So why are atheists reluctant to define evidence?

Back in March, I noted:

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.

Now, if you have been following this blog, you’ll notice that my analysis has been spot on accurate:

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. 

We saw that when cl asked atheist JT Eberhard to define evidence as part of their pre-debate discussion, Eberhard offered up some lazy dictionary definition and then, when pressed about this, decided to back out the debate completely.

What’s more, atheist Nikolaj Mikkelsen showed up here to actually defend this unwillingness to define terms, writing:

Thus when making the case for the existence of something, requiring that the opposition define “good evidence” may actually hurt the case. The best we can do is agree to be as reasonable as we can, even if that ideal has no precise definition. The best we can do is evaluate arguments on their own merit.

So we can’t talk about what would count as “good evidence” and instead need to rely on faith that everyone will be “as reasonable as we can.” Sorry, but this is nonsense.  It’s nothing more than a rationalization for evasion.

So I was and am right about most atheists ignoring or brushing off a request that they spell out what type of data would qualify as evidence for God’s existence.

Why do atheists demand evidence, yet become uncomfortable telling us what they would count as evidence?  Why do they do often demand someone should be able to clear the goalposts, yet insist they can hide the goalposts?

 

Because if they don’t, it will become clear their demands for evidence are rooted in childish, closed-minded thinking.  For that takes us to the second part of my observation:

But in the cases where they try to clarify their position, they will invariably adopt the god-of-the-gaps approach to reality.

And along comes someone with the screen name “random.”  He comes here to tell us what type of data he would consider evidence for the resurrection of Christ:

If I saw a miracle myself, if a very large number of objective observers (i.e. educated, unbiased, not suffering from mental problems etc) reported seeing a miracle and I had no reason to think they were lying or being deceived, if a miracle was the best explanation of a set of facts and we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated, if a miracle occured under laboratory conditions and the results could easily be verified/repeated by anyone…stuff like that. Then someone would have to explain why the miracle reports of contradictory religions don’t cancel each other out.

I think these are pretty low standards. I also highly doubt that the resurrection meets them. Still I’m open to the evidence. How do you know that Jesus rose from the dead?

Let me break this down for you.

If I saw a miracle myself,

Without time travel, that’s a non-starter.

if a very large number of objective observers (i.e. educated, unbiased, not suffering from mental problems etc) reported seeing a miracle and I had no reason to think they were lying or being deceived,

There is no such thing as “objective observers.” What’s more, if someone became a Christian as a consequence of witnessing the resurrection, their Christian belief would be cited as the reason why can dismiss their testimony. Nothing of use here.

if a miracle was the best explanation of a set of facts and we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated,

Thar she blows!   An appeal to God-of-the-gaps.  Just as I said.

if a miracle occured under laboratory conditions and the results could easily be verified/repeated by anyone…stuff like that.

So Jesus was supposed to have risen in a lab? Why?

Then someone would have to explain why the miracle reports of contradictory religions don’t cancel each other out.

I see. So even if we could send Random back into time to witness the resurrection, along with a set of “objective observers” complete with lab equipment to document something for which we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated, that would not be good enough. We would then have to “explain” why the miracle reports of contradictory religions don’t cancel each other out.

I think these are pretty low standards.

LOL. Those are the standards of the closed-mind – if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, these standards would not allow you to detect this truth.

So it should be clear why people like JT and Nikolaj Mikkelsen did not want to spell out what type of data would count as evidence for God.  To do so would be to advertise that the atheist is not asking for “evidence” from a position of open-minded, intellectual curiosity.  On the  contrary, we see the demand is rooted in closed-minded, hyper-skeptical, useless, posturing.

 

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28 Responses to So why are atheists reluctant to define evidence?

