Daniel Ang: A Scientist Looks at the Resurrection

I could, but I would find it annoying. Were those questions seriously intended? It’s something you could google in moments. However, the interesting thing is that Mormons find the evidence convincing, but nobody else does. Coincidence?

I was not aware Mormons thought this was convincing. It does not appear to be the evidence that they rest their faith.


They find the testimony to be convincing evidence that the golden tablets existed. Of course that’s because they’re already mormons. I speculate that this is analogous to you being convinced by testimony of the resurrection.

I think you are missing the point here. They don’t think this has much epistemic merit, from what I have seen, and instead direct people to a “burning bussom.” Mormonism has a distinct epistemology that strongly deemphasizes public evidence.


By some infinitesimally small amount, since there are an almost infinite number of possible conceptions of God. Having independent evidence that a God exists tells you next to nothing about what kind of God it is or what it wants. Just as you can imagine a God that wants to resurrect Jesus, I can imagine a God that planted the story, or never resurrects anyone. Heck, I can even imagine a God that would actively try to prevent that.

Merely presenting some evidence that a being with the capacity to resurrect Jesus exist is far from showing that it would want to. You still have all your work ahead of you in establishing the plausibility of the resurrection.

To @vjtorley’s point, to understand this peice of the puzzle:

You want objective evidence? There is the Resurrection. You want coherence? Well, for that you have to go deeper.

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You have definitely exceeded my knowledge of mormonism. Still, I think the analogy isn’t hopeless. The only people who believe the golden tablets actually existed are mormons already. My conjecture is that those who believe the evidence of the resurrection are Christians already. Is it really true that the biblical evidence of the resurrection is what convinced you to become Christian and that you had no prior commitment?

Why are you not a follower of Sathya Sai Baba? Millions of still living people claim to have witnessed him heal the blind and resurrect the dead?

There are miracle claims being exaggerated in the present moment for events that happened less than 75 years ago.

Despite the existence of documentation by eye-witnesses, some of whom were very recently still alive, that anyone can go and check, nobody does so. The miracle stories are believed simply upon hearing them, nothing is checked or verified, and they are passed along and exaggerated continuously. Give those stories another twenty centuries, what do we get out the other end?

How can anyone possibly trust two thousand year old collections of stories in light of what we know about human psychology, cognitive biases, and the sociology of belief? And how can you justify believing in those 2000 year old stories, while rejecting others much more well supported, and witness by thousands and some times millions of still living people?

How many of these people were publicly executed (evidence), and buried because everyone had given up on them (evidence)? How many of them were seen by the devote opposition of Sai Baba after rising from the dead, and convincing this opposition that they had risen from the dead (evidence)? When did Sai Baba himself die and rise again (evidence)? What happened after he died (evidence)?

What do the “cultural controls” tell us (evidence)? What do people in Sai Baba’s Indian context do when they try and demonstrate they are a religious leader (evidence)? How does that compare with the Messiah figures of 1st Century Palestine (evidence)?

In those questions you will see why you are comparing apples to oranges here. The similarity is only superficial.

THere is far more than stories.

The Resurrection of Jesus is, believe it or not, better supported.

I understand you have your apologetic arguments. I’m not sure what the purpose is here though. I’m willing to explain why I trust in Jesus. You don’t have to agree with it. If you want to understand, it is understandable. No one is forcing you to agree with us.


Yes, please. I’m trying to figure out how some gibberish from C. S. Lewis ties in with that. Seems to be going in the opposite direction.

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Just out of curiosity, so we know where we are starting from, have you ever read Mere Christianity?


Thanks @Guy_Coe. @John_Harshman, there is a reason this is true:

Mormonism has had a difficult time establishing public evidence for the book of mormon. From the article linked by @Guy_Coe:

Although these Mormon “eyewitnesses” are still cited in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon as though they were reliable authenticators of the text, all three of these original “eyewitnesses” eventually recanted their story about the Golden Plates:

Oliver Cowdery
Cowdery exposed Joseph Smith’s affair with Fanny Alger and, as a result, was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. Smith described Cowdery as a thief, liar, perjurer, counterfeiter, adulterer and leader of “scoundrels of the deepest degree”. Cowdery eventually became a Methodist and denied the Book of Mormon, publicly stating that he had “sorrow and shame” over his connection with Mormonism.

