Jesus: Miracle Man or Trickster?

by Luke Muehlhauser on May 22, 2010 in Video

Criss Angel demonstrates you don’t need to have real magic to walk on water.

Of course, it’s most likely the story of Jesus walking on water was simply made up. That happens all the time. But the video above does show that even if we discount the most likely explanations for the walking-on-water story, there are still some explanations that are more plausible than a superfluous supernatural miracle.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Justfinethanks May 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Television scholars generally agree on four facts regarding Criss Angel

1. Criss Angel made it from one side of the pool from another.
2. Persons who occupied the pool were seen to observe Criss Angel Walking across the pool.
3. Criss Angel lost both his shoes while in the middle of the pool.
4. A woman, who was a contemporary eyewitness to Criss Angel, was reported (which is notable because woman’s testimony was otherwise regarded as untrustworthy in 2006) as saying “He is that SHIT! Best. The Best. Take it from me, he is the best.”

These facts are best explained by the miraculous crossing of a Las Vegas pool by Criss Angel. And naturalistic explanations, such as the so called “walking on plexiglass” theory, are simply ad hoc and unparsimonious, and are only accepted by people who have naturalistic presuppositions.

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lukeprog May 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Ahhhhahahahahaha!

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Justin May 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Well, it’s obvious that what Criss Angel is a hoax… But you really need to check out Liquid Mountaineering. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It might be fake, but I don’t know:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe3St1GgoHQ

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lukeprog May 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Justin,

I think it’s real, and it’s really cool.

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Lukas May 23, 2010 at 12:33 am

“I think it’s real”

I’m guessing you’re being ironic? For those who are not sure whether it’s real: it’s a viral ad for running shoes, it’s not real. That’s not how gravity or water tension or the centripetal force work.

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Beelzebub May 23, 2010 at 1:53 am

That would have been slightly more convincing if it wasn’t obvious that it was a flooded reservoir. Note the tree and plant sticking out. They’re just taking advantage of submerged landscape. Yes, water has a lot of surface tension, but not that much.

As far as the legend is concerned, it may have had its origin in desert mirages. If you watch someone walking in the distance within a mirage it can look as if they’re walking on water.

And getting back to the pool walker: I’d bet he’s being supported from above. He’s not realistically walking, as if there’s no weight on his feet.

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Dianelos Georgoudis May 23, 2010 at 2:23 am

Justfinethanks:

That’s a really good parody of William Lane Craig’s argument for the resurrection of Jesus. And the presence of a plexiglass plank a few centimeters bellow the surface is the rather obvious explanation of what we seen on the video. Which means that the witnesses present knew about the trick, and it’s here where the analogy with the resurrection story kind of breaks down. For it is implausible that the disciples who were proclaiming the resurrection knew it was a trick, or a lie.

What we know is that the birth of Christianity is a major historical event, and that we have the original writings of some of its protagonists, such as Paul, which speak of the resurrection. I think it is plausible that the disciples experienced something powerful and life changing, which came to be described as the resurrection. On the other hand, from the confusing ways that the resurrection is described, I think it is improbable that it was simply the experience of a bodily resurrection.

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Beelzebub May 23, 2010 at 4:06 am

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Beelzebub May 23, 2010 at 4:09 am

Sorry, that formatted horribly, but if it’s something new and of interest, maybe Luke can present it more attractively (?)

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Tom Gilson May 23, 2010 at 4:15 am

I think Plexiglass is indeed a good theory for how Jesus did it. We can go with that, and not have to view him as having done anything miraculous or even out of the ordinary.

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Bill Maher May 23, 2010 at 5:11 am

Justfinethanks,

If this happened 2,000 years ago, then Craig would be defending it with that line of reasoning right now.

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Bill Maher May 23, 2010 at 5:15 am

Also, that water was fine tuned to talk on.

Everybody knows that.

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g May 23, 2010 at 5:49 am

Tom, obviously no one is saying that Jesus literally walked on plexiglass. Luke is just pointing out that not all unobvious explanations of surprising things involve miracles. And JFT is just pointing out that an argument beloved by Christians (even some otherwise very intelligent ones) leads to the absurd conclusion that Criss Angel walked on water.

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Bill Maher May 23, 2010 at 5:57 am

g,
God put a divine sense in me, so my self authenticating experience of Chris Angel requires no evidence. He is properly basic.

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Rob May 23, 2010 at 7:06 am

The Liquid Mountaineering thing is a viral ad campaign for Hi Tech shoes.

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lukeprog May 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

Re: shoes.

Ah! Then I’ve been had!

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Justfinethanks May 23, 2010 at 8:32 am

I’d bet he’s being supported from above. He’s not realistically walking, as if there’s no weight on his feet.

You see! Naturalists can’t even agree whether or not Criss Angel is supported from above or from below. This is surely a sign that they would rather dream up any old implausible explanation of the events surrounding Criss Angel rather than accepting the most straightforward one: Criss Angel miraculously walked across water.

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Lorkas May 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

And getting back to the pool walker: I’d bet he’s being supported from above.

I thought the same when I watched it. There are one or two places where his lead foot seems to slide a little bit (without any loss of balance) instead of staying in place like it would have done if he were standing on something.

