Doctrine of Christ (part 24)April 22, 2012 Time: 00:43:54
In our lesson on the resurrection of Jesus, we have been talking about what is the best explanation for the evidence of the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the disciples’ belief that God had raised him from the dead.
Last week we reviewed a couple of objections to inferring what I call the Resurrection Hypothesis. That is the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead. That was the proclamation of the earliest disciples: God raised Jesus from the dead. And I call that the Resurrection Hypothesis. Now some of us just glaze over when we see a mathematical equation, and I appreciate that – I still have a sort of lurking mathophobia that I have to struggle against – , but I think this equation here is very easy to understand. We are not trying to compute it, but just to understand it:
|----------------------||= ----------------||x -----------------------|
What this is is the probability calculus, and it shows why in fact these objections based on slogans like “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” or that “No amount of evidence could ever establish a miracle,” are in fact demonstrably fallacious. What we want to understand is the probability (and that is abbreviated by Pr) of the Resurrection Hypothesis (then you have this line ‘|’ that indicates the information relative to which that hypothesis is being considered) given the specific evidence E (and that would be the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the transformation of the disciples) and the background information B (which is our general knowledge of the world including the facts about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth up and to and through his crucifixion). So given our general background knowledge of the world and the specific evidence in this case, we want to know what the probability of the Resurrection Hypothesis is compared with the negation of the Resurrection Hypothesis: that it is false that God raised Jesus from the dead, or God did not raise Jesus from the dead. Which is more probable given the evidence and background information – the Resurrection Hypothesis or its opposite? That is what we are asking.
The probability calculus tells us that in order to compute that probability we have to understand two other probabilities. The first is the intrinsic probability of the Resurrection Hypothesis. That is to say, if you leave out the evidence – just leave aside the evidence, bracket that – what is the probability of the resurrection just on the background information alone? What is the probability God raised Jesus from the dead if you just think about the general background information we have of the world and you bracket the specific evidence. What is the probability that the Resurrection Hypothesis is false given the background information? Which is more probable relative to the background information – the Resurrection Hypothesis or its opposite? Then the other probability that we need to compute would be called the explanatory power of the Resurrection Hypothesis. That is to say, how well does this hypothesis explain the evidence? Given the Resurrection Hypothesis and the background information, how probable is it that we would have this evidence? That is to say, if given the background information and the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, how probable does that make the facts of the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief? I think you can see that probability would be extremely high! That is to say, the Resurrection Hypothesis has great explanatory power. By contrast, if the Resurrection Hypothesis is false, if God did not raise Jesus from the dead, then what is the probability that we would have this evidence that we do of the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the transformation in the disciples? So this would be the explanatory power of the Resurrection Hypothesis.1
What I tried to explain last time is that people like David Hume and others who are skeptical about identifying a miracle only focus on part of this calculus. In particular, they tend to focus on just the intrinsic probability of the resurrection. They say, given the laws of nature, given what we know about what happens to dead people, it is extremely improbable that Jesus rose from the dead. Dead men don’t rise again. They would say that this Resurrection Hypothesis is enormously improbable intrinsically, and therefore they conclude that the Resurrection Hypothesis is improbable given the evidence and the background information. That is obviously fallacious. You have got to also consider the other factors in the probability calculus. Even if the Resurrection Hypothesis is extremely improbable intrinsically relative to the background information alone, the probability or the explanatory power of the Resurrection Hypothesis could be so great that it would counterbalance any intrinsic probability of the resurrection. Once you take into account the evidence, well, then this probability Pr(R|E&B) – that God raised Jesus from the dead given the evidence and the background information – can be very high even if this probability Pr(R|B) – the resurrection relative to the background information without any evidence – is very low.
I think that is intuitively obvious, don’t you? Just because something is improbable relative to the background information, when you don’t have any evidence, it doesn’t follow that once you do have the evidence, it remains improbable. Can you imagine in a court of law arguing that relative to our background information it is highly improbable that someone is the murderer, when you abstract away all the evidence – the fingerprints, the ballistics, the eyewitness testimony – you abstract all that away and say it is highly improbable that Jones is the murderer? But it doesn’t follow that it is highly improbable that Jones is the murderer once you insert the evidence. So it is exactly the same way with the resurrection. Even if the intrinsic probability of the resurrection is very low, it doesn’t follow that therefore the Resurrection Hypothesis is very highly improbable, for its explanatory power compared to its negation could easily outweigh any improbability in the Resurrection Hypothesis itself. That was the first point I tried to make.
