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Many Christian apologists claim that there exists no plausible naturalistic explanation for the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ, as well as associated events like the empty tomb and the conversion of Paul. In this document, I outline and defend what I regard to be just such a plausible naturalistic explanation for such events. In particular, the thesis I seek to defend is that my model for the resurrection appearances, which I term the HBS model, is superior to the Christian explanation of divine intervention on two counts: plausibility and explanatory scope.


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    A Naturalistic Explanation?

    James Fodor

    Second Edition

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    "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you

    are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in

    Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in

    Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

    - 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

    "At every step one has to wrestle for truth; one has to

    surrender for it almost everything to which the heart, to

    which our love, our trust in life, cling otherwise. That

    requires greatness of soul: the service of truth is the

    hardest service."

    - Friedrich Nietzsche

    - 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

    "Involuta veritas in alto latet"

    - Seneca

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    Preface to the Second Edition

    Many Christian apologists claim that there exists no plausible naturalistic explanation for the resurrection

    appearances of Jesus Christ, as well as associated events like the empty tomb and the conversion of Paul.

    In this document, I outline and defend what I regard to be just such a plausible naturalistic explanation for

    such events. In particular, the thesis I seek to defend is that my model for the resurrection appearances,

    which I term the HBS model, is superior to the Christian explanation of divine intervention on two counts:

    plausibility and explanatory scope.

    The HBS model is more plausible than the Christian explanation, because it appeals exclusively to

    psychological and sociological processes which are known to exist; that is, it requires no new hypotheses.

    In contrast, the Christian explanation requires that God exists, and that God had a reason to resurrect

    Jesus, propositions which are controversial. In addition, the HBS model has greater explanatory scope

    because, in its broad outlines, it is also capable of explaining the many other miracles and anomalous

    events detailed in Part Three. The Christian explanation, on the other hand, applies only to the particular

    case of the resurrection of Jesus, and is incapable of providing any explanation for other miracle claims.

    Thus, I argue that on the grounds of its greater plausibility and explanatory scope, the HBS model should

    be preferred to the traditional Christian explanation. If this is true, it refutes the claim of Christian

    apologists that the resurrection of Jesus provides compelling evidence for the truth of Christianity. It does

    not, however, necessarily refute the truth of Christianity, only of the soundness of this particular

    argument for the truth of Christianity.

    This document consists of four parts. In Part One, I outline my model to explain the resurrection

    appearances, which I call the HBS model. In Part Two I present what I call the 'micro-level' evidence in

    support of the model, consisting of psychological and sociological evidence which I believe supports the

    processes referred to in the HBS model. Part Three contains which I call the 'macro-level' evidence, which

    consists of a selection of case studies of religious miracles and other anomalous events, that I believe are

    roughly equally well attested to those of the resurrection appearances. Part Four briefly addresses some

    ancillary matters, including the empty tomb and the conversion of Paul, and then presents some

    responses to various criticisms of the HBS model.

    I take it as obvious that, if in fact Jesus was not resurrected, Christians would wish to know this fact.

    Conversely, at least speaking for myself, I know that if Jesus was in fact resurrected, then I would want to

    know that fact. Thus, regardless of who is correct, it is evident that a sizeable fraction of humanity

    currently exists in an epistemic state that they would prefer not to be in: that is, they hold mistaken

    beliefs about the resurrection of Jesus. It is my view that the only way to address these profound

    disagreements is by serious engagement with the evidence and arguments. Encouraging such

    engagement is one of my major motivations in preparing this document.

    That said, I am not under the illusion that this single document will convince anyone to change their

    minds. Nonetheless, I would implore my readers to try their very best to rise above such motivated

    reasoning, and make a earnest, sincere effort to seriously engage with my argument. Is this a plausible

    explanation of the resurrection appearances? If not, then why not? Which part of the model in particular

    do you take issue with, and why? What aspect of the evidence do you find lacking? What evidence, if any,

    would convince you that my model was in fact viable? In my view, this matter is too important for us to

    give it anything less than our calmest and most well-considered attention.

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    Changes to the Second Edition

    a) Alterations to the structure and organisation of the document to make it easier to follow

    b) A new section on 'methodology' where I explain in more depth the approach I am taking and the

    meaning of terms like 'explanatory power' and 'simplicity'

    c) A more detailed breakdown of the HBS model into specific modular claims

    d) Slight changes to the structure of the model to reduce the total number of stages

    e) Addition of some additional citations in section 2 regarding certain psychological processes

    f) Expanded sections on 'ability to check claims' and 'earliest anti-Christian polemics', in which I

    examine the response of the Jewish authorities in the early chapters of Acts in more depth

    g) A few changes to the religious miracle claims, adding more material for some of the examples

    h) Considerable expansion of the sections on spiritualists and UFOs with multiple witnesses

    i) Inclusion of a lengthy new section responding to some of the relevant claims made by Mike

    Licona in his book The Resurrection of Jesus

    j) Inclusion of another lengthy new section responding to some other criticisms and rebuttals that

    various people have raised with respect to the HBS model

    I sincerely hope that this document will be helpful and uplifting to those who read it. Although I present

    an argument, it is not intended to be polemical. I really do want to find out the truth, and I hope we can

    help each other along this difficult journey.

    James Fodor, April 2015

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    Section 1: A Model for the Appearances

    1.1. Introduction In this section I outline my model for the resurrection appearances of Jesus of Nazareth to many of his

    closest followers. Because of its focus on individual hallucination, socialised group religious experiences,

    and biases of memory, perception, and cognition, I have chosen to name it the Hallucination, Biases, and

    Socialization Model, which I shall henceforth refer to as the HBS model. Note that the primary purpose of

    the HBS model is to explain the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, which I believe are the most

    challenging to account for. The empty tomb and other additional issues are discussed briefly in the 'other

    matters' section.

    It is important to emphasise that the ordering of the stages of the model, and indeed their precise

    demarcation one from another, is in large part artificial and is included mostly for expository convenience.

    In practise, some or all of the seven stages would have occurred together in a complex interplay of

    positive reinforcement, shaping and reshaping beliefs in a manner that became more consistent, more

    explanatory, and more convincing to believers over time.

    Readers should note that this model is only intended to provide a broad account of the general

    psychological and sociological processes that led to the development and proliferation of the beliefs

    which characterised the early Christian movement. The available historical evidence is insufficient to

    construct detailed accounts of precisely who experienced what, when they experienced it, who they told,

    and exactly how memories and interpretations were reshaped over time. Though such a detailed account

    would be desirable, I think the evidence necessary to construct such an account is simply not available.

    Nonetheless, I do believe that the HBS model is sufficient to provide a first-order explanation of the

    essential processes and mechanisms by which many early Christians came to believe that they had seen

    Jesus return from the dead.

    1.2. Methodology

    A. Inference to the Best Explanation

    The approach I adopt in this piece is what is often called 'inference to the best explanation', also

    sometimes called 'abduction'. The idea is that given a certain body of facts and evidence, the theory

    or model which best explains that set of facts and evidence is taken to be the most likely to be correct.

    This type of inference is unavoidably comparative, in that one's judgements will depend upon what

    alternative explanations are compared and the degree to which the 'best' of them stands out from

    among the others. It is also unavoidably probabilistic, in that the existence of a good explanation does

    not logically entail its truth, but rather is held to increase it with some probability, proportional to the

    degree of superiority of that explanatory hypothesis over relevant alternatives. This approach, of

    course, presupposes some non-arbitrary notion of what makes one hypothesis 'better' than others -

    this is an issue I will return to shortly.

    I am not attempting to invent my own standards or methodology here in order to make my claims

    easier to defend. Rather, what I am trying to do is apply essentially the same approach that certain

    Christian apologists apply in arguing that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of a

    certain set of historical facts. In particular, I am strongly influenced by Mike Licona's work The

    Resurrection of Jesus. He summarises his approach as follows:

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    "For assessing hypotheses, we adopted methodical neutrality to assign the burden of proof to

    the one who is making a proposition, be it affirmative or negative. Accordingly no hypothesis

    may get the nod for being the best explanation unless its superiority to competing

    hypotheses can be demonstrated We established the following five criteria for the best

    explanation (listed in descending order of importance): (1) plausibility, (2-3) explanatory

    scope, explanatory power, (4) less ad hoc and (5) illumination.