Plus a lot of the people in the pool move around with their heads above water in the place where he walks. I guess they could all be plants, and there are a few gaps in the plexiglass that they know about (and that Criss has to step over), but it seemed to me more like he was supported from above, though I couldn’t spot any wires. He also did a huge levitation illusion, which may have used a similar device.

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Rob May 23, 2010 at 8:52 am

“For it is implausible that the disciples who were proclaiming the resurrection knew it was a trick, or a lie.”

Do you have access to the testimony of the disciples? Were some new documents recently discovered?

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Haukur May 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Ah! Then I’ve been had!

Actually, Luke, since you would be presupposed to be skeptical to walk-on-water claims you’ve just provided important hostile testimony – further validating and confirming that the Liquid Mountaineering guys really do walk on water.

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Bill Maher May 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Haukur is right.

Criss Angel actually did walk on water.

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Justfinethanks May 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Of course, most people don’t really believe in Criss Angel’s miracles based on arguments, thought they are strong.

Before you really believe you must search for Criss Angel earnestly and approach Criss Angel with an open heart and an open mind.

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Jeff H May 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Even if I were to be taken back in time, and be shown the pool where Criss’s actions took place, and see the plexiglas underneath, I would still believe that he really walked on water.

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Lorkas May 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

The hilarious thing about the “hostile testimony” article Haukur cites is that the very first so-called hostile testimony comes from a person born at least 20 to 30 years after Jesus is said to have been killed.

I somehow doubt that Tacitus witnessed the events that the author wants to establish given his birthdate, so at best this “hostile” witness is just saying what Christians have said to him about Jesus.

By the standards of the author, it should be considered “hostile testimony” every time someone who isn’t a devotee of the ancient Greek pantheon tells a story about Zeus (or any other Greek god(dess)), and such stories provide evidence that the Olympians really exist. Heck, if I tell a story about Robin Hood and don’t really believe he existed, then that’s “hostile testimony”.

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lukeprog May 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Haukur,

Amazing how easy that is. :)

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Bill Maher May 23, 2010 at 5:27 pm

OMFG do you guys watch Ugly Americans?

One of the main characters, Leonard is a magician that looks just like James Randi and his brother is “Christ Angel”.

Good stuff.

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lukeprog May 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I’m torn on this one: real or fake?

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Roman May 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

That tongue looks pretty real to me!

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Atheist.pig May 24, 2010 at 2:14 am

Grotesquely fake.

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plutosdad May 24, 2010 at 6:34 am

I think Plexiglass is indeed a good theory for how Jesus did it
Bah! it was transparent aluminum! How do you know Jesus didn’t invent it?

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Lorkas May 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

I believed the Kung Fu Bear was real the first time I watched it, lukeprog. You can tell it’s not a guy in a suit because the limb proportions are wrong for a human (for example, human legs are much longer than our torsos, but the bear’s leg, almost fully extended, comes only to his chin).

Eliminating that, it’s either real, very, very expensive CGI, or very, very expensive robotics. Let’s be honest: a video of a robot bear doing kung fu is cooler than just a bear doing kung fu, so we can probably assume that if it was a robot, they would reveal that to us. I just don’t think that a video like this is worth faking given the sheer cost.

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Jeff H May 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I agree with Lorkas on that one. Although I’d like to think that it was a bear who went on a backpacking trip through the Orient and learned at the feet of the greatest kung fu warriors. Then, of course, he returned to the zoo to teach his fellow bears the way of the master to lead to an eventual bear uprising against the zoo owners. It’s only a matter of time.

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Richard Wein May 25, 2010 at 2:42 am

I often have quite vivid dreams in which I can run across water. And what the guys in that video do is nothing. I can run a lot further!

And does anyone remember a film called “Jesus of Montreal”, which included “Jesus” walking on water, by means of a wooden causeway just under the water?

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Haukur May 25, 2010 at 7:06 am

My instincts are similar to Lorkas’s though personally, I would have rated the probability of a really high-quality costume higher than that of really high-quality CGI or really high-quality robotics.

But anyway, the bear is real enough. He’s called Claude and he lives in Asa Zoo in Hiroshima.

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Gil S. May 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

There’s one thing missing here and that’s Peter. If this magician picked a person with no inside connection or clue as to how this trick worked and made them walk on water then you got something even more interesting. Let’s not forget that Christ walked on “rough” water in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, not some pool. It’s like the difference between jumping (temporarily suspended in the air) and actually “floating” in the air.

So, assuming it even happened, Jesus is either the most incredible magician of ALL time or he is actually the son of God. I’m sure you all know what’s the best explanation.

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lukeprog May 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Gil S.,

Ummmm… or somebody made up the story or exaggerated it. That happens all the time. What does not generally happen is people walking on water. Is there some reason you suspect magic is a superior explanation, or have I misread you?

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al friedlander May 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

“So, assuming it even happened, Jesus is either the most incredible magician of ALL time or he is actually the son of God. I’m sure you all know what’s the best explanation. ”

Gil, I see what you’re saying here. If we were to -assume- that He did walk on water, then magic would probably be a weak explanation. The problem is, assuming the notion that He even truly ‘walked on water’ to begin with, takes a -tremendous- leap of faith

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