  1. Alan Fox says:

    Substitute another concept for God and ask yourself

    “What type of data would count as evidence for Santa Claus”

    Presents under the tree that I had not bought for my daughter? Santa in person? Santa popping out from my fireplace? I can’t imagine what evidence could convince me of the existence of Santa Claus. I see no evidence of his existence. I don’t even grasp the concept of Santa Claus. I do see plenty of evidence to indicate Santa Claus is a myth perpetuated by adults to young children. (Doesn’t seem very a Christian concept) So why do I need to think about what hypothetical evidence might persuade me otherwise?

    Is it rude to wonder why you think God (whatever that means – I’ve discovered I’m ignostic HT aiguy at TT) exists?

  2. Michael says:

    So why do I need to think about what hypothetical evidence might persuade me otherwise?

    Never said that you did. However, if you expect me to provide you with the evidence for my beliefs, you need spell out what you would count as evidence.

    Is it rude to wonder why you think God (whatever that means – I’ve discovered I’m ignostic HT aiguy at TT) exists?

    It depends. If you simply wonder as an expression of open-minded, intellectual curiosity, it is not rude. If you “wonder” as a form of closed-minded posturing, expecting me to “justify myself,” then it is rude. So is it rude to ask if there is any evidence you are open-minded about this issue?

  3. Oh come now. What the heck do you want Mikkelsen to say? Even you would admit that there are a great number of myths and legends about supernatural and other bizarre events in history, events which are totally fictional but nevertheless sincerely believed by lots of people. See: every religion you don’t belong to, and many Christian sects you don’t belong to. People often believe weird things on poor evidence.

    Now, given that, it seems like reasonable initial skepticism about such claims is a reasonable position, and it would take a lot of good evidence to reasonably overcome this appropriate initial skepticism, and rightly so — and ideally it would be the kind of evidence not subject to the problems that lead people to sincerely, but wrongly, believe all of the nonsense you yourself don’t believe which I mentioned in the previous paragraph. It may well be the case that third-hand, four-hand, tenth-hand reports from a few highly edited and interdependent sources from 2000 years ago just can’t reach the bar, even if they didn’t have all sorts of internal contradictions and other problems which they do. But if so, that’s just the shakes, it’s not the skeptics’ fault.

  4. Michael says:

    Nick,

    Now, given that, it seems like reasonable initial skepticism about such claims is a reasonable position, and it would take a lot of good evidence to reasonably overcome this appropriate initial skepticism, and rightly so —

    First of all, we are not talking about any type of initial skepticism. It’s safe to say that 99.9% of New Atheists have known and heard about Christianity for a very long time. So we are talking about a form of skepticism that has been around for a very long time.

    Second, you’re still back to hiding the goal posts. “A lot of good evidence.” That statement is subjectivity cubed. Whether or not data are considered evidence is a subjective call (as we see, atheists need a Gap or need to witness a miracle; nothing else counts). Whether that evidence is deemed “good” is a further layer of subjectivity. And whether there is a “lot” of that good evidence is yet another layer of subjectivity. That’s a process poised to feed disconfirmation bias.

    So come now. Why am I supposed to run some elaborate maze of atheist subjectivity to please some atheist? What we have here is really a situation where a deeply and long held skepticism can only be overturn by an analysis that is deeply subjective.

    Why can’t such atheists just be honest and admit that they are closed-minded about the topic instead of pretending it’s a question of coming up with a “lot of good evidence?”

    Look, I can and do acknowledge that atheism is a reasonable worldview. Atheists cannot reciprocate. That is because, unlike atheists, I take an open-minded and fair view of things and don’t think I have it all figured out.

  5. Crude says:

    Nick,

    Now, given that, it seems like reasonable initial skepticism about such claims is a reasonable position, and it would take a lot of good evidence to reasonably overcome this appropriate initial skepticism, and rightly so

    Splendid. Please define what a “reasonable position” is, as well as “good evidence”. Should be easy, right?

    By the way, PZ Myers (for example) argues that there can be no evidence for God. Is his position reasonable? Oh, and Coyne’s standard involves the appearance of a 900 foot Jesus or somesuch – reasonable request for evidence, that?