    We constructed the following spectrum of historical certainty: certainly not historical, very

    doubtful, quite doubtful, somewhat doubtful, indeterminate, somewhat certain (more

    probable than not), quite certain, very certain (very probably true), certain. We may conclude

    that a hypothesis is historical when we can place it on the spectrum of historical certainty

    somewhere between a half step under quite certain or better. We proposed two criteria for

    placing a hypothesis on the spectrum where historicity may be awarded: (1) it has to meet the

    five criteria better than competing hypotheses and (2) it must outdistance competing

    hypotheses by a significant margin. In our discussion of historians and miracle-claims, we

    proposed two criteria for identifying a miracle: (1) the event is highly improbable given

    natural causes alone and (2) the event occurs in a context charged with religious significance."

    Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 467-8

    B. Assessing the Quality of Explanations

    One place where I differ somewhat from Licona is in his criteria for judging the quality of explanations.

    Licona lists five:

    " 1. Explanatory scope. This criterion looks at the quantity of facts accounted for by a

    hypothesis. The hypothesis that includes the most relevant data has the greatest explanatory


    2. Explanatory power. This criterion looks at the quality of the explanation of the facts. The

    hypothesis that explains the data with the least amount of effort, vagueness and ambiguity

    has greater explanatory power. Said another way, the historian does not want to have to

    push the facts in order make them fit his theory as though he were trying to push a round peg

    through a square hole... Moreover, while a degree of vagueness or ambiguity is to be

    expected given the fragmented data that have come down to us from the past, a strong

    presence of these traits in a hypothesis will cause it to lack explanatory power, since it fails to


    3. Plausibility. The hypothesis must be implied to a greater degree and by a greater variety of

    accepted truths (or background knowledge) than other hypotheses. In other words, this

    criterion assesses whether other areas known with confidence suggest a certain

    hypothesis. Therefore, it is appropriate to inquire whether certain components of a

    hypothesis are supported in the literature of other disciplines

    4. Less ad hoc. A hypothesis possesses an ad hoc component when it enlists nonevidenced

    assumptions, that is, when it goes beyond what is already knownOne may sense this

    occurring when a hypothesis makes a number of nonevidenced assumptions while another

    hypothesis can explain the same data without appealing to additional nonevidenced

    assumptions. This criterion has also been referred to as simplicity. It is important to note that

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    simplicity refers to fewer presuppositions rather than combined factors, since historical

    events often result from multiple causes.

    5. Illumination. Sometimes a hypothesis provides a possible solution to other problems

    without confusing other areas held with confidence. In historical Jesus research, for example,

    if a naturalistic explanation employing the social sciences turns out to be the best explanation

    of the known facts pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus, it may shed light on other areas of

    interest to historians of that period as well as on areas of research in other disciplines, such as

    the extent to which psychological conditions may factor into the rapid recovery of a religious

    movement after the death of its leader. On the other hand, if the data point to the historicity

    of the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection hypothesis may strengthen the likelihood of the

    historicity of Jesus claims to divinity while minimizing confusion in areas about Jesus already

    held with confidence"

    Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 109-11

    While Licona bases his criteria upon how historians evaluate claims, I am more directly influence by

    related work from epistemology and philosophy of science in how explanations are evaluated. I think

    this is of more direct relevance, because the question of interest is not really whether the

    resurrection of Jesus can be judged to have occurred by the methods used by historians, but rather

    whether it can be judged to have occurred by any reliable methods of inference. That is, I think the

    question is broader than history alone. That said, in practise I think the differences between my

    criteria and Licona's are more stylistic than substantial. While Licona has five criteria, I have only two:

    1. Explanatory power: this refers to the quantity and diversity of separate facts, pieces of evidence,

    or phenomena which can be explained by the hypothesis in question. By 'explained by', I mean

    something like 'accounts for the causes of the facts, helping us to understand how they came to

    be and be'. Ceteris paribus, an explanation which applies to a wide range of phenomena and can

    account for a large number of facts and observations is to be preferred to one that can only

    account for a narrower range of observations, and/or applies only to a more restricted range of

    phenomena. I regard this is being equivalent to Licona's first and second criteria, as well as

    elements of his fifth criteria. Indeed, I think there is little meaningful distinction between the

    'quantity' of facts that are explained and the 'quality' with which they are explained. I doubt

    these can meaningfully be assessed independently, and I see no reason to have two separate

    criteria. I also differ with Licona in his concern about not 'pushing the facts in order to make them

    fit' or 'pushing a round peg into a square hole'. I actually don't think this way of thinking is

    especially helpful when evaluating competing explanations. Whether or not an explanation is

    'stretching the facts' seems to me to be quite a subjective matter which, to the degree that it

    might be relevant, is already accounted for in the criteria of simplicity. If it seems to us that a

    hypothesis is 'stretching the facts', I think we should always be able to explain this more clearly in

    terms of not accounting for certain phenomena or pieces of evidence, having a narrower scope

    of application, or having a lower degree of simplicity. If we cannot parse the statement in these

    terms, I do not think we have good reason to regard it as anything more than our subjective

    reaction to the hypothesis.

    2. Simplicity: this refers to the number of antecedently unestablished new hypotheses that need to

    be introduced in order for the proposed explanation to make sense or apply. Almost every

    explanation will have at least some new hypotheses that it needs to introduce, though some will

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    require a great deal more than others. I regard this criterion as a combination of Licona's third

    and fourth criteria, as I believe that 'plausible' and 'less ad hoc' are essentially two ways of

    describing the same thing. I agree strongly with Licona when he says that "it is important to note

    that simplicity refers to fewer presuppositions rather than combined factors, since historical

    events often result from multiple causes". I think this is an absolutely vital point to understand:

    the simplicity of an explanation is determined by the number (and prior probability, though that

    can be hard to adjudicate) of antecedently unestablished (Licona uses the phrase 'non-

    evidenced') hypotheses that need to be introduced for the explanation to work. It is not

    determined by how many 'parts' the explanation has, or how easy it is to understand, or how

    long it takes to explain. An immensely long explanation with many parts and interacting

    components, each of which is well evidenced, is 'simpler' than one which is very short and has

    only a few components, but which relies on a single crucial non-established assumption.

    C. Why the HBS Model is a 'Better Explanation'

    In this document, I argue that my HBS model has both greater explanatory power and greater

    simplicity than does the resurrection hypothesis. I wish to outline as clearly as I can what I mean by


    When I say that the HBS model has greater 'explanatory power' than the resurrection hypothesis, I

    mean that it can account for a wider range of phenomena. It provides the mechanisms and causes

    that can allow us to understand how and why a wide range of miraculous and supernatural claims

    would have arisen. The resurrection hypothesis does not rule out other miracle claims, but nor does it

    explain how or why they would occur. Maybe God would wish to appear to other people at other

    times, but the point is the resurrection hypothesis says nothing about this. It does nothing to

    illuminate or help us understand any other miracle claim not connected directly with Jesus. I am not

    saying here that 'miracle claims in other religions cannot be explained within a Christian worldview'. I

    am rather saying that 'miracle claims in other religions cannot be explained by the resurrection

    hypothesis, but they can be so explained by the HBS model'. This is what I mean when I say the HBS

    model has greater 'explanatory scope' than the resurrection hypothesis. The HBS model is general

    and broad in scope, while the resurrection hypothesis is narrow and restricted in scope. Ceteris

    paribus, explanations with broader scope are to be preferred.