Question: It would seem to me that the term “miracle” would almost have to be something that is impossible or intrinsically impossible. If it is something that is ordinary, it would not be considered a miracle. If you are looking at the miracle of him being raised from the dead, it is a miracle because of what happened.
Answer: That is David Hume’s point! That is why Hume says that the resurrection is highly improbable because a miracle, he would say, by definition is a violation of the laws of nature and therefore by its very nature it is highly improbable.
Followup: So then if a person were to look back to the parting of the Red Sea, the creation of everything from nothing – everything God has ever done is a miracle.
Answer: OK, but I don’t like the way you are backpedalling here because then you are making the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus hinge on things like the evidence for the parting of the Red Sea and all these other miracles, and you are just going to confront the same problem with them.
Followup: What I was just trying to do is make it related to God – God is the cause of it.
Answer: All right; I am going to make that point in a minute. I would agree that it is highly improbable relative to the background information that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That is what I think is correct in what you are saying. A miracle is something that is not capable of happening through the natural processes of nature. But that is not the Resurrection Hypothesis. I am already making my second point, which I want to delay making. So let me just prescind from saying anything more about that point. I will say something about that in a minute.2
Question: I find it interesting that people like Hume are attacking the resurrection in virtue of its improbability. The reason we are impressed by it is because it is improbable! No one is arguing that it is not.
Answer: Well, again, I am going to say something about that in my second point. But what you are saying is that we can agree that the resurrection is highly improbable relative to the background information alone. That is correct. We really don’t need to dispute that point. I am going to dispute it, but we don’t need to because as long as the explanatory power of the hypothesis is great, then that can outweigh any intrinsic probability. So you are quite right in saying that it can be highly improbable, if you abstract all the evidence away, that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that doesn’t say anything about the probability of that hypothesis once you factor all that evidence back in again.
Question: Some critics of miracles will set up a straw man. They view miracles as a suspension of the laws of nature, whereas miracles are a superseding of the laws of nature. Everything else continues to operate according to the laws of nature apart from those specific regular situations.
Answer: I think you are making a valid point here that I have not tried to make; but you are quite right. It is incorrect to characterize a miracle as a violation of nature’s laws. Not at all! It is no more a violation of the laws of nature that God would raise Jesus from the dead than that I would, say, prevent a match from striking by removing the oxygen from the air or something of that sort. The laws of nature describe what will happen through natural factors so long as no intelligent agent is intervening. But once an intelligent agent intervenes in the situation, then the laws aren’t violated, but you have, as you say, a kind of superseded law, there are new factors in play here. So it is not as though God violates the laws of nature in raising Jesus from the dead; it is that the laws of nature have in them the implicit condition “so long as no one interferes, this is what the natural course of events will be.” That is still true in the case of Jesus’ resurrection.
Question: I see the arguments depend upon the evidence. I wonder how often the atheist just questions the evidence and says, “Well, your formulas are nice but the evidence is irrelevant.”
Answer: This is one of the things that is most stunning about contemporary New Testament scholarship, and that is that the specific evidence that I have adduced – the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the origins of the Christian faith – are agreed to by the vast majority of New Testament historians! Remember we saw that even Bart Ehrman agrees with the specific evidence; even Ehrman agrees with the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ faith. Instead he appeals to this Humean philosophical argument to try to stave off the inference to the resurrection. Certainly there are skeptical critics – that is right – who will deny the historicity of the empty tomb or some other feature of the evidence. But they are in the decided minority, which is just stunning to me. That is how credible these narratives are.
Question: Is there a simpler way you can write out that equation? Even now, after years and years, I look at that thing and I feel like I’m being clubbed over the head with mathematical formulas. Some people on the internet were saying the same thing. Could you write it out like “Probability of resurrection versus probability of evidence without resurrection.” That would be basically the same thing.