    — and ideally it would be the kind of evidence not subject to the problems that lead people to sincerely, but wrongly, believe all of the nonsense you yourself don’t believe which I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

    As Mike has said, he doesn’t regard people who believe something that he doesn’t to be A) irrational, or B) obviously and demonstrably wrong. You, meanwhile, are projecting views onto Mike (the fact that he disagrees with atheists, but concedes atheists can be reasonable in their views, immediately blows apart your ‘but you believe all those other people are totally wrong and aren’t believed for satisfactory reasons’ move).

  6. eveysolara says:

    I don’t know why this is such a difficult concept to grasp. If someone were to ask me to help them find, say, their glasses that they lost, the first question out of my mouth would “what does it look like?”

  7. An interesting point you are making here.

    I think that the Moses story provides a kind of evidence that would be satisfactory – a conversation with god himself, in person. None of this holy spirit stuff, physically in person. Despite that being supernatural means not being in the natural world, he is all-powerful, right?

    I see your point about what is determined as unacceptable but you aren’t offering up anything that is acceptable evidence for anything else in life.

    A ‘personal revelation’ from your god looks no different from psychosis. Such is not positive evidence for the existence of a god. There are literally thousands of things a deity could do to prove they exist. Arguing what it would take makes it sound like you are waiting for the requirement before going to your god and telling him what he has to do. If your god is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient then your god will know what it takes for each individual and will, if he desired, provide that. It is not a terribly difficult feat for an omnipotent god. Arguing that I can’t tell you is hubris. You claim to worship a being who knows exactly what it would take and if this being existed and wanted to prove he exists, he would. It has absolutely nothing to do with your understanding or arguments.

    What you have to explain is why your omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent god has NOT shown evidence of his existence despite his supposed infinite ability to do so. Why does your all powerful god need you to spread his word, to defend him, to be his mouthpiece?

    While you can criticize, the real problem remains. Your all powerful god appears to be anything but all powerful. Your god in fact appears to be non-existent despite the work of believers to show that he exists using all manner of falsehoods and confusions.

    So go ahead, think that you have some special argument. It fails to be valid in the face of what you claim of your god. When you are told that all your evidence doesn’t count or that it is not good enough, why don’t you go pray for better evidence? Why don’t you ask your god to figure it out and make it work? Why are you responsible for proving your god exists when you claim that your god is all powerful? Why does your god need your help?

  8. “Look, I can and do acknowledge that atheism is a reasonable worldview. Atheists cannot reciprocate. That is because, unlike atheists, I take an open-minded and fair view of things and don’t think I have it all figured out.”

    Oh, so you’re you’re objective, and they aren’t, is that it? If so, please give us YOUR definition of what constitutes objective, nonsubjective, good evidence for supernatural claims. Then please show that your religious beliefs are significantly better justified than those of, say, the Jews or Mormons. If you don’t do this, all you’ve got is posturing.

  9. “Second, you’re still back to hiding the goal posts. “A lot of good evidence.” That statement is subjectivity cubed. Whether or not data are considered evidence is a subjective call (as we see, atheists need a Gap or need to witness a miracle; nothing else counts). Whether that evidence is deemed “good” is a further layer of subjectivity. And whether there is a “lot” of that good evidence is yet another layer of subjectivity. That’s a process poised to feed disconfirmation bias.”

    By tossing such loose accusations of subjectivity around, one can make all kinds of ridiculous claims — all science is subjective, all journalism is subjective, all morality is subjective, all legal verdicts are subjective, blah blah blah. It’s a trick used by lazy undergrads and lazy professors in discussion sections. In reality, words like “good evidence” are widely understood to refer to the sorts of things I mentioned — evidence that would support a guilty verdict in court; evidence that would convince a scientific community of one theory over another, converting even convinced but nondogmatic skeptics in the community; evidence that would justify a federal regulator to authorize the sale of a particular drug, etc. Furthermore there are several standard statistical frameworks for measuring evidence.