    When I say that the HBS model has greater 'simplicity' than the resurrection hypothesis, I mean that it

    requires fewer antecedently unestablished hypotheses. Certainly the HBS model makes a lot of claims

    and requires a lot of hypotheses to be made (as outlined in section 1.4), however my argument is that

    all of these other than those directly related to the resurrection itself are all established to a

    reasonable level of confidence by evidence from psychology, sociology, and other such disciplines. So,

    for instance, I argue that claims 1.1 and 1.2 have been antecedently established by the psychological

    literature independently of our investigation of the resurrection appearances. Obviously this is not

    the case for claim 1.3, as that relates directly and specifically to the resurrection appearances. I

    believe that it follows quite reasonably and plausibly from 1.1 and 1.2, but it is not a claim I regard as

    being 'antecedently established'. Likewise claims 2.5, 3.5, 4.4, and 5.3 are specific to the resurrection,

    so are not among the claims I regard as 'antecedently established', but which I think follow quite

    plausibly from the claims that I do think are antecedently established. To be clear about what I mean

    by 'antecedently established', I mean that regardless of whether one accepts the HBS model or not,

    and regardless of whether one is a Christian or not, one should accept these claims as having been

    sufficiently well demonstrated antecedently to our particular inquiry into the resurrection.

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    While the HBS model relies upon either claims which I regard as being antecedently established and

    what I regard as plausible inferences from them, the resurrection hypothesis relies on one very

    significant unestablished premise, that there exists an interventionist God who would potentially

    desire to raise someone like Jesus from the dead. I am not saying that this premise is false is that it

    could never be demonstrated - this is not a presumption of naturalism. I am merely saying that it

    must be taken as true in order for the resurrection hypothesis to make any sense or provide any

    explanation, and that antecedently to considering the resurrection appearances, the truth of this

    premise has not been established - it is still a very controversial and disputed claim. Some of the

    claims I describe as 'antecedently established' are disputed to varying degrees as well, but I argue

    they are much better established and agreed upon within the relevant disciplines than is the

    existence of an interventionist God. Thus, given that the HBS model relies on fewer antecedently

    established premises than does the resurrection hypothesis, I regard it as possessing greater


    To summarise, I am arguing that the HBS model possesses both greater explanatory power and

    greater simplicity than does the resurrection hypothesis. As such, it should be regarded as a

    significantly superior explanation to the resurrection hypothesis, to paraphrase Licona 'outpacing its

    rivals' to a significant degree.

    D. Objectives of the Argument

    A final question is what we conclude on the basis of this argument. On possible conclusion is that

    Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead - he was not resurrected. I will call this 'the strong conclusion'.

    Perhaps surprisingly to some, I do not have any interest in advocating the strong conclusion, even

    though some may see it as being implied by the HBS model. I will certainly say the HBS model is

    evidence in favour of the strong conclusion, but I will not argue or defend the view that it provides

    sufficient reason for adopting the strong conclusion, nor will I say that readers ought to believe that

    the strong conclusion as true.

    Instead, all I am really interested in establishing is what I will call the 'weak conclusion', namely that

    the available evidence does not warrant or justify a confident inference that Jesus did indeed rise

    from the dead. In other words, I am arguing that the relative explanatory power of the resurrection

    hypothesis (compared to the naturalistic altnerative, namely the HBS model) is insufficient to

    establish the probable truth of Christianity. This can be considered as in effect a rebuttal to the

    apologetic argument that Christianity should be accepted because of the historical evidence for the

    resurrection of Jesus. I don't think this argument is a sufficiently compelling one, because I think that

    in fact the HBS model of the resurrection appearances is a better explanation than the resurrection

    hypothesis. This is the extent of the weak conclusion. It says nothing directly about the truth of

    Christianity or whether Jesus was in fact resurrected.

    The weak conclusion leaves open the possibility that Jesus was actually resurrected, only that we

    can't conclude this on the basis of inferences about the available historical evidence. Additional lines

    of argument would therefore be needed to justify belief in the claim that Jesus was resurrected. Such

    lines of argument are not considered here, but nor are they ruled out.

    1.3. Summary of the Argument The model outlined below, taken together with the addition discussion in 'other matters', is intended to

    provide a reasonably complete naturalistic explanation for all of the so-called 'minimal facts' cited by

    some Christian apologists, such as Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. For the purpose of this document, I

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    accept the truth of all these facts. What I dispute is the interpretation of these facts provided by Christian

    apologists - specifically, that the only adequate explanation for these facts is divine intervention by God. I

    believe that a purely naturalistic explanation for these facts is not only plausible, but is in fact more

    plausible and more explanatory than the Christian explanation.

    A. The Minimal Facts

    The minimal facts that I take as given for the purposes of my model are:

    1. The death of Jesus by crucifixion

    2. The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples

    3. The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire

    I also discuss the conversion of Paul, the empty tomb, and the conversion of James, however I do not

    include them as part of the 'minimal facts' per se, for the simple reason that the explanations I

    provide for them are somewhat distinct from those I provide for the appearances (though there is

    some non-trivial overlap). That is, the HBS model itself is designed to explain the resurrection

    appearances and consequent rise of Christianity. I discuss the empty tomb and conversion of Paul and

    James in a separate section. This is not to imply that they are totally distinct or independent events,

    but merely an effort to focus the discussion on one issue at a time. I also regard the appearances as

    far stronger evidence for the resurrection than either the empty tomb or the conversion of individual

    people, and so I devote for much time to explaining them than the other matters.

    My set of minimal facts mirror those provided by Licona, though they are not identical:

    "Having examined these sources, we identified our historical bedrock:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

    2. Very shortly after Jesus death, the disciples had experiences that led

    them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected.

    3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after experiencing what he interpreted as

    a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

    These three facts have strong supporting evidence and are regarded as historical by a nearly

    unanimous consensus of modern scholars. This consensus also possesses a significant amount of

    heterogeneity (scholars from different perspectives)", Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 468

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    B. The Model in Brief

    Individual Hallucinations: Certain followers of Jesus (most likely Peter and Mary) experienced

    individual hallucinations of Jesus following his crucifixion. These hallucinations may have been

    exacerbated by grief, emotional excitement, and/or the personality traits of those in question.

    Group Religious Experiences: These followers then discussed their experiences with other

    followers of Jesus, generating an expectancy that they might experience something similar. Partly

    as a result of this expectancy, and also mediated by social reinforcement, strong emotions, and

    environmental influences, the early disciples had several collective religious experiences of the

    risen Jesus, the precise nature of which we cannot know for certain, but which may originally

    have been different to the final accounts as they appear in the gospels.

    Memory and Cognitive Biases: In the process of discussing these experiences among themselves

    afterwards, the disciples' memories of what they experienced were reshaped through processes

    of biased and reconstructive recall and social memory contagion, in the direction of increased

    coherence between individual accounts, and also greater impressiveness of the experiences. In

    the process, a 'standard version' of these experiences began to develop and spread throughout

    early Christian communities. Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, selective perception, the

    illusory truth effect, and other similar biases, all interacting in the context of a close-knit

    communal setting with strong social pressures for conformity, led to any possible inconsistencies,

    disconfirming evidences, or doubters to be ignored, marginalised, or explained away.

    Socialization and Marginalisation of Doubt: Public expressions of doubt, disagreement, and

    skepticism were further muted as a result of the following factors: 1) few disbelievers cared

    enough about Christianity to engage much with early Christians or disprove their claims, 2) most

    of those exposed to these claims had neither the ability nor the opportunity to check details for

    themselves, and 3) few were motivated to test the veracity of the claims as a result of general

    psychological processes described above.

    Identity Consolidation and Martyrdom: As the early Christian movement grew, the self-identify

    of many of the apostles became inextricably bound up with their religious experiences and beliefs,

    to such a degree that they became willing to die for these convictions.

    C. Other Matters in Brief

    Conversion of Paul: It is my view that there are plausible naturalistic accounts of the conversion

    of Paul, the most common being some form of epileptic episode. More generally, I think the

    psychological literature on religious conversion paints a sufficiently rich and complex picture of

    motivations such that it is not necessary to appeal to a supernatural explanation to explain Paul's

    conversion. Finally, I think that there are comparable historical cases of 'unlikely conversion

    stories' to various religions, which supports my hypotheses that they can occur naturalistically.