Answer: Well, yes. Now, actually, this is the simpler formula. If you look at Reasonable Faith, I have a more complex formula for calculating the probability of R on E and B [P(R|E&B)], but Timothy McGrew said to me, “Bill, that’s too complicated – use this Odds Form. It’s easier to understand and see.” If I had an eraser, what one might do is just erase the bottom line and then just compute the top line.3 Then you would also calculate what’s on the bottom line, and then you would compare them to each other. So if it’s blinding, just look at the top part and then look at the bottom part. You can see, really, it involves only two things: what is the probability of the resurrection on our background information and what is the probability of the evidence given the Resurrection Hypothesis and the background information? Once you look at this long enough, you can see there is really only two things. It is not really that difficult. The fallacy of those who say things like “Extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence” is that they are not taking into account all of the factors. They are just focusing on how extraordinary the resurrection is relative to the background information alone.
Question: It seems intuitive that what you just said is true that great claims require great evidence. Is there a more practical way? It does take a lot of explaining and you tend to lose the person in showing that is not exactly the way it is.
Answer: Last time I gave the illustration to try to convey this point of hearing an evening newscast announce the winning pick in the lottery. When the Georgia state lottery winning pick is announced, there is a number that the news reads off that, when you think about it, is enormously improbable relative to our background information, that that should be the number that would be the pick. Yet we don’t require extraordinary evidence to believe that that was the number picked. If we required extraordinary evidence, we would never believe the evening news when it reports the lottery pick because the improbability of that number being chosen would just swamp the reliability of the news, even if the news were 99.9% accurate. It would still be swamped by the improbability of that pick. So what theorists came to see is that in addition to the intrinsic probability of the hypothesis, you also have to consider this: what would be the probability that that number would be announced if, in fact, that were not the pick? If that was not the pick, what is the probability that just that number would be announced? That is extremely low and that outbalances any improbability in the thing itself.
Question: Given a set of evidence, if you have several explanations for what happened and all of them are relatively high, or relatively equal to each other, how do you account for the other explanations in that formula?
Answer: OK, this is a good question. What you are seeing is that not-R here is not a monolithic thing. Not-R includes things like the Conspiracy Hypothesis, the Apparent Death Hypothesis, the Hallucination Hypothesis, and all of these other explanations of the resurrection that we looked at. So the value of not-R would be the sum of the probability of all these other things put together. So you could calculate the probability of the resurrection versus, say, the Conspiracy Theory separately if you wanted to. But what I did here is simply sum them all together. You are quite right in saying that there is a whole raft of these things that are comprised by not-R.
Question: Your example of the lottery seems a little unsatisfying to me for some reason, and I am not sure I can articulate it exactly. It seems like we all expect some number to come up, so the fact that one does come up doesn’t seem all that unusual. It seems like the better example might be that a golf ball popped up with a number, not a ping pong ball – some really unexpected thing came up.4
Answer: Well, some number must come down the chute unless the machine malfunctions. But nevertheless, any number that comes down will be enormously improbable. You are observing an event of extraordinary improbability. It is not miraculous, that is true. It is not something that can’t happen by nature; but nevertheless when you see that, you are observing something against which the odds are millions and millions to one. So why should you believe this report on the news that that happened? That is like testimonial evidence to a highly extraordinary event. You don’t require that the testimonial evidence also be extraordinary in order to believe that event. Why? Because of what I just explained.
Question: Something like a current event, like this woman in Florida that is being tried for killing her daughter, if you substitute that situation in in your middle equation, the probability of a mother killing her child, that is almost unheard of. But then if you go back and you bring in the evidence for that, I think, to me that helps me to understand it better than the lottery example.
Answer: OK, well, that is a very nice example! You are saying, “Relative to the background information, what is the probability that this woman would kill her daughter – relative to just the background information about mothers and daughters. Well, it’s probably pretty low, right? But, given the evidence of the worms in the car trunk and the larvae and the smell and other things, maybe it is highly probable that she actually did do this thing, so that relative to the evidence and the background information, now it becomes highly probable that she is guilty. That would be a good example.
Question: To me, it seems like if you remove the background information from the line, it still means the same.
Answer: Yeah, very often, this formula will be presented without making B explicit. B will just be tacit; it will just say “What is the probability of R?” [P(R)], and the B won’t be made explicit. But I put it here explicitly because I think it is helpful to see that probabilities are never absolute. Probabilities are always relative to some body of information that you are considering. But you are right, very often the B will just be left out.