    One can either argue (a) Christianity (or whatever supernatural claim we are discussing) stands up under the sorts of widely-accepted criteria mentioned above, or (b) one can argue that religious/supernatural claims are special and not subject to the same rules that we apply to many other things. Claim (b) would be an interesting argument to make; for example, God doesn’t have to follow the rules of nature, and could well talk to people privately in unverifiable ways or whatever. An argument along the lines of (b) is, I think, what underlies the liberal democratic tradition of protecting religious freedom and promoting religious tolerance, but also keeping the government secular (in the original, a-religious, not anti-religious definition of the term). But instead you are just pretending that the criteria in (a) don’t exist or are subjectively made up. This doesn’t wash.

  10. Crude says:

    Nick,

    If so, please give us YOUR definition of what constitutes objective, nonsubjective, good evidence for supernatural claims.

    You’re asking Mike for ‘nonsubjective’ evaluation of evidence? Have you been reading anything Mike has written since the time he penned the design Matrix?

  11. Michael says:

    myatheistlife,

    I think that the Moses story provides a kind of evidence that would be satisfactory – a conversation with god himself, in person. None of this holy spirit stuff, physically in person. Despite that being supernatural means not being in the natural world, he is all-powerful, right?

    In other words, since God has not physically appeared to you, I’m supposed to conclude God does not exist. Yeah, right.

    A ‘personal revelation’ from your god looks no different from psychosis. Such is not positive evidence for the existence of a god.

    Of course a personal revelation from God would look like psychosis to you. The problem is that people with psychosis can’t function as well as I do in life. What’s more, while I may appear psychotic to you, you appear blind to me.

    As for a personal revelation not being “positive evidence,” sure. It’s not positive evidence…FOR YOU. After all, you need a personal, physical visit from God. You can’t say it is not positive evidence for me unless you first demonstrate that God does not exist.

  12. Michael says:

    Nick,

    Oh, so you’re you’re objective, and they aren’t, is that it?

    Instead of trying to spin or paraphrase, why not simply deal with the reality that I have presented: I can and do acknowledge that atheism is a reasonable worldview. Atheists cannot reciprocate.

    Atheists view Christians as being either stupid, mentally ill, or dishonest. I do not view atheists as being either stupid, mentally ill, or dishonest.

    As you can see, there is an asymmetry.

    If so, please give us YOUR definition of what constitutes objective, nonsubjective, good evidence for supernatural claims.

    Huh? Haven’t you been paying attention? I have been explaining there is no such thing as “objective, nonsubjective, good evidence.” Evidence is something that is “seen” with the mind’s eye. It is inherently subjective.

    As I noted, when atheists demand “a lot of good evidence,” they are simply trying to create the illusion that their subjective needs are objective insights. And this clearly serves the propagandistic nature of the new atheist movement.

    By tossing such loose accusations of subjectivity around, one can make all kinds of ridiculous claims — all science is subjective, all journalism is subjective, all morality is subjective, all legal verdicts are subjective, blah blah blah. It’s a trick used by lazy undergrads and lazy professors in discussion sections.

    No, it is lazy (or worse) to pretend an inquiry rooted in and guided by subjectivity is somehow objective. Now, I did not toss loose accusations of subjectivity around. I simply noted how it is:

    “A lot of good evidence.” That statement is subjectivity cubed. Whether or not data are considered evidence is a subjective call (as we see, atheists need a Gap or need to witness a miracle; nothing else counts). Whether that evidence is deemed “good” is a further layer of subjectivity. And whether there is a “lot” of that good evidence is yet another layer of subjectivity. That’s a process poised to feed disconfirmation bias.”

    Do you have some objective criterion/method for determining whether data is or is not evidence for God?

    Do you have some objective criterion/method for determining whether some of that evidence is “good”?

