Via Pharyngula I learn that William Dembski has examined the math behind the 1 in 600 odds quoted in James Cameron’s The Jesus Tomb, and found it wanting. Well thanks for filling us in Bill. A bit late though. I wrote The Lost Tomb of Jesus (Not) over four months ago where I pointed out that the math didn’t show what Cameron claimed, and the statistician featured in the film backtracked on the film’s claims two days afterwards. (Coincidence? You decide.) Still, it’s good to see that Dembski has caught up with the rest of us. Now, if he could only apply this degree of skepticism to his pseudo-scientific Intelligent Design belief - really just an argument from ignorance… Yes I know – but I can dream.
Dembski’s post did puzzle me a little though. He seems to think that most skeptics “until just recently… didn’t even think that Jesus existed.” Speaking personally, I always thought that there most likely was a real “Yeshua” upon whose life the Christian myths were based; I just never believed the fairy-tale version of events described in the Gospels. But really, it’s of little concern to me whether he really existed or not (other than as an intellectual exercise), and I suspect the same is true for most non-believers, so I’m not sure why Dembski thinks he’s made such a killer point.
Dembski did issue one interesting challenge with the sort of odds I like:
Question: You think any of the skeptic societies might be interested in highlighting this work debunking the Jesus Family Tomb people? I’ll give 10 to 1 odds that they won’t.
The premise behind this is telling. As someone who first formed his beliefs and then went looking for evidence to support them (while ignoring contradictory evidence), he can’t conceive that a skeptic would honestly consider evidence that would challenge the skeptic’s position. (Even though this doesn’t actually even do that.)
Anyway, I’m not a skeptic society, but this is a skeptic blog, so perhaps I count. In the hope that I do, allow me to highlight Dembski’s work debunking the Jesus Family Tomb. 10 to 1 odds. What was the bet again? $1,000 you say? I’ll take a check. Please don’t wait another four months before sending it.