I put this question to Millican in an e-mail and here is my question and his response:

ME: Hello Dr. Millican,

I am a philosophy student from America, and I had a question that I would really appreciate your help with. I am having difficulty understanding how your reply to Earman’s book, Hume’s Abject Failure would apply to the following critique of Hume that William Lane Craig has made in another context:

”When we talk about the probability of some event or hypothesis A, that probability is always relative to a body of background information B. So we speak of the probability of A on B, or of A with respect to B.

So in order to figure out the probability of the resurrection, let B stand for our background knowledge of the world apart from any evidence for the resurrection. Let E stand for the specific evidence for Jesus’ resurrection: the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and so on. Finally, let R stand for Jesus’ resurrection. Now what we want to figure out is the probability of Jesus’ resurrection given our background knowledge of the world and the specific evidence in

this case.

B = Background knowledge

E = Specific evidence (empty tomb, postmortem

appearances, etc.)

R = Resurrection of Jesus

Pr (R/B & E) = ?

Pr (R/B&E)= Pr (R/B) × Pr (E/B&R)

_________________________________

Pr (R/B) × Pr (E/B&R) + Pr (not-R/B) × Pr (E/B& not-R)

Pr (R/B) is called the intrinsic probability of the resurrection. It tells how probable the resurrection is given our general knowledge of the world. Pr (E/B&R) is called the explanatory power of the resurrection hypothesis. It tells how probable the resurrection makes the evidence of the empty tomb and so forth. These two factors form the numerator of this ratio. Basically, Pr (not-R/B) × Pr (E/B& not-R) represent the intrinsic probability and explanatory power of all the naturalistic alternatives to Jesus’ resurrection. The probability of the resurrection could still be very high even though the Pr(R/B) alone is terribly low. Hume just ignores the crucial factors of the probability of the naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection [Pr(not-R/B) × Pr(E/B& not-R)]. If these are sufficiently low, they outbalance any intrinsic improbability of the resurrection hypothesis. Bayes has the form of x/x-y which means that as the explanatory power of the resurrection tends toward 1, and as the explanatory power of the naturalistic explanations tend toward zero, then any initial intrinsic improbability can be overcome.”

Would you agree with Craig on this?

Thank you,

Kevin

ME: Hello Dr. Millican,

I am a philosophy student from America, and I had a question that I would really appreciate your help with. I am having difficulty understanding how your reply to Earman’s book, Hume’s Abject Failure would apply to the following critique of Hume that William Lane Craig has made in another context:

”When we talk about the probability of some event or hypothesis A, that probability is always relative to a body of background information B. So we speak of the probability of A on B, or of A with respect to B.

So in order to figure out the probability of the resurrection, let B stand for our background knowledge of the world apart from any evidence for the resurrection. Let E stand for the specific evidence for Jesus’ resurrection: the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and so on. Finally, let R stand for Jesus’ resurrection. Now what we want to figure out is the probability of Jesus’ resurrection given our background knowledge of the world and the specific evidence in

this case.

B = Background knowledge

E = Specific evidence (empty tomb, postmortem

appearances, etc.)

R = Resurrection of Jesus

Pr (R/B & E) = ?

Pr (R/B&E)= Pr (R/B) × Pr (E/B&R)

_________________________________

Pr (R/B) × Pr (E/B&R) + Pr (not-R/B) × Pr (E/B& not-R)

Pr (R/B) is called the intrinsic probability of the resurrection. It tells how probable the resurrection is given our general knowledge of the world. Pr (E/B&R) is called the explanatory power of the resurrection hypothesis. It tells how probable the resurrection makes the evidence of the empty tomb and so forth. These two factors form the numerator of this ratio. Basically, Pr (not-R/B) × Pr (E/B& not-R) represent the intrinsic probability and explanatory power of all the naturalistic alternatives to Jesus’ resurrection. The probability of the resurrection could still be very high even though the Pr(R/B) alone is terribly low. Hume just ignores the crucial factors of the probability of the naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection [Pr(not-R/B) × Pr(E/B& not-R)]. If these are sufficiently low, they outbalance any intrinsic improbability of the resurrection hypothesis. Bayes has the form of x/x-y which means that as the explanatory power of the resurrection tends toward 1, and as the explanatory power of the naturalistic explanations tend toward zero, then any initial intrinsic improbability can be overcome.”

Would you agree with Craig on this?

Thank you,

Kevin

Dear Kevin,

I don't think I have any disagreement with Craig about these formal matters, and although in general I'm a big Hume fan, I don't think that on miracles his famous argument is quite correct. You might like to look at my recent paper "Twenty Questions about Hume's 'Of Miracles'", which came out in a supplement to the journal

Where Craig and I would disagree is that to my mind, he hugely underestimates the likelihood of resurrection stories arising falsely, and is over-optimistic regarding the reliability of the Gospel narratives (given the significant variations between them and the number of apocryphal gospels etc.). To assess these probabilities, we really need to know more about the psychology of religion, and hence they can't really be treated in isolation (which is not a million miles away from the theist's complaint against Hume, that he tries to treat miracle stories in isolation from whether one already believes in God or not).

All the best,

Peter Millican

Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy

Hertford College

Oxford

I don't think I have any disagreement with Craig about these formal matters, and although in general I'm a big Hume fan, I don't think that on miracles his famous argument is quite correct. You might like to look at my recent paper "Twenty Questions about Hume's 'Of Miracles'", which came out in a supplement to the journal

*Philosophy*early last year.Where Craig and I would disagree is that to my mind, he hugely underestimates the likelihood of resurrection stories arising falsely, and is over-optimistic regarding the reliability of the Gospel narratives (given the significant variations between them and the number of apocryphal gospels etc.). To assess these probabilities, we really need to know more about the psychology of religion, and hence they can't really be treated in isolation (which is not a million miles away from the theist's complaint against Hume, that he tries to treat miracle stories in isolation from whether one already believes in God or not).

All the best,

Peter Millican

Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy

Hertford College

Oxford