    Do you have some objective criterion/method for determining whether there is a “lot” of good evidence?

    Sorry, Nick, even with all the hand-waving about courtrooms and journalists, all I see is your spidey-sense. Am I supposed to deny the existence of God as some sort of tribute to your spidey-sense?

  13. Michael says:

    Crude,

    You’re asking Mike for ‘nonsubjective’ evaluation of evidence? Have you been reading anything Mike has written since the time he penned the design Matrix?

    The evidence indicates he has not. Look, given his Gnu-lite views, it is likely that Nick thinks I am either stupid, evil, and/or mentally ill. So why bother reading and trying to understand the views of someone you believe to be stupid, evil, and/or mentally ill?

  14. vinnyjh57 says:

    I would define evidence as an effect from which a cause can reasonably be inferred. If I come across a pile of smouldering ashes, I can infer that the cause was a fire and not a rainstorm. If I come across a body with a knife sticking out of its back and that knife has little swirly patterns on it that match the ones on a particular person’s fingers, I can infer that that person is the murderer.

    The reason that the fingerprints and ashes constitute “evidence” is that I understand the natural processes of cause and effect that produced them and I know them to act consistently. If those swirly patterns appeared randomly in nature or by divine fiat, they wouldn’t be evidence of anything. It is the consistency of those processes of cause and effect that underlie the intellectual process of drawing inferences from evidence.

    This is why I find it so hard to suggest evidence that would cause me to believe in the resurrection or any other miracle. I have no idea of how miracles work. By definition, they don’t follow natural processes of cause and effect. I can imagine that an actual supernatural event might produce some weird effect that is hard to explain like the Shroud or Turin. On the other hand, I can equally imagine God working a miracle that was indistinguishable from an natural event to the human eye.

    In the case of the resurrection, the effect is a collection of ancient supernatural tales. In my knowledge and experience, such tales are usually produced by human foibles like superstition, ignorance, gullibility, wishful thinking, and prevarication. I can imagine that an actual resurrection could cause them, but I can’t imagine how I could ever assess that as most likely.

  15. “Sorry, Nick, even with all the hand-waving about courtrooms and journalists, all I see is your spidey-sense. Am I supposed to deny the existence of God as some sort of tribute to your spidey-sense?”

    Obviously I didn’t say anything like that. I am saying that your argument, as you have presented it, doesn’t work, because “what is evidence is subjective” could equally well be applied to anything, e.g. courtrooms, journalism, and science. Am I supposed to deny that there is a meaningful way in that courtrooms, journalism, and science rely on standards of objectivity?

    You are basically endorsing straight-up, cheap, bankrupt relativism. E.g. here:

    “I have been explaining there is no such thing as “objective, nonsubjective, good evidence.” Evidence is something that is “seen” with the mind’s eye. It is inherently subjective. ”

    I’m pointing out this is silly. You can disagree, but my daring to disagree with you doesn’t make me “gnu-lite” or whatever.

  16. Alan Fox says:

    However, if you expect me to provide you with the evidence for my beliefs, you need spell out what you would count as evidence.

    Sorry, overlooked this earlier. Not at all. You are absolutely entitled to your own thoughts and beliefs. Your public statements that make claims are challengeable by evidence to the contrary. Your actions based on your beliefs are subject to legal and other constraints.

  17. Alan Fox says:

    If you simply wonder as an expression of open-minded, intellectual curiosity, it is not rude.

    Curiosity is not a matter of choice. You are curious about something or you are not.

    If you “wonder” as a form of closed-minded posturing, expecting me to “justify myself,” then it is rude. So is it rude to ask if there is any evidence you are open-minded about this issue?

    You don’t have to justify your beliefs or private thoughts. If you make public statements and claims (advertising claims illustrate the general point) then you should be expected to justify them. Your last statement is rude because it is in the form “have you stopped beating your wife”. You can assume the worst in people or assume the best. Or you can just make what point you wish and see how things go.

