Apparently some local Christian apologists believe that the New Zealand Lottery Commission performs a miracle each week with its Lotto draw. They claim that:
“Given the complete randomisation of 40 balls, falling into any sequence of six is 1:2,763,633,600.”
If they are correct, and given New Zealand’s population, we would expect a winner only every 15 years or so. Despite this there is a winner most weeks. In September 1993 38 people won First Division! With these odds they might be justified in calling most of the winning miracles.
However, these poor souls got their maths wrong. They forgot to divide by 720. The real odds are 1:3, 838, 380. That sounds more like it, doesn’t it?
So, no miracles. But the mathematical error was really caused by their desire to describe the regular Lotto result as “extraordinary”:
“Consider the lottery reported last night on television as one such event. The chances of winning, or indeed any random sequence of numbers, is extraordinarily improbable, yet if it is true that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, you should never believe it happened. Weighing the probability of the extraordinary event will swamp the reliability of the witnesses every time so that you should never believe it. Even if the programs reporting is 99.9% accurate.”
So, they claim, if we can accept the Lotto “miracle” on the hearsay evidence of a news report we don’t need extraordinary evidence to accept “God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.”
Can’t see what Lotto has to do with it. The event itself is not extraordinary (nor is the selection of “any random sequence of numbers” which actually has a probability of 1) and while the actual numbers drawn are pleasantly extraordinary to the winner – they aren’t to the rest of us.
But what about the evidence? We know that there is a legal requirement for police observation of the draw as well as other checking of the equipment and procedure. The winners ticket is also thoroughly checked. We just wouldn’t be investing our hard-earned cash in Lotto if this checking didn’t occur. Seems like pretty extraordinary evidence to me.
These Christian apologists claim that because we accept the Lotto result we should accept the hearsay claims of biblical miracle with no real evidence.
Now, if they could just produce evidence of their miracles with similar thoroughness and robustness to that used in the Lotto draw we would have something to look into – wouldn’t we?