Friday, September 7, 2012

Stephen Law and the Law



Dear Professor Law,

You have debated William Lane Craig on the topic of the existence of God, with a subsequent discussion of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at your blog.  This discussion has spilled over to the blog of David Marshall, here: http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2012/09/marshall-vs-law-is-resurrection.html

This prompts me to ask you the following questions, to help clarify matters.  Your response would be welcome.

The New Testament is a collection of human testimony.  Do you accept this?  Yes or no?

The analysis of human testimony is the domain of the science of jurisprudence.  Do you accept this?  Yes or no?

The rules of legal evidence should apply to all human testimony.  Do you agree?  Yes or no?

What law, court decision or legal precedent accepts the principle, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"?

Do you accept the legal maxim, "Innocent until proven guilty"?  Yes or no?

Do you understand the legal principle, "means, motive and opportunity"?  Yes or no?

Do you accept the legal principle, "means, motive and opportunity"?  Yes or no?

What first century testimony counters the testimony of the evangelists?

What legal reason do you give for disregarding the claims to eyewitness testimony in
 1 Corinthians 15:3-9, John 8:13-18, John 12:17, John 19:35, John 20:27-28, John 21:24, Luke 1:1-3, Luke 24:44-48, Acts 1:8, Acts 1:21-23, Acts 2:22-32, Acts 3:12-15, Acts 4:33, Acts 5:27-32, Acts 10:34-45, Acts 13:31, Acts 14:3, 1 John 1:1-4 and 2 Peter 1:16?

Should 21st century hearsay opinion supersede first century eyewitness testimony, unrefuted by those with the means, motive and opportunity to do so?  Yes or no?

Do you believe the New Testament accounts be given the same legal acceptance as the Domesday Book, the Ancient Statutes of Wales, or any ancient document published under the British Record Commission?  Yes or no?  If not, for what legal reason?

You stated, "In a court of law, the judge will rightly look much less favourably on testimony provided only decades after the alleged event."  This is an unsubstantiated opinion.  What legal fact supports your assertion?  Does argument by unsupported assertion demonstrate rational thinking?  Yes or no?

Do you accept the Ancient Documents Rule?  Yes or no?

"In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs."  Morewood v Wood, 14 East, 329, n., per Lord Kenyon; Weeks v Sparke, 1 M. & S. 686; Berkeley Peerage Case, 4 Campb. 416, per Mansfield, Ch. J.; see 1 Greenl. on Ev. § 128.  Do you accept this legal principle?  Yes or no?

In Dillon v Dillon, 3 Curteis, Eccl. Rep. pp. 96, 102, the following legal principle was established:  "When you examine the testimony of witnesses nearly connected with the parties, and there is nothing very peculiar tending to destroy their credit, when they depose to mere facts, their testimony is to be believed; when they depose as to matter of opinion, it is to be received with suspicion."  Do you accept this?  Yes or no?

The Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition, 1989; online version June 2012, defines "anonymous" as

1.  a. Nameless, having no name; of unknown name.
     b. Hence subst. A person whose name is not given, or is unknown.
2. transf. Bearing no author's name; of unknown or unavowed authorship.

Do you accept this definition?  Yes or no?

Merriam-Webster defines "anonymous" as

1  : of unknown authorship or origin <an anonymous tip>
: not named or identified <an anonymous author> <they wish to remain anonymous>

Do you accept this definition?  Yes or no?

Do you have any epistemology for deciding the authorship of documents? Yes or no?

Do you understand the legal principle, "res gestae"?  Yes or no?

Do you accept the legal principle, "res gestae"?  Yes or no?

Do you believe your opinion supersedes the law?  Yes or no?

Do you believe a double standard demonstrates rational thinking?  Yes or no?

Do you believe argument from ignorance demonstrates rational thinking?  Yes or no?

To what extent have you applied the rules of legal evidence to the New Testament accounts?