  18. Michael says:

    Nick,

    Obviously I didn’t say anything like that. I am saying that your argument, as you have presented it, doesn’t work, because “what is evidence is subjective” could equally well be applied to anything, e.g. courtrooms, journalism, and science.

    So in other words, since you are troubled by the fact that our institutions of authority – newspapers, courts, and labs – may not be as objective as you want, therefore it does not work to point out the subjective element of evidence.

    Well, why not start with the grand-daddy of courtrooms, the Supreme Court. If the Court is so objective, how is it that the four liberals and four conservatives so often disagree when it comes to interpreting the same data? Does an objective analysis really conform to ideology such that it emerges from a vote?

    You are basically endorsing straight-up, cheap, bankrupt relativism.

    No, I am not. I’m simply drawing attention to the fact that evidence is not something that is devoid of subjectivity. If both Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers saw the same 900 foot Jesus walking through NYC, Coyne would view this as evidence of God and Myers would not. That’s because evidence is interpreted data and the two scientists would interpret the data differently.

  19. Michael says:

    Vinny,

    It is the consistency of those processes of cause and effect that underlie the intellectual process of drawing inferences from evidence.

    This is why I find it so hard to suggest evidence that would cause me to believe in the resurrection or any other miracle.

    Very interesting. In fact, it would go further than this. An analysis built around evidence can only work when dealing with consistent processes of cause and effect. In other words, if God indeed existed and resurrection did indeed happen, an analysis built around evidence could not detect these truths. In fact, an analysis built around evidence would mislead us.

    So the claim “there is no evidence for God (or the resurrection) is meaningless. It would amount to denying the existence of a painting because we cannot hear the painting.

  20. Crude says:

    Mike,

    . An analysis built around evidence can only work when dealing with consistent processes of cause and effect. In other words, if God indeed existed and resurrection did indeed happen, an analysis built around evidence could not detect these truths.

    When you say evidence, you have to be talking about some particularly narrow view of it, don’t you? Or are you saying that if evidence is that narrowly defined, then it’s ruling out even in principle evidence for these things?

  21. Alan Fox says:

    If both Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers saw the same 900 foot Jesus walking through NYC, Coyne would view this as evidence of God and Myers would not. That’s because evidence is interpreted data and the two scientists would interpret the data differently.

    If they saw the phenomenon together, it would reduce the possibility of hallucination, especially if there were a few thousand New Yorkers there to witness it too. How would they know it was Jesus?

  22. Michael says:

    Crude,

    When you say evidence, you have to be talking about some particularly narrow view of it, don’t you? Or are you saying that if evidence is that narrowly defined, then it’s ruling out even in principle evidence for these things?

    The latter – I’m working with Vinny’s definition.

  23. vinnyjh57 says:

    Michael,

    It’s not meaningless to say that a painting makes no sound, but it is rather trivial and pointless because that is not how we evaluate paintings. Similarly we have to find a different way to get at questions about the supernatural. As long as we understand that, there is no reason that we should be misled by the evidence.

  24. Random says:

    Michael posted: ”Without time travel, that’s a non-starter.”

    And the post is off the rails the second it leaves the station. This sentence is a perfect example of the golden rule of Internet debating: I get to read you in the most uncharitable way possible but you must always read my arguments  with maximum charity. 

    Look, Crude asked me what evidence it would take for me to believe in miracles not what evidence would convince me that the resurrection actually happened. Since he didn’t mention the resurrection anywhere I interpreted him to mean miracles in general. And I stand by that comment. If I saw miracle myself and could be sure I wasn’t the victim of a magic trick or malfunctioning cognitive faculties I would believe in miracles. 
     
    ”There is no such thing as “objective observers.” What’s more, if someone became a Christian as a consequence of witnessing the resurrection, their Christian belief would be cited as the reason why can dismiss their testimony. Nothing of use here.”

