As we have seen, there is a subjective aspect to evidence. This follows from the simple fact that evidence is conceived rather than sensed. We cannot measure “evidence.” We measure data and transform data into evidence with the act of thinking. In other words, evidence comes into existence only when the mind interprets data that are sensed. Given the existence of evidence depends on the subjective act of interpretation, it cannot escape its subjective aspect. Now, this does not mean evidence is entirely subjective. For its existence also depends on the data that are sensed. Thus recognizing the subjective aspect of evidence does not commit us to some full-blown, post-modern denial of objective reality. But it does mean that evidence is not some objective criterion that can decide an issue of dispute. Disputes are only resolved when a) data exist to be interpreted as evidence AND b) all minds agree to interpret the data similarly. We deceive ourselves if we treat evidence as an objective criterion.
I trust that we have all seen the subjective aspect of evidence play out before our eyes. We have seen examples where two or more people can sense the same data, yet interpret it differently. For one person, the data are transformed into evidence as a function of their background beliefs and expectations. Yet since the other person does not share this subjective reality, they do not view the same data as evidence. So you see, evidence depends on the context that is supplied by the mind. Evidence is context-dependent. And given that evidence is context-dependent, it, alone, cannot decide between contexts.
If you are still having to hard time grasping this, there is a perfect illustration on this blog.
Most of us think there is an atheist movement because there is plenty of evidence the atheist movement exists. People like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and PZ Myers tell us there is an atheist movement and consider themselves part of it. For example:
“I believe future historians of the decline and fall of religion will come to see the 2012 GAC in Melbourne as a pivotal turning point. Helped by outstandingly efficient organisation behind the scenes, and a series of uniformly excellent talks, the Melbourne conference will be joined in our minds with the Reason Rally in Washington as the ‘Atheist Spring’ of 2012. The buzz of youthful, good-humoured optimism at both events has given our movement a momentum which will prove hard to resist.” – Richard Dawkins
Dozens of other atheist bloggers agree and many refer to themselves and others as atheist activists. The atheists organize a Reason Rally and compare themselves to the women’s rights movement. There are many atheist organizations with a social, and even political, agenda. Even news organizations, ranging from Fox to NPR, have noticed the movement:
In the last decade, atheism in America has risen from a tiny, demonized fringe to a serious presence in the public and political arenas. The latest polls show that almost 20 percent of Americans now identify as non-religious, and the atheist movement — a loose coalition of skeptical, rationalist and humanist groups — is making inroads everywhere from high school campuses to the halls of Congress.
As the atheist movement gains numbers and prominence, it’s inevitably been forced to confront questions about what it ultimately seeks to accomplish.
Billed as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” the Reason Rally — a march on Washington by atheists and other non-believers on Saturday, March 24 — is a coming-out party for a movement that has gained momentum in recent years.
As a movement, the secularists have hurdles to overcome; some of their most prominent spokespeople, such as the British biologist Richard Dawkins, reject religious belief as wholly irrational, loopy, and crazy….. Many of the organizations and activists who are part of a coalition of church-state separation advocates have long done stellar work in raising awareness of encroachment of religion in politics and policy-making. Being able to keep the pressure on church-state separation issues during a campaign season will be the test of the movement’s political muscle.
Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital…….He started as a volunteer in New Jersey in 1996, moved up to be the state’s director and then jumped from national spokesperson to vice president. In 2010 he became president of the organization, which counts 4,000 members, has a $750,000 annual budget and has become the organizational face of a burgeoning American movement of atheists.
Thousands of people are expect to descend on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to celebrate not believing in God. It’s being called a sort of “Woodstock for Atheists,” a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image…… Tension Within Movement. But not everyone thinks that’s the best approach. “I’m not sure it is to atheists’ benefit to always present a kinder, gentler face,” says Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger and author of a new book called Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off The Godless.Christina says there’s a tension in the movement. On one side are what she calls “firebrands,” such as Oxford biologist Dawkins, who has called some believers “staggeringly ignorant” and “insane.” On the other are the “diplomats,” such as Mehta, who deliver the same message of a Godless universe — but politely. Christina says every modern social movement — civil rights, feminism, gay rights — had the same tension, and you need both.
Yet in the comments section of this blog, Alan Fox is one atheist who denies the existence of an atheist movement. Certainly he can detect all these data listed above. But because of his background beliefs and expectations, he interprets it all differently, as being insufficient to acknowledge the existence of an atheist movement. In Alan’s mind, he doesn’t see these data as evidence, thus there is no evidence and thus no atheist movement.
Once you can see how this all plays out, you’ll start to recognize how silly it is for atheists to demand evidence for God’s existence.