"Christianity founds its claim to our belief upon the weight of the evidence by which it is supported. This evidence is not peculiar to the department of theology; its rules are precisely those by which the law scans the conduct and language of men on all other subjects, even in their daily transactions. This branch of the law is one of our particular study. It is our constant employment to explore the mazes of falsehood, to detect its doublings, to pierce its thickest veils; to follow and expose its sophistries; to compare, with scrupulous exactness, the testimony of different witnesses to examine their motives and their interests; to discover truth and separate it from error. Our fellow-men know this to be our province; and perhaps this knowledge may have its influence to a greater extent than we or even they imagine. We are therefore required by the strongest motives,-- by personal interest, by the ties of kindred and friendship, by the claims of patriotism and philanthropy, to examine, and that not lightly, the evidences on which Christianity challenges our belief; and the degree of credit to which they are entitled."

Do you understand this, Professor Law?  Yes or no?

This is a joint effort by myself and a frequent contributor to Tekton. We don't expect Law to actually answer any of these questions, because he pretty clearly makes up the rules as he goes along.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks! I've let the main author know.

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  2. Testimony n. oral evidence given under oath by a witness in answer to questions posed by attorneys at trial or at a deposition.

    The peoples Law Dictionary copyright 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill

    It would appear the the answer to your first question:
    “The New Testament is a collection of human testimony. Do you accept this? Yes or no?”
    is clearly no.

    Given the usage of the term testimony in a legal context, the rest of your argument and post title suggest this is the correct context, the New Testament fails as testimony.

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  3. Given the fact that the NT is not testimony, see prior post, this is just an FYI on your extraordinary claims concern.


    On the question of:
    “What law, court decision or legal precedent accepts the principle, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"?”

    The current state of UK law as of 2009 on burden of proof as outlined by HHJ Stephen Davies who quotes Lord Nicholls(In re H (Minors) [1996] AC 563 at 586):

    "The balance of probability standard means that a court is satisfied an event occurred if the court considers that, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more likely than not. When assessing the probabilities the court will have in mind as a factor, to whatever extent is appropriate in the particular case, that the more serious the allegation the less likely it is that the event occurred and, hence, the stronger should be the evidence before the court concludes that the allegation is established on the balance of probability. ... [that] the inherent probability or improbability of an event is itself a matter to be taken into account when weighing the probabilities and deciding whether, on balance, the event occurred. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established."

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  4. Posted over at Christ the Tao as well.

    Law tries to avoid the work of sifting the historical evidence. I would too if I was as bad at it as he is. Take his argument noted on Craig’s site:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/stephen-law-on-the-non-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth

    Craig reports that Law said:

    Law: I've never said, by the way, that I've never argued that Jesus doesn't exist.

    Craig: No, I said you defended the claim. I was careful about that.

    Law: That Jesus doesn't exist?

    Craig: That—I said you defended the claim that—something to the effect that—Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist.

    Law: No.

    Craig: In your argument in your article in Faith and Philosophy, you give a seven point argument—

    Law: Yeah . . . That's not my view. My view is—The argument that I gave in that piece in Faith and Philosophy journal was that it looks like there's a good philosophical case for remaining neutral. I mean, we just can't be sure one way or the other, and that's not at all the same thing as defending the view that Jesus wasn't a historical individual.

    Craig: All right! So agnosticism about the reality of Jesus. . . . All right!


    Law’s position is ridiculous, firstly, because his argument from the actual article is ridiculous. He argues (from the article):

    http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/04/published-in-faith-and-philosophy-2011.html

    “given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of independent evidence for an historical Jesus, remain sceptical about his existence.”

    Ridiculous. Lots of people we know existed in ancient history (Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle Drawer are both roughly contemporaneous with Jesus) had lots of miracle material attached to their life stories. What amount of miracle material is too much? What amount is acceptable? Barely more than sixty years ago Simon Kimbangu went about in Africa and was said to have done all kinds of miraculous things. Should this cast doubt on his existence? Keener's recent work on miracles contains stories about many other historical figures, like the "mad monk" Rasputin of Russia who were said to have worked miracles. Law’s article shows he has no idea what he is talking about.

