Atheism: Just a Subjective Opinion

It is common for atheists to proclaim that “there is no evidence for God’s existence” as if this was some objective truth about our reality.  Yet when someone says, “There is no evidence for God,” all they are really saying is “I don’t see any evidence for God.”  This follows from understanding that evidence is interpreted data and as such ultimately relies on subjectivity.   Our senses detect data (objectivity) and our minds convert and translate the data as evidence for or against some belief (subjectivity).  And because of this necessary subjective step, it is often the case that one person’s evidence is another person’s anomaly.

This subjective element is also on clear display when the atheist is asked to clarify his requests for evidence by spelling out what type of data would qualify as evidence for God’s existence. I have found that most of the time, atheists will ignore or brush off this request.  But in the cases where they try to clarify their position, they will invariably adopt the god-of-the-gaps approach to reality. For example, scientist Jerry Coyne explained what he needs:

if a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus appeared to the residents of New York City, as he supposedly did to the evangelist Oral Roberts in Oklahoma, and this apparition were convincingly documented, most scientists would fall on their knees with hosannas.

Coyne needs a Sign.

Yet there are many more atheists who would not consider such a demonstration of divine power as evidence for God’s existence.  Both PZ Myers (the internet’s most famous atheist) and Richard Dawkins (the real world’s most famous atheist) have said that they would not change their mind even if a 15 foot Jesus appeared before them and boomed, “I exist.”

Over at Richard Dawkin’s page, Steve Zara makes the point very clear:

There can be no evidence for God

[…]

More stridency? Like this – we should challenge the very concept of gods, we should not let believers set the rules of the game with flim-flam about the possible truth of Biblical miracles, or other ways of knowing reality, or necessary beings. We should make it clear that all arguments that lead to gods are wrong because they lead to gods! God is a singular mistake, a philosophical division by zero, a point at which the respectability of arguments break down. God is out of the question, the ultimate wrong answer.

PZ Myers applauds Zara

So yes, I agree. There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.

So we have two schools of atheism: 1) The God-of-the-Gap school that demands signs and miracles and 2) The Closed-Minded school that spins elaborate rationalizations for their inability/unwillingness to change their minds. That there is such disagreement among the atheists is very significant.  Why?

We’re supposed to take people like Dawlins, Myers and Coyne seriously because they are scientists. How so? Because they, as scientists, are supposed to be experts at handling evidence. That’s their entire claim to authority. Take away that simple factor and suddenly there is no reason why anyone would have reason to elevate their opinions beyond those of anyone else.

Yet here we have two “experts” on evidence who cannot even agree on the most fundamental question about evidence – what would count as evidence. So what good is their expertise?

Ask yourself why in the world can’t scientists like Dawkins, Myers, and Coyne reach a basic consensus on this fundamental issue of evidence?  I can only think of one viable answer.  These scientists are incapable of reaching consensus about what would count as evidence precisely because the answer to that question is so deeply subjective.  And that takes us back to the third sentence of this post: evidence is interpreted data and as such ultimately relies on subjectivity.  By morphing the actual position (I personally don’t see any evidence for God) into the rhetorical stance (There is no evidence for God), the atheist is masquerading subjectivity as objectivity to serve their culture war objectives.  And the New Atheist leaders nurture and encourage this error through their constant misuse of science as an authority on this issue.

Look, the atheist is entitled to his opinion about God’s nonexistence.

But that’s all it is.

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8 Responses to Atheism: Just a Subjective Opinion

  1. 22lazy says:

    Well if a 15ft Jesus did come down how would we know he was actually the son of God and not just a very powerful creature with a God complex?

  2. 22lazy says:

    This argument is purely to reinforce doubts and prejudices that people who just don’t like the aggressive atheist style of Dawkins, Hitchens and many who imitate it when making their own arguments towards atheism. Whether or not their style; perceived by many as arrogant, insensitive or unromantic, is a bad thing is up for debate. However it definitely turns a lot of people off- that’s undeniable.

    This argument contains some flaws though. Firstly it dismisses science as subjective; the implication being “Scientists are subjective with science and with the idea of God so it’s okay to be equally subjective and believe in God.” Broadly speaking, we can classify anything our minds can come up with as a perception and as reality itself. The problem is, as conscious beings our understanding of reality is completely reliant on our ability to perceive it. What we think we know of the world outside of our minds is not the world just the data we can gather from it. Our perception is not the same, we can be deceived, we can miss details out or include spurious information.

    This begs the question why do we consider science a good reflection of reality, not a poorly put together perception?

    The purpose of science is to try and explain data with theories that will make accurate predictions. It is the fact that the predictions can hold no matter who does them that makes us confident that they are a reflection of reality itself and less highly influenced by perception than other ideas. If science didn’t work, how would we have reached the moon? How would we be typing on this computer? And the list could go on. We go with science because we have a reason to, that reason being accurate predictions outside of the data already used to make them.

