Do Extraordinary Claims Really Require Extraordinary Evidence?
by Dean Meadows
One of the specific arguments leveled against the resurrection of Jesus is that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This saying, largely made famous by the late Carl Sagan, has become very popular in the skeptical community. But is this statement patently true? Or, are there any flaws in such a claim?
While “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” seems sensible on the surface, there are some flaws in this line of reasoning. First, the statement seems to collapse in on itself because the claim is asserted as an objective universal principle, meaning it applies independently and is binding on everyone in all spheres of life. As a universal principle, this claim is extraordinarily important. But, where is the extraordinary evidence that this particular universal principle, is true? Given that there is no extraordinary evidence to prove that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” this claim is logically self-defeating.
Second, what counts as “extraordinary evidence” from the standpoint of the skeptic? In the case of the historical claim regarding Jesus’ resurrection, what would “extraordinary evidence” look like? Since this claim concerns a historical event, does the skeptic not believe that the historiographical approach used among scholars today is sufficient? If not, why not? It seems then, that the extraordinary event/evidence claim, is purely ad hoc (contrived) used to mask an a priori rejection of the possibility of past supernatural events…
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