    The Empty Tomb: I believe that there are three plausible explanations for the empty tomb: 1)

    reburial by Joseph of Arimathea, 2) tomb robbery, 3) removal by an unknown third party. I do not

    consider apologetic objections such as the tomb guard or the grave clothes to be compelling.

    The Rise of Christianity: In my view there is nothing especially remarkable about the rise of

    Christianity in the Roman Empire. It offered many of the elements of belief and ritual that were

    present in already extant popular cults, and had particular appeal to the increasingly

    disempowered and alienated urban lower classes. I may include more detail about this matter in

    future editions of this document if people think the addition would be sufficiently valuable.

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    1.4. The Model in Detail

    A. Individual Hallucinations

    Claim 1.1: Hallucinations are not necessarily a mark of psychopathology, and are relatively

    common in the general population, especially for individuals suffering from grief or loss.

    Claim 1.2: Individuals involved in new religious movements are more prone to hallucinations and

    'magical thinking' than the average population.

    Claim 1.3: Given 1.1 and 1.2, it is plausible that some followers of Jesus, like Peter and Mary,

    experienced individual hallucinations of Jesus following his death.

    B. Group Religious Experiences

    Claim 2.1: Expectations can shape our perception of events to a significant degree, altering how

    we perceive an experience.

    Claim 2.2: Humans are subject to a wide range of perceptual failings and biases, which can often

    lead people to report false or inaccurate perceptions which do not correspond to objective

    external events.

    Claim 2.3: Group experiences of very unusual and inexplicable events (including purported

    paranormal or supernatural events) can be elicited in the certain social environments through

    mechanisms such as suggestibility, collective reinforcement, high emotional saliency, and social

    expectation and conformity.

    Claim 2.4: Numerous supernatural and paranormal experiences have been reported by groups of

    people in circumstances matching those described in 2.3.

    Claim 2.5: Given 1.3 and 2.1-2.4, it is plausible that the disciples and other groups of followers of

    Jesus had collective experiences of Jesus appearing or speaking to them (probably not in precisely

    the way reported in the gospels)

    C. Memory and Cognitive Biases

    Claim 3.1: False memories are common and relatively easy to form, despite the subject feeling

    highly confident about the accuracy and reliability of the memory.

    Claim 3.2: Discussion of an event between people often leads to alteration of the memories such

    that they are in greater conformity, with subjects unable to distinguish between their own

    original memories and the memories of those with whom they interacted. Memory is a

    reconstructive rather than a recollective process, with memories changing each time they are


    Claim 3.3: In many cases eyewitness testimony is not particularly reliable, being susceptible to

    many biases and confounding factors.

    Claim 3.4: People are in general very bad at evaluating evidence and arguments carefully, as they

    are subject to a wide range of cognitive biases.

    Claim 3.5: Given 3.1-3.5, it is plausible that the participants in these early group experiences of

    Jesus gradually had their memories altered over time, and as a result the accounts of the

    experiences became both more consistent and more impressive, even without any deliberate

    deception. These memories of the experiences were considered persuasive and not subject to

    rigorous critical evaluation.

    D. Socialization and Marginalisation of Doubt

    Claim 4.1: Many people, especially in new religious movements, are easily capable of continuing

    to tenaciously hold to beliefs in spite of the presence of overwhelming contradictory evidence.

  • 13

    Claim 4.2: We have very few records of early anti-Christian writers of any sort, likely because

    either very few existed, and/or their writings did not survive.

    Claim 4.3: It would have been immensely expensive and impractical for nearly all of those hearing

    Paul's teachings in Greece and Asia Minor to have visited Jerusalem to check the veracity of any of

    the facts Paul was asserting

    Claim 4.4: Given 4.1-4.3, it is not reasonable to assert that early Christianity could have only

    survived if the evidence was on its side. Skeptics either lacked the interest to engage with

    Christian claims, or if they did their records have not survived. Most believers would have lacked

    the means to verify any of the claims themselves, and even if strong counterevidence was

    available, many would have continued to believe anyway.

    E. Identity Consolidation and Martyrdom

    Claim 5.1: Religious beliefs can become inextricably bound up in someone's personal identity such

    that issues of truth and evidence cease to be solely factual matters and instead become matters

    of utmost life-defining importance for them.

    Claim 5.2: Martyrdom is found across many religions and ideological movements, and can be

    explained in part with reference to psychological processes.

    Claim 5.3: Given 5.1 and 5.2, the fact that some early Christians may have been willing to die for

    their belief in the Resurrection of Jesus does not constitute much evidence in favour of the truth

    of this belief, only that they firmly believed it.

    F. Summary and Conclusions

    Claim 6.1: The plausibility of the HBS model is significantly strengthened by the numerous other

    documented cases of groups reporting to have experienced miraculous or paranormal events,

    which can be explained with reference to the same underlying psychological and social processes

    outlined here.

    Claim 6.2: Given the foregoing, it is plausible that the disciples and other early followers of Jesus

    came to honestly belief that they had seen the risen Jesus and told this story to others, even

    though Jesus did not in fact rise from the dead.

    Claim 6.3: Given that the HBS model is able to account, in broad terms, for a wide variety of

    miraculous and paranormal claims, while the resurrection hypothesis can only account for a single

    claim, the HBS model has wider explanatory scope than the resurrection hypothesis.

    Claim 6.4: The HBS model relies upon psychological and sociological processes which are

    documented and whose existence is relatively uncontroversial, while the resurrection hypothesis

    depends upon the existence of God and his desire to intervene in human affairs, both of which

    are considerably controversial. Since the HBS model depends upon fewer new and controversial

    assumptions, it is simpler than the resurrection model.

    Claim 6.5: Since it is both simpler and has wider explanatory scope than the resurrection

    hypothesis, the HBS model is a better explanation for the resurrection appearances of Jesus, and

    so should be preferred over it.

  • 14

    Section 2: The Micro Evidence

    2.1. Introduction The purpose of this section is to outline what I call the 'micro-level' evidence in support of the HBS model.

    By 'micro-level', I mean evidence which refers to specific psychological processes, biases of thought and

    perception, observed patterns of social interaction, and documented sociological phenomena, which

    taken together provide support for the specific causal and mechanistic claims made in the HBS model.

    Needless to say, there do not exist, and likely will never exist, studies that examine the particular

    psychological predispositions of first-century Galilean fishermen, or which are able to replicate the

    development of Resurrection appearance stories in a laboratory environment. Nonetheless, it is my view

    that the extant evidence in the psychological literature is sufficient to establish the that types of

    processes incorporated into the HBS model, such as various cognitive biases and memory contagion

    effects, are real, and that the manner in which they tend to operate is consistent with how I have used

    them in the HBS model.

    The study extracts given in this section should be read in concert with the outline of the HBS model as

    presented in Part One, with the subsection numbers here corresponding directly to those in Part One for

    ease of reference. The purpose of the research extracts is to illustrate the plausibility of the claim that I

    make in the corresponding subsection of the HBS model in Part One. In order to avoid being criticised for

    misinterpreting the studies, I have in most cases included a direct quotation (generally from the abstract),

    which I believe lends credence to the claims made in the HBS model.

    Naturally, the correspondence between the topic of each study and the relevant claim from the model is

    never perfect, however I think it would be unreasonable to demand such a direct mapping between

    theory and evidence in topics such as this. What matters is whether the claims made in the HBS model

    about particular psychological and sociological processes (e.g. memory biases, hallucinations, etc) are

    plausible given the general evidence that we have available on these matters.

    Readers may, in particular instances, question the inclusion of specific studies or the exclusion of others,

    however I believe that my case is not sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of any particular subset of

    studies. I believe that my claims in the HBS model are supported by the broad patterns and overall

    findings of the literature, and that is what I intend to convey with the selection of evidence in this section.