    Given that, his argument that we should “remain skeptical” because we “can’t be sure one way or the other” is ridiculous, secondly, because 1) it is historical paranoia/deceptive (who really knows if Lincoln existed?) and 2) it ultimately boils down to obvious information that real historians already know: we need to sift the historical evidence, using the historical method, to develop both what best fits the evidence, and what least strains the evidence.

    Given that Law is so off base with the critical scholarship (even atheist New Testament and scholars of ancient history in general), and given that he has shown such poor abilities concerning the mere existence of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no reason, at all, anyone, anywhere, should accept his analysis of the Resurrection. He has shown that he is both too biased and too ignorant of the relevant evidence/methods to weigh in on this issue.

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  5. @Failureofideas:

    To begin, it would aid matters considerably if you paid attention.

    Here is what the first query was, again:

    “The New Testament is a collection of human testimony.”

    The query was NOT, “The New Testament is a collection of LEGAL testimony.”

    It was then queried later:

    “The rules of legal evidence should apply to all human testimony. Do you agree? Yes or no?”

    Therefore, you fail as a basic reader.

    Beyond that, you also fail as a cherry-picker of legal opinions. Considering that written testimony is acceptable in a court of law, The People's Law Dictionary definition is inadequate.

    Admissibility of Oral and Written Confessions Law & Legal Definition

    "An admissible confession may be oral or written, or partly oral and partly written. The fact that a statement is not reduced to writing does not render it inadmissible. An oral confession of a defendant is admissible at trial even though the defendant made a different, written confession, since a written confession does not cancel out a prior oral confession. A written confession need not constitute a literal transcription of what the defendant said, the substance of what s/he said is sufficient."

    Uslegal.com. http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/admissibility-of-oral-and-written-confessions/ Copyright © 2001-2012 USLegal, Inc.

    According to the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, the use of written testimony "is an accepted and encouraged technique for shortening bench trials."

    Phonetele, Inc. v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 889 F.2d 224, 232 (9th Cir.1989) (citing Malone v. United States Postal Serv., 833 F.2d 128, 133 (9th Cir.1987)), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 819, 109 S.Ct. 59, 102 L.Ed.2d 37 (1992).

    In addition, you fail to reckon with exceptions given for written testimony in legal settings when a person is not available, such as when they are dead, as the Gospel authors are. Do you know what a deposition is? How about a will? Do you think a will isn’t a legally acceptable testimony? Do you think that a trial transcript does not represent legal testimony, just because it is written?

    Do you think it might be a good idea to think your way through your objections before running your mouth? I (J. P.) was in charge of a law library for several years. The state of your knowledge is such that I wouldn't even hire you to dust the books.

    Now then. Do you accept the fact that written testimony is acceptable in a court of law? Yes or no?

    Consider also the following:

    testimony /'t st m ni/

    ▶noun (pl. testimonies)
    a formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law.the testimony of an eyewitness.
    "testimony noun" Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010.

    testimony /t├ęstim nee/ n. (pl. -nies)

    1. (Law) an oral or written statement under oath or affirmation.
    2. declaration or statement of fact.
    3. evidence; demonstration (called him in testimony; produce testimony).

    "testimony n." The Oxford American Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press, 1999.

    testimony, n.
    a. Personal or documentary evidence or attestation in support of a fact or statement; hence, any form of evidence or proof.
    b. Any object or act serving as proof or evidence.

    Oxford English Dictionary,
    Second edition, 1989;

    tes•ti•mo•ny
    n. pl. tes•ti•mo•nies
    1.
    a. A declaration by a witness under oath, as that given before a court or deliberative body.
    b. All such declarations, spoken or written, offered in a legal case or deliberative hearing.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.

    Do you accept these definitions, Professor Law? Yes or no?

    Testinganidea, are you Stephen Law or does he decline to answer? These questions are for him.

    Professor Law, we await your answer to all the questions asked.

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  6. Re 2nd post on ECREE, @Testinganidea, or Professor Law,

    We requested, “What law, court decision or legal precedent..." not obiter dicta or dictum. Try again, and don’t fail this time.