Followup: Taking it out, it makes it clear that if the evidence that you offer was that it was on the 11 o’clock news that he won is one thing, whereas if the evidence was “Well, he really wanted to win,” it means nothing. So it points out that it’s the probability of E in relationship to R. The probability of the resurrection given the evidence is equal to just the plain probability of the resurrection times the probability of the evidence if there was a resurrection.
Answer: Well, you still have to consider the probability of R in and of itself. You can’t get away from that. You don’t have to write B explicitly, but you will still then compare the probability of R to the probability of not-R. And you still have to compare the probability of the evidence, given not-R. Those have to be factored in.
Question: I also like the court case example a little better than the lottery. I was reading Readers Digest last month, and they made a comment about a woman who is suing the state or the TV station because they did post the wrong lottery number.5
Answer: Oh, really?
Followup: Yes. It probably was the reposting, not the live episode where they pop the balls up.
Answer: Yeah, so it can happen; it’s not absolutely impossible.
Followup: So the presupposition is you are watching it live.
Question: Using this kind of lottery logic that a certain event is highly improbable because it requires a series of events that are each and of themselves improbable, wouldn’t that make pretty much any event in history almost infinitely improbable, just because each event requires very specific lead-in events. So, if you multiply the probability of every single lead-in event coming up, you get anything being almost impossible.6
Answer: You would probably not do it that way. You would just consider, for example, what is the probability of war between Pakistan and India, say. You wouldn’t calculate all the infinite number of events that had to lead up to the situation that one has. You would just take the background information you have and then the hypothesis and then consider what evidence there is for it, rather than this kind of piecemeal approach. In fact, that is kind of like Plantinga’s Problem of Dwindling Probabilities, which we also talked about last week and said the fallacy was that he failed to remember that at each stage new evidence is introduced, so that the probability can actually increase with the introduction of the new evidence.
Question: I am glad you mentioned Plantinga because my comment is on that and also with what you just wrote on the board about not-Resurrection. There may be some sceptics who like Plantinga’s argument because it seems to argue in their favor. However, accounting for what you just wrote on the board about not-Resurrection, if you use Plantinga’s argument for not-Resurrection, then you would have to multiply all the probabilities of all the other counter ideas about the resurrection together, and then they also have the same problem with the diminishing probabilities.
Answer: Yeah, I remember in McGrew’s response to Plantinga, he had a very elaborate tree diagram of the different probabilities that would have to be taken into account. I can no longer bring it to mind from memory, but there were a lot of other factors that needed to be considered at each fork in the road as this tree unfolds.
That is the first point I wanted to make against this Humean argument that says that we can never have enough evidence to make it probable that some event is a miracle, or that a miracle has occurred.
The other, second point that I wanted to make is to challenge this assumption that the probability of the resurrection on the background information [Pr(R|B)] is very, very low. It seems to me that we are not in a position to say that the Resurrection Hypothesis is highly intrinsically improbable. What is highly improbable is the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead – that all the cells in his body just spontaneously came back to life again. I agree – that is enormously improbable. Conspiracy theories, apparent death theories, hallucination theories – all of those would be more probable than that Jesus would just naturally rise from the dead. But that is not the hypothesis. The hypothesis is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
So that probability is, as I said, going to rely upon two further probabilities. How can we compute the probability of the resurrection on the background information? Well, this is going to be the product of the probability of God’s existence on the background information times the probability of the resurrection given God’s existence and the background information. That is to say, the probability of the hypothesis – “God raised Jesus from the dead” given the background information [P(R|B)] – is going to be computed by the probability that God exists given the background information [P(G|B)] and then the probability that if God exists, he would raise Jesus from the dead [P(R|G&B)]:
P(R|B)= P(G|B) x P(R|G&B)
I think the probability of God’s existence on the background information is very high, as I said before. This is the whole project of natural theology – the ontological, the cosmological, the teleological, and the moral arguments for God’s existence. All of those go to try to show that this probability is very good. What is the probability, then, given that God exists, that he would raise Jesus from the dead? Well, I don’t see how you could say that it is low. You may not be able to say it’s high, but if your background information includes the life and ministry of Jesus, his radical claims, his miracles, his exorcisms, his trial, I don’t see how anyone can say with any confidence that it is improbable that God would raise Jesus from the dead.7 So I just don’t see any reason to think that this probability – that is to say, the probability of R on B – is very low. I think, at worst, you would have to be agnostic about it, and you can’t say that that is low. Therefore, again, the argument fails because the whole argument against miracles depends on saying that this intrinsic probability of the resurrection is extremely, extremely low. I don’t think that we are in a position to say that. The reason is because I think we have got good grounds for believing that God exists and that it is not improbable that he would raise Jesus.