    2.2. Individual Hallucinations

    A. Claim 1.1: Frequency of Hallucinations

    a) 'Hallucinations are perceptual phenomena involved in many fields of pathology. Although

    clinically widely explored, studies in the general population of these phenomena are scant. This

    issue was investigated using representative samples of the non-institutionalized general

    population of the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy aged 15 years or over (N=13 057) Overall,

    38.7% of the sample reported hallucinatory experiences (19.6% less than once in a month; 6.4%

    monthly; 2.7% once a week; and 2.4% more than once a week). These hallucinations occurred, (1)

    At sleep onset (hypnagogic hallucinations 24.8%) and/or upon awakening (hypnopompic

    hallucinations 6.6%), without relationship to a specific pathology in more than half of the cases;

    frightening hallucinations were more often the expression of sleep or mental disorders such as

    narcolepsy, OSAS or anxiety disorders. (2) During the daytime and reported by 27% of the sample:

    visual (prevalence of 3.2%) and auditory (0.6%) hallucinations were strongly related to a psychotic

  • 15

    pathology (respective OR of 6.6 and 5.1 with a conservative estimate of the lifetime prevalence of

    psychotic disorders in this sample of 0.5%); and to anxiety (respective OR of 5.0 and 9.1). Haptic

    hallucinations were reported by 3.1% with current use of drugs as the highest risk factor (OR=9.8)',

    "Prevalence of hallucinations and their pathological associations in the general population",

    Psychiatry Research,

    b) 'Although there is no comprehensive model that explains the occurrence of auditory

    hallucinations, current accounts emphasize the importance of cognitive factors, in particular,

    the misattribution of internal cognitive events to external sources. This misattribution may be

    due to deficits in cognitive functioning or to biases in normal functioning. With respect to the

    latter explanation, it appears that the predisposition to hallucinate is not an all or nothing affair

    but one based on a continuum of probability. This mirrors research on psychoticism, which

    shows that psychosis is not separate from normality but is merely an extreme along a continuum

    of normalityabnormality. According to Claridge, psychotic characteristics are not the prerogative

    of the classically psychotic patient, rather there is a continuity of behaviour blending into a

    spectrum of illness. Not surprisingly, therefore, studies of normal populations have found that

    between 10 and 37% of people report having experienced auditory hallucinations', "Affective

    reactions to auditory hallucinations in psychotic, evangelical and control groups", British Journal

    of Clinical Psychology,

    c) 'An inquiry into the psychopathology and the clinical significance of grief hallucinations is

    presented and two cases with severe grief hallucinations are described. Unlike many cases in the

    literature, the two female patients were young (aged 43 and 45, respectively) and both suffered

    from the loss of a daughter. The heterogeneous concept of grief hallucinations is described and

    discussed, focusing particularly on the difficulties of reaching a differentiation between

    hallucination and pseudohallucination. Basic theses of the article are: (1) Contrary to a widely

    held view, grief hallucinations can display all the characteristics of true hallucinations. (2) The

    concept of grief hallucinations probably comprises a heterogeneous group of disturbances of

    perception and of thought processes. They can be experienced as comforting but can also cause

    considerable distress' , "Grief Hallucinations: True or Pseudo? Serious or Not?", Psychopathology,

    d) 'While auditory hallucinations (AH) are prototypic psychotic symptoms whose clinical presence

    is often equated with a psychotic disorder, they are commonly found among those without

    mental illness as well as those with nonpsychotic disorders not typically associated with

    hallucinations in DSM-IV. This incongruity presents a significant challenge for clinical work and

    efforts to revise the next iteration of the DSM. Auditory hallucinations found among normal

    people suggest that either AH are not as pathologic as they are typically taken to be, or that less-

    than-hallucinatory experiences are routinely mischaracterized as AH. Such hallucinations in the

    context of conversion disorder, trauma, sensory deprivation, and certain cultural settings

    strengthen an association between AH and psychopathology but suggest limited diagnostic

    specificity and relevance. It may be useful to think of AH like coughscommon experiences that

    are often, but not always, symptoms of pathology associated with a larger illness', "Hallucinations

    in Nonpsychotic Disorders", Harvard Review of Psychiatry,

    e) 'Ratings of grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and illusions and quality of life were

    made during the first year after the death of a spouse among 14 men and 36 women in their early

    seventies. In both sexes, the reactions were generally moderate or mild and characterized by

    loneliness, low mood, fatigue, anxiety and cognitive dysfunctioning. Feeling lonely was the most

  • 16

    persistent problem during the year. Post-bereavement hallucinations or illusions were very

    frequent and considered helpful. Half of the subjects felt the presence of the deceased

    (illusions); about one third reported seeing, hearing and talking to the deceased (hallucinations).

    Former marital harmony was found to make a person more prone to loneliness, crying and

    hallucinations or illusions. The quality of life was significantly lower among the bereaved than

    among married people and those who never married, but equalled that found among divorcees',

    "Bereavement among elderly people: grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and

    quality of life", Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica,

    f) 'The literature on hallucinatory experiences of hostage victims is reviewed. The phenomenology is

    examined in 30 case studies involving 31 persons, including ex-prisoners of war and victims of

    rape, kidnapping, terrorism, robbery, and "UFO abductions." The victims were subjected to

    conditions of isolation, visual deprivation, restraint on physical movement, physical abuse, and

    the threat of death. For eight victims, these conditions were sufficient to produce a progression of

    visual hallucinations from simple geometric images to complex memory images coupled with

    dissociation. The other 23 victims, subjected to similar conditions but without isolation and life-

    threatening stress, resulting from the threat of death, did not experience hallucinations. The

    hostage hallucinations are compared to those resulting from sensory deprivation, near fatal

    accidents, and other states of isolation and stress. A common mechanism of action based on

    entoptic phenomena and CNS excitation and arousal is suggested', "Hostage hallucinations. Visual

    imagery induced by isolation and life-threatening stress", Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease,

    B. Claim 1.2: Hallucinations and Personality

    a) 'As predicted, individuals from the New Religious Movements scored significantly higher than

    the control groups on all the delusional measures apart from levels of distress. They did not

    show as much florid symptomatology as the psychotic patients, but could not be differentiated

    from the deluded group on the number of delusional items endorsed on the Peters et al.

    delusions Inventory, or on levels of conviction. However, they were significantly less distressed

    and preoccupied by their experiences. No differences were found between the two control

    groups on any of the delusional measures, suggesting that religious beliefs per se do not account

    for the NRMs members scores', "Delusional ideation in religious and psychotic populations",

    British Journal of Clinical Psychology,

    b) 'Alien contact experiencers were found to show higher levels of dissociativity, absorption,

    paranormal belief, paranormal experience, self-reported psychic ability, fantasy proneness,

    tendency to hallucinate, and self-reported incidence of sleep paralysis', "Psychological aspects

    of the alien contact experience", Cortex,

    c) Subjects claiming memory of having been abducted by aliens found to be more prone to false

    recall and recognition than controls who claimed no such memories, "Memory distortion in

    people reporting abduction by aliens", Journal of Abnormal Psychology,

    d) 'Evaluated the fantasy-prone (FP) personality by selecting subjects who ranged along the

    continuum of fantasy proneness and administering measures designed to assess hypnotic

    susceptibility, absorption, vividness of mental imagery, responses to waking suggestion, creativity,

    and social desirablity. 62 undergraduates, based on their scores on an inventory of childhood

    memories and imaginings, were divided into 3 groups: 23 FP, 22 medium-FP, and 17 non-FP Ss. Ss

    completed the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic SusceptibilityForm A, an absorption scale, the

  • 17

    Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, an art scale, a vividness of imagery scale, and a creative

    imagination scale. Results show strong support for J. R. Hilgard's (1970, 1979) construct of

    imaginative involvement and S. C. Wilson and T. X. Barber's (1983) contention that FP persons

    can be distinguished from others in terms of fantasy and related cognitive processes. FP

    subjects outscored subjects in both comparison groups on all of the measures of fantasy,

    imagination, and creativity, with social desirability used as a covariate. Low-FP Ss were no less

    creative or less responsive to hypnosis than their medium-FP counterparts', "The fantasy-prone

    person: Hypnosis, imagination, and creativity", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

    e) 'In the current experiment, 44 undergraduate students were asked to listen to white noise and

    instructed to press a button when they believed hearing a recording of Bing Crosby's White

