Friday, December 28, 2012

Eye witnesses are unreliable

I've seen some people recently claim that evidence for Jesus lies in the eyewitness accounts in the bible. Of course I have seen people argue with this that the gospels were written much later than when Jesus supposedly lived, so any potential eyewitness would be very old by the time it was actually written, and more likely, it is second or third hand stories of people who knew these eye witnesses. Furthermore, the stories from the gospels are so spectacular, that if they were true you would expect it to be big news of the time, and yet there are no extra-biblical accounts of those events.

But that is not actually my main concern today, what if we were to assume that the gospels were first hand accounts of what four separate people saw and wrote about. What if they were simply writing down events as they recall? Would this mean that all of those things really happened? I would argue that no, it does not mean that what they think they saw happened. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, I feel like I have seen a huge number of news stories lately where people are determining that eye witness testimony is faulty. We can see this pretty quickly at wikipedia or at the innocence project webpage. Also, anyone who has been to a magic show can tell you how convincing the tricks were, even if they knew it was fake, it looked real. And how many people have been taken in by psychics who are just doing a cold reading?

No, eye witnesses are certainly not all the proof we need for anything. They provide a good place to start looking, but we need more evidence to make any actual conclusions. If you want to see a great example of eye witnesses failing miserably, watch this video
(well, the video isn't exactly eye witness testimony, but it sort of makes my point...just shut up and enjoy, Derren Brown is awesome)


  1. Great post! Derren Brown is simply awesome! There is a famous experiment where you are supposed to count the number of basketball bounces.. It's a great example of how poor our eye witness testimony is.


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