Martin Harris
Harris was a member of five different religious groups prior to becoming a Mormon and eight different religious groups after leaving Mormonism. Like Cowdery, Harris was also excommunicated from the Mormon Church. He recanted his “eyewitness” testimony related to the Golden Plates and reported that he did not see them as Joseph Smith maintained. Harris instead said that he saw the plates spiritually in a “state of entrancement” after praying for three days.

David Whitmer
Whitmer, like Cowdery and Harris, was eventually excommunicated from the Mormon Church. He declared himself to be a prophet of the New Church of Christ, resulting in condemnation from Joseph Smith who called him a “dumb beast to ride” and an “ass to bray out cursings instead of blessings”. Whitmer later admitted that he saw the Golden Plates “by the eye of faith” rather than with his physical eyes. He waffled repeatedly on the descriptions he offered related to this sighting.

Joseph Smith eventually decided to add additional “eyewitnesses” to his list of authenticators. He added eight more men to his list, limiting his choices to close friends or family members. These men also had difficulty staying true to Mormonism; two apostatized and left the faith and one was excommunicated. Of the five remaining “witnesses” three were blood relatives of Joseph Smith (I’ve written a chapter in Cold-Case Christianity describing the advantage of familial relationships when trying to establish a successful conspiracy).

Now if this is true (and it should be verified), this fits the pattern of an intentional conspiracy. This is not what we see with the testimonies of the Resurrection.

It’s interesting to note that the original Golden Plate “eyewitnesses” had no less religious fervor following their denial of the plates than they did when they first testified to their existence: they went on to become active members in other religious groups. Interestingly, none of the true eyewitnesses of the Resurrection slipped into any of the patterns we see in the lives of Cowdery, Harris or Whitmer.

If it is evidence we care about, these details should matter. The Resurrection of Jesus is an unequaled event in history. This evidence is there, even though we are conceding up front it is not definitive. I can’t imagine how a dead man rising to life could ever admit a definitive case, as it is just so unbelievable.


I know Tal Brooks! Had some crazy experience with Sai Baba. The article is good too, because it answers this question:

I knew the key points of the answer here already, but the details drive home the point.

You can go interview the witnesses of his miracle works. Today. Some of the very people he was claimed to have healed. He died less than 10 years ago. You can’t do that for Jesus.

Sai Baba convinced more people in his lifetime than Jesus did for the first three centuries after his death.

One big advantage we have to day is that he lived in the age of television and the internet, and we are still only a decade away from when he died. Which makes it easier to fact-check claims about him, interview skeptics, and so on. None of which we can do for Jesus’ resurrection. Notice how popular Sai Baba became, and how many followed him and still do, despite the continued existence of numerous accusations against him about fraud.

For the resurrection? What else is there?

Holy fork! That is absurd on it’s face. The accounts of the purported resurrection of Jesus that we have all come from the gospels, and aren’t even thought to be firsthand by new testament experts. And they’re millenia old.

You can go now, today, and interview living witnesses of Sai Baba’s many miracles.

How is it possible that second, or third, or worse-hand written accounts by people we have no way of corroborating are actually eye-witnesses to anything at all, millenia old, can constitute “better support” for Jesus’ resurrection, than the thousands of STILL LIVING eyewitnesses of Sai Baba’s miracle works?

Thanks. You’re preaching to the choir here though. I don’t believe any of Sai Baba’s miracle claims, just like I don’t for Jesus.

Now where do we go to interview contemporaries of Jesus?

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No, though I’ve had it quoted at me frequently.

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Look, I’m not here to bash anyone over the head. Obviously we disagree about this, and I openly admit I argue in part to try to convince you, or anyone reading this, that you’re wrong. But I don’t do this because I think you’re an idiot, and I don’t make demands of you.

It should be possible to have an argument between two grown men and for each part to try to persuade, or rebut the other without this devolving into hostilities. I know that you aren’t trying to “force” me to agree with you and you aren’t “demanding” of me that I should, and I completely share that feeling.

I argue how I see things, and you rebut my arguments and argue back. That’s in the nature of arguments. There are no hard feelings here on my part and I don’t sense any coming from you. If you don’t want to have this argument then so be it, we can stop having it. I won’t declare victory or anything. We disagree, we gave arguments and rebuttals, that’s it we can move on.

At the remove of 2000 years it’s hard to tell the difference.

Yes, and muslims will tell you that the Quran is an unequaled event too, also proof of its truth. Every religion has something like that. Each of them can only be seen from the inside.

That’s a rough approximation of the Bayesian case. I suggest that your prior must have been large.

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