    Hmmm…well personally I would regard the testimony of a normal person to be prima facie more trustworthy than that of someone with a history of mental illness. I would also be more inclined to accept the testimony of educated people who converted to a certain worldview despite every predisposition not to over that of uneducated and credulous peasants. I guess that’s just me. For the record if someone became a Christian as a consequence of witnessing the resurrection I would not hold that against them. However, if they were already Christians before witnessing the resurrection I would be more careful in assessing their objectivity.

    ”Thar she blows!   An appeal to God-of-the-gaps.  Just as I said.”
     
    You appear to believe that this a serious objection. So I take it you believe that Craig’s minimal facts argument for the resurrection is false because he is making a Jesus of the gaps argument. Rather than postulate the resurrection of Jesus as the best explanation of the facts  he should recognise that there exists a better naturalistic explanation.. he just has to find it. This is surprising. Can you then explain to me what evidence you think favours the resurrection? What is the sort of evidence that would lead you to believe in miracles? In the meantime I will explain why I think your objection here is completely ridiculous.

    The God of the gaps objection is an obviously question begging argument designed to render naturalism unfalsifiable. The very phrase already assumes that there exists a naturalistic explanation for any fact (even if we don’t know it) that surpasses the theistic explanation. Thus it begs the question (by already assuming the falsity of the theistic explanation) and applies a criteria of evidence that is unheard of in any field of enquiry. Rather than evaluate theism against the actually competing explanations we should evaluate it against all possible explanations (including ones we haven’t even thought of yet). Is God the best explanation for the contingency of the universe, for modal/nomological facts, for consciousness, for ethical truths and reason? Doesn’t matter says the naturalist! I’m sure your explanation is wrong and there exists a naturalistic explanation waiting to be discovered even if I can’t imagine it and even if it looks like such an explanation can’t be given in principle. Naturalism thus becomes irrefutable. Consequently I regard people who ask for evidence of theism while running arguments of this sort to be charlatans. There is really no evidence or argument on earth that would convince them because for any fact they would just cry gap. This is plainly absurd but if you wish subscribe to such ideas feel free. 

    ”So Jesus was supposed to have risen in a lab? Why?”

    Again, I was talking about miracles in general not the resurrection in particular. Of course if a miracle occurred in laboratory conditions and there was no evidence of fraud or other sort of misconduct I would  believe in it. Sheesh.

    ”I see. So even if we could send Random back into time to witness the resurrection, along with a set of “objective observers” complete with lab equipment to document something for which we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated, that would not be good enough.”

    Erm…WTF?  I’ve heard of reading between the lines but this is just ridiculous. Where did I say that? I think you need to calm down and realise that you’ve completely misunderstood what I was saying. I recommend you take a more charitable approach when dealing with others so as to avoid similar misunderstandings in the future.

    ”We would then have to “explain” why the miracle reports of contradictory religions don’t cancel each other out.”

    That wasn’t really prerequisite for my believing in miracles. It was more of an afterthought. Look, suppose we found the empty tomb of Elvis Presley and 500 people reported seeing Elvis wandering around Las Vegas. Do you think the most rational explanation of these facts is that Elvis physically rose from the dead? I have yet to see someone answer in the affirmative to this question yet many Christians find Craig’s arguments for the resurrection convincing.  These are remarkably low evidential (double) standards which could easily be met by any number of miracle claims.

    I was simply curious to see how Christians cope with the fact that other religions also make miracle claims which they reject. On what basis do they reject them? This seems to be a perfectly legitimate question.

  25. Random says:

    By the way, Maarten Boudry’s review of latest  book has been making the rounds on the Internet. See here: 

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/a-sokal-style-hoax-by-an-anti-religious-philosopher-2/

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/09/boudry-vs-plantinga.html. 

    Boudry’s review can be found here:

    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/plantinga

    Will you be commenting on any of this?

