Inconsistent nod to “evidence”

A few days ago, Jerry Coyne wrote the following on his blog:

I think it’s time for us to stand up and say what we are: we are atheists, and we see no evidence for a God, just as we see no evidence for UFOs or Bigfoot.

Of course, this is a common notion among the atheists. But note the chosen comparitive examples. If the basis for making the comparison is the lack of perceived evidence in all cases, other examples could have been used:

I think it’s time for us to stand up and say what we are: we are atheists, and we see no evidence for a God, just as we see no evidence for life on other planets or extraterrestial intellgence (ETI).

Problem is that I have run across many atheists over the years who believe there is life on other planets, even intelligent life on other planets. So what gives? Since atheism is supposed to be the result of a lack of evidence, shouldn’t atheists likewise not believe there is life (intelligent or not) on other planets? Shouldn’t they deny the existence of extraterrestial life just as they deny these existence of God, UFOs, and Bigfoot? Isn’t atheism incompatible with SETI and exobiology?

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6 Responses to Inconsistent nod to “evidence”

  1. Kevin says:

    They are ideologically committed to abiogenesis, so they have to break their own rules and have faith it happened elsewhere.

  2. Another Steve says:

    “just as we see no evidence for UFOs or Bigfoot.”

    A UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object, that is, something flying through the air that hasn’t been identified. Do UFOs exist? Of course. If, on the other hand, we investigate one of the UFOs and determine that it is, for example, an alien spacecraft. At that point, it ceases to be a UFO.

  3. TFBW says:

    Kevin, you’re right when you describe abiogenesis as an ideological commitment. Naturalistic abiogenesis is, in point of fact, another thing for which there is a gaping lack of evidence (so much that we regard biogenesis as a law), but it is held as indisputable fact by the likes of Coyne. Combine it with a principle of mediocrity (i.e. that there is nothing terribly unique about Earth), and you’re philosophically obliged to embrace the existence of life — even intelligent life — on other planets.

    I think that it would make a very interesting point of discussion to compare the lack of evidence for abiogenesis (which New Atheists nonetheless embrace per force) with the lack of evidence for God. The lack of evidence for abiogenesis is also qualitatively different than the lack of evidence for God: we have a history of actual experiments which have not produced life, whereas the lack of evidence for God is based primarily in lack of agreement as to what would count as evidence.

    So here we have Jerry Coyne, who disbelieves in God, UFOs, and Bigfoot for lack of evidence, and who simultaneously demands that Evolution (including abiogenesis) is True, despite the similar lack of evidence that natural abiogenesis is even vaguely plausible, let alone historically factual.

    It’s pretty obvious that these beliefs (or lack thereof) are primarily grounded in philosophical commitments, and that the appeal to evidence is just a pretext. I’d love to see a New Atheist or two rationalise their way out of that dilemma.

  4. Crude says:

    I think it’s time for us to stand up and say what we are: we are atheists, and we see no evidence for a God, just as we see no evidence for UFOs or Bigfoot.

    I thought an atheist just ‘lacked God belief’? That says nothing about evidence.

    And further, an atheist doesn’t need to be committed to the idea that there’s ‘no evidence for God’. Just insufficient evidence to compel their belief.

  5. mechanar says:

    “I think it’s time for us to stand up and say what we are: we are atheists, and we see no evidence for a God, just as we see no evidence for UFOs or Bigfoot.”

    Its not like you have been doing that for over 15 years and we heard you the first 10.000 times. Really this “new” atheism is no longer new.Gnu atheism is really in a sorry state, its like a episode from the twilight Zone were people died and are now trapped in a Hotel room forever forced to repeat the same day over and over again. I really like to know what do these people expect to happen suddendly 6,8 Billion people leave there individual worldview because some dude on the internet said so? If new atheism really wanted to change the world and make a difference they would use their money to help the people how are at the hot spots of the world and not waste it to paint a bus or buy T-shirts or make caricatures of those that dissagree with them, all new atheism really is and ever was is entertaiment, nothing more nothing less.

  6. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    What I find so funny about Jerry Coyne is that although he may be a good biologist, he seems really dumb when it comes to making logical arguments and absolutely without curiosity when it comes to understanding what many believers actually believe. I don’t think most Christians for example ever held that God was a thing that could be measured. It wouldn’t make sense for the source of being to be measurable or testable. That is why I have a problem with religious people who seem to make a case for God using science. Science may only be able to explain physical processes, but the very existence of nature – at least the closed system of nature that most people seem to believe – doesn’t seem to account for itself…But back to Jerry Coyne…He’ claims to be a committed materialist. To me that seems to indicate that he believes every effect is caused by a prior physical event all the way back to one single moment which was the beginning of all things. That’s okay if he chooses to commit himself to that with rigor, but it seems to make his or any other person’s claims to rationality absolutely ridiculous, unless he is willing to say that by some amazing accident blind physical events caused the creation of a rational mind which can fairly and accurately endeavor to understand the world in which it operates. If Jerry Coyne were more intellectually honest his worldview would absolutely require him to stop using the language of a sentient, causal agent, and more of the local representation of a long, arduous physical process that is ever changing, never static and without purpose. But, alas, Jerry Coyne persists.

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