Question: I was talking to Mike [Licona], and he was remembering in his debate – I think his first or second, I can’t remember which one – with Ehrman, they were talking about just this second point you were discussing. Ehrman in their Q&A said, “Look, Mike, if I move it to walking on water, a billion people could walk out across the lake and fall in,” and he said, “Yeah, but if my son is a billion to one, and I hold his hands as he walks across the lake, then we are talking about an external agent that could either suspend or support (whichever way you want to put it) [the laws of nature].” It does significantly change the equation.
Answer: And what did Ehrman say in response?
Followup: He just threw his hands in the air.
Answer: What is funny about that is Ehrman, as a historian (or putative historian), cannot say that the probability of God’s existence on the background information is low because he says historians can’t say anything about God. So he cannot argue that this is low. And yet, that is going to determine whether or not the probability of R on B is low. So he has really worked himself into a dead end.
Question: I think the reason people have this kind of knee jerk reaction to the probability of something incredible like a resurrection from the dead happening is really just reactionary to the fact that it is uncommon. Not that it is improbable. Because if you look at it, based on the background information of Jesus’ ministry, it is highly probable that God, knowing what we know about God, would raise his Son from the dead in order to further his plan. It is not very probable that God will resurrect half of all the people who ever die, just normally making it a common event. But the probability that God will resurrect the squirrel that just got run over is low, however sad that is, but it is not improbable so much as uncommon.
Answer: Very nice! You can’t get any better than that! What you have served to draw our attention to is the religio-historical context in which this event occurs, or allegedly occurs. It is not like the squirrel on the highway. This is an event that occurs in the life, or as a climax to the life, of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the absolute revelation of God, who performed miracles and exorcisms in attestation of that fact, and who was crucified for claiming to be the unique Son of God and the promised Son of Man. So that provides a religio-historical context that is pregnant with significance, and I think, as you say, that makes it not at all improbable that God would raise Jesus.
Let me move on from there then. This was all by way of review, but I think it probably has been helpful in clarifying why those who would block the Resurrection Hypothesis – who would cut it off at the knees – before you could even consider it, are reasoning fallaciously.
Criteria for Determining the Best Explanation
So now we have to ask ourselves – is the Resurrection Hypothesis in fact the best explanation of the evidence? Surprisingly, I don’t use Bayes’ Theorem (that’s what this is called, or the probability calculus) to argue for that. Historians generally don’t use the probability calculus. Why? Because many of these probabilities are what is called inscrutable. That is to say, we just don’t know. For example, what is the probability that God, if he exists, would raise Jesus from the dead? Well, how can you put any kind of value on that? I think we can say you can’t show that it is low.8 Someone might think it is high, but there really isn’t any way to put solid numbers to these probabilities. They are really rather inscrutable in some cases. So historians generally don’t use the probability calculus when they weigh historical explanations or hypotheses. Rather, as the historian C. B. McCullagh in his book Justifying Historical Descriptions explains, historians have a number of criteria that they apply for determining what is the best explanation.9 There are six of these that I want to highlight. I think that the hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” passes all of these six criteria.
The first criterion is that the hypothesis has great explanatory scope. That is to say, the hypothesis will explain all of the relevant evidence, not just part of it. You may recall that we indicted some of the other hypotheses competing with the Resurrection Hypothesis because of their narrow explanatory scope. Remember, for example, the Hallucination Hypothesis tries to explain the postmortem appearances, but it does nothing to explain the empty tomb. So it has narrow explanatory scope. The best explanation will be the one that has broad explanatory scope.
Second criterion will be explanatory power. That is to say, how well does it explain the evidence? We saw that that does feature in this probability calculus – given the hypothesis, does it explain well the evidence that we have?