  26. Michael says:

    Random,

    There is no need for you to adopt such an uncharitable read of my response. You replied to Crude, who was replying to your original point – “What is your evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?” Based on your lead question, I had assumed you wanted to talk about the resurrection.

    Okay, if you want to make a more general point, let’s look at it:

    And I stand by that comment. If I saw miracle myself and could be sure I wasn’t the victim of a magic trick or malfunctioning cognitive faculties I would believe in miracles.

    Explain how you would be “sure” that you were not the “the victim of a magic trick or malfunctioning cognitive faculties.”

    As for the second point,

    Hmmm…well personally I would regard the testimony of a normal person to be prima facie more trustworthy than that of someone with a history of mental illness. I would also be more inclined to accept the testimony of educated people who converted to a certain worldview despite every predisposition not to over that of uneducated and credulous peasants. I guess that’s just me.

    But none of this matters, as being normal or educated doesn’t make someone an objective observer. Your original position was:

    if a very large number of objective observers (i.e. educated, unbiased, not suffering from mental problems etc) reported seeing a miracle and I had no reason to think they were lying or being deceived

    So you would need to tell me a) how you would detect the existence of “objective observers,” then explain how large is a “very large number” and then expand on the “I had no reason to think they were lying or being deceived” qualifier. Sorry, but this whole line of “evidence” is so squishy and subjective you may as well economize with the words and simply write, “if others say they saw a miracle and my spidey sense tells me they are right…”

    As for your third point, you wrote:

    if a miracle was the best explanation of a set of facts and we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated

    That’s a God-of-the-Gaps argument. Now, your response did not make much sense to me (it is late at night for me). So, for the record, do you think the God-of-the-Gaps approach is a valid way of determining truth about the world? Yes or no?

    Finally,

    Of course if a miracle occurred in laboratory conditions and there was no evidence of fraud or other sort of misconduct I would believe in it.

    So if something happened in the lab which could not be explained by natural laws, you would abandon science and insist that “God did it!”?

    Erm…WTF? I’ve heard of reading between the lines but this is just ridiculous. Where did I say that? I think you need to calm down and realise that you’ve completely misunderstood what I was saying. I recommend you take a more charitable approach when dealing with others so as to avoid similar misunderstandings in the future.

    Once again, you should take a more charitable approach and consider the possibility that your own wording is causing the confusion. Look, here is what you wrote:

    If I saw a miracle myself, if a very large number of objective observers (i.e. educated, unbiased, not suffering from mental problems etc) reported seeing a miracle and I had no reason to think they were lying or being deceived, if a miracle was the best explanation of a set of facts and we could be sure that all plausible naturalistic alternatives were eliminated, if a miracle occured under laboratory conditions and the results could easily be verified/repeated by anyone…stuff like that. Then someone would have to explain why the miracle reports of contradictory religions don’t cancel each other out.

    For me, the last sentence did not read like some unrelated afterthought. Since it was part of the same paragraph, and the words “then someone would have to explain” read more like a follow-up to this evidence, it looked like you were adding an additional hurdle.

  27. Alan Fox says:

    I’d be interested to hear what Random means when he uses the word “miracle”. I have concept of a discontinuity. We make sense of the world by observing its regularities and a phenomenon that had a gap in its causal chain (like a soccer ball launching off into the back of the net without anyone kicking it) would be such a discontinuity. Would it also qualify as a miracle, hypothetically speaking? How hard would it be to fake? Why are there no longer miracles?

    The whole idea of miracles seems a bit random. Not to second guess the creator but, with all this omniscience and omnipotence, why not just cut to the chase and tell us like it has to be? Or just make it so!

  28. Alan Fox says:

    I see “myatheistlife” aked the same question upthread.

    What you have to explain is why your omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent god has NOT shown evidence of his existence despite his supposed infinite ability to do so. Why does your all powerful god need you to spread his word, to defend him, to be his mouthpiece?

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