that would require more evidence than the second claim. However, there is a difference between accepting a claim and establishing a claim. All that would need to happen to establish either claim is to produce what is claimed to own (a unicorn or a cat). Furthermore, the finding of a pet dragon might be astonishing or “extraordinary” but in establishing the claim there is no difference between the two.[4]

What would need to be shown to establish the claim  “Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead?” From a historical context, there are three things which would need to be shown to be true: (i) Jesus was alive, (ii) Jesus died, (iii) Jesus was alive again. If these can be shown to be true through the standard means of historical investigation why should accepting the claim be seen as extraordinary? Just because similar historical events aren’t observed today, doesn’t automatically raise the standard of what would be required to establish it as a historical event.

So while ECREE may be a catch phrase used in relation to the resurrection, on the grounds stated, it should be rejected as a defeater to the Christian worldview.

 

[1] http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/critical-thinking/bad-arguments/do-extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence.php

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

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