[The Smell Test] is certainly ubiquitously accepted by historians in every field. It is suspiciously rejected by religious believers, and then only when it’s applied to amazing claims they prefer to believe. They ground this rejection in the claim that we shouldn’t be biased against the supernatural, and God can do anything. Yet if they honestly believed in those principles they would be compelled to concede the miracle claims of every religion “because you shouldn’t be biased against the supernatural, and God can do anything.” This includes all the pagan miracles (incredible apparitions of goddesses, mass resurrections of cooked fish, wondrous healings, and teleportations), Muslim miracles (splitting moons, wailing trees, flights to outer space), Buddhist miracles (bilocation, levitation, creating golden ladders with a mere thought), and indeed every and any amazing claim whatever. Tales “proving” reincarnation? We can’t reject them—because God can do anything. Ghosts confirming to the living that heaven is run by a Chinese magnate and his staff? We can’t rule it out. That would be bias against the supernatural.
Honestly living that way would be impossible. You would have to believe everything you read or hear unless you can specifically present evidence sufficient to discount it: an impossible task. You would be left with a belief system hopelessly frightening and contradictory—and mired in a thousand false beliefs. Such behavior also goes against all established background knowledge, which contains endless examples of miracle claims refuted by fortuitous inquiry (and no good case of any miracle claim surviving such inquiry). In other words, our bias against the supernatural is warranted, just as our bias against the honesty of politicians is warranted: we’ve caught them being dishonest so many times it would be foolish to implicitly trust anyone in politics. Likewise, amazing tales: we’ve caught them being fabricated so many times it would be foolish to implicitly trust any of them.
Richard Carrier (2012. Proving History: Baye’s Theorem and The Quest for the Historical Jesus, p. 114, 115)
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