Thirdly would be – is it plausible? Plausibility. Would it imply a number of false beliefs if this hypothesis were true, or is it plausible given the context? Here I would argue that, as we said, the resurrection of Jesus is very plausible given its religio-historical context.
Fourth would be that it is not ad hoc or contrived. Ad hoc is Latin, meaning “to this,” and the idea of something that is ad hoc is a hypothesis that is contrived – it is made up just to explain this specific thing. There is a certain artificiality about an ad hoc hypothesis that speaks against it. The Resurrection Hypothesis, it seems to me, is not ad hoc in that way. Given the existence of God, established by natural theology, it seems to me perfectly natural to say that God would raise Jesus from the dead.
In Accord with Accepted Beliefs
Number five is that it is in accord with accepted beliefs. Someone might say here, “But the resurrection is not in accord with accepted beliefs; it is an accepted belief that men do not rise from the dead, and the resurrection says Jesus rose from the dead.” But again I think we need to be careful. What the accepted belief is is that people don’t rise naturally from the dead. There is nothing in the laws of nature that would bring somebody back from the dead. The Christian agrees with that! We agree that it is extraordinarily and impossibly improbable that Jesus would come back to life just naturally. But that is not the Resurrection Hypothesis. That is that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that is not in conflict with accepted beliefs.
Outstrips Rival Hypotheses
Finally, number six would be that it outstrips its rival hypotheses in meeting conditions 1 to 5. One of the things that is striking about the Resurrection Hypothesis is when you compare it to its competitors, it really outstrips them in explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, and therefore none of these other alternative explanations has generated a large following among contemporary scholars.10 Most of these alternatives are debunked and have no followers at all today. So those who deny the Resurrection Hypothesis are pretty much typically left with no explanation at all. They just say we don’t know what happened to Jesus. But they don’t really have an explanatory alternative. The Resurrection Hypothesis, by almost all accounts, far outstrips any of its rivals. So those who reject it are simply left with no explanation at all.
So it seems to me that, on the basis of these criteria, we can infer that the best explanation of the facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Question: Could you delineate between number 3 and number 5?
Answer: In Reasonable Faith, I give a more detailed account of that that I didn’t give here today.11 For plausibility, this is the degree to which accepted knowledge implies the hypothesis compared to the degree to which accepted knowledge implies the falsity of the hypothesis. That would be number 3. Number 5 would be that if you add the hypothesis to the body of accepted truths then fewer falsehoods result. Those are kind of close, but that would be technically how one might differentiate those.
Question: C. S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that he thinks Christianity is true because it has the “ring of truth” and is not the kind of thing somebody would make up. He compares it to the truth about the solar system and astronomy. Before people could observe, they made up these theories that now don’t make sense, we know they are false. The actual facts are not the kind of things they could invent. In the Jewish and Greek cultures where Jesus was ministering and Paul, Paul says the resurrection and the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. So it seems like it is unlikely that he would invent that, or make it up. Is that another criterion that you would perhaps add to your list?
Answer: No, actually, where I think that point would fit in very nicely is in establishing the third piece of evidence; namely, that the disciples came to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead because that is not something that they would, in all probability, have come to believe either from a Jewish point of view or from a Gentile point of view for exactly the reasons that you mention. So that, I would see, is part of the evidence establishing that third fact.12
5 “Readers Digest”, June/July 2011 issue. The incident occurred in New Jersey in 2009. This actually adds some additional and interesting points to consider. The numbers that the TV station erroneously reported as the winning numbers were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (the true, actual winning numbers were 4, 9, 12, 16, 46, 44). The improbability of the numbers announced is actually the same as the numbers actually picked, for any combination of numbers is equally improbable. Nevertheless, that the first six natural numbers should be picked in order looks fishy on the face of it. Why is this? As Intelligent Design theorists like William Dembski explain, it is not due to the high improbability of such a numerical sequence; rather it is due to its complexity. The sequence of numbers actually picked is random and so easily specified – “Pick any number!” – , but the number announced would require a good deal of information to specify. It is its specified complexity that disqualifies the chance hypothesis.
9 C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 19.
11 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. rev. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2008), p. 233.
12 Total Running Time: 43:53 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)