    Christmas without this record actually being presented. Fourteen participants (32%) pressed the

    button at least once. These participants had higher scores on fantasy proneness and the

    LaunaySlade Hallucination Scale (LSHS) compared to participants without hallucinatory reports',

    "Another White Christmas: fantasy proneness and reports of hallucinatory experiences in

    undergraduate students", Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry,

    f) 'Psychopathological interpretations of individuals who claim contacts with extraterrestrials typify

    the few psychiatric evaluations of such behavior. Biographical analyses of 152 subjects who

    reported temporary abductions or persistent contacts with UFO occupants show that these

    subjects are remarkably devoid of a history of mental illness. However, in 132 cases, one or

    more major characteristics were found of the fantasy-prone personality (FPP). Although they

    appear to function as normal, healthy adults, FPPs experience rich fantasy lives and score

    dramatically higher (relative to control groups) on such characteristics as hypnotic susceptibility,

    psychic ability, healing, out-of-body experiences, automatic writing, religious visions, and

    apparitional experiences. In the present study, UFO "abductees" and "contactees" exhibit a

    pattern of symptomatology similar to that of FPPs. Thus, clinicians should consider testing UFO

    abductees or contactees for fantasy proneness in cases in which a particular psychopathological

    diagnosis is not obvious', "UFO abductees and contactees: Psychopathology or fantasy

    proneness?", Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,

    g) 'Members of New Religious Movements (NRMs) scored higher on the Unusual Experiences

    factor, which measures positive symptomatology, and the Schizotypal Personality

    questionnaire, than the two control groups (non-religious and mainstream Christians). The

    NRMs group scored significantly higher than the non-religious, but not the religious group, on the

    factor of Introvertive Anhedonia, which measures negative symptomatology, suggesting that this

    factor may be related to religion rather than NRMs per se. The NRMs did not score significantly

    differently to the two religious controls on the factors of Cognitive Disorganisation, Impulsive

    Nonconformity, Extraversion and the anxiety measure. The NRMs were more depressed than the

    Christian, but not the non-religious group, and their mean score was well within the normal range.

    There were, however, several significant correlations between depression, anxiety, and the

    schizotypy measures', "The incidence of schizotypy in new religious movements", Personality and

    Individual Differences,

  • 18

    2.3. Group Religious Experiences

    A. Claim 2.1: Expectation Effects on Outcomes

    a) 'This study assessed the degree to which the contents of religious experiences agree with the

    expectations and rated desirability of various experiential contents. The respondents were 178

    people who reported having had religious experiences, 57 without such encounters comprised an

    expectation group, and 112 persons who constituted a desirability rating group. Thirty-seven

    elements reported by those who had religious experiences and five factor scales comprised the

    test instrument. In sum, the data suggest that those who have religious experiences get what

    they anticipate, and their expectations emphasize highly desirable components in such

    experience', "The Content of Religious Experience: The Roles of Expectancy and Desirability",

    International Journal for the Psychology of Religion,

    b) 'Each subject was told that he was expected to feel inhibited performing a singing task. The

    expectancy was presented as based either on the subject's description of his personality, on the

    past performance of others with interests similar to those of the subject, or on the past

    performance of others with the same birth order position as the subject. Subjects then sang a

    piece without accompaniment for a tape recorder, ostensibly providing data about the effects of

    inhibition on the physical properties of the human voice. Subjects expected to be paid

    proportionally to the duration of their singing. The expectancies based on self-descriptions and

    on others with similar interests elicited faster singing, implying a willingness to sacrifice

    financial rewards in order to end an embarrassing situation, than the singing of no expectancy

    control group subjects, suggesting that these subjects actually did feel more inhibited than the

    control subjects. The expectancy based on birth order did not produce singing durations that

    differed significantly from the control group. The findings are interpreted as implying that persons

    will come to feel the way they are expected to feel only if the expectancy is perceived as deriving

    from some characteristic reflecting free choice and control', "Can the public expectation of

    emotion cause that emotion", Journal of Personality,

    c) 'The state called schizophrenia is frequently an end result of a self-fulfilling prophecy as a

    consequence of such labels as "schizophrenia," "mental illness," and "insanity" being applied to

    himself by an individual in deep emotional crisis', " Schizophrenia: A self-fulfilling, labelling

    process", Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice,

    d) 'Two studies explored the extent to which prior affective expectations shape people's evaluations

    of experiences and decisions about repeating those experiences. Study 1 found that students'

    prior expectations about an upcoming vacation accounted for a significant portion of the variance

    in their post-vacation evaluations, as did students' recall of specific experiences. In Study 2, both

    prior expectations and actual experiences of watching a movie were manipulated in a 2 2 design.

    People's affective expectations made more of a difference than the objective experience when

    assessing people's willingness to participate in the study again. A reinterpretation hypothesis

    that people discount or reweigh memories of expectation-inconsistent eventsaccounted for the

    results of these studies better than a selective memory or initial effects hypothesis', " The Role of

    Affective Expectations in Subjective Experience and Decision-Making", Social Cognition,

    e) A general review article in the influence of expectation on perception, "The Generation of

    Sensory Expectation by External Cues and its Effect on Sensory Perception and Hedonic Ratings: A

  • 19

    Review", Journal of Sensory Studies,


    f) 'Near-death experiences (NDEs) include a set of subjective experiences encountered by people

    who were close to death or were faced with life-threatening situations. Reports have suggested

    that the phenomenology of NDE might differ across cultures. This article is aimed at providing an

    updated phenomenological perspective by comparing NDEs in a cross-cultural context. We

    compared the various descriptions of NDEs from a phenomenological perspective. There were

    similarities between particular cultures, which differed from typical western European

    experiences. This article concludes that although there are common themes, there are also

    reported differences in NDEs. The variability across cultures is most likely to be due to our

    interpretation and verbalizing of such esoteric events through the filters of language, cultural

    experiences, religion, education and their influence on our belief systems either shedding

    influence as an individual variable or more often perhaps by their rich interplay between these

    factors', "Phenomenology of Near-death Experiences: A Cross-cultural Perspective", Transcultural


    g) 'The data also demonstrated a significant difference between the high versus low expectancy

    subjects for both patient and healer groups, as well as a significant relationship between high

    expectancy in patients and healer and the effectiveness of the spiritual healing encounter. The

    results of the study therefore suggest that high healer and patient expectancy may be

    important elements which can serve as both predictors as well as facilitators of the healing

    process. The degree of bonding or communication between the healer and patient was

    postulated as an important factor in this regard', "The Significance of Belief and Expectancy

    Within the Spiritual Healing Encounter", Social Science and Medicine,

    B. Claim 2.2: Perceptual Biases

    a) 'With each eye fixation, we experience a richly detailed visual world. Yet recent work on visual

    integration and change direction reveals that we are surprisingly unaware of the details of our

    environment from one view to the next: we often do not detect large changes to objects and

    scenes ('change blindness'). Furthermore, without attention, we may not even perceive objects

    ('inattentional blindness'). Taken together, these findings suggest that we perceive and

    remember only those objects and details that receive focused attention', "Gorillas in our midst:

    sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events", Perception,

    b) 'We present the first cross-modal modification of visual perception which involves a

    phenomenological change in the qualityas opposed to a small, gradual, or quantitative

    changeof the percept of a non-ambiguous visual stimulus. We report a visual illusion which is

    induced by sound: when a single flash of light is accompanied by multiple auditory beeps, the

    single flash is perceived as multiple flashes. We present two experiments as well as several

    observations which establish that this alteration of the visual percept is due to cross-modal

    perceptual interactions as opposed to cognitive, attentional, or other origins. The results of the

    second experiment also reveal that the temporal window of these audiovisual interactions is

    approximately 100 ms', "Visual illusion induced by sound", Cognitive Brain Research,

    c) 'When we look at our hands, we immediately know that they are part of our own body. This

    feeling of ownership of our limbs is a fundamental aspect of self-consciousness. We have studied

    the neuronal counterparts of this experience. A perceptual illusion was used to manipulate