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  7. Thank you for posting my prior concerns and your reply to them.

    While I read the qualifying term “human” in front of “testimony” I choose not to point out its apparent redundancy as it is only humans, and not other entities such as rocks, trees and pigs, that can give testimony. So if you intend “human testimony” to mean something other than “testimony” you will have to define the term or at least give some examples of “non-human testimony”.

    The distinction I was making is between legal (technical) and non-legal (colloquial) definitions of the term “testimony”.

    I suggest that both the title of the post the the nature of your questions implies the legal context and a formal legal definition should be used. For example when you talk of testimony as being under the “domain of the science of jurisprudence” this is only true if you use the technical definition and not the colloquial one. This is also the case when you state “written testimony [called out as depositions in my original definition] is acceptable in a court of law”; it is clearly the legal definition that applies. The New Testament is not a deposition. Again when you ask about the “hearsay” within testimony it requires the legal context and again the NT does not qualify as this type of testimony.

    But even the colloquial definitions you supplied for “testimony” seem problematic. You wrote:

    “tes•ti•mo•ny n. pl. tes•ti•mo•nies
    1. a. A declaration by a witness under oath, as that given before a court or deliberative body.
    b. All such declarations, spoken or written, offered in a legal case or deliberative hearing.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.”

    Both of these definitions involve a legal framework in which testimony is a structured part of a broader established process. In what sense do you see these definitions applying to the New Testament?

    Perhaps, since you make a distinction between “human testimony” and “legal testimony” you accept that the gospels are not testimony in any legal sense or legal definition of the term. Do you accept this? Yes or no?

    Perhaps we can agree to phrase your first question as:
    “The New Testament is a collection of human stories. Do you accept this? Yes or no?”

    Again the term “human” in front of stories seems redundant but I left it in to minimize the suggested changes.

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  8. The use of “extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence” as codified in

    Lord Nicholls (In re H (Minors) [1996] AC 563 at 586):
    "... [that] the inherent probability or improbability of an event is itself a matter to be taken into account when weighing the probabilities and deciding whether, on balance, the event occurred. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established."

    is the standard by which judges make their rulings and is part of the instruction they give juries on how to evaluate the evidence presented to them. If you have reason to suggest that this is factually incorrect please provide the citations.

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  9. #failingagainat ideas

    “While I read the qualifying term ‘human’ in front of ‘testimony’ I choose not to point out its apparent redundancy as it is only humans, and not other entities such as rocks, trees and pigs, that can give testimony.”

    Bovine excrement.

    Allow me to make manifest, again, your incompetence. In this context, “human” is juxtaposed with “divine” – in order to remove from consideration, for the sake of argument, any relevance of the New Testament as divinely inspired. Anyone competent in the most basic issues in apologetics and/or Christianity would have been aware of this. Obviously, you are in over your head.

    “I suggest that both the title of the post the the nature of your questions implies the legal context and a formal legal definition should be used.”

    I suggest that you screwed up. Again. The legal definition is applied, properly and in order.

    “For example when you talk of testimony as being under the ‘domain of the science of jurisprudence’” this is only true if you use the technical definition and not the colloquial one.”

    That is why we then added the query of whether human testimony ought to be judged by standard of jurisprudence. Once again, you fail miserably to follow the train of thought. Yes, the NT is not formally a deposition. However, it is able to be judged by the same standards as one. This is the point of the queries, which you have again missed due to your poor comprehension: That although the NT (and any other historical document) is not FORMAL legal testimony, delivered under oath in a court, the rules of evidence may nevertheless be applied.

    Re hearsay: According to what rule of legal evidence? Are you familiar with the Ancient Documents Rule? Yes or no?

    “Perhaps, since you make a distinction between ‘human testimony’ and ‘legal testimony’ you accept that the gospels are not testimony in any legal sense or legal definition of the term. Do you accept this? Yes or no?”