    Him calling it subjective is not actually totally inaccurate. It’s just stupid. It’s a fallacy; an illusion that falls apart when you consider the ambiguity of the word “subjective”. Everything is subjective to an extent, because the subject must always attach meaning or interpretation in the very act of perceiving. Let me give an example. Your eyesight is subjective in the sense that the images from photons your brain generates is different from one person to the next, from how well your eyes work to whether you are colour blind or not. The subjectivity he implies refers to opinions of preference and the writer deliberately or stupidly tries to confuse the two.

    Secondly it fails to recognise what Dawkins may have meant. When testing for things we tend to be able to define them or their characteristics. With regard to God, we mean an all powerful all knowing entity with some other impressive qualities too. Dawkins means they are impossible to test scientifically, that a 15 foot Jesus though impressive does not show any of these qualities. To actually be able to measure these qualities we would have to become gods ourselves. How would we know 15 foot Jesus is not just a very powerful but finite being capable of appearing to us? Well we wouldn’t.

    Whether you’d still be silly not to start singing Hosana at that point is questionable. I probably would. Not gonna lie, I’m quite fickle.

  3. bill long says:

    “Well if a 15ft Jesus did come down how would we know he was actually the son of God and not just a very powerful creature with a God complex?”

    How do you know anything for certain? You don’t. But I imagine such a being might be willing to demonstrate his powers in a way that would make it very difficult to resist. If such a being, say, moved Mars out of its orbit at will, and, say, demonstrated the ability to create life in a test tube that is as complex as our DNA replicator, I would probably believe his claims. Why not?

  4. Michael says:

    This argument contains some flaws though. Firstly it dismisses science as subjective;

    No, it does not dismiss science as subjective. No flaw there.

    the implication being “Scientists are subjective with science and with the idea of God so it’s okay to be equally subjective and believe in God.”

    You are putting words in my mouth. The “implication” exists only in your head.

    This begs the question why do we consider science a good reflection of reality, not a poorly put together perception?

    You don’t seem to understand science. What allows us to use science as a good reflection of reality is the well-designed experiment. Take that away and science loses its power. But this means that science is only useful in as far as the well-designed experiment can be done.

    Him calling it subjective is not actually totally inaccurate. It’s just stupid. It’s a fallacy; an illusion that falls apart when you consider the ambiguity of the word “subjective”.

    Empty assertions.

    Everything is subjective to an extent, because the subject must always attach meaning or interpretation in the very act of perceiving.

    Thus, atheism is subjective.

    Secondly it fails to recognise what Dawkins may have meant. When testing for things we tend to be able to define them or their characteristics. With regard to God, we mean an all powerful all knowing entity with some other impressive qualities too. Dawkins means they are impossible to test scientifically, that a 15 foot Jesus though impressive does not show any of these qualities. To actually be able to measure these qualities we would have to become gods ourselves. How would we know 15 foot Jesus is not just a very powerful but finite being capable of appearing to us? Well we wouldn’t.

    I’m not interested in rationalizations for Dawkins’s closed mind. You are evading the simple point that Dawkins and Coyne cannot agree on this. Which one is right? And how would you know which one is right?

  5. Michael says:

    If such a being, say, moved Mars out of its orbit at will, and, say, demonstrated the ability to create life in a test tube that is as complex as our DNA replicator, I would probably believe his claims. Why not?

    You “probably would.” Others would not. This fact, along with your “why not?” question, shows us the whimsical, subjective essence behind these demands for “evidence.”

  6. Michael says:

    Well if a 15ft Jesus did come down how would we know he was actually the son of God and not just a very powerful creature with a God complex?

    Indeed. This is why it is intellectually dishonest for atheists to pretend this debate is about the “evidence.”

  7. Alan Fox says:

    Hi Mike

    All viewpoints on non-verifiable phenomena are necessarily subjective. So, of course atheism is, as you say, a subjective opinion.

    Do you think we can choose what to believe at a whim? How do we distinguish the right dogma?

  8. What strikes me is the tastelessness and vulgarity of the “15 foot Jesus” demand. Isn’t that what irritates us all about Oral Roberts? Then why do so many atheists repeat the same shtick?

    I think the evidence actually given us is much more classy. I also like the fact that JRR Tolkien, a pious Catholic, made the High God of his imaginary world so remote — yet so important. A subcreation with the taste of reality.

    I’ve read Mike’s book, but haven’t read this blog until today. But I just happened to post on this same subject this morning, and a reader directed me to Mike’s comments. After my book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, was published 5 years ago, I’ve interacted with some of these characters — not found them, for the most part with all due respect, models of grace.

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