  • 20

    feelings of ownership of a rubber hand presented in front of healthy subjects while brain

    activity was measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. The neural activity in the

    premotor cortex reflected the feeling of ownership of the hand. This suggests that multisensory

    integration in the premotor cortex provides a mechanism for bodily self-attribution', "That's My

    Hand! Activity in Premotor Cortex Reflects Feeling of Ownership of a Limb", Science,

    d) 'What are the natural constraints for the human body representation? Here I report a perceptual

    illusion where healthy individuals experience having two right arms, with both sensing touches

    applied to them. This effect reveals how visual and tactile signals from the body are integrated in

    a probabilistic fashion, resulting in a single limb being represented at two locations at the same

    time, giving rise to a perceptual duplication of this limb. This is an important observation because

    it suggests that even the gross morphology that we experience of ourselves is a construct

    resulting from dynamic and integrative processes in the perceptual systems', "How many arms

    make a pair? Perceptual illusion of having an additional limb", Perception,

    C. Claim 2.3: The Social Construction of Miracles

    a) 'The depiction of characters who appear in a miraculous healing story. The study concludes with

    an analysis of how the widespread circulation of miraculous healing stories sustains the practice

    of praying for miraculous healing whilst also creating reality for a community', "'Your Faith Has

    Made You Well': The Role Of Storytelling in the Experience of Miraculous Healing", Review Of

    Religious Research,

    b) 'This study defines spiritual experiences in terms of "psychism," or psychic intrusions in the

    stream of consciousness that are perceived by the actor as not originating within the "self."

    Intrusions interpreted as psychism are regarded by the actor as having the same facticity as

    empirical experience and are regarded as "proof' of an esoteric belief system. Psychism

    originated beliefs are therefore resistant to refutation or change, and support spiritual autonomy',

    "The Social Effects of Psychism: Spiritual Experience and the Construction of Privatized Religion",

    Sociology of Religion,

    c) Study explicating how Christian Scientists use repeated denial to convince themselves that their

    ailments are not real, "Christian Science Healing", Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, page


    d) 'Pentecostal miracles and healings have often been described and interpreted, but rarely

    explained in their sociological workings. As former research implies, actual biomedical effects of

    Pentecostal healings are possible (the so-called placebo effect), but quite limited. In Pentecostal

    healing services, however, very impressive miracles and healings are routinely produced:

    paralytics arise from wheelchairs, cancerous ulcers disappear, legs grow, cavities are mysteriously

    lled, and the deaf suddenly hear. Drawing on a case study and qualitative interviews, this paper

    offers a sociological, mechanism-based, explanatory scheme for the observed phenomena. It is

    argued that a number of social techniques (e.g., suggestion, rhythm, music), context factors

    (e.g., audience size and beliefs), and causal mechanisms (e.g., probability, latency, selection,

    and editing effects) are combined in an ingenious way in order to produce miracles and

    healings', "All Things Are Possible: Towards a Sociological Explanation of Pentecostal Miracles and

    Healings", Sociology of Religion,

    e) 'The communal creation of religious meaning is here examined in the context of an Irish Catholic

    Charismatic prayer meeting. Through a micro-analysis of the spontaneous ritual language of

    one such meeting, various discursive strategies are revealed which function to create for the

  • 21

    participants an experience of divine/human communication. These include an explicit effort on

    the part of speakers to construct a thematically consistent and coherent ritual event out of a

    sequence of apparently spontaneous individual speech acts, as well as a marked use of

    evidentials to attribute spiritual authorship and authority to personal speech acts. In contrast to

    what has been suggested as the self-evident nature of ritual speech, the frequent use of

    evidentials is related to the relatively recent emergence of the movement, its ideology, and its

    emphasis on the personal narrative as the central form of religious discourse', "Evidentiality in

    ritual discourse: The social construction of religious meaning", Language in Society,

    f) 'This paper is based on interviews with 160 persons who were participants in spiritual healing

    groups in Baltimore between 1981 and 1983. Survey data are used to describe how participants in

    spiritual healing groups presented their health problems, and how and if these problems were

    resolved or 'healed' over a six-month period. The majority of respondents claimed some degree

    of healing, associated mainly with symptom alleviation rather than cure. A process of health

    problem redefinition occurred among some respondents, that provided better 'fit' with

    outcome descriptions of healing than original problem formulations. Redefined health

    problems were often less serious, less medical, more chronic, and more 'emergent' than those

    initially defined, and respondents who redefined problems were significantly more likely to

    claim a healing experience. 'Psychologisation' of problems suggest that healing experiences can

    be conceived as socially constructed events', "The redefinition of the situation: the social

    construction of spiritual healing experiences", Sociology of Health and Illness,

    g) 'Hauntings and poltergeist-like episodes are argued to be products of contagious reactions to

    ambiguous environmental or cognitive events. In particular, evidence suggests that the

    subjective and objective effects reported by percipients are the function of independent,

    nonparanoraml etiologies whose constitutions have been previously established and described.

    According to this multivariate model, the labeling of ambiguous events as "abnormal" or

    "paranormal" initiates the reactive process which is subsequently sustained by perceptual

    contagion, i.e., flurries of paranormal observations due self-reinforcing attentional processes',

    "Hauntings and poltergeist-like episodes as a confluence of conventional phenomena: a general

    hypothesis", Perceptual and Motor Skills,

    h) Many people report unusual experiences merely from sitting in a room if they are told to expect

    them beforehand. 'Participants were required to spend 50 min in a specially constructed chamber,

    within which they were exposed to infrasound, complex EMFs, both or neither A considerable

    proportion of the participants reported a number of anomalous sensations in response to a

    fairly mild suggestion that in our white, round, featureless room they might feel some unusual

    sensations. Such an explanation is in line with the observations of Houran and Lange (1996). They

    asked two volunteers to keep a diary for 30 days of unusual events of the type that are

    traditionally associated with hauntings and poltergeists in a residence with no prior history of

    such activity. As expected, the instructions themselves were sufcient for the volunteers to note,

    with increasing frequency, anomalous or unusual events presumably simply because the

    volunteers were now primed to notice Although many participants reported anomalous

    sensations of various kinds, the number reported was unrelated to experimental condition but

    was related to TLS scores. The most parsimonious explanation for our ndings is in terms of

    suggestibility', "The Haunt project: An attempt to build a haunted room by manipulating

  • 22

    complex electromagnetic elds and infrasound", Cortex,

    i) 'Personality characteristics indicative of suggestibility consistently predicted the mystical and

    somatosensory experiences in both religious and non-religious participants. These

    characteristics included absorption to mind-altering experiences, the adoption of a new-age

    lifestyle orientation, and signs of anomalous temporal lobe activity, which individually explained

    approximately 1025% of the outcome variance Absorption is a trait referring to openness to

    self-altering experiences and other indices of an altered state of consciousness. Besides

    indicating suggestibility, e.g., to hypnotic induction, absorption has been linked to paranormal

    and mystical experiences', "Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by

    suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak complex magnetic elds", Neuroscience

    Letters, Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility,

    2.4. Cognitive and Memory Biases

    A. Claim 3.1: False Memories

    a) 'Overall, 36% of respondents reported false memories of the alleged footage of the Bali

    bombing.Participants reporting false memories were found to score significantly higher on

    various subscales of the Anomalous Experiences Inventory', "The relationship between

    susceptibility to false memories, dissociativity, and paranormal belief and experience",

    b) 'This research investigated whether generating misinformation impairs memory for actual

    information. After watching a videotaped robbery, some witnesses were interviewed about it, but

    others did not rehearse the event details. One week later, the witnesses tried to remember the

    robber's appearance In both experiments deceptive witnesses sometimes reported invented

    details on the memory test, suggesting that they may have come to believe some fabrications',

    "When a lie becomes the truth: The effects of selfgenerated misinformation on eyewitness

    memory", Memory,

    c) 'Granhag, Stromwall, and Billings (2003) found that 76% of participants came to remember

    seeing non-existent film footage of the sinking of the passenger liner the Estonia Similarly, Ost,