    If you had the least grain of intelligence or comprehension, you would have understood that the queries as formulated already indicate a “no” answer. Sorry – I don’t accept “suggestions” from people who make them because of their own lack of comprehension or understanding – and that make excuses for it when called down on it. That said, the use of “human stories” is hardly mutually exclusive; a testimony can be in the form of a story (which can be either fictional or non-fictional). So do yourself a favor – go down to Barnes and Noble and buy a dictionary, or else stop using the one you have to sit at the dinner table.

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  10. Further,

    What part of "obiter dictum or dicta" do you not understand?

    Does willful ignorance demonstrate rational thinking, yes or no?

    Hello, anybody home? (Knock on wooden head.) Think, McFly, think!

    http://youtu.be/4dzxDITbqeU

    If you are not familiar with the rules of legal evidence, why argue as if you do?

    obiter dictum

    means
    An incidental statement or remark; something said by the way. Freq. (Law): an opinion expressed by a judge in discussing a point of law or in giving a judgment, which is not essential to the decision, and which therefore lacks binding authority.
    obiter dictum, n.
    Oxford English Dictionary, Third edition, March 2004

    o•bi•ter dictum
    n. pl. obiter dicta
    1. Law An opinion voiced by a judge that has only incidental bearing on the case in question and is therefore not binding. Also called dictum.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Do you now understand the definition? Yes or no?

    "Obiter dictum" is not "the standard by which judges make their rulings." Do you understand that? Yes or no?

    Can you cite a later case that uses Lord Nicholls's opinion? Yes or no?

    Are you Professor Law? Yes or no?

    Answer all the questions in the post accordingly. Fail to do so, you concede you are incapable of coping with these questions, and that your position cannot be defended rationally. We have no reason to post replies that fail to address the argument in its entirety.

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  11. @testinganidea: there is no such thing as UK law. Scots law and English law are completely separate entities, with different origins, laws, verdicts and systems of prosecution.

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  12. @JR Strewth! We've been looking into that quote he bowdlerized and the more we find the worse he looks. There's more to it he didn't want us to see.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldjudgmt/jd080611/child-1.htm

    “The balance of probability standard means that a court is satisfied an event occurred if the court considers that, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more likely than not. When assessing the probabilities the court will have in mind as a factor, to whatever extent is appropriate in the particular case, that the more serious the allegation the less likely it is that the event occurred and, hence, the stronger should be the evidence before the court concludes that the allegation is established on the balance of probability. Fraud is usually less likely than negligence. Deliberate physical injury is usually less likely than accidental physical injury. A step-father is usually less likely to have repeatedly raped and had non-consensual oral sex with his under age stepdaughter than on some occasion to have lost his temper and slapped her. Built into the preponderance of probability standard is a generous degree of flexibility in respect of the seriousness of the allegation.

    "Although the result is much the same, this does not mean that where a serious allegation is in issue the standard of proof required is higher. It means only that the inherent probability or improbability of an event is itself a matter to be taken into account when weighing the probabilities and deciding whether, on balance, the event occurred. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established.”

    It doesn't mean the standard of proof is higher? Dang. I just heard testinganidea flush himself down the loo...and then this:

    "I wish to lay some stress upon the words I have italicised. Lord Nicholls was not laying down any rule of law. There is only one rule of law, namely that the occurrence of the fact in issue must be proved to have been more probable than not. Common sense, not law, requires that in deciding this question, regard should be had, to whatever extent appropriate, to inherent probabilities. If a child alleges sexual abuse by a parent, it is common sense to start with the assumption that most parents do not abuse their children. But this assumption may be swiftly dispelled by other compelling evidence of the relationship between parent and child or parent and other children. It would be absurd to suggest that the tribunal must in all cases assume that serious conduct is unlikely to have occurred. In many cases, the other evidence will show that it was all too likely. If, for example, it is clear that a child was assaulted by one or other of two people, it would make no sense to start one’s reasoning by saying that assaulting children is a serious matter and therefore neither of them is likely to have done so. The fact is that one of them did and the question for the tribunal is simply whether it is more probable that one rather than the other was the perpetrator."

    Back to grade school with him!

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