    Hogbin, and Granhag,(2005) found that 40% of participants recalled seeing non-existent CCTV

    footage of an explosion in a Bali nightclub, and that the number of false reports increased or

    decreased in line with confirmatory or disconfirmatory social influence exerted by the

    confederate. Hence, memory conformity effects can occur for significant and emotional

    autobiographical events', "Collaborative recall and collective memory: What happens when we

    remember together?", Memory,

    d) 'In the domain of autobiographical memories, Loftus and Bernstein (2005) claim that rich false

    memories are usually created by increasing processing requirements (e.g., participants are

    asked to imagine an event, to elaborate on some new information, etc). Elaborating the new

    information (e.g., imagining it) increases the perceived level of familiarity of the event; in turn

    this increased familiarity is erroneously attributed to childhood experience, rather than to the

    recent elaboration. In a similar vein, a familiarity plus corroboration model proposes that false

    memories are due to a surreptitiously enhanced feeling of familiarity of a specific item, which

    triggers the search for corroborating (and false) memories. Although initially proposed in a

    different context, this model can easily explain how rich false autobiographical memories are

  • 23

    created', "Hindsight Bias, the Misinformation Effect, and False Autobiographical Memories",

    Social Cognition,

    e) Participants alter memory of stimuli after exposure to misleading information about the

    responses of others, even when told these responses were bogus, "Shared Realities: Social

    Influence and Stimulus Memory", Social Cognition,

    f) 'After controlling for initial confidence, inaccurate memories were shown to be more easily

    distorted than accurate memories', "Memory conformity affects inaccurate memories more than

    accurate memories", Memory,

    g) 'Study 1 investigated the role of selective recall in precognitive dream experiences. Participants

    read two diaries, one purporting to be a dream diary, and one purporting to be a diary of events

    in the dreamers life. The events either confirmed or disconfirmed the reported dreams. As

    predicted, a significantly greater number of confirmed than disconfirmed dream-event pairs

    were recalled As predicted, paranormal belief and precognitive dream belief were found to

    correlate significantly with ability to find correspondences between dreams and news event

    pairs. Contrary to prediction, no relationship was found between belief and performance on the

    neutral association task. Together, these studies illustrate the operation of mechanisms that,

    when present in individuals having dreams and experiencing subsequent events, would tend to

    lead to an increase in the number of experiences of a seeming coincidence between dreams and

    events that can be interpreted as precognitive', "Psychological factors in precognitive dream

    experiences: The role of paranormal belief, selective recall and propensity to find

    correspondences", International Journal of Dream Research, http://journals.ub.uni-

    B. Claim 3.2: Memory Conformity

    a) 'Participants were shown a crime video and then asked to discuss the video in groups, with some

    receiving misinformation about the event from their discussion partners. After a one week delay

    some participants were warned about possible misinformation before all participants provided

    their own account of the event. Co-witness information was incorporated into participants

    testimonies, and this effect was not reduced by warnings or source monitoring instructions,

    suggesting memory change may have occurred', "Can a witness report hearsay evidence

    unintentionally? The effects of discussion on eyewitness memory",

    b) 'Sixty first-year Jagiellonian University students described two important autobiographical events

    twice. In between the two recall sessions, participants from the experimental group viewed two

    films. The first was a short televised account of the two events; the second was a corresponding

    videotaped description of the personal experiences of a young woman. In addition, participants

    were asked to imagine what she had been talking about. Most of the participants from the

    experimental group incorporated elements of the woman's description into their own

    subsequent accounts. In spite of this, they rated the vividness and the accuracy of their post-

    test memories as very high', "Distortion of autobiographical memories", Applied Cognitive


    c) 'When two people see the same event and discuss it, one persons memory report can influence

    what the other person subsequently claims to remember. We refer to this as memory

    conformity. in the present article, two factors underlying the memory conformity effect are

    investigated. First, are there any characteristics of the dialogue that predict memory conformity?

  • 24

    Second, is memory conformity differentially affected when information is encountered that omits,

    adds to, or contradicts originally encoded items? Participants were tested in pairs. the two

    members of each pair encoded slightly different versions of complex scenes and discussed them

    prior to an individual free recall test. The discussions were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed.

    Our most striking finding was that the witness initiating the discussion was most likely to

    influence the other witnesss memory report', "Memory conformity: Disentangling the steps

    toward influence during a discussion", Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,

    d) 'Siblings attempted to recall four childhood eventsthree true and one falsethree times

    independently, and then discussed their memories with each other. Results showed that subjects

    incorporated elements from each other's reports into their own; 24% also reported details

    about the false event by the end of the individual phase, although false reports dropped

    dramatically after the discussion phase. Our research shows discussion can influence both true

    and false autobiographical memories', "Discussion affects memory for true and false childhood

    events", Applied Cognitive Psychology,

    e) 'Three studies demonstrate that individuals often rely on a belief force equals credible source

    heuristic to make source judgments, wherein they assume that statements they believe originate

    from credible sources', "Evolving Informational Credentials: The (Mis)Attribution of Believable

    Facts to Credible Sources", Pers Soc Psychol Bull,

    f) A great general review article, "Remembering in Conversations: The Social Sharing and

    Reshaping of Memories", Annual Review of Psychology,

    g) Overhearing the impressions of others about an event can change memories of the event,

    "Remembering the impressions of others as our own: how post-experience decisions can distort

    autobiographical memory", Applied Cognitive Psychology,


    h) On the effect of social conformity on memory: 'People incorporate erroneous interjections if they

    believe these come from another person than from a computer. Further, not only does social

    conformity lead people to accept the confederates recognition errors, it also produces genuine

    memory impairments, as evidenced by poorer memory on a later individual task', "Collaborative

    Memory: Cognitive Research and Theory", Perspectives on Psychological Science,

    i) 'Three studies investigated change-of-meaning processes following decisions to conform or

    dissent. Study 1 demonstrated that conformity decisions relative to a group standard, but not

    agreement decisions relative to a purely informational standard, caused changes in subject's

    construal of a stimulus story. Studies 2 and 3 extended these findings to a real-world stimulus

    story (an actual newspaper account of a police shooting incident) and showed that

    postconformity change-of-meaning effects were maintained over a 1-week test period and in

    fact increased over time for female subjects', "Change-of-meaning effects in conformity and

    dissent: Observing construal processes over time", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

    j) 'In their study, student participants tune their retelling of a witnessed incident to their audiences

    evaluation of the suspects in the incident. It is found that participants own memories and

  • 25

    judgments regarding the incident are more biased toward their audience when they are more

    (vs. less) motivated to create a shared view with a particular audience (a student with a similar

    vs. dissimilar academic background)', "Social Influence on Memory", Social Psychology,

    C. Claim 3.3: Eyewitness Testimony

    a) 'Numerous studies have shown that eyewitness testimony for pseudo-psychic demonstrations,

    such as fake sances and fork bending, may be inaccurate and vulnerable to memory distortion.

    Wiseman and Morris (1995), for example, have presented evidence suggesting that believers in

    the paranormal had poorer memories for pseudo-psychic demonstrations (i.e., conjuring tricks)

    than non-believers. Furthermore, the memory differences between believers and non-believers

    were particularly marked for information that was crucial to explaining how a particular effect

    had been achieved. For example, the fact that a key disappeared from view during a metal-

    bending demonstration was critical because it was at this point that a straight key was switched

    for a bent key. Believers also tended to rate demonstrations of such pseudo-psychic feats as more

    paranormal than non-believers', "Memory Conformity and Paranormal Belief",

    b) 'Sixty-four psychologists were asked about their courtroom experiences and opinions on 30

    eyewitness phenomena. By an agreement rate of at least 80%, there was a strong consensus that

    the following phenomena are sufficiently reliable to present in court: the wording of questions,

    lineup instructions, confidence malleability, mug-shot-induced bias, postevent information,

    child witness suggestibility, attitudes and expectations, hypnotic suggestibility, alcoholic

    intoxication, the cross-race bias, weapon focus, the accuracyconfidence correlation, the

    forgetting curve, exposure time, presentation format, and unconscious transference. Results